We’re not that different you and I. We’re football fans, we’re rivals, we both want to win the Super Bowl. We’re basically neighbors who don’t like each other. For the past 10 years, you’ve been looking at the car that’s been parked in my driveway, a high performance shiny model, getting up there in miles but mostly reliable and certainly better than anything you’ve had in your garage for the past decade, even as you buy car after car. Yet, even though I don’t like you, I just sold you my car. Curious, isn’t it?
From the outside, it’s easy to look at Donovan McNabb and think that Eagles fans (well, at least some of us) must be either crazy or stupid for happily offering to make a trip down I-95 and drop off McNabb’s stuff. But, from the outside, you have no idea what you’re in for. Here’s a dossier on what you can expect from the Donovan McNabb Experience and why.
What you’re getting in McNabb is a consummate professional. A very good, borderline great, quarterback that is a huge improvement over Jason Campbell or any other QB you’ve trotted out there. When I look at your list of QBs in the past twenty years, I have to wonder how you haven’t stormed FedEx Field with pitchforks and torches.
You’re getting a player who will never get in trouble with the law, who will always say the “right” things in press conferences, and who will be an asset to the community.
On the field, McNabb throws a great deep ball and has one of the lowest interception ratios in the league. You remember that Jason Campbell pass against Dallas that should never have been thrown and was intercepted (yes, that one, and that one and that other one)? That won’t happen with McNabb.
In short, Donovan will win you a bunch of games.
The knock on McNabb has always been his inaccuracy. And, I hate to tell you, it’s completely true. Many times during the course of this season, you’ll see a 100-mph fastball at the feet of your receiver and wonder how someone can throw a ball that hard and that low to a guy standing 10 yards away.
McNabb also has no anticipation. If a guy is wide open 40 yards downfield, he’ll get him the ball in a hurry and on target. But what McNabb won’t do is throw it to a spot where a receiver should be. What’s wide open to you isn’t wide open to McNabb.
Finally, the McNabb that haunts your nightmares with his escapability and elusiveness is not the model you’re getting. What made Donovan so great early in his career has been robbed by time. Oh, he’ll still be able to dodge a defender or two, and he’s so strong that he can break a few arm tackles and avoid the sack. But there will no longer be highlights of McNabb eluding defenders for 14 seconds and then throwing a ball downfield on a rope. Or escaping the pocket and juking a linebacker out of his shorts. It’s just not there anymore.
This last part — this last part is completely our fault. We broke him. The Philly media, the Philly fans — we took a fragile ego and shattered it. All that baggage he’s carrying is our baggage. And there’s a lot of it. I’m not talking about the draft day booing, which was ridiculously overblown. I’m talking about the post-2005 Super Bowl acrimony and subsequent defensiveness.
McNabb is a choker. That’s about as simple as it gets. The more complicated question is whether he is a choker by nature or did the media and the fans make him a choker. Was it chicken or egg?
On February 6, 2005, the Eagles could have erased years of fan frustration by winning their first Super Bowl ever. But they fell short and Donovan McNabb threw three INTs.
So despite curious playcalling by Andy Reid, Westbrook only gaining 44 yards, and stiffs like LJ Smith coughing up a fumble and Todd Pinkston getting a case of don’t-wanna-play-anymore, the blame was placed squarely on McNabb’s shoulders. It didn’t help that TO came out with his “I wasn’t the one who got tired in the Super Bowl” barb and then the rumors that McNabb threw up from nerves in the fourth quarter (not true).
As an Eagles fan, I have to wonder whether a victory in that Super Bowl not only gives us one Lombardi but becomes the start of a dynasty. The age old lament of what might have been. If McNabb doesn’t get the blame for that game, maybe he becomes a different quarterback. A quarterback that rises to the occasion instead of shrinking in it. If McNabb is perceived is clutch, does it make it reality?
But the Eagles did lose that game and now McNabb feels every big game as a unbearable weight on his shoulders. That he must never make a mistake and come up with the big play so that he doesn’t get roasted (unfairly or not) in the media again. You couple that with the fact that Andy Reid has done a horrible job of asking McNabb to be superhuman and you have a recipe for disaster.
Maybe Shanny will be sane and build a running game to complement McNabb. But a quarterback still is going to have to make plays in big games. And in big games, McNabb has an awful case of the yips. And this, Redskins fans, is why I’m not concerned about the Redskins winning the Super Bowl. And yes, the Redskins winning the Super Bowl with McNabb would cause a riot in Philly.
Ever since that offseason, McNabb has gone into defensive don’t-blame-me mode. Forget what you’ve heard on the press conferences. As I’ve said before, McNabb is very good at saying the right things in pressers following the games. “It all starts with me. I need to do a better job of executing on the field and getting my teammates into better position to win the game. I will study the film and improve next week.” (McNabb graduated with honors from the Andy Reid school of saying a whole lot without actually saying anything in press conferences.)
What you don’t hear are the snide remarks he makes after the fact. He’ll take the blame for the NFFCG loss against the Cardinals but then turn around a couple weeks later and ask, “Did we have the lead? [pause for effect] Did we have the lead?” When it plays to the national audience, Donovan will tell you it’s his fault. But when it plays in his mind, it’s never Donovan’s fault. You’ll find this out soon enough. He’s tired of being the scapegoat for every big loss.
(A quick aside here: McNabb claims that he doesn’t pay attention to the media and the fans, yet, in his introductory presser with the Redskins, he takes the time to chastise the media for citing unnamed “sources close to the situation.” Do you pay attention to the media or not? He also claims not to pay attention to the fans, yet he went on Philly sports radio last year and cried about the unfair treatment he got from Philly fans and the heightened expectations of the city . Do you pay attention to the fans or not?)
What you hear in his introductory press conference is that it’s a team game and you can’t rely on one person to do everything. Yes, it’s a team game. But is it necessary to reiterate that three times in a span of half an hour? In your first presser?
Your new franchise QB, the one you gave up two draft picks for, is already absolving himself of blame if things go wrong. Isn’t that curious?
Isn’t it curious that when asked if he had any parting words for the Philadelphia fans, Donovan effectively gave his resume? “I just want to say thank you. For giving me the opportunity to come in and display my talents. Be able to be put in a position to be drafted when they were 3-13. From going 5-11 to averaging about 9 or 10 wins a season. Not too many organizations can say that. For 11 years to make 5 NFC Championships and a Super Bowl appearance.”
It’s as if he’s telling us that he was worthy of the love that he never got. The love that was reserved for the likes of Brian Dawkins and Brian Westbrook. In fact, he was worthy. But in order to get that love, Donnie, you have to give it. And unlike Dawkins, McNabb has never shown the love. The booing by 30 idiots on draft day was embarrassing to everyone and not at all representative of the fanbase. Yet McNabb never let it go and has always held the fanbase at arms length. Chicken or egg?
You haven’t seen it yet but all of McNabb’s warts will come to light. You’re getting a thin skinned inaccurate passer whose x-factor of speed and elusiveness is no longer part of his game. The long balls will thrill you but wormburners will make you pull your hair out.
This isn’t about being a McNabb basher or a hater. It’s just about looking at honestly at the McNabb era in Eagles history and his strengths and weaknesses. McNabb is the best Eagles QB ever and captained the ship over the best stretch of football in Eagles history. And yet, Andy Reid, who knows him better than anyone else could, decided to trade him to a division rival.
You’re getting damaged goods, Washington. Maybe you can fix him and repair the mental scars we’ve left upon him. Maybe a change will do everyone, including McNabb, good. But, and I say this with so much relief, that’s now your problem, not ours.
3 replies on “A Donovan McNabb Primer for Redskins Fans”
That article’s “not” about being a basher or hater?
I think McNabb’s not the only one with mental scars, Vin 🙂
Oh, I’m awfully scarred, balto.
Which is why I feel so good about the future. I’m practically fighting to drive the bandwagon again.
Well I hope, in all sincerity, that McNabb ends up remembered — soon — as the “second-best” QB in Eagles history.
Good honest piece, Vin – you’ve got some real sportswriting talent there!