The irony and symbolism surrounding the upcoming Monday Night Football game can’t be more apparent. Donovan McNabb is facing his former team, the Philadelphia Eagles, in a game to prove he can still run a team.
If he doesn’t play well, the damage already done to his reputation as a player and leader could be permanent, quite possibly moving McNabb from starter to backup or worse, as soon as next week.
So with his career on the line, this is a virtual must-win game for McNabb, who was sold out by his coach Mike Shanahan, in the shabbiest of ways, two weeks ago. Shanahan yanked McNabb from the Redskins last game against the Detroit Lions with less than two minutes to play, and the game still in doubt, which was a huge embarrassment for McNabb.
Quarterbacks are defined by their ability to run the two-minute offense, so pulling a player like McNabb at that point was stunning and telling.
Shanahan then piled on during the bye week with suggestions that McNabb was having trouble understanding the playbook and was not in good shape. It seems clear that Shanahan is looking for any excuse to bench McNabb. And it is looking more and more likely that McNabb, who is in the final year his contract, will not get it renewed. And based on how he has been treated, it is doubtful he would want to sign a new deal with the Redskins.
But in fairness, there have been nagging doubts about McNabb’s ability and leadership for several years, leading to his being traded by the Eagles to the Redskins this season. But no one, had ever questioned McNabb’s intelligence or grasp of the game—which are damning critiques, loaded with racial undercurrents, even if unintended.
If there was ever a poster boy for the refined, polished, intelligent, black athlete, it is Donovan McNabb. He’s dignified, decent and exceptionally thoughtful.
No matter how we see him as a quarterback, most of us would never think of him as less than smart. Nonetheless, despite the clumsy, insensitive actions and words of his coach, ultimately it will be up to McNabb to prove his doubters wrong.
And fair or unfair, Monday might be McNabb’s last chance to do so, ironically against a team that had already given up on him.