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Maybe I’m guilty of “a little social concern,” but I’ve always felt Donovan McNabb got a raw deal in Philadelphia. From being booed by the fans when he was drafted to nearly being consigned to the Oakland Raiders on the way out, Eagles fans underappreciated a quarterback who was successful for them by every metric save one — Super Bowl victories.
When McNabb would try to be a nice guy, it would invariably come back to bite him in the posterior. McNabb championed wide receiver Terrell Owens only to watch TO turn sharply against him, telling stories of the quarterback throwing up in the huddle during the Super Bowl. McNabb was an advocate of bringing Michael Vick to Philadelphia, further complicating the team’s quarterback situation and making his own hold on the starter’s job more tenuous. The icing on the cake was when McNabb consoled struggling young quarterback Jay Cutler after an Eagles win over the Chicago Bears — and some fans criticized him for showing class.
Now McNabb is out, having been traded to the Washington Redskins for some draft picks and maybe a bag of potato chips. McNabb reportedly forced the Eagles to trade him to a division rival rather than exile him to an even more dysfunctional team. But even with all the potential of a Shanahan-McNabb Redskins revival, it is hard not to conclude that McNabb lost his last, best chance for a Super Bowl ring.
Football teams rarely part with franchise quarterbacks unless they are in a downward spiral (think Kurt Warner in St. Louis) or they have clearly been supplanted by their backup (think Drew Bledsoe in New England). Neither situation obtained in McNabb’s case. The closest comparison one can find is the decision the Green Bay Packers made in 2008: In Brett Favre, they had a veteran franchise quarterback who could still play at a high level. But they also felt their backup quarterback, Aaron Rodgers, was ready to start. Obviously, a key difference is that Favre did a lot on his own to set that chain of events in motion.
While Green Bay’s switch didn’t pay immediate dividends — they went 6-10 their first season under Rodgers after going 13-3 the previous season; an injured Favre managed to take the New York Jets to 9-7 — after last season, it looks like the right decision for the long term. Things obviously didn’t work out too badly for Favre either, after a 12-4 season with the Minnesota Vikings that included two convincing wins over the Packers. However things work out with the new Philadelphia starter Kevin Kolb, McNabb is surely hoping to exact similar revenge against the Eagles this coming season.
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