Does Donovan McNabb Really Fail in the Clutch?

Bryn Swartz@eaglescentralSenior Writer IIINovember 14, 2008

As a Philadelphia Eagles fan, I am approaching my breaking point with this team.

One more heartbreaking loss, and I think I am going to go crazy.

Now, someone needs to be blamed for all of these losses.

I recently wrote an article ripping our head coach, Andy Reid, to shreds. While I still believe that many of the losses are the fault of Reid, the bottom line is that the head coach is not one of the 11 men on the field executing plays.

Someone needs to take the blame for these losses.


Is it the whole team or is it the one man that everyone points the finger to after every single loss? Is it quarterback Donovan McNabb?


The decline of the Philadelphia Eagles began in the 2005 season. Since 2005, the Eagles are 4-12 in games decided by six points or fewer. This only includes games with Donovan McNabb at quarterback. It doesn't count the two losses with A.J. Feeley in 2007 or the four close games with Jeff Garcia in 2006 (three wins, one loss.)


I have personally gone over the play-by-play of every single Eagles game since 2005 to determine whether or not Donovan McNabb is truly at fault for the Eagles' inability to win close games.


In my list, I am including every game in which the Eagles were tied or trailing by one score with under five minutes to play.


So if the Eagles win 38-24, but the game is tied with five minutes remaining, Donovan's passing statistics will be counted until the Eagles have taken the lead. (I did not count spikes to stop the clock.) But if the Eagles lose 20-10, Donovan's statistics will not count, because they were not within one score.





New York Giants 36, Eagles 31, McNabb: 1-2, 17 yards


Washington Redskins 23, Eagles 17, McNabb: 0-0 (Offense didn't get the ball back)


Chicago Bears 24, Eagles 20, McNabb: 1-1, 14 yards (last play of the game)


Dallas Cowboys 41, Eagles 37, McNabb: 2-6, 17 yards





Giants 16, Eagles 13, McNabb: 4-5, 63 yards (failed on 4th-and-6 pass attempt)


Eagles 33, Redskins 25, McNabb: 1-1, 57 yards, TD


Bears 19, Eagles 16, McNabb: 0-1, (last play of the game)


Redskins 20, Eagles 12, McNabb: 6-10, 69 yards (1-2 on fourth downs)


Green Bay Packers 16, Eagles 13, McNabb: 0-1 (last play of game)





Tampa Bay Buccaneers 23, Eagles 21, McNabb: 5-7, 84 yards, TD


New Orleans Saints 27, Eagles 24, McNabb: 0-0 (Offense didn't get the ball back)





Redskins 17, Eagles 10, McNabb: 4-8, 78 yards, INT, (fourth down interception)


Eagles 20, San Diego Chargers 17, McNabb: 1-2, 7 yards (blocked field goal touchdown)


Atlanta Falcons 14, Eagles 10, McNabb: 3-7, 22 yards (four straight incompletions to end game)



Overall, Donovan's stats are as follows: 28-51, 424 yards, 2 TD, INT, and the Eagles are 2-12 in the 14 games.


Their two wins came as a result of a dump-off pass that runningback Brian Westbrook turned into a 57-yard game-winning score against the Redskins, and a blocked field goal returned for a touchdown by former cornerback Matt Ware against San Diego.


McNabb also led the Eagles to a come-from-behind touchdown with 33 seconds remaining against the Bucs, when he completed a screen pass that Brian Westbrook, after breaking five tackles, turned into a 52-yard touchdown.


McNabb cannot be held at fault for either loss to Chicago. The 2007 game was the result of a 97-yard back-breaking drive, led by former Bears quarterback Brian Griese. The 2008 game ended when the Eagles failed to score from the one-yard line on three straight runs up the middle.


The Eagles never got the ball back in the final minutes of the Washington and New Orleans games, and the Green Bay loss can be squarely placed on the shoulders of punt returner J.R. Reed, who muffed a punt with two minutes remaining in a tied game.


The rest of the losses were extremely 'winnable' games.


Against Atlanta in 2005, the Eagles failed on four consecutive passes at midfield with under two minutes remaining. McNabb led the Eagles inside the Washington 10-yard line, but a fourth-down interception ended a chance at victory.


Failed fourth down conversions cost the Eagles against both the Redskins and the Giants, while the other loss against the Giants and the Cowboys loss were the result of Philly just not being good enough to win.


Can Donovan be blamed for the inability of the Eagles to win close games?


I think he can. His stats are not bad, almost impressive, but any Eagles fan out there will tell you what a nightmare it is to watch McNabb lead a two-minute drive. His nervousness has never been more apparent than perhaps any athlete in modern history.


He has become notorious for throwing up in pressure situations, as he did against the Jacksonville Jaguars in 2002 and 2006, as well as against the New England Patriots in the Super Bowl.


Last week against the Giants, the Eagles allowed precious seconds to tick off the clock, down to the two-minute warning, because McNabb was tired.


McNabb can lead a team down the field, often zinging 15 to 20-yard passes to no-name receivers like Greg Lewis or Jason Avant. However, when the Eagles reach the opponent's territory, specifically the red zone, McNabb falters.


Five of the losses occurred when McNabb failed to deliver in opponent's territory.


The two come-from-behind touchdown passes that McNabb threw resulted from the outstanding play of Pro Bowl runningback, Brian Westbrook. Both times, Westbrook turned an ordinary screen pass into an extraordinary score.


Donovan McNabb is one of the best quarterbacks in the NFL.


He virtually never throws interceptions and tosses an above-average amount of touchdown passes. He knows how to win, especially by double-digit margins.


However, he lacks the ability to effectively lead his team down the field with the game on the line. Two minutes remaining, down by three, ball 70 yards away, I would not trust Donovan as my quarterback.


Not a chance.


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