Well, Philadelphia Eagles fans, how do you like Donovan McNabb now?
Perhaps no Philadelphia athlete, including Allen Iverson, has caused the great city as much frustration and aggravation as No. 5, who was always seen as missing a crucial component to his game.
But now the Eagles are missing a crucial component to their game: Donovan McNabb.
Nothing against Michael Vick, or Nick Foles for that matter, but it's clear the Eagles and Andy Reid are on the decline. And if you look at the yearly records, that decline started, oh, just about the time McNabb departed. In his last year in Philly, which was 2009, McNabb had a 92 percent passer rating. The Eagles won 11 games. They didn't match that win total the past two seasons and they won't win 11 this year; they're 3-6 right now.
McNabb, you'll recall, was booed when he was drafted in 1999. Eagles fans hated him right away, wishing instead that their team drafted Ricky Williams. Draftniks also will recall that class was supposed to be the most quarterback-rich since 1983, with Tim Couch, Daunte Culpepper, Cade McNown and Akili Smith.
The Eagles chose well.
Then the Eagles played well. Very well. They missed the playoffs in McNabb's rookie season and then went to the postseason in eight of the next 10 seasons. They went to five conference championships. They went to the Super Bowl.
And still McNabb went largely unloved. Rush Limbaugh said he was the product of media favoritism because of his race. That was after a 0-2 start in 2003. McNabb then led the Eagles to the third of four straight NFC championship games.
That team, by the way, went the first two months of the season without getting a touchdown reception from a wide receiver. And this is no small aspect of McNabb's challenge in Philadelphia. His weapons were mostly duds. How many wideouts can you name? Freddie Mitchell? James Thrash? Yes, Terrell Owens arrived near the pinnacle of the Eagles' ascent, but he was sidelined during the team's first two postseason games during its Super Bowl season of 2004.
The Eagles now have DeSean Jackson and Jeremy Maclin, drafted near the end of McNabb's time. And yet the team is still much worse than at any time during McNabb's career, save his rookie season (arguably).
McNabb always found himself drowning in gossip and tangential storylines. Limbaugh was one. T.O. was another. And then there was Super Bowl XXXIX, in which the quarterback allegedly got sick on the final drive. The Eagles nearly beat the Patriots, and McNabb threw for 357 yards with all three of his team's touchdowns, but that game is remembered more for McNabb's problems than his perseverance. That's the story of McNabb's entire career. Just look at the 2008 season, in which the Eagles came off a dreary 8-8 campaign and went back to the NFC title game.
Yet Eagles fans wanted a title. That's understandable. What fan base doesn't feel slighted when its team gets close over and over again and fails to win the big one? So the word "McNabb" conjures as much disappointment as awe. But look at his legacy now that Andy Reid is facing likely unemployment: McNabb is the Eagles' all-time leader in wins, passing yards and passing touchdowns. He is among the greatest Eagles of all time, and he caused little drama off the field.
This is not a revelation to those who follow Syracuse, as Orange football has reeled since McNabb left campus in 1999. (Go ahead, name a Syracuse quarterback who followed McNabb in the Carrier Dome.) McNabb led his team to four straight bowl appearances and four straight end-of-season Top 25 rankings during his college years, but the Orange has been to only four bowl games since he left. The team has finished the season ranked only once in the post-McNabb years. McNabb brought Syracuse more wins in his four years than the team has in its last eight full seasons combined. Head coach Doug Marrone won a huge game over Louisville on Saturday, but huge wins were normal under McNabb.
This was also the case in Philadelphia, yet too much attention was paid to the huge losses. Jim Kelly is worshipped in Buffalo even though he never won a Super Bowl. Same with Dan Marino in Miami. They walk on water in those towns, and nationally. Well-earned and deserved. But when's the last time you saw Donovan McNabb on television? Maybe it was when Skip Bayless suggested that Tim Tebow was the most-criticized quarterback of all time. McNabb cut Bayless off and said it was actually him, not Tebow. He was right. But of course, McNabb got criticized for saying that.
McNabb hasn't been replaced at Syracuse, and he hasn't been replaced at the Linc. Michael Vick and Nick Foles can't be blamed, since they don't have much of an offensive line. But McNabb didn't exactly have the lines of the '80 Redskins or '90s Cowboys protecting him, either. He got by just fine. He made wins out of losses.
Now nobody in Philly knows how to make a win out of a loss. So the Andy Reid era appears to be just about over. It's been over for a while, really.
That's because it was the McNabb era all along.
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