It’s not often I find myself sympathetic towards an Eagle.
I won’t lie –– there’s not all that much I particularly like about the city of Brotherly Love, save Rocky and some American history. Cheap steak covered in Cheez Whiz? The Phillies? Villanova? Arlen Specter?
But let’s be honest here: he got a tough break.
In college, all Donovan McNabb did was become the three-time Big East Offensive Player of the Year and a Syracuse University icon. He set Orangemen records in total yards per game and broke the Big East Record in touchdown passes.
At 6-2 and 240 pounds, with a strong release, good footwork and natural leadership qualities, McNabb was drafted by the Philadelphia Eagles second overall in 1999. Yet, in what is now an infamous highlight, played on ESPN every year in the lead-up to the NFL Draft, Philly fans booed the accomplished and undeniably physically-gifted quarterback without mercy.
Yeah, too bad you didn’t draft Ricky Williams.
Donovan went to the Pro Bowl six times –– six! –– in an Eagles helmet. Make no mistake, Philadelphians; Donovan carried you on his back to two NFC championship games and a Super Bowl. He was the face of a proud franchise, nay, a proud and historic city. He was an honest and responsible role model in a sport often characterized by men accused of sexual assault, drug abuse and domestic violence.
And you just let him go? Really?
For what? To see if Kevin Kolb –– Kevin Kolb! –– is going to carry you on his back to two NFC Championship games?
Some say Donovan was just too old: over the hill, out of steam and playing like a man five years younger. I won’t pretend to have the expertise of a seasoned NFL scout, but Mike Shanahan seemed to think he still has value.
In a contest of “who’s better at scouting veteran quarterbacks and determining their contributions to football teams?” my money’s on Mike Shanahan.
It’s not like it isn’t commonplace in the NFL to see superstar veterans cut abruptly loose. This offseason alone saw LaDainian Tomlinson, Thomas Jones and another Eagles great, Brian Westbrook, all let go by their respective teams.
This is also not a retrospective meant to paint No. 5 in shades of grandeur only. McNabb’s tenure in Philadelphia was characterized by ups-and-downs, injuries and locker room drama. Donovan was never Peyton Manning, and he doesn’t even have Eli’s ring.
But shouldn’t he have meant more to you, Philadelphia? More than this kind of treatment?
As an impartial observer with only peripheral interest in the Eagles’ roster, it never seemed to me that Donovan got the respect, or credit, he deserved. The trade rumors never seemed to end and the highlight reels always seemed to show more interceptions, hard hits and fumbles than touchdown passes, athletic runs and accurate passes.
As a Giants fan, I’ve been perhaps clouded by a culture that was always willing to give Eli Manning a second (or third, or fourth, or fifth … ) chance.
Shouldn’t Donovan have deserved another chance?
Unfortunately for Eagles fans, that other chance is coming in DC. For Philadelphia’s sake, I hope your criticism hasn’t been misdirected.