Will Donovan McNabb Make the NFL Hall of Fame?

Yueh HoCorrespondent IJuly 28, 2011

Will Donovan McNabb Make the NFL Hall of Fame?

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    As expected, the Minnesota Vikings have landed Donovan McNabb in a trade, which will allow their team not only to continue to contend for a Super Bowl, but also supplying the team with a veteran quarterback to mentor the young Chris Ponder.

    Donovan McNabb played for 11 seasons with the Philadelphia Eagles, and had a very forgettable one in Washington. Throughout his long and mostly incredibly successful career, McNabb led the Eagles to consistent postseason victories, although he failed to deliver a Super Bowl victory.

    While McNabb’s career has not yet reached an end and he may very well still attain that elusive title with the Vikings, it is clear that McNabb is aging and his playing days are very numbered at this point.

    While a Super Bowl victory would certainly guarantee McNabb a spot in Canton, without a title it is not so clear if he will join the hallowed few. Only time will tell if McNabb ultimately makes it into the Hall of Fame.

    However, here are five reasons why he would or would not go down as one of the greatest to play the game at this point in his career.

1) Yes: Postseason Record

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    McNabb’s postseason record is incredible. With nine playoff wins, McNabb is tied for the eighth most postseason victories of all time, behind only other greats, including Joe Montana (16), Tom Brady (14), Terry Bradshaw (14), John Elway (14), Brett Favre (13), Troy Aikman (11), and Roger Staubach (11). He also tied with Roger Staubach for ninth most postseason touchdowns with 24.

    For the bulk of McNabb’s career, whenever the Eagles made the postseason they have advanced to the conference championship, as he led them to five NFC Championship appearances in eight years, with four of them being consecutive appearances.

    He also led the Eagles to their second-ever Super Bowl appearance, where they lost to the heavily favored New England Patriots.

    Under McNabb, the Eagles also only missed the postseason with him as the starter twice out of his 11-year stint with the team. Only once were they eliminated in the first round. When it comes to postseason victories, McNabb’s resume is outstanding.

2) No: Postseason Record

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    Unfortunately for McNabb, his postseason record is also one of the biggest knocks on his career and on his candidacy for the Hall of Fame.

    Despite a great playoff resume on paper, McNabb failed to win a Super Bowl in every one of his deep playoff runs.

    In his loss against New England, many have questioned his performance and his failure to take advantage of a Patriots team that struggled for most of the first half.

    And despite McNabb’s ability to make it to the conference championship, his NFC Championship win record is only 1-5 (.20), with three of the four losses being against teams that the Eagles were favored heavily to defeat.

    Unless McNabb can win or reach the Super Bowl before retiring, this record will forever be a stain on his otherwise fabulous career.

3) Yes: Achievements

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    McNabb’s career is full of incredible achievements. With six Pro Bowl appearances, five of them being consecutive, and being named NFC Offensive Player of the Year in 2004, few can doubt that McNabb was among the elite players in the game during his prime.

    He also appeared second in MVP votes for a great deal of his career, and appeared on the cover of Madden 2006.

4) No: Achievements

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    For all of McNabb’s achievements, however, one could argue that while they are impressive, they are not worthy of the greatest quarterbacks to play the game.

    In 12 seasons, he was never named to the All-Pro team. He was never named the league MVP. And of course, he has never won a Super Bowl despite coming close on multiple occasions.

5) Yes: Historical Moments

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    McNabb has had his share of career highlights to compete with anyone in the history of the league.

    In a 2002 game against the Arizona Cardinals, McNabb completed 20 of 25 passes for 255 yards and an incredible four touchdowns on a broken ankle.

    In the 2004 NFC Divisional Game, he completed the famous fourth-and-26 play to knock off Brett Favre’s Green Bay Packers. In the 2004 regular season, he would scramble for 14 seconds in a single play in a victory over the Dallas Cowboys.

    And in 2008, his team would sneak into the postseason with a 9-6-1 record, and wreak havoc, knocking off the defending Super Bowl Champions and best team in the league, 12-4 New York Giants in the process.

    There are certainly many moments in Donovan McNabb’s career that will be remembered in NFL lore for ages.

6) No: Historical Moments

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    Not to beat a dead horse, but McNabb again lacks in many historical moments because of his consistent poor play in the NFC Championship games.

    Great plays and moments in the game are often due to the desire to win a championship, and despite McNabb’s share of memorable moments, he failed to win a championship, and therefore historical moments of his hold less weight than with other players.

    And additionally, while Donovan McNabb’s career are full of many highlights, it is also full of controversy.

    His feud with Terrell Owens has cast doubts in Philadelphia that remain to this day about his leadership abilities. And his being benched in the 2008 season against the Baltimore and in the recent 2010 season against the Detroit Lions have caused many to take note of his seemingly glaring weaknesses and even possible lack of sufficient physical conditioning.

    Not to mention the rumors that he had thrown up during the 2005 Super Bowl…

7) Yes: Statistics

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    Statistically, McNabb is already not too far away from the game’s all-time greats. He ranks in the top 15 of all time in attempts, completions, and passing yards.

    His 577 attempts and 341 completions in the playoffs are both seventh of all time, with his 3,752 passing yards being 11th of all time.

    His 21 regular-season games and four postseason games with at least one touchdown passing and one rushing are both third all time.

    He is one of only 15 quarterbacks in NFL history to pass for 35,000 yards and more than 210 touchdowns, as well as being one of only four players to throw more than 220 touchdowns and rush for more than 25.

    He is one of only three players in NFL history to have over 35,000 passing yards and 3,000 rushing yards.

    He has the fourth-best touchdown to interception ratio (230/115) and is the third least intercepted quarterback of all time per pass attempt.

    On top of that, McNabb has every single Eagles passing record, which I will not bore you with by listing here.

    Statistically, he has had a tremendously successful career.

8) No: Statistics

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    The difference between Donovan McNabb and the other players above him on the list, however, are that they have Super Bowl rings and McNabb does not.

    And the players who do not are so high up on the list (such as Dan Marino) that it in a way makes up for their lack of a Super Bowl victory.

    Furthermore, even dismissing his lack of a Super Bowl ring, one could easily point out McNabb’s flaws. In 12 seasons he only completed over 60% of his passes four times, he only passed for more than 3,500 yards three times, and he has never reached the 4,000 yard mark, and has only thrown more than 25 touchdowns in a single season once.

    His numbers are excellent, but arguably may be more the result of a long career, than of a dominant passer. 

9) Yes: McNabb’s Weapons

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    The most common defense for McNabb is that throughout his entire career he had very few real playmakers to throw the ball to.

    With the likes of James Thrash, Todd Pinkston, Freddie Mitchell and Greg Lewis, that he was able to lead the Eagles to so many postseason appearances and wins in the first place is phenomenal.

    The lone season that he had a dominant playmaker through the air, Terrell Owens, he led the Eagles to a 13-3 record and took the Eagles to the Super Bowl (although T.O. did not play during the postseason except for the Super Bowl).

    Most great quarterbacks have had great receivers to throw to. Joe Montana and Jerry Rice, Troy Aikman and Michael Irvin, Peyton Manning and Marvin Harrison, the list goes on and on.

    Therefore, McNabb’s failure to win a Super Bowl or dominate more statistically must be understood within the context of his lack of weapons. 

10) No: McNabb’s Weapons

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    While McNabb did not have weapons on offense in the area of a dominant wide receiver for little more than a season and a half, he did have many weapons that many might view as sufficient to win a Super Bowl with.

    The Eagles had one of the league’s best defenses throughout most of his tenure with them, and the ability to keep games close was an asset that many quarterbacks would envy.

    And while McNabb lacked a dominant game-changing receiver, he did have weapons on offense. He had for the most part a pretty solid offensive line, with the likes of Jon Runyan and Tra Thomas.

    He had Chad Lewis, who was a reliable tight end to throw to. And Brian Westbrook was one of the game’s most explosive players and was excellent as a receiver as well.

    As a result, McNabb’s lack of a dominant wide receiver does not excuse his inability to produce offensively when his team needed him. 

Conclusion: Yes

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    While his failure to come up big on a few big moments and win a Super Bowl will continue to be a flaw on his resume, in the end McNabb’s resume even now is too stellar to keep him out of the Hall of Fame.

    Under his strong arm, the Eagles went from the very worst of the NFL, to a consistent contender. He was one of the best quarterbacks in the NFL for most of his career and few have been as consistently good as McNabb was for so long. Except the hallowed few.

    In the end, when his long and successful career has reached an end, only time will tell if he will attain any more achievements or move up further in statistical categories. If his career were to end today, he would make the hall of fame.

    And now, in Minnesota, McNabb appears to have a team that suites his strengths. With a dominant running game in Adrian Peterson, reliable targets in Visanthe Shiancoe and Percy Harvin, a good offensive line, and a solid defense, McNabb will have a window of opportunity to return to the Super Bowl.

    If he were to succeed in winning a championship, he would be a first ballot Hall of Famer without question.