I’m going to attempt to leave all my snarkiness and wise-ass tendencies at the door. It’s important that if I make this plea, it’s seen not as an excuse to write a profanity-laced invective towards a player, but as a sincere, heartfelt statement about (and to) a player I’ve always admired.
Donovan McNabb needs to walk away. Now.
I always liked McNabb. When he was an Orangeman, I admired that he played both basketball and football. He wasn’t great at the former, but he fit into Boeheim’s zone defense pretty well, and it showed that he was a gamer. I never forgot that, and it’s part of what I always enjoyed about him.
The other part was mostly your fault. I’m addressing the world at large here. The media, the common fan, and particularly the Philadelphia Eagles fans. I have always had a tendency to root for the underdog. Furthermore, I have a tendency to root for someone that everyone else seems to give up on. It’s why I root for players like Greg Oden in the NBA. And it’s why I’ve always wanted McNabb to do well.
Because this perception of McNabb not being good enough to play football isn’t a recent thing. I don’t think he has had one NFL season where he wasn’t doubted, mocked, or booed. And I won’t be Al Sharpton and say there is anything racial about it; I’ll just say that the circumstances have always tipped the scales against him. Every good play was commonplace, but every mistake was a sign he needed to leave Philly.
When he ultimately did, his critics were proven right because of Shanahan’s stubbornness and because, honestly, McNabb was losing a step. But I’m not here to argue that he has anything left. In fact, I’m here to argue that he has nothing left, and staying in the game will only hurt his image more.
Does anyone think he’s a Hall of Famer anymore? I’d like to think he is, but I think people will argue that the last few years did damage to his legacy. People who argue against this will point out Brett Favre’s career, showing that even though Favre had a questionable end in Minnesota, there is no way he’s being kept out of Canton. And that’s where the comparison ends, because as much as I hate him, Brett Favre is one of the best players ever, and Donovan McNabb isn’t anywhere near that level. Favre could have sent his penis to the President, and it won’t hurt his chances.
McNabb’s career isn’t that bulletproof, and he has been hurting his legacy. And the truth is, he was close to Jim Kelly’s Hall of Fame career before leaving the Eagles. Both Kelly and McNabb played for 11 years. Kelly only has 3 more TDs and 60 more INTs. McNabb has more yards, although he surpassed him as a Redskin, when his legacy was clearly taking a hit. Clearly McNabb has the rushing advantage, amassing three times as many yards and 47 more rushing TDs. Statistically, Kelly and McNabb are comparable. McNabb had more Pro Bowls, but Kelly had more Super Bowl appearances – three more. Neither has a ring. Neither won MVP. Neither was ever considered the best quarterback in the league at the time they played.
But Kelly was a first ballot Hall of Famer. Is McNabb going to get that consideration? I doubt it. People are going to remember his time in Washington. His time in Minnesota. Most importantly, people are going to remember that he has been booed, mocked, and doubted his entire career, and that is going to cost him. He’s never been a surefire thing in any one direction. So if there is an inkling of doubt on his HOF resume, it’s going to be attacked with vigor.
Which is why I’m begging him not to continue this. Retire, and hope that he can overcome the last few years. Because if he gets signed by a team like Chicago or Houston, his legacy can be damaged even more, whether or not he actually starts.
If McNabb goes to Chicago and is given the starting nod over Caleb Hanie, it will be a disaster. He floundered in a system he was familiar with in Minnesota. Shanahan – whether correctly or not – implied he couldn’t grasp the two minute offense, but Rex Grossman could. Do you think he’ll do well in the Mike Martz offense? It’s like driving an automatic all your life and switching to standard without instruction. He’ll be given the keys and he’ll look lost behind the wheel, driving the car straight into a Clay Matthews tree over and over again.
If he goes to Houston and they decide he’s a better option than TJ Yates, he may fare better. But, ultimately, Houston won’t make it to the Super Bowl. The format is in place for him to succeed just like I argued it was for Leinart. The only problem is that the entire team doesn’t have the experience to get to the Super Bowl on its first try; the teams that win big always seem to have had experience at least getting to the conference championship before taking the next step. The Texans haven’t been there yet, and I don’t think McNabb would help them avoid that learning curve.
And if he is signed by either team as an insurance policy, as a source of information for the young quarterbacks, that doesn’t help him either. If the team wins everything, it shows that they didn’t need him to win. If they lose, it shows that he couldn’t start for a team that couldn’t make it to the Super Bowl. Donovan McNabb is directly in the middle of a lose-lose-lose situation. There is only one thing he can do to avoid this.
Go home, Donovan. Don’t keep doing this to yourself. Don’t keep doing this to your Hall of Fame chances. Don’t keep doing this to the people who root for you. Go home and maybe you can save yourself. I understand you’re a competitor, and I understand you don’t think you’re done. I hope I’m wrong; if you do somehow win a Super Bowl this year, I’ll be almost as proud as your mom will be. But if you want to be remembered for your talent, for 4th and 26, for the good times, and not for how you left the game, this is your best chance. Go home, Donovan, and history will look back on you as fondly as it can.