The Pro Football Hall of Fame is probably the most prestigious honor of all the associated sports’ fraternities because of the sport’s popularity and the respect the public has for the warriors who play such a physical contest on an unbelievable level. With several decent to great retired players hovering around for consideration to be anointed as a Hall of Famer, former NFL quarterback Donovan McNabb has officially entered the conversation after he officially announced his retired from the NFL Monday.
Shockingly, McNabb is not viewed among the masses as a Hall of Famer, which is completely – foolish.
“Donovan ranks among the all-time greats in the NFL in several statistical categories,” said Eagles’ chairman and CEO Jeffrey Lurie at McNabbs’ retirement press conference Monday. “He’s one of three players in league history with over 35,000 passing yards and 3,000 rushing yards, joining only Hall of Famers John Elway and Fran Tarkenton. His importance both within the Eagles and the sport as a whole will go down in history.”
In regards of McNabb, the first things that comes to mind about him was the Terrell Owens’ controversy, as both stars bumped heads, his exit out of Philly (due to injuries and performance) and the way his career ended, on the field, with poor outing with the Washington Redskins and Minnesota Vikings.
These circumstances register highly in the minds of many football fans and members of the media. And if that’s the case and the reasons why number 5 should not be a Hall of Famer, those are weak allegations.
McNabb was a warrior at every sense of the word. He played hurt (like most players do) and succeeded with not always having solid talent around him, which many can not do. Still, the Chicago native put up solid, Hall of Fame numbers; 37,276 passing yards off 5,374 attempts, threw 234 touchdowns and finished with a 85.6 quarterback rating.
Not to mention what McNabb did with his legs as he ran for 3,341 yards on 587 carries and reach the endzone on 28 occasions.
McNabb’s first bonafide star teammate was running back Brian Westbrook. The six-time Pro Bowl quarterback had the likes of Duce Staley (now the Eagles’ running backs coach) and Correll Buckhalter in the back field, but either performed on the level as Westbrook.
When Westbrook took over the full-time ball carrying duties for the Eagles, that’s when McNabb started to get in the groove as both players benefited from each other.
Without a doubt, Owens was a huge help for the 2004 Super Bowl season, but he missed the team’s final four games, including the playoffs (due to a broken leg), and that’s where McNabb and Westbrook took over.
“Just like Lurie said, one of the best players that played the game,” said Westbrook who attended the conference. “A big part of your career and big part of my career was being able to play with you, and I appreciate that. So many times there is a duo in sports, so many people play with another person.
“Jordan had Pippin; I had Donovan McNabb,” he added. “To be able to say that is a special thing for me. It’s meaningful, and I just want to thank you for that, and thank you for the opportunity in allowing me to share the football field with you.”
In the NFL, getting to a conference title and the Super Bowl is extremely difficult, and for McNabb to get the Eagles to four consecutive NFC Conference championship games and to the grand finale (Super Bowl XXXIX) is nothing short of remarkable.
So what he was never an All-Pro and he did not cash out on the big one. For each reason why McNabb is believed to not be a Hall of Famer, there’s an answer for whatever the reason given, even when the Super Bowl winning conversations are started.
McNabb has better numbers than Hall of Fame quarterback Jim Kelly, who never won a Super Bowl (that hurts to say), despite making four consecutive trips. Hall of Famer Barry Sanders never reached the Super Bowl and for a league that has been in existence for over 75 years, McNabb was the third African-American signal caller to get their Super Bowl (Doug Williams – 1987 – and Steve McNair – 1999), which is outstanding.
Frankly, Hall of Famer John Elway would have never won a Super Bowl if running back Terrell Davis was not in his backfield.
Ultimately, the barometer will be set by Eagles’ fans on Sept. 19 when McNabb’s jersey is retired at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia. The fans’ respond will determine on how quick the cement will settle for the quarterback’s eventual induction in the Hall of Fame.
“I look at the relationship (with Philly fans) just like a marriage,” said McNabb. “You have some great times, you have some tough times. Hey, one thing is for sure and I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, I told the fans that I would bring a championship here. My goal was to have that parade down Broad Street. Now the Phillies did it first, and I apologized to the fans because that was my goal. I felt like I let them down.
“The thing for me is I don’t regret anything that happened throughout my career here,” he continued. “You know, for the fans, they thoroughly appreciate the effort that I gave and what I gave them out on the field. It’s about the product.”
Despite the heavy criticism he received from the media, and the critical fan base that love to complain in the city of Brotherly Love, McNabb handled things with a smile and played hard.
“Sometimes when I’m home now I go and work out up in the gym and I put in some of the old tapes and I watch how we put it down, and I say we because Donovan was a huge part of that,” said former safety and Eagles’ great Brian Dawkins. “Watching him hold the ball for four, five, six, 14 seconds and make plays when the play is broken down, but that’s what we expected from him. Brian Westbrook was talking about how he is in the locker room and he kept everything light for us, joking around, keeping everything loose so that we could go out and play loose on the football field.
“But the thing that people don’t understand is the type of leader that he truly is and what he brought to the football team,” he continued. “Because I knew when I stepped on the football field, I knew I was going to get 110% from my quarterback, and he was going to get out and give everything that he could, everything. You talk about playing on different things. Donovan was not going to tell you guys what was hurting on him. That was not his character. He was just going to go out and perform and do it to the best of his ability.
“And for a guy to go out on the football field and play with that broken ankle, that’s not everybody’s character,” he added. “Not every football player has that in him to do, and that’s what Donovan did, and he would do it again even after that.”
McNabb may not be a first-ballot Hall of Famer, but he will be immortalized shortly after his eligibility in five years. Many Hall of Famers did not end their careers on a high note. Johnny Unitas got traded to San Diego after becoming a legend in Baltimore with the Colts and O.J. Simpson’s stop in San Francisco with the 49ers for not as fruitful after being a beast in Buffalo with the Bills, to name a few.
McNabb’s career started with boos on draft day and was over-criticized for majority of his playing days.
However, within the next ten years, his legacy will end – with a yellow jacket.
“To be mentioned with the likes of Reggie White, Jerome Brown, Chuck Bednarik, Tommy McDonald, Brian Dawkins, and all the other players who have paved the way for me and for my former teammates and current players,” said McNabb, humbly. “It’s truly an honor, not only to be the first pick of the draft in 1999, but to be your starter for 11 years. But most importantly, to be inducted into the Ring of Honor and to have my number retired.
“In order to become a champion and to go down as one of the best to ever do it, it would take more than expected, and I would never allow myself or allow anyone to tell me what I could and could not accomplish,” he continued. “As a quarterback, you get criticized no matter what you do anyway. If you win, you didn’t throw enough completions. If you lose, it’s your fault. That is what you take on. That is the job you take, and I loved every bit of it. It never bothered me if I got criticized. It never affected anything that I did out on the field.
“One thing that I tried to display to my teammates was that it didn’t affect me,” he added. “I was going to continue to work hard, no matter if we won or lost. So over-criticized? I don’t look at it that way. Most of the people across the country do, but one thing I will say playing here in Philadelphia, as a quarterback, you get measured by your wins and losses, and we sure won a lot”.