The upcoming issue of GQ features an interview with Donovan McNabb in which the Washington Redskins quarterback attempts to clear the air about some of the most controversial moments of his career. Emphasis on "attempts."
We looked into four of McNabb's most dubious statements:
1. Was McNabb booed for the first time at the 1999 NFL draft?
I remember being booed at the draft, I remember going back into the green room, and I remember laughing with my parents. I'd never been booed in my life. You see it on TV, and you think, "Yeah, that won't happen to me." But when they did boo, I laughed about it.
McNabb made similar remarks on the day of the draft. But a quick look at some old newspaper archives quickly dispels that notion.
All clips are from The Post-Standard in Syracuse, N.Y.:
Oct. 6, 1996: There's apparently no pleasing some Syracuse University fans.
A few detectable boos were directed at the offensive play selection (what else is new?) during the second half of the Rutgers game Saturday. Some dissidents didn't appreciate calling a quarterback draw on third-and-15.
Sept. 8, 1996: In fact, the Orangemen didn't get out of the first period without hearing the boos. And they didn't escape the field for the intermission without hearing more. And the second half? It was serenaded similarly.
Aug. 31, 1997: But none of that counted for much on Saturday as SU bumbled its way through the usual chorus of scattered boos which regularly ring through the Dome at this time of year.
Maybe McNabb rationalized that the boos weren't for him. After all, he was cheered a lot more than he was booed during his magnificent college career. He was booed though and by his own fans, at that. We didn't even bother looking for tales of boos at road games. I can't imagine the crowds in Morgantown and Blacksburg lavished cheers on McNabb and his top-10 Syracuse team when it rolled into town.
2. Did he puke in the Super Bowl?
No, at no point did I throw up. I got hit and dumped on my face a couple of times...we lost Todd Pinkston(notes)...we all were gassed, and there were a couple of times in the game where I got hit either by [linebacker Teddy] Bruschi or by [defensive end Richard] Seymour, I had grass in my helmet and maybe I lost my wind a little bit, but nothing to the point where I would come out of the game. People can run that game back and forth and find out that I wasn't throwing up, but I guess it's a sexy topic to talk about.
Technically, Donovan is telling the truth. He didn't throw up. But at the time, nobody ever said he did. The vomiting story has become its own sports urban legend over the past six years and Donovan has been only too happy to shoot it down because it deflects from the real story, which is just as bad.
"He was exhausted. We were kind of not in a hurry-up mode, but we were in a hurry-up mode. He had to run around a couple of times. He scrambled, he got hit, and he threw up or something. He wasn't able to spit out the whole play or puke." -- Hank Fraley(notes), center
"He was talking, and he started gagging. I thought he was going to throw up. It was kind of the same situation [as 2002] except he didn't let it go. He was out of breath, and he was tired. He was able to communicate well enough to the linemen that we knew what the protection was." -- Artis Hicks(notes), guard
"You could definitely see there was some kind of complication. He couldn't speak. He couldn't get it out. It was the first time I had to be a quarterback in the NFL." -- Freddie Mitchell, wide receiver
-- Philadelphia Inquirer, Feb. 9, 2005
It's so funny because they always try to bring that up, and the clip that they show, we weren't feuding then. The whole feud happened in the offseason. When he was walking behind me at the Pittsburgh game, he was actually trying to calm me down. At that time I believe we were 7-0, and we went out there playing like a team that was 1-8 or something, and he was trying to calm me down: "Hey, we're going to get this thing going, don't worry about it, talk to the O-line, just give them some time."
Much like the previous story, it's possible that Donovan may be telling some version of the truth. (Possible but doubtful: When has T.O. ever been known to give pep talks that don't involve some sort of demand for the ball?) Regardless, McNabb glosses over the fact that he was supremely pissed off by that incident. Watch the video and see if you disagree.
4. Did he really not know games could end in ties?
The media wants you to be honest and up front with them, and then when you are, they just throw the dagger at you. "Oh, what was he thinking?" There were a lot of responses from other players who said the same thing I did, and then when the referee tells you, "Hey, you get another five minutes to go after this quarter..." Nobody talks about that.
We're in the game, and we go off on third and out, they're out there, and I'm like, "Hey, we need to get this thing going, how much time is left?" I'm looking at the clock and the ref is like, "We've got another five minutes after this quarter if no one scores." I didn't think nothing of it, but I did hear it. It was a mistake on my part. I've got to know the rules.
The pièce de résistance of the interview. Two years after admitting he didn't know a game could end in a tie, McNabb tries to pass off the blame on the referee, who evidently made up completely new rules for that one specific game. He just tries to slip it in there like nobody would notice! "Nobody talks about that," he says, completely ignoring the fact that "nobody" included him up until five minutes ago.