I know it wasn’t easy. I know that you hold some hard feelings over the way things worked out. But as an outside observer, I can say that Donovan McNabb was a good quarterback and he did the best he could for you guys. Thanks for not making that halftime retirement ceremony as awkward as a Sal Paolantonio-Andy Reid interview.
McNabb played 11 seasons for the Eagles, throwing 206 touchdowns against 100 interceptions. He led the team the playoffs eight times, even playing in a Super Bowl (and losing to a dynastic team in the New England Patriots). He was a gregarious, charismatic guy that, even as a Giants fan, I had to appreciate and enjoy watching. He dealt with incredible pressure in a very passionate sports town (and Philly, you know that I’m taking it easy on you when I call you “passionate”) and ridiculous criticism from people like Rush freakin’ Limbaugh.
But he didn’t win it all, which is a shame.
I think McNabb knows that he let a lot of people down. It really wasn’t his fault — you can’t help getting injured, and you can’t help losing to great teams like the 2001 Rams, the 2002 Bucs, the 2004 Pats. But you could see the pain in his eyes in those last few seasons in Philadelphia, and when he played out the string in Washington and Minnesota, and even last night when he stepped onto the field at the Linc for the last meaningful time. He wanted to win for Philadelphia just as much as Philadelphia wanted him to win. It just didn’t work out.
There are lots of athletes throughout the years that come up against it the way McNabb did. Here in New York, we had Patrick Ewing. Nobody doubts that Ewing is one of the greatest players in NBA history, and arguably the greatest Knick ever. But he just didn’t have “it.” Too many finger rolls when there should have been dunks, injuries at the wrong times, the strange phenomenon of the team playing better without him.
But guys like Ewing and McNabb are the ones we should cheer for most of all. Tom Brady goes home to his Super Bowl rings and hot wife and Hall of Fame resume and can be content in his success. Same goes for Michael Jordan, Derek Jeter, Wayne Gretzky and other modern greats. The guys who put it all out there but come up just short? Guys like Donovan McNabb? They’re much closer, in spirit, to us regular folks. Most of us won’t rise to the top of our fields. We’re just happy to make a mark. And Donovan McNabb made a big mark.
So thanks for being kind to him, Philly. You’ll have your Super Bowl savior one day. Until then, cherish this guy. All things considered, he was better than most.
Photo via Getty