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09 Sep 2010

Walkthrough: McNabb Deniers

by Mike Tanier

My Aunt Ginny went to her grave a Donovan McNabb Denier.

She was 77 years old when she died, but still vibrant and ornery. She followed sports habitually after my Uncle Paul died. Ginny and I had our last in-depth conversation in April 2008. We talked about my writing career and she brought up Donovan McNabb, whom I defended as the Eagles' best chance of winning the Super Bowl in the upcoming season, slim as that chance was. She was livid. "Don't you see that he chokes in every big game?" she demanded. "Can't you see that he's not a good leader?"

I tried to remind her respectfully that I was a professional football writer and that she should defer to my expertise, just as I deferred to hers about family genealogy or the proper way to cook spaghetti. That argument never works with anyone, especially not a 77-year-old Italian woman who used to change your diapers. So I promised to keep an open mind about her opinions, which I assured her were shared by many people.

Ginny died on January 11, 2009, the day the Eagles beat the Giants 23-11 to advance to the NFC Championship game, the day McNabb overcame a slow start against a great defense (two interceptions, a bogus intentional grounding safety) to lead three late scoring drives, throwing for 217 yards and one fourth-quarter touchdown. I don't know how much of the game she saw. I'd like to think that she delighted in the Eagles win, recognized that her criticism of McNabb was a little harsh, then commended her soul unto heaven. More likely, she arrived at the pearly gates right after the safety, meaning at least that she died as she had lived, cursing the quarterback's name.

My beloved aunt died in 2009, but the McNabb Denial movement is still going strong. Some call fans like Aunt Ginny "McNabb Haters," but hatred isn't strong enough a word. They are deniers, like evolution deniers, moon landing deniers, and other deniers who I don't want to mention here. McNabb Deniers don't just denigrate his accomplishments in Philadelphia, they try to erase their very existence. They spent the last decade writing a revisionist history of Eagles football as it happened. Now that McNabb is in Washington, they are shoveling dirt over everything that's left, recasting the most successful decade in Eagles history as an era of failure and scandal. The McNabb Deniers have taken typical Philly pessimism to a new level: It's not just spleen-venting, but a salted-earth pogrom of collective memory eradication that would make Orwell proud.

McChoke and the Next Montana

It's mid-July, and Angelo Cataldi sounds like a baby without his binky. Talk radio discussion in Philly is always slow in summer, even when the Phillies are very good, but Cataldi sounds lost without his favorite plaything. In the absence of anything substantial to say about Philadelphia or national sports, all discussions on his highly rated morning show seem to travel back to McNabb.

When the subject of basketball Hall of Fame speeches comes up, the morning team muses about whether Michael Jordan will launch into another self-serving rant before introducing Scottie Pippen. They joke that McNabb would give a similar airing-of-grievances speech, given the unlikely opportunity. "Boy, that's our only chance of getting mentioned in a Hall of Fame speech," Cataldi muses, inflating his importance as McNabb's primary antagonist. A few days later, a caller just back from Washington reports that he saw McNabb's image painted on a city bus. "Was it the same bus he threw his teammates under?" Cataldi asks, referring to an incident which never occurred.

As summer wore on and Eagles camp started, Cataldi became even more intense in his disparagement of McNabb. As for Kevin Kolb, Cataldi said often that he had "such a great feeling" about the new quarterback, in contrast to the old. In fairness, Cataldi wasn't alone in his McNabb bashing and Kolb fluffing. On rival sports station 97.5 FM "The Fanatic" (an ESPN affiliate) one weekend personality compared Kolb to Joe Montana while callers expressed their joy about a season without "McChoke." It was more than a talk-radio phenomenon. Writers from suburban papers asked loaded questions at training camp, baiting players to make them say something negative about their former quarterback. An unconventional wisdom arose that Kolb would do things McNabb never did -- hit receivers in stride so they can make plays, open up the pages of the West Coast offense that were closed for the last decade. Meanwhile, Kolb was still waiting to lead the Eagles first-team offense to a preseason touchdown.

There was probably some more measured McNabb discussion somewhere on the dial or in the papers. Barring that, there must have been some Eagles discussion that didn't hinge on the wish-fulfillment fantasies of McNabb Deniers whose opinions of Kolb were really just reactions to McNabb, not informed scouting judgments. But the level heads were shouted down and crowded out in Philly years ago. To defend McNabb is to learn that he's "your boy," that you are just defending him out of some personal loyalty or naiveté.

The tone of the conversation keeps rational people away who might want to debate McNabb's real merits or his legacy. Frank Ward of DailyPhiladelphian.com learned this when he wrote a pro-McNabb editorial for the Philadelphia Inquirer in January. "I took the stance that McNabb wasn't appreciated by many in this city and boy did I get ripped in the comments and e-mails that came my way," Ward told me. "However, to my surprise, I received just as many e-mails supporting McNabb and saying it was about time someone stood up for the guy."

That environment has held sway in sports bars and around the water cooler since long before the Super Bowl loss. McNabb Deniers are always at high volume and full throttle. They control the discussion, and it almost takes an act of courage to disagree with them.

Of course, much of what Cataldi and the others do is just rabble rousing for fun and profit. Say something controversial. Get the callers riled up. Preach to the base. Cataldi has a background in hardcore football journalism, so he probably has a handle on McNabb's true value, and his shtick can be hysterical when he's bashing the Cowboys or Yankees. There's a place for all of that -- the sports world would be boring if every media outlet were Football Outsiders. The sports world needs a little trash talk and a little homerism. A little vilification of the guy who just left, and some overheated support for the new kid, is also understandable.

But it stops being fun when we stop recognizing the truth, when we start tarnishing legacies, when we start our attack five months before the guy takes the field and don't stop until many months after he's out of town. And it stops being funny when it's all you've got, when camp is in session and the baseball team is in the pennant race, and the only way you can get a reaction is by talking about a player who has already left. Cataldi didn't invent McNabb Denial, but he's become it's legitimizer and public voice, the man who spent a decade with his stick on the hornet's nest and shows no interest in letting go.

A Difference of Opinion

As mentioned earlier, there are McNabb Lovers (I guess I'm one; I guess he's "my boy") and there are McNabb Haters. That's all this is about. A simple difference of opinion.

"When McNabb played in town, there were only two factions for Philadelphians to join -- the group that loves McNabb and the one that doesn't," John Gonzalez wrote in the Inquirer on August 25, just after McNabb admitted to GQ that he would have liked a little more support from the organization during the Terrell Owens saga. Gonzalez mentioned a new third group, one that wants everyone to stop dwelling on McNabb and focus on the present. He called them the MoveOn(fromMcNabb).org contingent, and believes they have become louder and more petulant than the lovers and haters. "The irony seems to be lost on them," he said.

Articles like that show how the Deniers are winning. The newspapers are now "teaching the controversy." The facts have somehow become irrelevant. It's the kind of journalistic detachment that's irresponsible on important subjects but just embarrassing in the sports field.

This isn't some liberal-versus-conservative conundrum we are talking about. There is an objective reality in place, and there are those who either accept the facts (branded as McNabb Lovers, whatever their respect level for the player might be) and those who deny them, marginalize them, or denigrate them, usually with ad hoc and contradictory criticisms. These aren't complex, geopolitical facts that can be interpreted a dozen different ways, They are wins, touchdowns, interceptions, yards, DVOA, and other ratings, most of which are simple enough for anyone to analyze. The facts are as follows:

  • The last decade of Eagles history has been the most successful of any in anyone's recent memory, and McNabb's play has been one of the primary reasons for that success.
  • McNabb is the greatest quarterback in Eagles history by any reasonable measure. He holds every meaningful record, has won the most games, and has had the most playoff success of everyone in modern history but Norm Van Brocklin, whose three-year Eagles career ended 50 years ago.
  • McNabb was, conservatively, the fifth or sixth best quarterback of the decade of his prime. He's obviously no higher than third, but after Peyton Manning and Tom Brady, he belongs near the top of a group that includes Brett Favre (excluding 1990s accomplishments), Drew Brees, Ben Roethlisberger, Matt Hasselbeck, Steve McNair, and a few others. His productive career completely engulfed those of players like Hasselbeck or Daunte Culpepper, who may have had higher peaks but didn't play at a high level for more than a decade like McNabb did.
  • McNabb was never arrested or accused of any wrongdoing, never conducted himself unprofessionally on or off the field, and always worked hard to project a dignified, team-centered demeanor, even when roped into controversies generated by notorious attention seekers.

The Denier agenda has its own set of facts:

  • McNabb was a choke artist who never won a big game. He put up some good numbers, but he couldn't hold a candle to Ron Jaworski (whom we also booed), Randall Cunningham (whom we ran out of town), or Tommy Thompson (my grandfather saw him at Franklin Field in 1948). If he wasn't so tied to Andy Reid's apron strings, he would have been benched in favor of Jeff Garcia, A.J. Feeley, or Kolb after the Ravens game in 2008. He was a numbers guy. He was an athlete playing quarterback who was only effective when he ran. He puked at the Super Bowl. I saw it with my own eyes but the league offices erased the tape, even sending a signal that erased it from my Tivo of the game. Every single one of his passes hit receivers in the feet. He couldn't execute the West Coast offense properly. His record-setting interception rate was the result of his unwillingness to take chances. He didn't know the overtime rules, which isn't just an isolated boneheaded incident but proof of his utter incompetence and disregard for the game.
  • And here's the best part: that dignified, team-centered demeanor was all just a front for a secretly selfish, passive-aggressive individual who didn't care about the game and took all of our helpful, constructive criticism as fans directly to heart. McNabb was a mama's boy who never got over the fact that a talk-radio host decided to ruin the greatest day of his 22-year old life by coaxing a bunch of angry drunks into booing him at the draft. All he cared about was his paycheck -- just look at how he laughed after incomplete passes -- and no one on the team had any respect for him whatsoever. The jerk.

You see? It's just a difference of opinion, valid points on both sides. If you think one side makes more sense than the other, well, it just means that McNabb is "your boy."

You probably think I created a straw man argument above. And yes, I may have exaggerated the Denier Agenda slightly. Try walking into a Philly taproom and striking up a conversation about McNabb. Chances are, you'll hear five or six of the criticisms I just presented.

Big Brother isn't Watching

First baseman Ryan Howard is perhaps the luckiest great player in Philly sports history. He arrived on the scene when there were many other local players -- great, controversial, and both -- for fans to obsess over. He helped his team to the World Series relatively early in his career. He has taken his share of criticism during slumps, but he's never been subjected to the full assault of the local media, and it's possible that he never will be, thanks to that championship ring.

Howard has always been philosophical about the Philly sports media because he could afford to be. A few weeks ago, he offered 76ers rookie Evan Turner some advice. "He said you gotta' compare Philly to, like, a big brother," Turner said of the conversation. "Some days he's gonna like you and some days he might not like you, but he still loves you, and it's all about what you do and how you do things ... but it's always having the support, no matter what."

I have lived here almost 40 years, and I have a big brother. I get it. I get it when I see people rush up to Jaworski for autographs, when I see standing ovations for Mike Schmidt. These guys were booed mercilessly, then embraced. Fandom, like brotherhood, can be harsh.

What's happening to McNabb isn't booing. It isn't fraternal criticism. It's character assassination. Booing is an in-the-moment impulse, a seat-of-the-pants judgment. I've screamed at McNabb, hurled my kids' toys across the room, stormed out of bars cursing his name, sulked through Audibles at the Line with nary an Eagles comment after his poor games. Criticism, right or wrong, implies thought and perspective. McNabb had an awful delivery on out-routes. His ball security, in recent years, was terrible. He had slumps. He should have known the damn overtime rules. McNabb "lovers" are capable of criticism.

McNabb, more than Jaworski, Schmidt, or anyone before him, has become the victim of a smear campaign, one that connects the dots between real and perceived faults, plays very fast with the facts, and ignores all the evidence that doesn't fit. In other words, a denier's agenda. That agenda forces dissenters into trench-warfare argument tactics that grind us into surrender.

That 23-11 win against the Giants in 2009, the last game my aunt ever saw? It never happened, you see, because McNabb was a choke artist who never won a big game. Ever. OK, so it happened. But it wasn't a big game. Playoff games against the Giants aren't big, right? Big games are defined as games lost by McNabb.

Even if you concede that win was "slightly" big, well so what? He lost the following week. McNabb lost, not the Eagles. What? He threw for 375 yards and three touchdowns in the game? Yeah, but he's a numbers guy, not a guy who can lead a comeback. What? The Cardinals led 24-6, but McNabb threw three touchdowns to take a 25-24 fourth quarter lead? You better not suggest that the defense was to blame for that loss. Brian Dawkins was playing for that defense that got burnt for four touchdowns, and Dawkins is a warrior, not a choke artist like McNabb, who chokety-choke-choked that game away just like every other big game.

What about fourth-and-26? That was just a Packers defensive lapse. Wins over the Vikings and Falcons to reach the Super Bowl? What, are you one of those Pollyannas who is content to come in second? No wonder McNabb's your boy, he didn't care about winning or losing either, as long as he looked good and didn't get sacked too much.

The Victimless Crime

No one really gets hurt, right? McNabb is wealthy and successful. Cataldi is well paid, his audience entertained. McNabb Denial isn't evolution denial; it's not going to hurt our children's education or our standing in the modern world. A little McNabb bashing takes no money out of Mike Tanier's wallet. Just the opposite: I spin it into jokes that I can sell to media outlets, use it to write articles like these and to frame the arguments of my book. I profit from it just as much as anyone.

Did it hurt Aunt Ginny? We know most 77-year-old aunts don't form their own sports opinions. She got hers from Uncle Paul, who formed it with his buddies, who formed it from the synergy of media coverage, personal prejudices, and 70 years of Philly sports viewing. Ginny tuned in every week to love the Eagles and hate the starting quarterback. I think she deserved to watch a player she liked every week. And I think McNabb is a player she would have liked, if not for the incessant drumbeat of the Deniers, the knee-jerk pessimism and relentless criticism that marked most of McNabb's tenure.

And that's the rub, because something really does get hurt. The fan experience gets hurt. When you don't want to say something positive about your own team's starting quarterback at a party or in a tavern because you don't want to risk an argument with a loudmouth Denier, it hurts. When you start to doubt your own joyful sports recollections, when fourth-and-26 is deleted from your mind and overwritten by implanted memories of a Super Bowl puke which never happened, it hurts. When you see the next kid set atop that precarious pedestal, and you know that he's got a year or two, maybe more, maybe less, before the talk radio entertainers and permanently dissatisfied booers and lassaiz-faire "that's just what the populace thinks" journalists flick him off, it hurts. It robs us of the joy of watching the games. As history is re-written, it robs us of the joy of even remembering them.

So that's all that's at stake -- the fun of watching the game. The thing that gets me, Cataldi, and McNabb paid. Otherwise, McNabb Denial is a victimless crime. No one dies immediately when the well is poisoned, we all just get sick for a long time.

And with that, Walkthrough is now a No McNabb zone for the remainder of the season. I may write some McNabb-Eagles-Redskins hype in the weeks to come, but not in this column. Also, I ask that all comments stick with the subject at hand without bringing up any controversial "denial" movements with political implications.

Reno, Nevada 2054

LenDale White: Matt? Matt Leinart? Is that really you?

Matt Leinart: Oh my gosh, LenDale White! I'm glad you made it to the reunion. Is that Reggie with you?

Reggie Bush: Mmmph.

White: Yeah, that's him. He can't talk since they melted down his Heisman and recast it as a ball gag for him to wear for all eternity. Reggie, can I give you another piña colada IV?

Bush: Mmmph.

Leinart: Lendale, you remember J-Wow, right? I started dating her back in the '40s. Wow, honey, I could use a drink. Hold this funnel really high while I open a six pack.

J-Wow: Not now, dear. I have to adjust the winch and pulley on the back of my support bra.

White: Never mind those beer bongs, buddy. I am drinking Patron infused with those worms the astronauts found on Europa.

Leinart: I heard those worms burrow into the back of your neck and turn you evil.

White: At $200 a bottle, they better.

Leinart: Gosh, seeing all the old faces reminds me of the good old days, back when the University of Southern California had a football team, back when there was a Southern California, before global wa ...

White: Careful, Matt. President Swift has microphones everywhere, and she doesn't like that kind of talk.

Leinart: Hey look, it's Lofa Tatupu! Lofa, come sit with us! Lofa! Lofa? Oh well, I guess he didn't want to sit at our All Offense table.

White: More like he didn't want to sit at the loser table. Look at our careers, Matt. I ate, drank, and smoked myself to the point that I was just injury-prone roster fodder. You became such a liability that you lost your job to Derek Anderson, for heaven's sake. And Reggie, well he had some highlights and won a Super Bowl ring. But he never came close to his potential, and he played so fast and loose with agents and the booster club that it brought the NCAA hammer down on the whole school. And even though the NCAA wasn't as powerful back then -- they hadn't taken over the Middle East yet -- it was still enough to doom the program. Right, Reggie?

Bush: Mmmph.

White: At least Lofa and some of the other guys had good NFL careers. We can only look back on a national championship that got stripped from the record books, wins that are stricken from history. When scuba divers excavate the campus, they can't even find any mention of us.

Leinart: Not everything is lost. I still have my Heisman!

Tatupu: Hey guys, sorry to interrupt. An NCAA archivist found evidence that a member of the 2004 fencing team accepted an Applebee's gift certificate from a booster whose wife once dated an agent. If Matt doesn't surrender his Heisman in 20 minutes, they'll launch a tactical missile strike against this hotel.

Leinart: Bummer. Oh well, at least we have our education, right?

White: I'm gonna pour another drink and forget you ever said that.

Posted by: Mike Tanier on 09 Sep 2010

221 comments, Last at 26 Sep 2010, 11:27pm by Orange_and_Black


by Mountainhawk :: Thu, 09/09/2010 - 9:47am

Eagles fans should have been careful what they wished for. I fear it'll be another 20-30 years before a QB with the talent of McNabb comes back to Philadelphia. He and Andy Reid made the Eagles relevant again, and all they get for that is grief.

I'm so glad I've moved away from Philly. I'll always love the teams, but the fans/sports media just don't get it.

by bingo762 :: Thu, 09/09/2010 - 10:44am

I said it before, I'll say it again, "Please don't lump those idiots in with Philly sports fans". Mike coined a great term "McNabb Deniers". Call 'em that, not Philly sports fans. Thanks

by Mr Shush :: Thu, 09/09/2010 - 12:15pm

Actually, as good as McNabb was, I don't think it's terribly unlikely that Kolb will be roughly as good a player (multiple pro bowls but never an all pro, tons of production but peak too low for Canton). A guy who helps you win in a significant way, but not a guy who's good enough to make you win even when he's largely surrounded by dreck, or win championships with only a slightly above average supporting cast. A good player on a good team, but one who could never be the best player on a great one.



Seems plausible to me.

by tuluse :: Thu, 09/09/2010 - 4:10pm

I think you are terribly underrating McNabb.

Look at the receivers he had before TO showed up.

by Mr Shush :: Thu, 09/09/2010 - 8:51pm

Sure, the receivers were lousy, but the offensive line and defense were by and large very strong. McNabb was an important part of the reason the team was successful, of course, but I think if you put Manning, Brady, Brees, good Warner or good Favre on those teams, they would have been more successful.

Here are McNabb's pre-Owens passing DVOA and DYAR numbers:

1999: -56.3% (50th) -702 (50th)
2000: -3.9% (25th) 290 (16th)
2001: -7.6% (22nd) 120 (19th)
2002: -1.0% (24th) 262 (24th)
2003: 1.4% (16th) 424 (12th)

Owens arrives and Westbrook breaks out:

2004: 28.9% (6th) 1322 (6th)
2005: 9.0% (13th) 492 (15th)

TO leaves, but the receiving corps includes half-way decent guys like Stallworth and Curtis, not the bums from the early years, and Westbrook remains monstrous.

2006: 18.8% (6th) 660 (9th)
2007: 8.2% (18th) 658 (14th)
2008: 15.6% (12th) 1048 (8th)

Westbrook's done but Jackson's breaking out:

2009: 8.9% (20th) 619 (16th)

So in 2004, with a Hall of Fame wide receiver and a pro bowl pass catching running back, both in their primes, a great offensive line and an elite defense, McNabb has a career year and comes in . . . 6th in both DYAR and DVOA. He had three years in the top ten for DYAR, and two for DVOA. He was never in the top five for either stat. Yes, prior to injury he also had some decent rushing value, but really I think you have to be finding some pretty extreme adjustments relating to team-mate quality or something, which I don't think can be justified in this case, to rate him as a great quarterback, rather than one who was above average for quite a while.

By way of contrast, let's take a look at Brady in 2005 and 2006, when his supporting cast, on both sides of the ball (defensive line notwithstanding), really was pretty lousy (remember Jabar Gaffney and Reche Caldwell, starting wide receivers?):

2005: 27.8% (5th) 1377 (3rd)
2006: 17.4% (8th) 1009 (5th)

Brady with horrible players around him looks quite a lot like McNabb with great players around him - perhaps a little better. I know no-one is saying McNabb is or was as good as Brady, but I do think it's worth pointing out by quite how much that is true. In fact, this review has led me to believe that McNair should probably also be ranked ahead of McNabb in terms of rough contemporaries.

by tuluse :: Thu, 09/09/2010 - 10:19pm

Jabar Gaffney is much better Todd Pinkston or James Thrash.

In 2000, McNabb's receiving corps was so bad TE Chad Lewis lead the team in both receptions and yards

Brady in 2005 still had Branch and Givens. He's had Kevin Faulk for a long time, I know he's not a great player, but he's decent receiving back. In 2006, his receivers were pretty bad, but that was one year where you could say they're comparable to McNabb's pre-TO, and by that time he was 29 years old and already established. McNabb was 28 by the time a receiver who would be considered a #1 option arrived. In fact, I would go so far as to say his receivers prior to that wouldn't even be #2 options on most teams.

by Mr Shush :: Thu, 09/09/2010 - 11:52pm

You're right, Jabar Gaffney is much better than James Thrash, in the sense that he's a legitimate (not good) NFL #3 where Thrash was maybe a #5. They're both still hopelessly out of their depth as a #1 receiver. Branch was probably a legit-ish #2 for a while, making him by far the best receiver Brady had pre-Moss. On the other hand, I'm pretty sure McNabb had better pass-blocking through most if not all of that period, and again, Brady's performance with that sucky supporting cast, even if it wasn't quite as sucky as McNabb's a few years earlier, was on a par with what McNabb did with Owens and Westbrook at age 28 in his sixth year as a starter. However bad the players around them were, I don't think Brady, Manning, prime Brees, good Favre or good Warner would ever come close to posting a negative DVOA, as McNabb did in each of his first five seasons (though behind a truly awful line Warner might just get killed, I suppose). Each of those guys, when they did get good players around them, produced at a level far above anything McNabb managed in the years when he had a quality supporting cast (04, 08, 09). Favre and (especially) Warner may have been less consistent than McNabb, but I really have a hard time not seeing those five as the top five quarterbacks of that generation, with the Canton cut-off falling in the (considerable) gap between them and McNabb. That doesn't mean he wasn't a good and valuable player, and it certainly doesn't mean he deserves "blame" for the team's "failings". "McNabb was a bum and should have been run out of town years ago" is definitely a stupider statement than "McNabb is a Hall of Famer", but I have precious little time for either notion.

by tuluse :: Fri, 09/10/2010 - 12:20am

In my own little world, I can see McNabb as a HOFer, but that's because I don't take the HOF very seriously. I mean it's an institution devoted to honoring men who play a game for a living, is there any reason we shouldn't let in every player you can make a half-way decent argument for?

I do have a warped perception of McNabb from the 2001 playoff game against the Bears, where the typical Eagles possession was something like this: run for 3 yards, run for no gain, McNabb drops back to pass, scans, scans, scans (this was a combination of their line being good, and the Bears having no pass rush), a d-lineman finally breaks through, McNabb dodges him, and either runs for the first or finds Chad Lewis 15 yards downfield. It was infuriating, and the first year I really got into football.

One final point, in the past 10 years I think the talent level of QBs in the NFL has increased considerably from the 2nd half of the 90s. McNabb was basically the start of this talent infusion, and looks worse compared to his contemporaries than say Jim Kelly, while there is a good chance he was better than Kelly.

by Mr Shush :: Fri, 09/10/2010 - 7:40am

Kelly's an interesting comparison, but of course some era adjustment is required: if their unadjusted stats are very similar (which they are) that almost certainly means Kelly's performance was more impressive in the context of the league at that time. We don't have DVOA for any of Kelly's peak yet, so we can't really compare on that basis, but we might note that Kelly was once selected as a first team all pro, so presumably he gets a tick for the "Was he ever at least arguably the best player in the league at his position?" question (a really important one, for me), whereas McNabb most definitely does not. Other starting quarterbacks around the league at that time included Marino, Young, Elway and Aikman, so it's not like the competition were bums in 1991 either. I guess it's probably also true that Kelly gets/got some extra credit for being one of the key players on a legendary unit. Finally, I should probably say that I see Kelly as being a fairly marginal Hall of Famer himself.

by AlanSP :: Fri, 09/10/2010 - 8:39pm

I mentioned this elsewhere in the comments, but Kelly's and McNabb's passing numbers are similar in pretty much every respect except interception's where McNabb is far better. Also, if you're going to adjust for the contex in terms of the era, I think it also makes sense to adjust for the quality of the offensive supporting cast and Kelly had much more offensive talent around him except perhaps for the Eagles' 2004 season.

I also kind of feel the need to point out that McNabb's running (or say, Steve Young's) is not merely some interesting novelty, but something that greatly helped his team and deserves much more than a brief mention if we're comparing guys who contributed with their legs to other QBs.

As far as the "best guy at his position" thing, that seems like largely an accident of timing. The only reason McNabb doesn't meet that criteria is because his superb 2004 season happened to be at the same time as Peyton Manning's 49 TD 2004 season. McNabb's 2004 numbers would easily have been good for 1st team all-pro in most other years and I see no reason to downgrade him because it coincidentally was at the same time as one of the top couple seasons ever.

by billsfan :: Fri, 09/10/2010 - 9:30pm

No coincidence... 2004 was first season with rules "clarification" on illegal contact.

(I also like the Eagles)

by Mr Shush :: Sat, 09/11/2010 - 7:26am

Right. Loads of quarterbacks had career years in 2004, not just McNabb and Manning, which is why McNabb was 6th in passing DVOA and 5th in total DYAR (his rushing moves him ahead of Favre). He wasn't just behind Manning and (arguably pre-peak) Brady (in both stats) and (pre-peak) Brees in DVOA; he was behind fellow good but not great players Daunte Culpepper (in both stats) Trent Green (in DYAR), and behind a rookie Ben Roethlisberger in DVOA. It's very hard to see the colossal spike in passing performance in 2004 as other than a consequence of the above-mentioned rule change.

by AlanSP :: Sat, 09/11/2010 - 12:33pm

DYAR understates how good McNabb was that year, as he sat out the last two games after the Eagles went 13-1 and clinched the #1 seed. If he'd actually played in those games, he would have almost certainly moved ahead of Brady (whom he only trailed by 26) and likely Green as well, which would leave him behind only Manning and Culpepper (who also had an all-time-great season that year).

by billsfan :: Fri, 09/10/2010 - 9:30pm

No coincidence... 2004 was first season with rules "clarification" on illegal contact.

(I also like the Eagles)

by Philly Jim (not verified) :: Sat, 09/11/2010 - 1:17pm


Are you referring to the Jabar Gaffney that only signed with the Patriots after spending all of training camp with the Eagles only to get cut? That Jabar Gaffney, that was such a good player, and better than all other Philly receivers, and yet couldn't even crack the Philly squad?

That Jabar Gaffney?

by AlanSP :: Sat, 09/11/2010 - 2:52pm

The Patriots' receivers pre-Moss/Welker were much better than the Eagles' receivers before TO, and it's not close (the possible exception being the 2005 Pats, whose receivers genuinely did suck). As I think I mentioned elsewhere (it's hard to keep track on a thread like this), those pre-T.O. receivers were incapable of even holding a roster spot on other teams. And if you're going to use DYAR and DVOA as measuring sticks for the QB's, take a look at where the Pats' bad receivers were as compared to where the Eagles' bad receivers were (or their good ones for that matter; TO and DeSean Jackson were 19th and 28th in DVOA in 2004 and 2009, respectively).

Using DYAR to compare players during years where one missed time and the others did not is quite misleading. McNabb's 2004 DYAR was 3rd on a per-game basis, trailing only Manning's record-breaking season and Culpepper's career year. During the brief time when he had an elite receiver, McNabb put up elite numbers.

You mention Brady's 2006 season, but it's worth noting that McNabb was also outstanding in 2006 when his top receivers were Stallworth and Reggie Brown. Again, saying "well he only ranked 7th in combined DYAR" (you said 9th, but this simply ignores the rushing DYAR as if those yards don't count) is extremely misleading because he only played in 9 games before going down early in the 10th. Again, per game, his combined DYAR was 3rd, trailing only Manning and Brees.

More to the point, it's kind of pointless to say, "well Tom Brady was better during that one year when his receivers were lousy." No kidding. Brady is almost certain to end up in the hall of fame. That's like looking at Jim Kelly and saying "well, Steve Young was better." He was (by a large margin), but that doesn't mean Kelly wasn't a great player.

by Guido Merkens :: Thu, 09/09/2010 - 10:16am

Did something happen to Philly fans in their childhood? I grew up as a member of the Detroit sports scene, and while we usually expect the worst, it usually manifests itself as quiet resignation rather than anger toward athletes.

by Dean :: Thu, 09/09/2010 - 10:32am

Nobody's allowed to question Philly fans except Philly fans. It's not something an outsider could ever hope to understand.

There really is something intangible woven into the fiber of the city. It's the most passionate sports town in the nation. The loudest, most passionate, most knowledgable fans anywhere. Who, both for better and for worse, have an incredible irrational streak.

The sad thing is, he's not the first to get this treatment. 10 years ago, the names changed but the story was the same. Instead of Reid/McNabb, it was Clarke/Lindros.

by MidnightAngler (not verified) :: Thu, 09/09/2010 - 10:51am

Philly fans are pretty much universally criticized. To suggest they are "knowledgeable" is in direct contradiction with their treatment of McNabb. You can't be knowledgeable and have an "irrational streak".

The real loser in all of this is Kevin Kolb. He has the unenviable task of replacing a top QB who enjoyed great success but was entirely unappreciated. In all likelihood he will enjoy less success than McNabb, and unless he is the next Aaron Rodgers (which is unlikely) he has at most a few weeks before the Philly fans turn on him. The expectations are high. A lot of Philly fans believe McNabb was the one thing holding them back from a SB win - they are about to be disappointed.

Why does an organization trade a guy like McNabb to a division rival? Are they convinced he has nothing left? Have they bought into the negative hype? Do you really want to give a guy like McNabb the opportunity to destroy you twice a year?

The real winner is Santana Moss. If McNabb is even a shadow of his old self, Moss is going to have a big year.

by bingo762 :: Thu, 09/09/2010 - 11:00am

Because he was getting up there in age, was becoming even more of an injury risk, and his contract was expiring soon as was his successor. He wanted an extension. Kolb was done waiting. Circumstance forced the Eagles and this was the last year they could get anything of value for him. Why to a division rival? Nobody knows but I'm guessing because they offered the best compensation in return.

by MidnightAngler (not verified) :: Thu, 09/09/2010 - 11:05am

I don't know. You figure you could probably get at least a 3rd rounder for McNabb out of Oakland. I'd rather have a 3rd round pick and get the guy out of the conference than a 2nd round pick and have to play him twice. Maybe they think he'll never survive behind Washington's line...

by Dean :: Thu, 09/09/2010 - 11:08am

"To suggest they are "knowledgeable" is in direct contradiction with their treatment of McNabb."

That's the dichotomy of Philly. It's only contradictory to an outsider.

"Why does an organization trade a guy like McNabb to a division rival?"
1) Because it's one of the places McNabb was willing to go, and Reid (despite Big Media's portrayal of him as heartless), didn't want to exile him to, say, Oakland.
2) Because the Redskins are so inept and so devoid of talent that Philly's willing to trade to them a franchise QB safe in the knowledge that even with him, they're still a 6-10 team at best. And behind that line, once McNabb goes down, you can start practicing the phrase The Redskins Are On The Clock.

by Revenge of the NURBS (not verified) :: Thu, 09/09/2010 - 11:46am

"It's only contradictory to an outsider."

Yeah, it's that way with cult members too.

by Independent George :: Thu, 09/09/2010 - 1:24pm

Raiderjoe is like the inverse of the McNabb Deniers - simultaneously knowledgeable and irrational (just in the opposite direction). And with comparable diction, too.

by DavidL :: Thu, 09/09/2010 - 2:13pm

Imagine a mathematician who demonstrates a complete command of all the facts and skills you'd expect from an expert in the field, and uses them to prove that two and two make seven. That's the kind of thing you find in Philly sports culture.

by drobviousso :: Fri, 09/10/2010 - 12:25am

Indeed. Almost any committed denier of any of the various off limits flavors can usually be counted on to be informed, just not able to use objective facts (potentially not what they are informed of) to make ration conclusions.

This is a pretty big issue among the so called "Skeptic Community".

by billsfan :: Thu, 09/09/2010 - 7:59pm

See also: Bledose, Drew.

(I also like the Eagles)

by tomdrees :: Thu, 09/09/2010 - 12:03pm

My guess is they'll turn on Reid before they turn on Kolb if the team gets off to a rough start. This will start off a cascade of Reid bashing which will allow Philly fans to eventually view McNabb's career in a more nostalgic light. That's one of the things they do, they pass the buck on blame until they forget where it all came from, and then they can like whoever it is they were originally bashing once his career's safely over.

by Bad Doctor :: Thu, 09/09/2010 - 2:47pm

Absolutely. That's the worst part of this season ... if Kolb is great, it'll be further proof that McNabb should've been benched for Feeley/Garcia/Kolb long ago. If he's not good, then it shows that that bum Andy Reid isn't even good enough to be O-line coach at BYU.

In fairness, I think Tanier overdoes it a little bit in his description of the McNabb Deniers' plank. However, the last four paragraphs of the Big Brother is Watching section ... spot on.

by RichC (not verified) :: Thu, 09/09/2010 - 10:52am

The idea that Philly fans are the most knowledgeable is ludicrous.

by bingo762 :: Thu, 09/09/2010 - 10:54am

Have to agree. They throw that around alot here.

Dangerously ignorant is what springs to my mind.

by Temo :: Thu, 09/09/2010 - 11:24am

Uh, I'm going to go ahead and disagree with you on all accounts there. Philly fans are no more special than any other major sports city's fans. Boston fans tried to pull this same EXACT card for a few years, and this is no better.

by Mountainhawk :: Thu, 09/09/2010 - 11:37am

Grew up in Philly, lived in NY for 6 years and now live in Boston for the last 6.

There is no comparsion. Boston sports fans are by far the least knowledgable, most obnoxious sports fans of the 3 cities. I mean, I even root for the Yankees to beat the Red Sox now.

New York fans seem to quit on their teams faster than Philly fans, but they don't turn as nasty as the Philadelphia fan does. They just move on to the next sport.

I'd also give the NY fan the edge on knowing the sport. It was much easier to talk about the rest of the NFL/MLB in NY than it was in Philly or Boston.

by Dean :: Thu, 09/09/2010 - 12:20pm

When I lived in New York, I noticed the opposite. There were a few die hards that genuninely cared about their team, but if the team stunk, nobody cared about the whole league (this was all sports, not just the NFL). Anything that happened outside the 5 borroughs was dismissed as white trash and sheepfuckers and unworthy of discussion. When the map ends at the Hudson river and "here be dragons" is printed where the rest of the world would find New Jersey, you're not going to find too many conversations - intelligent or otherwise - about any of those pissant little towns out there in flyover country.

by Harry (not verified) :: Thu, 09/09/2010 - 10:59pm

Boston probably has the most knowledgeable English Premier League fans of any major US city. You're right though - the knowledge base of Red Sox fans seems to have really degraded in the last 10 years. It's certainly noticeable at Fenway. Too many bandwagon fans and corporate types since the World Series wins. Our hockey fans are as good as anywhere - but you may have trouble finding them. In football neither Boston or New York can really compete with places like Pittsburgh.

by roguerouge :: Thu, 09/09/2010 - 11:53pm

These sorts of assertions, good and bad, are often unprovable. As for Boston and NYC, I'll simply note that both cities regularly import hundreds of thousands of new people each year, making it hard to compete with Pittsburgh in sports trivia. If you're living in Pittsburgh, it's far more likely that you're a lifer fan of that team, with the attendant knowledge base, than a fan in Boston or NYC, both of which have more transient fans learning about the local sports teams and fans who move to other cities and root knowledgeably there. NYC seems to have more than 500,000 college students, Boston gets 374,000 college students every four years, while Pittsburgh has just 85,000.

by carlos bravo (not verified) :: Fri, 09/10/2010 - 11:14am

I agree, NYC has the most level headed fans, Philly is full winy b*tches.

by Admore :: Fri, 09/10/2010 - 9:28am

Thank you Temo. I get really tired of certain self-congratulatory and overwrought fanbases deploying their "specialness" as an all-purpose excuse for all sorts of shabby behavior.

by JPS (not verified) :: Thu, 09/09/2010 - 7:44pm

I think "fiber of the city" is right. A not-into-sports friend of mine moved out to Philadelphia (from Denver) several years back for school. When I flew out to see her the following spring, I asked her about "how Philly feels to you". She replied, "There is just so much suppressed rage here!"

by zlionsfan :: Thu, 09/09/2010 - 2:23pm

Well, something to keep in mind is that an 18-year-old Detroit fan has seen his or her teams win 5 championships, a 23-year-old has seen 7, and a 30-year-old has seen 8, and that's just from three major leagues. Sure, the Pistons and Lions suck now, and the Tigers and Wings are in that in-between world where playoffs are possible but championships are unlikely, but we've just experienced an era of success beyond pretty much any other time in Detroit sports history. (The '50s were certainly wonderful for the Wings and Lions, but title-wise, there wasn't much on either side of that decade.)

So it's easier for us to absorb a poor game or week or season. We've seen the good times, even if in football they haven't been recent.

As for McNabb, well hey, I'd gladly take any of his seasons to replace pretty much any season by a Detroit QB in my lifetime, Mitchell's '95 season being perhaps the only exception, and even with that, run-and-shoot passing is pretty hard to compare to pro-style offenses.

I'd love to see the Lions make a Super Bowl, even if they don't win it ... it sucks to lose but at least you got there. I can understand wanting to go back and win once you've been there, but you know, a lot of teams never even make it that far.

by Bill Prudden (not verified) :: Thu, 09/09/2010 - 10:36am

Sir -

You need to charge for content of this quality. A well-written essay is a rare bird indeed.


by bingo762 :: Thu, 09/09/2010 - 10:45am

Right on. I hope someone forwards this along to WIP. BTW, Angelo is starting to turn on Kolb now.

by JasonK :: Thu, 09/09/2010 - 12:37pm

I'm guessing that some version of the above will be making its way into the Philly sports book that Tanier is working on, which I presume will not be distributed free-of-charge.

by The Other Ben Johnson (not verified) :: Thu, 09/09/2010 - 10:47am

If it's any consolation, I get a general sense that the rest of the nation is tired of Philly fan pessimism and generally rooting from a McNabb-led Redskins squad to beat the Eagles in both games this year. But that might be me looking at the world through Redskins-colored glasses.

I also get a general sense that the rest of the nation thinks that Philly fans are a bunch of loudmouth ingnorami who boo Santa and beat each other to death in parking lots, which isn't really fair to anybody from the region even when it's accurate in isolated cases. But this they're-all-against-us perception has a lot to do with why such pessimistic Philly fandom trends as McNabb Denying gain traction. It's a scrappy town. You guys would rather be wrong and together than right and separate, and there's a certain level of misplaced honor in that. It's the sports equivalent of joining the confederate army in order to protect your community.

by bingo762 :: Thu, 09/09/2010 - 10:53am

I...I...Is that a complement or insult? Gotta be an insult. Being compared the the confederate army can never be good

by tomdrees :: Thu, 09/09/2010 - 11:56am

It depends on how you look at it. Is there honor in giving your life for a lost cause? What if the cause itself is morally indefensible? What if it's also tied into other causes that aren't morally indefensible, such as being forced to choose between doing what's right and not fighting against one's own family? To what extent are they (confederate army regulars/McNabb Deniers) right when they contend that race is not a motivator for their dedication to the cause, even though it sure seems like that's a big part of it to everybody on the outside? The Civil War is complicated and so is Philly's relationship to their sports teams. That's all I'm trying to say. I'll get off it before this metaphor snaps and comes back to hurt me.

by SouthernSkinsFan (not verified) :: Thu, 09/09/2010 - 12:10pm

I was born, raised and live in the South. But I have to agree with you. That was an insult. IMO, beening from a state that was part of the Confederacy is nothing to be proud about. Never got that line of thinking and never will.

But as a Redskins fan, I will gladly take McNabb, possibly the greatest player to ever wear the Eagles uniform, any day over Jason Campbell. Nice kid, but not a good QB. Welcome to Washington Mr. McNabb!

Great article by the way.

by Mr Shush :: Thu, 09/09/2010 - 12:34pm

"possibly the greatest player to ever wear the Eagles uniform"

Sorry dude, but that claim is just not tenable. Fifteen men currently enshrined in Canton have played for the Eagles. Dawkins and Owens are certain to join them. It's just about conceivable that Trent Cole will one day too, depending on how the remainder of his career goes. There is absolutely no possibility of McNabb making it. In particular, there is no possible way McNabb belongs in the same league as Reggie White or Chuck Bednarik. I don't even think McNabb meets the lower standard of being the greatest Eagle of his generation (Dawkins). He's a fine player, and even at this age the best quarterback your lot have had in ages, but keep it in proportion.

by Will Allen :: Thu, 09/09/2010 - 12:46pm

Yeah, there may not have been five NFL players, ever, who one can definitively say were better than Reggie White. There ain't many I'd trade for Bednarik, either. I have always thought the criticism of McNabb was mostly stupid, but, no, he isn't close to being the greatest Eagle of all time.

by Yaguar :: Thu, 09/09/2010 - 2:04pm

Reggie White is directly comparable to Lawrence Taylor as a pass rusher, and better against the run. I would have a very difficult time calling him anything less than the best defensive player ever.

by Will Allen :: Thu, 09/09/2010 - 2:10pm

Yeah, the only guys, and there may not be five, who I would argue were better than White were all quarterbacks, simply due to the nature of the position, not because they were better at their jobs than White was at his. I've said before that if I was starting a team with guys I saw play, and I could not pick a qb first, I'd pick Reggie White.

by Lance :: Thu, 09/09/2010 - 4:04pm

Slightly off topic, but I once saw-- perhaps 15 years ago?-- in, I think, Pro Football Weekly (the print version) an article where four (or more?) of their editors/writers did an "All Time" NFL draft. I have looked for years to find that article, just because I'd love to see what people were thinking then, and then wonder how that draft might change now.

If I were in a 10 team (or whatever) league, where you get to pick anyone who played, say, 66% of their career in the Super Bowl era (and assume that your time machine were a relativistic one (so that guys like Fran Tarkenton would perform at the same level against modern players as he did against guys playing 40 or 50 years ago)), who would get picked #1? I ponder often how such a draft would pan out...


by Sergio :: Fri, 09/10/2010 - 11:12am

Marino. But that's just me.

-- Go Phins!

by jebmak :: Fri, 09/10/2010 - 9:12pm

I would have said that too, until Manning.

Though Big Cheese below makes a pretty good point.

Also, Go Phins!

by BigCheese :: Fri, 09/10/2010 - 7:21pm

As much as I'd like my pick to be either Walter Payton or Jerry Rice (in my mind the only two people who should even be considered to top that list that the NFL Network is putting out right about now) I think that the correct answer has to be Reggie White.

Why? Because if I don't get Manning, Montana or Marino I can "make do" with Young, Elway or Brady. If I don't get Payton or Barry there's always Emmit, LdT or Peterson. If I don't get Rice I'll "settle" for Moss, Johnson or Largent. If Muñoz is gone, Pace, Roaf or Ogden are still out there.

But the drop-off between White and the 10th best End is greater than at any other position of even comparable importance.

- Alvaro

by tuluse :: Fri, 09/10/2010 - 10:04pm

By that logic, I'd think you would have to go with Jerry Rice, as the drop off between him and #2 (whoever you want to put there) has to be the biggest gap of any position.

If you don't get White, there is still Deacon Jones (I'm sure there are some who would argue he was better than White), Bruce Smith, or Lee Roy Selman (Ron Wolf said he was the best player he ever saw).

It looks to me like receiver has the biggest dropoff, not end.

by Lance :: Mon, 09/13/2010 - 3:51pm

Yeah, I've thought about the "drop off" argument (I've been pondering this question for literally years) and there's some merit to it. If it's a 10-team draft, I think I can find 10 QBs I'd be happy with. I can also think I can find about 10 RBs. There is a drop-off at WR, though, as you note. After Rice, it's hard to find a clear-cut #2 guy (Carter? Moss? Etc., etc., etc.). And what about at #10? I'm pretty sure I'd be happy if my QB is, say, Roger Staubach, even if he's not Montana, Manning, Marino, etc. But what about if my starting WR is Isaac Bruce, or Michael Irvin (following this list)? It's not bad, but I don't know.

But then again, how much is a WR a factor in the game? I don't know if it's enough to make me want to use my first pick on one. But I'd have to think on it.

I'm actually more inclined, I think, to go with a defensive player first. Taylor is an obvious first round pick. But I'm wondering-- would it be crazy to draft Deion Sanders first? I know he was bagged on a lot while playing, but in my mind, he was pretty impressive to watch. I think drafting him, and then burning my next two picks on top OL, and then my 4th pick on another defensive player-- perhaps the best DE available in a 4-3 scheme-- and then turn to skill positions.


by Kevin from Philly :: Thu, 09/09/2010 - 4:53pm

Ther's no comparison - Reggie White was a much better player than Taylor.

by MJK :: Thu, 09/09/2010 - 5:06pm

I know I'm in the minority here, but I always thought Bruce Smith was as good as Reggie White. Had slightly fewer sacks per game, but more longevity, and (subjectively) better against the run. Of course, I saw a lot of Smith and not a lot of White, so it's probably not a fair comparison. But I think Smith is at least in the same conversation as White.

by piratefreedom (not verified) :: Thu, 09/09/2010 - 5:41pm

I might give Reggie the edge and the title of best defensive player I've seen but Bruce Smith would be a close second place (sorry LT but I draft linemen first)

by Arkaein :: Thu, 09/09/2010 - 6:06pm

I mostly saw Reggie with GB, and not as much as Smith overall, so take my opinion with a grain of salt. That said, Reggie White was very good against the run. In his first few years in GB they would sometimes move him inside to DT to prevent teams from running away from him behind LT.

The thing that made White a really great player was that he was a great pass rusher that played at LDE, not needing to attack the QB's blind side to rack up sacks and with the power to take on right tackles and defeat the running game. Most sack artists are one-dimensional speed rushers by comparison.

This is not to disparage Smith in any way, who was truly impressive in his own right in his ability to get sacks as a 3-4 DE.

by Mr Shush :: Thu, 09/09/2010 - 8:57pm

I think it's fair to say that the All Time All World team runs a 3-4 in order to accommodate White (who clearly could have been an awesome 3-4 DE even though he wasn't), Smith and Taylor.

by Jerry :: Thu, 09/09/2010 - 10:55pm

I dunno. The all-time 4-3 line isn't going to need a lot of help on the pass rush.

I'll nominate Joe Greene and Bob Lilly as the tackles; I'm sure other good nominations will follow.

by AlanSP :: Fri, 09/10/2010 - 3:05am

"There is absolutely no possibility of McNabb making it"

That's a pretty strong statement. Compare McNabb's numbers to Jim Kelly's. After this season, the two will likely have approximately equivalent stats across the board (yds, TDs etc.), with Kelly having a slightly better completion % and YPA and McNabb having a much better INT % and unsurprisingly way ahead in every rushing category. They'll also have roughly the same records both in the regular season and the playoffs (if you care about that sort of thing, which I'm sure many voters do), and barring a Redskins miracle, the same number of rings.

So how is it that, given all this, Kelly was a first ballot Hall of Famer and McNabb has "no possibility of making it"?

If McNabb wins a Super Bowl, he has a very good shot. If he wins two late in his career a la Elway (as unlikely as that is), he's basically a lock. I think it's incredibly stupid that voting works that way, but it does.

by billsfan :: Fri, 09/10/2010 - 9:56am

There's more to it than just the numbers.

Kelly is largely considered to be the first QB to call his own plays. He ran a no-huddle offense as the Bills' base offense, and did it successfully enough that the Bills were generally credited with inventing something the Bengals had been doing for years. But that's a huge part of it--And the four straight Super Bowl appearances.

McNabb's known for his mobility (not the first QB to make plays with his legs; not even the first Eagles' QB to make plays with his legs) and his low interception rate (I'll avoid making a pithy comment about his worm-burners). And the four straight NFC championship games. If they'd won more than one of them, then he's probably got a shot.

Even considering their respective eras, Kelly also probably wasn't always necessarily a top-5 QB (Marino/Montana/Young/Aikman(?)/Elway/Favre(?)). But he gets in on the strength of "offensive innovation" and their domination of their conference. Given the post-season records, the Eagles are inferior at being inferior, which is perfect for the city's psyche.

I like both guys, I've watched >90% of their games. Kelly's Great, McNabb's just Very Good.

(I also like the Eagles)

by Will Allen :: Fri, 09/10/2010 - 10:08am

Uh, no, Kelly is not the first qb to be generally considered to call his own plays. Many, perhaps most, qbs called their own plays until Landry and the Cowboys had great success with plays coming from the sideline. Tarkenton was known create plays in the huddle, and Unitas was considered a great play-caller.

by billsfan :: Fri, 09/10/2010 - 4:27pm

I thought I threw enough equivocal adverbs in there that I could get away with it. My bad.

(I also like the Eagles)

by Jerry :: Sat, 09/11/2010 - 4:17pm

It would be like saying "Chris Johnson is largely considered to be the first 2000-yard rusher."

by Eddo :: Fri, 09/10/2010 - 10:09am

"Kelly is largely considered to be the first QB to call his own plays."

I don't disagree with your overall point, but this statement is just wrong. Kelly is probably closer to being one of the last QBs to call his own plays than one of the first.

by billsfan :: Fri, 09/10/2010 - 4:25pm

Apologies for imprecise use of language. Kelly : Dan Brown :: Unitas : Umberto Eco. Better?

My main point stands, though, that his fame, to some extent, exceeds his talent, often causing the uncaffeinated to make ridiculous statements that they can't back up.

(I also like the Eagles)

by Dean :: Thu, 09/09/2010 - 12:47pm

Greatest Eagles QB ever? Yes. Somewhat debatable, but yes.

Greatest Eagle ever? Far from it. Hell of a player, but lets not go overboard the other way, either.

by Raiderjoe :: Thu, 09/09/2010 - 12:56pm

N. Van Brocklin onyl with eagles for 3 yearrs but in last one he win MOP award and led tema to NFL chamopionship win. so Van Brokclin with better peak but Mcnabb with longer steppe.

by Dean :: Thu, 09/09/2010 - 1:05pm

Exactly. Van Brocklin was who I was thinking of when I phrased my answer the way I did. I'd take the 12 McNabb years over the tail end of Van Brocklins career, but an intelligent fan could legitimately make a case the other way without resorting to the standard McNabb-bashing cliche's.

The Eagles have actually had a surprising number of very good QBs over the years.

-Jaworski won a league MVP and had a legitimate run as a franchise QB.
-Ran-Doll was a big star. I tend to think of him as the first creation of the ESPN hype machine, but it's not like he wasn't a legitimate QB. Just not the elite guy you'd think he was if all you saw was the highlights.
-Norm Snead was an above average starter.
-Sonny Jurgensen is in the Hall of Fame, even if he had his best years elsewhere.
-Van Brocklin is in The Hall
-Tommy Thompson was one of the better QBs of his era.

Really, the Rodney Peete era was the only prolonged period of bad quarterbacking the frachise has had. They've had plenty of other problems instead!

by Mike Tanier :: Thu, 09/09/2010 - 2:44pm

For the record, I don't think McNabb is a Hall of Famer or the best Eagles player ever. He is probably in the top 10, depending on what you do with the 47-48 team.

by Xeynon (not verified) :: Fri, 09/10/2010 - 12:17am

Excluding players who may have been better than McNabb but only played with the Eagles for a short time (Mike Ditka, Jim Ringo, James Lofton, etc.), here's my list:

Eagles I think definitely rank above McNabb:

Reggie White - Probably the best DE to ever play the game. A no-brainer.

Chuck Bednarik - If the Eagles had won more during his career, I suspect he'd be in the conversation about the greatest middle linebackers ever.

Steve Van Buren - The best running back in the league during a run-dominated era, at the time he retired he was the NFL's all-time leader in both rushing yards and rushing TDs.

Al Wistert - Considered by many people the best two-way lineman of his era, he played 9 seasons and was named All-Pro in eight of them. Should be in the Hall of Fame.

Guys I'd rank ahead of McNabb, but can see the other side on:

Tommy McDonald - One of the best receivers of his era, and a Hall of Famer, but didn't play his entire career with the Eagles.

Pete Pihos - Best tight end in the game in the mid-fifties was a standout on defense as well. Hall of Famer.

Brian Dawkins - A tough call, but he was always among the two or three best safeties in the league during his Eagles tenure, and the same cannot be said of McNabb and quarterbacks.

Guys you could make a respectable case for:

Pete Retzlaff - five time Pro Bowler who won the Bert Bell Award (precursor of the MVP trophy) once.

Bob Brown - Hall of Fame OT who excelled on bad teams; probably a better player at his peak than McNabb but only played four seasons with the Eagles.

Sonny Juergensen - a great quarterback, but had his best years elsewhere.

Norm Van Brocklin - yes, he had a great run, but it was too short for me to rank him above McNabb.

Alex Wojciechowicz - another great two-way player who's been largely forgotten. Had a more dominant career than McNabb overall but came to the Eagles as a veteran after several years as a Lion.

Clyde Simmons - He was a fine player in his own right, but his case is hurt by the fact that he had Reggie White on the other side of the line from him.

So by count McNabb is in the bottom half of the top ten, and at absolute worst in the mid-teens. He's definitely not the best player in franchise history, but he is among the three or four best offensive players. Not bad for a puking choke artist who couldn't read a defense, win a big game, or hit the side of a barn from five yards away if you gave him ten seconds to throw.

by Entropy :: Fri, 09/10/2010 - 5:03pm

Out of curiosity, are you including the Steagles (not that it would make a difference in this case)?

by bountybowl :: Thu, 09/09/2010 - 10:58am

Great piece, Mr. Tanier.

Still, you deftly ignored the elephant in the room in re: any discussion of McNabb and the Philly fans. And it's telling that you can still write a pretty compelling piece on Donovan McNabb without even mentioning said elephant.

by Mike Tanier :: Thu, 09/09/2010 - 12:49pm

Having read a lot about Schmidt, Lindros, and Rolen in the last 2 months, I think the elephant is really a small dog. It's about 5% of the issue, not 50%

by Will Allen :: Thu, 09/09/2010 - 12:55pm

To boo Mike Schmidt ya' really had to be a meathead.

by phillyangst :: Thu, 09/09/2010 - 7:38pm

How much of that 5% is the conscious or unconscious thoughts of the McNabb Deniers? Or Donovan's supporters even?

As most of us know the elephant takes many forms. Sometimes it's the 400 or 800 pound gorilla. I find it better described as a virus that can become an incurable disease. We all get symptoms of the virus. It may lay dormant or be right at the surface waiting to be aggravated. Luckily, most of us find the antidote, but you never forget how it feels or how you reacted to it.

I had a Love/Hate relationship with McNabb... the football player. The dynamics of his career in Philly were multiple and complex. Just like the virus.

"DVOA loves Philadelphia!"

by bountybowl :: Fri, 09/10/2010 - 11:32am

Well, it's not 50%, but 5% feels a little low. That is, you can't really comprehensively discuss Donovan McNabb's career in Philly and relationship with the city without mentioning it. There are just too many unfortunate moments (mostly not created by McNabb) to ignore. I think you can discuss his football career without it, but it's an important chapter in the broader discussion of McNabb as a public figure in the Delaware Valley.

Schmidt is definitely in the McNabb category, but Rolen and Lindros? They're on the spectrum, but non-sports fans didn't have much of an opinion there. But that's more because of football being bigger than hockey or baseball (at that time).

We dropped a link to this piece on IgglesBlog and ended up re-hashing the elephant. It's a tough conversation every time it comes up.

by Mike Tanier :: Fri, 09/10/2010 - 2:23pm

Thanks for the link! And thanks for absorbing the Elephant Talk.

That was my King Crimson reference for this month!

by Michael (not verified) :: Mon, 09/13/2010 - 5:21pm

Babble, Burble, Brouhaha

by Kevin from Philly :: Thu, 09/09/2010 - 5:13pm

Let's face it - the REAL reason people here disliked McNabb wasn't because he lost some playoff games. He was a really good QB, and yes the team had it's most successful decade since they won two championships in a row back in the 40's. But if he had won a Super Bowl or two, a lot of people here still wouldn't like him. Why? Because a lot of times, he comes off as kind of a goofball. The Michael Jackson TD celebration, the infamous guitar strumming entrance before the Cowboys game, the self serving comments after games? Silly. To paraphrase Vito Corleone, WRs and small DBs can afford to be goofy, but not starting QBs.

by tuluse :: Thu, 09/09/2010 - 5:19pm

I think in certain markets that would have worked to his advantage. I think Chicago fans would have liked their quirky QB. Now to a large degree this is because we place reduced importance on a QB compared to most other fans. He would probably also have been fine in Green Bay (hasn't Aaron Rodgers done things like dress up like a civil war general?).

by Will Allen :: Thu, 09/09/2010 - 5:21pm

Jim McMahon probably still can't buy a cocktail in Chicago, and he was pretty damned goofy, so I don't know much goofiness harms the popularity of Super Bowl winning qbs.

by Kevin from Philly :: Thu, 09/09/2010 - 5:38pm

Different kind of goofy. If the NFL was "Animal House", McMahon would be Bluto and McNabb would be Flounder.

by Marko :: Thu, 09/09/2010 - 6:05pm

Exactly. McMahon was the "Punky QB," not the "Goofy QB."

by Independent George :: Thu, 09/09/2010 - 6:18pm

I dunno. The world's most famous jeans model is pretty goofy; I mean, he just has fun out there!

by Will Allen :: Thu, 09/09/2010 - 6:22pm

Man, how could I overlook ol' stubbleface?! They don't come any goofier than him!

by Kevin from Philly :: Fri, 09/10/2010 - 4:47pm

Yeah, he'd be Robert Hoover (Gee Chilly, do you think there's any way you could give me just ONE more chance?).

by Danish Denver-Fan :: Thu, 09/09/2010 - 11:09am

A shame Dwayne Jarrett was drafted in '07...

by Temo :: Thu, 09/09/2010 - 11:27am

I said after last season that the Wild Card game was surely the last we'll see of McNabb in Philly. It's not because he's hasn't been good in his career, or that he's a "choke artist" or any of that crap. He's just not good anymore. The QB I saw last year was a shade of the QB we saw for most the past decade.

by Temo :: Thu, 09/09/2010 - 11:30am

Also, you put McNabb in the group that includes Drew Brees, and yet Aaron has already ranked Brees as among the best QBs in the history of the NFL.

by CathyW :: Thu, 09/09/2010 - 11:41am

Thank you for the term "McNabb Deniers." It's gotten to the point where I cannot hold any kind of reasonable discussion on this topic with my dad and brother, both rabid Eagles fans who start to froth at the mouth at the mention of McNabb's name. I've always tried to take a realistic approach to the man's career - yes, he never won the Super Bowl, but neither did Jaws or Cunningham - and I've always admired the classy way he carries himself. I wish him success in DC, and I might even root for him against my beloved Eagles. Maybe.

by Raiderjoe :: Thu, 09/09/2010 - 12:00pm

does Tanier rhyme with denier?

alwuyas thought Tanier prounced Tan-knee-er but mayybe it said Tuh-neer

by billsfan :: Fri, 09/10/2010 - 4:36pm

I figured it was French: tan-ee-eh

(I also like the Eagles)

by ICDogg :: Thu, 09/09/2010 - 12:14pm

This is all true, though I would argue that not everyone who wanted to move on was a "McNabb Denier".

And although I was and remain a fan of McNabb's, he does go into some very frustrating funks.

by Will Allen :: Thu, 09/09/2010 - 12:19pm

A problem a lot of sports fans have is that they have no sense of proportion, which is how saying "He's no Michael Jordan!" ends up being tossed around as a critical remark. It's not enough that McNabb was a qb with many outstanding qualities, and some flaws that most teams and coaches would love to tolerate. No, because one cannot say he should be considered one of the very best to ever play the position, he is a "choker", and a jerk, to boot.

Regarding the playoff run that Aunt Ginny missed, McNabb was also superlative in the Metrodome, against an outstanding Vikings defense, and really was the difference in the game. I guess that one didn't count, either, because that bum McNabb, well, he's no Joe Montana!!

by Alexander :: Thu, 09/09/2010 - 12:32pm

McNabb 2009 != McNabb 2005.

Somehow you forgot to include those people into your analysis.

by Keasley (not verified) :: Thu, 09/09/2010 - 12:39pm

I'm a Seahawks fan but the Eagles have been my '2nd team' for many years. I started cheering for the 'Hawks in 83 and adopted the Eagles as an alternate in the early 90s. So my Eagles appreciation predates Donovan McNabb et al for almost a decade. I will, however, actively cheer against the Eagles for the duration of the careers of Donovan McNabb and Kevin Kolb. I don't have anything against Kolb. But the rotten treatment of McNabb by the Philadelphia media, fans, and front office (to a lesser extent) has been really distasteful. McNabb has seemed like a victim of a smear campaign similar to the kind you see in a political campaign but I can't think of a parallel example in pro sports. Not to say McNabb is perfect. And I can understand that Philly fans are disappointed that they came close but never won the Superbowl. But it should be undeniable that the guy has been a very good quarterback that would be an upgrade in any given year for about 25 teams in the league.

I also think the smear campaign analogy above is apt given the similarities between the voices that have spoken out against McNabb and those other strident, belligerent masters of misinformation that have proliferated on American airwaves over the last decade. All of the above unfortunately points to the elephant in the room that we have been politely asked not to discuss so I will respect the wishes of the author by not elaborating.

by mathesond :: Thu, 09/09/2010 - 12:46pm

But when will Eagles fans finally use their car-battery catapult?

by jklps :: Thu, 09/09/2010 - 12:53pm

I know McNabb isn't the most accurate QB with the best timing, but if say he's "average" at those things, Jason Campbell is even worse.

For many fans 30 and under, when I think of the Eagles I think of McNabb and Westbrook. I do realize the defense was great in the early 90's, etc, but McNabb's teams are the only ones to get far into the playoffs in my lifetime. Especially when you compare the Eagles to other teams in the division who have all won multiple Super Bowls in the last 30 years.

Glad McNabb's on my side now.

P.S. Personally I don't think any city can claim to be "the most knowledgeable fans"...I believe there are 10-15 cities who would claim that, and more believe there are some people everywhere who are knowledgeable and passionate, and others who are just irate goons looking to complain or not even pay attention.

by Joe T. :: Thu, 09/09/2010 - 1:02pm

Green Bay can probably legitimately boast the most knowledgeable fans, since they're shareholders and get statements from the team.

by Zee (not verified) :: Thu, 09/09/2010 - 1:00pm

False Dichotomy. Also, the 95% of fans that DON'T call into sports radio or post comments on philly.com do not have an agenda one way or another, and generally acknowledge that McNabb was a great QB but it was a good time to move on. To even imply that Angelo Cataldi as a representaive sample of "Philly Sports Fans" is beyond idiotic.

by MJK :: Thu, 09/09/2010 - 1:02pm

Also, I ask that all comments stick with the subject at hand without bringing up any controversial "denial" movements with political implications

Strange thing to ask, when the entire column seems to be one of the most masterful pieces of political satire I have come across in a long time.

Or maybe it's not satire, and what happens in sports is a microcosm of what inevitably happens in all walks of life.

by Dean :: Thu, 09/09/2010 - 1:07pm

Intended or not, it does work as a political allegory. But I think that's because most politcal afficionados take a "my team, right or wrong" approach to their party affiliation, regardless of what that party happens to claim to represent.

by Mike Tanier :: Thu, 09/09/2010 - 2:39pm

This wasn't meant as political allegory in any way. I don't think the term denier should be applied to people with a different opinion, or who intepret complex, multi-faceted evidence a different way.

It's for people who say the moon landing was a hoax. Or the earth was flat. Or use words like McChoke.

by Dean :: Thu, 09/09/2010 - 2:48pm

I didn't really think it was intended as such (and have deliberately gone out of my way to avoid using words which promote "one side" over another), but I do think it works, even if unintentional.

by sswoods (not verified) :: Thu, 09/09/2010 - 2:35pm

Yeah, to invoke said controversies - and pointedly choose sides on a couple of them - and then request that no one engages in discussion of those controversies is cowardly. I respect not wanting to get into those topics on this message board, everything has a time and place, but that needed to be considered when writing the article. Making a reference is one thing; affirming one side, snorting at the other, and then saying "no one talk about these things!" is another.

by BigCheese :: Fri, 09/10/2010 - 7:33pm

Except that they are not controversies unless you consider 2+2=4 vs 2+2=5 a controversy. So really, no need to invoke them. It's like making a reference to the Piltdown man and asking people to refrain from posting in the forums why the Piltdown man was real. It just serves to stave off pointless posts.

Had he not specifically refrained fom making ANY reference to specific political views for example, and instead endorsed either liberal or conservative view-points, or any other topic where there can be legitimate disagreeing and debate, and THEN asked for people to refrain from discussing them, then I would agree. But he was very careful about that, so I think calling him cowardly is very out of line.

- Alvaro

by Mr Shush :: Sat, 09/11/2010 - 8:44am

I have no wish to get involved in a discussion of any of the subjects in question. However, I would note that 2+2=4 is a truth of logic, a necessary truth, while the facts of the matter on the other issues, whatever they may be, are contingent truths, which could be otherwise than they are. Nor could any case for them ever conclusively defeat radically skeptical views (solipsism, deceiving God/Descartes' evil demon, the Matrix etc.). Moreover, whether something is a controversy depends not on the merits, however great or small, of either side's argument, but on whether there is an argument, and whether there are, in absolute terms, a lot of people on either side of it. There are a lot of people, for example who believe in evolution, and a lot of people who don't, and they argue (noisily and frequently), ergo there is a controversy. Thinking that the people on one side of it are idiots does not make it less of one. The reason for the no politics rule (and indeed the Manning-Brady rule), as I understand it, is to avoid the sort of intemperate and unproductive discussion which these subjects engender. It has nothing to do with the fact that political affiliation is something on which reasonable people can differ, and everything to do with the fact that it is something on which lots of people differ unreasonably. I put it to you that Tanier's article contained a couple of provocative asides on such emotive issues, and that we're slightly lucky no flame wars have started as a result.

by Jon Frum (not verified) :: Thu, 09/09/2010 - 1:23pm

McNabb denier, as in Holocaust denier? Way to stay classy. Nothing like starting the discussion by ending the discussion.

Granted there's some kind of poison in the water in Philly, but let's not go overboard.

by Arkaein :: Thu, 09/09/2010 - 3:03pm

Your comment (and now mine) are the only ones with the word "holocaust" on the entire page. Maybe try reading the whole article next time, and not just the title.

Or I suppose your idea of staying classy is putting words in other people's mouths?

by Xtian999 (not verified) :: Thu, 09/09/2010 - 1:30pm

Great article. And actually, great comments from all ends of the spectrum. It is extremely refreshing to actually read comments that are thoughtful, intelligent, humorous, and witty with a splash of substance as opposed to what we experience on a daily basis at Philly.com. I am certainly not a McNabb denier. I was a defender for quite a long time often telling my Eagle friends and colleagues how you have to take the good with the bad. McNabb as an Eagle certainly was more good than bad. But this article really summed up the psychology of the whole debate and how the deniers revise the history to focus on his known flaws while deleting everything else he did that made this the Golden Era of Eagles football. What's really funny is that Philly fans have been bitching and moaning about a Super Bowl since the loss to the Bucs in 2002. Before Donovan ever got here, the thought of the Eagles even contending for a playoff spot let alone a Super Bowl after the debacle of 1998 was enough to get you laughed out of the bar. It will go down as the great paradox in Eagles history. Mcnabb: A Victim of His Own Success (and man doesn't he deserve an Oscar for playing the role of the Victim!) The man most responsible for creating an atmosphere of winning and Championship expectations, was shown the door because he couldn't fulfill the promise and expectations he created. I agree with one of the earlier posters saying that the next target of fan venom if things go badly will be Reid. I honestly doubt that it would be coupled with a "seller's remorse" by the fan base over the trade of McNabb, but you never know. Time's yours.

by dvdburns (not verified) :: Thu, 09/09/2010 - 1:37pm

Putting labels on people, collectivizing them, makes them less inclined to learn from you. "Denier" is a simplistic labelling device, a profiling tactic that is prevalant in other forms of collectivist mentality. It serves as a fine setup to a strawman tactic. Gather some weak counter-arguments, roll them up under a label (in this case, "denier"), and then beat it up. It's also lazy and risk-free. It's much harder to take on the strongest claims of opponents and critically analyze them. It buries valid criticisms along with the invalid.

I am a fan of McNabb, but I am quite certain that there are more sophisticated arguments against his performance than the ones listed here under the category "denier." I'm watched 30 years of Bears quarterbacking, so I don't have a lot of sympathy for Eagles fans unhappy with years of McNabb's quality play.

So even though I disagree with your method of argumentation, I agree with your assessemnt of McNabb.

by Anonymous Jones :: Fri, 09/10/2010 - 5:38pm

Please, sir, enlighten us with your method of argumentation that never uses labels, profiling, rules of thumb or heuristics. Do you really not realize your "collectivist mentality" contrivance was the exact same technique? Are you that blind?

Tanier surely spent no time in that terribly short, thought-free piece detailing the reasons he disagreed with much of the talk he hears. [Sarcasm!] Truly, the only difference between his article and your comment is that he actually used facts and you *only* used labels.

What you should be embarrassed about (but will never be) is how ignorant you are of your own unintentional self-parody. I'm thinking of a label, it rhymes with school...

by Shattenjager :: Thu, 09/09/2010 - 1:38pm

I might suggest changing "McNabb deniers" to "McNabb denialists." It's a subtle distinction, but there is one. A denier is just someone who denies something, whether for good or bad reasons. A denialist is someone who denies something in the face of evidence against their position and a lack of evidence on their own side, and can never be convinced to change his/her position. What you're describing seems to me to be a better fit for the latter term.

by Raiderjoe :: Thu, 09/09/2010 - 1:44pm

only reda first two paragrpahs before. Was wondeing what mcnabb had to do with old French coins. But see deniers is peoeple who deny somehtign. will read rest of Tanier article now

by spenczar :: Thu, 09/09/2010 - 3:38pm

This is beautiful.

by mjlewis :: Thu, 09/09/2010 - 7:39pm

I was wondering what raiderjoe meant about Tanier's name pronunciation before... it did not occur to me that he might be thinking in a far more obscure direction than I expected.

by Kevin from Philly :: Thu, 09/09/2010 - 5:26pm

Hmmm...I could go for a couple of Francs right now.

by jebmak :: Fri, 09/10/2010 - 8:35am

Tis what I first read too. I guess that RJ and I think alike?

by jmaron :: Thu, 09/09/2010 - 1:50pm

Bill James once wrote something to the effect that bad teams focus their frustrations on their best players.

In this case the team did not, because Philly is a well run team. But the many of the fans did.

I guess that I would consider such people weak fans.

by doubleh (not verified) :: Thu, 09/09/2010 - 4:58pm

Or perhaps just fans of a team that has never won a SB title. Philly fans pride themselves on being tough, but in all actuality they are actually quite thin-skinned. I say this as a long-time Philadelphia fan and student of the human condition. Philly has been crapped on for so long, it all stems from a source of civic pride where sports are king above all else. We put way too much stock into how our professional teams reflect back upon us, which isn't helped by opposing fanbases usual taunts of "your team sucks, therefore you suck."

Philly fans are just like any large group of people, full of all kinds/walks of life. Many people are prone to groupthink and it's not just a Philly problem--when sportstalk radio stations try to pump up their ratings by saying things that are inflammatory/untruths, they often do so in order to cater to the lowest common denominator that has a lot to say and the loudest voice in the room.

by tunesmith :: Thu, 09/09/2010 - 2:09pm

I'm an AFC West guy (thanks for the sympathy), so the NFC East is about as far away as it can get for me. I rarely see the Eagles on television.

But my #1 impression of McNabb was being stunned at mystified at how slow he was moving near the end of that one big game... can't remember which. The clock was just going down. It seemed like he didn't care.

I didn't get that from any Philly fans. I believe that he played well in the 2nd-biggest games, the 2nd-biggest moments. But I guess I just don't see him as a guy that was capable of getting over the hump. Of course, they said that about Elway until he finally did. Maybe McNabb will win a Super Bowl in Washington, after defeating Kolb/Philly in the playoffs and then all the pro-McNabb Philly Fans will feel vindicated.

by Will Allen :: Thu, 09/09/2010 - 2:20pm

The problem I have with this method of reasoning is that we are left with the prospect that Trent Dilfer, Brad Johnson, and Jeff Hostetler, among others, were good enough to get over the hump.

I wish all football fans could be constantly streamed the subliminal message of "Football is the most teammate-interdependent of all major sports", along with, of course, "Selecting a tiny sub-sample, out of a total sample of a couple hundred games, from which to draw conclusions about the performance of a player or coach, is very unsound."

by tunesmith :: Thu, 09/09/2010 - 2:41pm

But, a pressure-filled drive at the end of a huge game being a small sample? I don't subscribe to that, either. That wasn't Joe Montana behavior.

by Will Allen :: Thu, 09/09/2010 - 2:58pm

So if the Bengals player, whose name I forget, had caught the ball, when Montana threw it right into his chest, towards the end of the 2nd 49ers-Bengals Super Bowl, it would have meant that Montana was diminished as a performer, during pressure filled drives at the end of huge games?

Tiny samples are tiny samples, period. Judging qbs on such things is little more sound than judging Ted Williams on his World Series at-bats.

by Raiderjoe :: Thu, 09/09/2010 - 3:31pm

guyy was Lewis billups

by Will Allen :: Thu, 09/09/2010 - 3:50pm

Thanks, Raiderjoe. If I had wagered who would remember, you woulda' been my favorite.

by sswoods (not verified) :: Thu, 09/09/2010 - 2:16pm

I've been a Kansas State fan for some time now, and remember fondly a certain bowl game in Arizona between K-State and Syracuse. Going into that game all we heard about was how good McNabb was and that this game was a mismatch. K-State won, of course, in large measure due to the performance of QB Michael Bishop. For some reason the national mood - at least, the media's mood - then and for some time thereafter was that McNabb was the next great thing. He was overhyped and overrated from the beginning. He was never great; good, yes, but not great. It was consistently being shoved down our throats about how great he was or was going to be. It was like the hype surrounding Peyton Manning early in his career, but instead of Manning we got Steve McNair. Nothing to sneeze at, but not revolutionary, not great, not earth shattering. Even now, the pro-McNabb side continues to overstate his quality (speaking in terms of the player, not the person). Obviously there will be some backlash to this. (I'd like to point out that McNabb, from what I've seen, has always handled this with class.) That's not to excuse the "McNabb Denier" faction described in this article - if anything they are equally as extreme as the hypsters were from the beginning. Again, McNabb was never the great QB insisted upon by one pole, and never the choke artist/anchor to the franchise the other pole believes.

re: comment #20. That's hilarious. Well played, sir.

by Dired :: Thu, 09/09/2010 - 2:31pm

Having not followed it all that closely, the entire thing seemed internal. That is, once they (whomever they are, but we seem to agree they are something) decided, on Day One, that for whatever reason (whether it's the one we're all deliberately not mentioning or not) that McNabb was a bad solution and not the answer, the anti-McNabb faction just locked in. Like an ideologue, anything that supported the premise was automatically correct and anything that failed to was suspect and inaccurate. It really wasn't about the man at all, but about the "movement", the idea that the fans could dictate reality to the team. "We don't want this guy, and nothing you can ever do, nothing he can ever do will ever change our minds!" Pure groupthink, mob muscle-flexing, showing the establishment they can't be ignored "any longer". It wasn't McNabb at all, but the idea of him being imposed on the fanbase. And in time, the underlying reason to have turned on him at the start fell by the wayside; all that mattered was sticking to the talking-point, keeping the faith, repeating a meaningless mantra until the lack of meaning ceased to be relevant - it was now a loyal defense of a hallowed tradition.

As a Seahawks fan, the whole thing makes me feel so much better about our passive-aggressive cynical treatment of our own team.

by tunesmith :: Thu, 09/09/2010 - 2:41pm

Hey, I'm new to Seattle, can you expand on that passive-aggressive cynical treatment thing? So I can do it too. :)

by Dired :: Thu, 09/09/2010 - 3:38pm

Expect the worst, and when you get it you still feel vaguely disappointed. When good things do happen, you know they can't last, but you nevertheless find yourself caught up in the curiously-muted excitement. Then the inevitable disappointment happens and you wonder why your were a fan in the first place. Then next your, you start all over.

by Dean :: Thu, 09/09/2010 - 2:42pm

Your post is exactly why the article works as a political allegory.

by bkjsun :: Thu, 09/09/2010 - 3:47pm

Donovan McNabb = Patrick Ewing

by tunesmith :: Thu, 09/09/2010 - 5:38pm

wasn't there some article about how the Knicks would play better when Ewing was removed from the floor, or at least wouldn't play quite so many minutes?

by Marko :: Thu, 09/09/2010 - 6:04pm
by tuluse :: Thu, 09/09/2010 - 6:12pm

No, there was a a real study that showed the Knicks played better when Ewing was on the bench. When he was on the team.

by Marko :: Thu, 09/09/2010 - 6:23pm

The linked article does discuss how the Knicks played better when Ewing was out of the lineup/on the bench. So it's not limited to a team improving/having more success when a star player leaves (e.g., Tennessee winning the National Chammpionship the year after Peyton Manning left).

by tuluse :: Thu, 09/09/2010 - 6:31pm

I remember seeing the numbers actually run, and it confirmed it. The Knicks scored more points per possession with Ewing on the bench, along with a number of theories on why this was (as Ewing was one of the most efficient players on the team himself).

by thendcomes :: Sat, 09/11/2010 - 6:42am

I came to the same conclusion without doing a study.

by jfuzman (not verified) :: Thu, 09/09/2010 - 3:58pm

This column is genius. Sports journalism, with a few exceptions (like FO, IgglesBlog.com, and Moving the Chains, to choose a few Philly-centric examples) has become a desolate place where shouting crowds thought and insight (e.g., Stephen A Smith & Angelo Cataldi = shouters).

While this column may not be right in all places and may even be wrong overall, it is brilliantly-stated, thoughtfully conceived, and, to me at least, extremely convincing.

Down with the McNabb Denial movement and up with analysis.

March on FO! March on Mike Tanier!

PS -- Go Birds!

by bkjsun :: Thu, 09/09/2010 - 3:59pm

Is McNabb really that much of a long shot to make the Hall of Fame? He's got a couple more decent years; I don't see why his career numbers wouldn't be comparable to Hall of Famer Jim Kelly.

by Dean :: Thu, 09/09/2010 - 4:19pm

There was a time when he was viewed as "on track" to make it. At this point, I'd say not. Fair or unfair, QBs are judged - especially for the HOF - by championships. It's kept out Ken Anderson.

Also, as Mike mentioned, he was at best the 3rd best QB of his era. Manning and Brady are Hall of Famers. McNabb is in that next tier. He needs an "Elway finish," and that ain't gonna happen in Washington.

by RickD :: Fri, 09/10/2010 - 2:07am

"...he was at best the 3rd best QB of his era."

In recent years, he's seemed like the 3rd best QB of his division. At least to some people. But of course both Romo and Eli have their own flaws, so I figure it's a near thing.

In terms of the past decade, I'd put him behind Brees, Warner, and Favre as well as the Big Two, with Roethlisberger also possibly ahead. Both Rivers and Rodgers look like they may end up with more impressive careers (well, Rivers needs to start winning more playoff games).

by Mike L (not verified) :: Thu, 09/09/2010 - 4:55pm

I would like to make a few McNabb points:

1) He was surrounded by an extremely good team. With a HOF defensive coordinator in Jim Johnson. How good was the team? Look at the Pro Bowlers from their last playoff run who are gone. Dawkins, Westbrook, Brown, Sheppard, Runyan, Thomas, and Andrews. That is alot to lose. Kolb does not have that team around him. Remember Trent Dilfer winning a Superbowl with the Ravens?

2) The Eagles winning percentage was worst w/o Westbrook, then Owens, lastly McNabb.

3) To be in a west coast system and have such a low comp% is bad.

4) McNabb's stats have historically been padded against weaker teams. I always wondered why noone took a cheapshot on him until Carolina did.

I don't think McNabb was terrible nor great with the Eagles. His whining about a lack of support is in poor taste. Reid always backed "his" QB. Was Westbrook ever talked about as elite, yet McNabb was. Was McNabb ever called a game manager? Yet the strong D propelled the team. Is McNabb ever mentioned as a comback QB? Yet it was said that he did so much with bad receivers. QBs get credit for wins and loses although it is more of a team effort. McNabb has been overrated by the media because of these wins.

I would sum up McNabb as a good not great QB, who had the help of a strong OL and great defense. He was game manager who could buy time with his feet and make big plays downfield.

by Will Allen :: Thu, 09/09/2010 - 5:09pm

All great players, and even good players, pad their statistics against bad teams.

by SteveGarvin :: Thu, 09/09/2010 - 5:30pm

Living in Denver now we have the polar opposite situation - Tebow has done nothing professionally of note and is being canonized.

Ah, fans. You rock.

by Independent George :: Thu, 09/09/2010 - 6:19pm

Yes, but that's different when you're being literally canonized.

by sswoods (not verified) :: Thu, 09/09/2010 - 6:07pm

Very good comparison. Except in Tebow's case it is fan driven, the media aren't hyping him. In McNabb's case, the media was all in.

by RichC (not verified) :: Thu, 09/09/2010 - 7:13pm

Are you really trying to say the media hasn't been trying to canonize Tebow? I'm going to strongly disagree.

by sswoods (not verified) :: Thu, 09/09/2010 - 8:24pm

I've yet to hear a media outlet, personality, or analyst declare that Tebow is going to be a great NFL QB. It's possible, I'm not omnipresent, but I haven't heard it - but I have heard (in the media) overwhelming criticism of the Broncos for trading up for him, for spending a first round pick on him; criticism of his throwing motion and accuracy; suggestions that he'd make one heck of an H-Back. That's not to say the media isn't covering him 24-7, just that I don't hear them applauding and predicting he's about to revolutionize the position or is ready to embark on a career punctuated by multiple pro-bowls. From fans of his? Yeah, I've heard that from them. But not from the media.
Again, I reserve the right to be wrong, because it's possible I just haven't heard it.

by GB (not verified) :: Thu, 09/09/2010 - 6:15pm

Great article and fantastic comments from all...I really enjoy the level of discussion on FO.

There actually was another very good Philadelphia athlete during this same decade+ who got very similar treatment to McNabb and had his legacy "revised" upon his departure as well...his name was Bobby Abreu.

Similar criticisms--padding his stats vs bad teams, only cared about his numbers & money, was never clutch, aloof and whiny personality, never got the team over the hump (into playoffs), did not want to bat with the pressure on (which is why he walked so much) etc. The other one I loved was the local media vs national media angle where the national media were scoffed at when they praised McNabb or Abreu since they "did not watch all the games" or "did not see all the warts we locals see".

I've lived in Philadelphia most of my life and there definitely is a "philly athlete profile". If said good (i.e. highly paid) player does not fit into that category (and the team does not win rings), they will get ripped and targeted as the scapegoat.

After Abreu was traded for scraps in a salary dump, the Phillies have won and won big...the revisionist history was he was holding the team (and the younger player leaders) back and thus correlation becomes causation. If Kolb and the Eagles win big now that McNabb is gone, the story will be written similarly. In fact, I've already heard people say it....media and fans.

by Bad Doctor :: Thu, 09/09/2010 - 7:23pm

It seems like we've narrowly avoided an even bigger case of revisionist history in Philly, now that Cole Hamels has turned it around and has pitched like a Cy Young candidate for the last three months. After his poor 2009, punctuated by a bad postseason, and shaky start to 2010, the fans and media were starting to call for his head as well. I heard a talk radio caller early this season say that Hamels is just a pretty boy headcase who can't come up big at big moments ... this about the guy who was only World Series MVP and NLCS MVP, helping end this town's 25 year championship drought! Now that's revisionist history!

by RickD :: Fri, 09/10/2010 - 1:59am

Some Red Sox fans insist that Terry Francona is an idiot. The guy who managed two World Series winning teams in 4 years after an 86-year drought, and he's an idiot!

Likewise, if Tom Brady spends a week in California to be with his son, some fans start talking about how he's lost the desire to win.

If you ever have a choice, bet on stupid.

by Kevin from Philly :: Fri, 09/10/2010 - 4:51pm

Well, Francona is no genius either. He made a LOT of questionable moves when he managed the Phillies.

by billsfan :: Sat, 09/11/2010 - 9:16am

Francona *is* an idiot. I find it odd that commenter on a website about statistical analysis of sports would seriously entertain the notion that a baseball manager has any significant impact on what happens on the field.

e.g. http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/2010/writers/cliff_corcoran/08/26/manag... (the first thing that comes up in Google)

Also, it's kind of hard to miss something so obvious as the personnel moves made by Theo Epstein.

(I also like the Eagles)

by Subrata Sircar :: Wed, 09/22/2010 - 5:04am

"I find it odd that commenter on a website about statistical analysis of sports would seriously entertain the notion that a baseball manager has any significant impact on what happens on the field."

Oh, irony ... baseball managers do have significant impact on what happens on the field, just as other coaches do. They control who steps on it to play the game. That's measurable and subject to analysis - most notably in reliever usage and whether or not platoons are considered. There's also the handling of the pitching staff in general and the handling of pitcher workload in particular.

They also have in-game control over situational tactics (steals, intentional walks, sacrifices, etc.). Those have significant impact on individual games (admittedly, over the course of a season most managers are equivalent in this regard). This is also measurable and subject to analysis.

It is true that the (supposed) biggest impact that baseball managers have on the play of the game is not directly measurable or subject to analysis, because it is difficult to distinguish any positive effect in the leader-of-men areas from "natural, random" variation in outcomes. [Players, coaches and GMs at all levels are almost uniform in support of the idea that this is the biggest part of a manager's job. That doesn't make them right, but it doesn't make them wrong either. That's why this is one of baseball's Hilbert problems.]

Back to the McNabb bashing ... uh, I mean, analysis.

by Andrew Potter :: Thu, 09/09/2010 - 6:46pm

As a NFL fan living in the UK, this very same article could have been written about every major English soccer talent of the last 25 years - from Gascoigne and Lineker right through to Rooney and Terry. It really is a bizarre mentality to me - as a Scotsman who would love to have anywhere near that sort of talent in our national sports teams. Some people just don't seem to even want to appreciate what they have. It's like some bizarre ironic paradox where people just can't be happy unless they have something (or someone) to complain about.

by Xeynon (not verified) :: Fri, 09/10/2010 - 12:36am

I think a big part of it is expectations. English soccer fans, like Eagles fans over the past ten years, have a baseline expectation level of their team being a contender. If it fails to beat out the other 8 or 10 teams that are considered contenders, disappointed fans don't want to hear complicated arguments about soccer or football being team sports, it being difficult to win a championship when the competition is fierce, etc. They just want to do the easy thing, which is to focus their frustrations on the best player on the team and say he choked, he can't handle big moments, etc.

It's absurd, it's irrational, and it can make rooting for a generally successful team like England or the Eagles less fun than rooting for a scrappy underdog like Scotland or the Saints, but it's the way the sports nut's psyche works.

by JPS (not verified) :: Thu, 09/09/2010 - 8:05pm

Tanier, I love love love your writing. I may get your Philly sports book just because.

by apd (not verified) :: Thu, 09/09/2010 - 9:14pm

I was born in Brooklyn and moved to Pennsylvania in 1967. My father lamented the Dodgers moving out of town until his dying day. I'm a fan of all Philadelphia sports since then ... even after retiring from the Marine Corps (27 years) and setting up residence south of Washington, DC.

Philadelphia just has rough, tough fans. Some say the toughest on their players in all their sports. Its just my opinion, but those that talk the most (McNabb Deniers) haven't learned to enjoy the hunt as much as the distinction of being THE champion. What a shame. They did the same (denigrated his legacy) to Charles Barkley (wrt the Sixers), but eventually they will come around. Donovan McNabb's (as the quarterback) legacy was the team leader and the TEAM failed to produce. Sad, but therefore, he will take most of the criticism. As a professional, he understands that. I personally respect his many accomplishments and the resultant TEAM success. However, I do not think he was the major reason they did not win a Superbowl. Nobody mentions the COACH in all this. He's as responsible as the Quarterback. The entire team would break down at the worst time. You can't pin that on one man. Plainly Donovan McNabb was the best damn quarterback since I started rooting for the Eagles in the 60's. Regardless of what he does from now on...he will be a "Hall of Famer" and I'm certain if T.O. didn't drop in on Philly and screw up their chemistry his teams would already be wearing one or possibly two Super Bowl rings. Then we'd be lamenting the loss.

Oh well...Good Luck Donovan.

Now, lets move on and focus on a winning season Philadelphia. Then, if we're a little bit lucky and have the right TEAM chemistry, perhaps we'll be fortunate to play for the World Championship. Doesn't mean we'll win. Opportunity, Talent, Skill and Luck must all be measured in correct proportion. GO EAGLES!

by Western Dave (not verified) :: Thu, 09/09/2010 - 9:43pm

Timing in this is extremely important. (Note: this is an explanation of denialism, I listen to way too much Philly sports talk radio for a guy who has two graduate degrees in History and is trained as an oral historian not to use at least some of my analytical tools on the McNabb discussion.) First, McNabb always struck me as a man out of time. To wit, he was pretty much a classic "race man" from the 1910s and 20s. He was conscious of himself as a role model and path maker for those who would come after. His family has a long history of civil rights activism. The problem, of course, is that he was often speaking a vocabulary that modern ears, white and black, didn't get. I got it immediately because I studied the time period. His attempts to foray into modern vernacular language were usually disastrous (see the infamous: black on black crime quote but there were plenty of other attempts that came out awful). Another piece of the zeitgeist was everybody in Philly hated McNabb's mom. A lot of what she said would later get attributed to him. It was seen as a lack of manliness on McNabb's part that he couldn't get her to shut up, (alternatively, that she was his mouthpiece). I think this resentment has a lot to do with the fact that a) Philly men are undereducated compared to women (see high school graduation rates, college rates) and b) the union jobs that undereducated men had had a lock on in Philly finally opened to women while, at the same time, the union stranglehold on good paying jobs collapsed during the time McNabb was here and that path to a decent livelihood for undereducated men was dealt it's deathblow in this recession. Finally, when it was unclear whether the Eagles would keep Andy or Donovan, sentiment leaned towards keeping Donovan and getting rid of Andy. Once Andy signed his extension, fans joined the Donovan denial club as compensation. For some people, it's like wanting an i-phone for your birthday and getting a blackberry, the first thing they do is jump on the anti-apple sites and marshal all the evidence they can be happy with what they didn't want. It will mellow over time.

by sswoods (not verified) :: Fri, 09/10/2010 - 12:18am

1. McNabb was overhyped and overrated from the beginning. He was supposed to be great, and was mearly good.
2. McNabb wasn't the player the fans wanted, because a) they felt there was a better player available (Ricky Williams, who proved to not be better, but that was irrelevant at the time) and b) he was overhyped and overrated. Had he met the expectations - i.e., being great - then the town would have changed their tune on him. But he did not. It's unfair to an extent, but that's what happens sometimes. The town was against him from the beginning, and he didn't do enough to change their minds. It's not his fault, but that's the way it is. The same thing happened here in Kansas City. I moved here in 1992, and the town hated GM Carl Peterson and Coach Marty Schottenheimer. It didn't matter that the team had been horrid for 20 years prior, for some reason these guys were hated by the town -- and the local media, Peterson especially. The attitude would have changed had the Chiefs won a Super Bowl, but being mearly good, not great, wasn't enough to get the job done.
McNabb's family history of civil rights activism was never part of the equation. Verbal miscues were just fuel to the fire already lit. Ditto with anything going on with his Mother. The education level of men in Philly was then and is now irrelevant to the issue. That last point is actually laughable - as if having better education would make someone appreciate a QB who is supposed to be great but is only good more. As far as the Denialers are concerned, it was great or terrible, no middle ground. Unfortunately for McNabb, he was in the middle ground, and the town just wouldn't accept it.

by AlanSP :: Fri, 09/10/2010 - 1:54am

I always get the impression that "great" only includes Manning, Brady, and more recently, Brees (and arguably Roethlisberger) although his and McNabb's crime is essentially not being one of them. That's idiotic. There's really no way around that. You should never expect players to be hall of fame caliber because very, very few actually are. If those are your expectations, you are virtually guaranteed to be disappointed.

Being one of the top 5 QB's of the past decade is significantly better than being "merely good."

by sswoods (not verified) :: Fri, 09/10/2010 - 2:56am

Top 5 of the last decade:

P Manning
T Brady
B Favre
K Warner
D Brees

Those who haven't played long enough to ensure inclusion:
B Roethlisberger
P Rivers
A Rodgers

Perhaps we can quibble over how "great" is defined, but I feel confident saying that McNabb is below these guys. I respect McNabb, I'm not a McNabb denier, I simply recognize him as being on par with a Steve McNair.
I'll also agree with you that it doesn't make a lot of sense to expect your QB to be a HOFer. I personally never thought he'd be a HOFer. I did think he'd be a solid starter. And that's what I think he proved to be, nothing more.

by AlanSP :: Fri, 09/10/2010 - 9:45am

McNabb was, in my opinion, better than Favre over the period that we're talking about (2000-2009). Their YPA is identical (7.05 for McNabb and 7.04 for Favre). Favre's completion percentage is slightly higher 62.7 to 59.5, and he played in 24 more games. The big things that separate them are that Favre threw nearly twice as many interceptions (176 vs. 93) and never made anything close to the contributions as a runner that McNabb did. Averaging 17.6 interceptions over 10 seasons isn't good, no matter how you slice it (and that's including his career year last year).

Warner's a weird case because of the path his career has taken. He was arguably better at his peak, but a) He did basically nothing for 5 years from 2002-2006, and b) his career years came throwing to some of the best receiving duos of that era in Holt/Bruce and later Fitzgerald/Boldin. I don't buy for a moment that those guys only looked good because of Warner, because each one of them was elite without Warner at QB. And again, there's that whole INT thing, where Warner threw them about as often as Favre. For my money, I'd definitely take the last 10 years of McNabb over the last 10 years of Warner.

Rodgers had 2 seasons at the end of the decade and Rivers had 4, so they don't really belong in the discussion.

I think that comparing McNabb to McNair actually grossly understates just how good McNabb was. It's a tempting comparison because they were stylistically similar, but it's not an accurate one.

by nat :: Fri, 09/10/2010 - 12:37pm

Nice link.

PFR's adjusted net yards per pass attempt is a nice stat, although it suffers a little from being built out of conventional stats. There's no opponent adjustment, no situational adjustments, nothing about fumbles, and all yards are treated as equal - there's no bonus for being good at "moving the chains".

McNabb looks pretty darned good on that list. I was surprised to see Roethlisberger listed above him. Peyton Manning tops the list, not surprisingly: it's for regular season stats only. :-) (FWIW, I suspect he would still top this list if you included playoffs.)

Thanks for the pointer.

by Mike Tanier :: Fri, 09/10/2010 - 7:18am

And Philly fans have a bad relation with the parents of players. See Lindros, Carl.

And the ones who painted McNabb as a Mommas Boy were the ones who would go interview momma every time they wanted to perform some ratings stunt.

by Boo-urns (not verified) :: Sat, 09/11/2010 - 1:00pm

How can we ignore the Rush Limbaugh/race aspect of all this? McNabb is arguably the best black pocket passer in history, and unlike McNair, he came of age in a time when conservative muckrakers were looking to tear down prominent black (and other minority) figures as "overrated" because of an atmosphere of "political correctness" and "affirmative action", as part of an ideological agenda.

Sure, Philly's a rough town and hard on many of their players, but to a large extent, their most outspoken sports fans are pretty classic Limbaugh sympathizers, who for a number of reasons, buy into this narrative. McNabb is criticized more than most because he's black and playing a position that is traditionally white. Since there aren't any mandated racial preferences in football, you can't blame affirmative action, but you can blame the "liberal media" and "political correctness" for overrating him. That's not to say that everyone who is a McNabb denier is injecting race into their opinions, but rather that the media and discussion around McNabb (the local tabloids and sports talk radio, which cater to this viewpoint generally) is driven by this.

Would be interesting to see (won't actually happen, because polling costs money) whether and to what extent McNabb "deniers" and McNabb "lovers" are: white vs. black, vote Republican vs. Democrat, are high school grads vs. post-college grads, etc. etc. etc.

by AlanSP :: Sat, 09/11/2010 - 1:17pm

I have no idea to what extent this sort of thing affects people's thinking, but I'd point out that at the time when Limbaugh made his comments, sentiment in Philly was overwhelmingly on McNabb's side (and he handled that situation very well). Early in his career, McNabb was enormously popular, so I don't think it's fair to chalk it up to people being against him from the start because of his race.

by Western Dave (not verified) :: Sun, 09/12/2010 - 9:18pm

There's been some (non-scientific) polling on this done and there appears to be no correlations between McNabb's popularity and race. I haven't seen work that correlates some of the other factors you talk about but in the city itself party registration is 90 percent +, Democratic and suburbs have turned Democratic recently so party registration is also out. While all fans tend to feminize athletes they don't like, I think attacks on McNabb's masculinity started only after the Tampa Bay game. I do think Philly's issues with parents of athletes are tied to the working class aspects of Philly culture (ie: I left the house at 18 and got a job, what is your momma still talking for you?). In NYC and suburbs where rent and housing costs are so high, it seems pretty normal for a 25 year old to still be close to their parents, if they aren't still living with them. In Philly, where housing is comparatively cheap, very few move home after college even if they don't get a job right away.

by justanothersteve :: Thu, 09/09/2010 - 9:56pm

Packers fans still consider 4th-and-26 a defensive lapse. Still, I don't get the McNabb hate.

by AlanSP :: Fri, 09/10/2010 - 1:20am

Great article. As someone who's had countless conversations with McNabb deniers over the past several years, it just gets endlessly frustrating.

I'm tempted to say that it boils down to the fact that the team didn't win a Super Bowl during McNabb's tenure, but came agonizingly close several times. This usually leads to a more general argument about relying on Super Bowl wins as any sort of measuring stick, since they are a) very rare events, even for the best players ever, and b) a team accomplishment, not an individual one. It's not a fun argument to have after the zillionth time. Still, I don't think that's all of it; I know a number of Bills fans and have never heard that type of venom directed at Jim Kelly.

There were two McNabb denier canards that always really drove me nuts. One was that he wasn't "tough," a statement loosely based on the time he missed with injuries. This was said about a man who played almost an entire game with a broken ankle (and played extremely well at that). I remember McNabb getting a rib injury in the NFC championship game against the Panthers and playing through it (albeit pretty terribly in that case). I've had that particular injury and it's easily one of the most painful things I've experienced. Every breath feels like getting stabbed in the lungs; that someone could play professional football in that condition is mind-boggling to me. And yet after the game, I saw a fan saying the team should just get rid of McNabb because of that performance; terrible as it sounds, a part of me couldn't help hoping that she'd fall and tear a few intercostal muscles and then reconsider her sentiments.

The other one that always bothered me was that people would get angry about McNabb smiling/laughing/being upbeat even after bad plays. It's like they were saying "who does he think he is, having fun during a game?" I always hated this not only because it's a stupid argument and because I like watching upbeat players (crazy, I know), but because those McNabb deniers saw someone being positive and wanted to force their pessimism onto him. I mean, really, what did they want, self-flagellation after every incomplete pass?

by Staubach12 :: Fri, 09/10/2010 - 1:40am

Danny White had a somewhat similar plight in Dallas. Of course White had to follow Staubach, so he was an actual letdown. McNabb was an upgrade.

by Key19 :: Fri, 09/10/2010 - 1:52am

Funny that you'd bring up a Dallas QB comparison right at the exact same time I did.

by Temo :: Fri, 09/10/2010 - 2:56am

I never even saw Danny White play and I feel for the dude.

by Key19 :: Fri, 09/10/2010 - 1:52am

I feel like you'll almost be able to write the exact same column again for Tony Romo in 5 years.

by RickD :: Fri, 09/10/2010 - 1:55am

Ask Rush Limbaugh why some people have always been down on Donovan McNabb.

I'm sure it has nothing to do with race - he'll tell you exactly that!

by sswoods (not verified) :: Fri, 09/10/2010 - 2:47am

Interesting revisionism there. I do believe Rush's point was that the media overrated - emphasis on the overrated, as opposed to "why some people have always been down" - McNabb because of race.

by tunesmith :: Fri, 09/10/2010 - 4:39am

ha ha... you say it so much more delicately than Rush did.

by Dean :: Fri, 09/10/2010 - 8:24am

Rush's job isn't to say things delicately. Rush's job is to get ratings. Delicate doesn't cut the mustard in the ratings game.

by AlanSP :: Fri, 09/10/2010 - 2:24am

As far as Kolb, I actually expect him to do quite well, not because I think Kolb is the next Rodgers/Montana/whoever, but because he is taking the reigns of a team with some very talented receivers. He'll do well for the same reason that Matt Cassel did well.

In some ways, it's sort of a cruel joke that as soon as Philly finally has the receiving weapons that McNabb was denied throughout most of the past decade, he gets shipped off to a different team where he is once again surrounded by mediocre receivers.

People seem to forget just how bad the receivers were throughout most of McNabb's career. Where Kolb takes over with Jackson, Maclin, and Avant, McNabb took over with Charles Johnson, Torrance Small, and Na Brown. James Thrash and Todd Pinkston were actually upgrades. Chad Lewis had a good year, but nothing close to Brent Celek territory. That McNabb did what he did under those circumstances is impressive, even more so if you remember that the Eagles had Darnell Autry and Stanley Pritchett as their primary running backs for that season.

by Christopher (not verified) :: Fri, 09/10/2010 - 3:13am

*Note: Many of the numbers found on pro football reference (they're good for careers)
To start off with, I don't really care about Mcnabb, and I'm neither a fan nor hater of the Eagles. Has he been a worthwhile Quarterback. Sure. Has he been great? No way. I always find it strange to hear people bashing McNabb for reasons that have nothing to do with mine; McNabb simply wasn't that accurate a passer -in seven of his eleven seasons, he was less than 60%, despite being in a strongly west coast system, which greatly inflate completion percentage. Basic stats hold value for telling what he did well and did not do well, and it is likely they are not too terribly skewed as he has had a long career. His completion percentage for his career is only 59.0%. For comparison, David Carr sits at 59.8%. He has looked as inaccurate as those numbers paint him. I can't deny that he was often effective, but that problem alone is enough to keep him out of any discussion of eliteness, except to briefly state he should not be considered. It isn't like he gets particularly many yards per attempt either, sitting at just 6.9, while Daunte Culpepper has averaged 7.6, Jake Delhomme has averaged 7.2, while Charlie Batch and Mark Brunell had the same 6.9. For further reference, Peyton Manning sits at 64.8 and 7.7 ypa. Simple calculation shows McNabb averaged 11.7 yards per completion, while Manning averaged 11.9, so it is purely an accuracy issue.

Like I mentioned earlier, I do not think this makes him a bad quarterback, but it certainly means he is not a great one. You are not a hater because you say that a quarterback who is not at the "Franchise Quarterback" level is a detriment to the team when he is treated like he is one. Inaccuracy, by definition, makes you a choker, because you will randomly choke sequentially at important moments.

Personally, I find it easy to place several QB's above him for this season. Manning, Brady, Rivers, Brees, Favre, Warner had he not retired, likely Aaron Rodgers, likely Ben Roethlisberger (ignoring suspension). Carson Palmer, Eli Manning, Matt Schaub, and Tony Romo seem likely peers (I'm low on Romo as well).

And now, to make you totally disregard my comment, no matter its merits, I will speak of Reggie Bush. on his good plays, of which there are many, Reggie Bush looks a lot like Chris Johnson, but is a much better receiver. If he keeps up his current level of production for the next five years, he was definitely worth the pick. I would compare him to a very rich man's Kevin Faulk, who has shown he easily deserved his second round pick, despite a great deal of initial disappointment, and sparse usage since. As Bush is just 25, he could easily still become a great deal more important player than currently believed. Alex Smith might be undergoing just such a transition (age 26), we'll see (obvious Niners fan here, but I'd given up on him years ago, until he showed me, and everyone else watching the Niners, different recently).

Despite being a huge USC fan, I have nothing against Bush for his role in what went down, and I still think USC would have beaten Texas if they'd run Bush a little more and White a little less (or if they'd just managed to tackle Vince Young). The NCAA is just looking to send a warning by savaging a program, which did nothing wrong. It was a third party transaction. Why does it matter how much his rent should have been to live at a nice place, and why is that USC's responsibility when they didn't provide it? Of course, I don't understand the issue at all since I think they should be paid with more than just a scholarship, if the schools think they are worth it. I believe in the market system, and having to one-up each other to get a recruit could easily include money if it wasn't banned.

Also, I have nothing but disinterest for Leinart in the pros, though I was surprised to find he wasn't good. Matt Barkley looks far more talented to my eyes. I would consider him strongly for a first round pick two drafts from now. I would not be surprised to see the USC offense to make it through the sanctions as the best one in the NCAA (though the defense is already kinda bad). Also eminently draftable, Stanley Havili (awesome all-arounder FB, best I've ever seen, underused), Ronald Johnson(WR, much better than last year's supposed star Damian Williams), and, if you aren't afraid of injuries, Marc Tyler (HB), who looks very good right now.

I think I've gone on way too long already, and wondered quite a bit, so I'm signing off.

by Mr Shush :: Fri, 09/10/2010 - 7:28am

Ok, really? Reggie Bush has never averaged more than 50 yards rushing a game over the course of a season. He has only one season over 4 yards per attempt, and it was on only 70 carries. His yards from scrimmage have fallen every year since he entered the league, with only his rookie season above 1000. He is a useful role-player, but to justify the salary which a second overall pick receives he would have had to be one of the very best and most productive running backs in football, which plainly he is not. His base salary this year is $8m, and next year it will be $11.8m, unless he is cut or agrees to take a pay cut, one of which will surely happen. Yes, he is still young and obviously talented, and I suppose there's an outside chance he'll put it all together and emerge as a dominant player, but even if he does it will be on his second contract and not necessarily for the Saints. Of the top 5 of the 2006 draft, Williams and Ferguson were good picks, Bush and Hawk were bad picks, and Young we still don't know for sure about. I don't really think that's controversial.

by Christopher (not verified) :: Fri, 09/10/2010 - 4:41pm

No one seems to understand the actual value of an early pick. To wit, there isn't one, financially speaking. The number two pick almost never makes sense on a cost basis, though a significant number turn out to be good players. You have to be nearly on a Peyton Manning level to be worthy of a top few pick if you are merely speaking of pay. Reggie Bush is a good player. There aren't many great ones. He makes the team a small but significant amount better, and that is enough, if sustained over a significant period, to match the number two overall pick. Exactly where is Charles Rogers now? Exactly where are a large number of other number two selections? The same place. The Saints would have to pay a lot of money to get a potential playmaker of any sort, they never come cheap, unless no one knows they are.

I'm not saying he lit the world on fire, I called him a version of Kevin Faulk! You know, that guy who has been on the Patriots forever as a third down back, occasional playmaker, and who has never had a hundred yard game (according to Wikipedia). They used him more right after they drafted him as well, for obvious reasons. Bush has more than half the rushing and receiving yards faulk does, despite Faulk being an eleven year player, or nearly triple.

24 is very young to decide whether a man is going to be a great player, because 26 is the beginning of the physical peak for men. He's 25 now, give him a shot, he's shown enough flashes.

Whether someone stays with the team that drafted them or not does not influence whether they were worth the pick or not. For example, if Tom Brady had been picked in the sixth round by another team than the Patriots, and then cut, and picked up by the Patriots, he would have easily been worth the sixth round pick, even though it wouldn't have helped the team that drafted him. Change that to first round, and it still applies. There is only vague relation between whether a player is pans out, and whether the team keeps him. If the Saints decide not to keep him, it will likely be because the demand will be there to get him, because he is valuable, and not because they simply do not want him. If they didn't want him, they wouldn't be paying him the eight million plus this year, because there was no penalty for not paying if you fire them before the start of this season! Unless you count that he wouldn't be on the team. Most likely he will take a pay cut, whether he stays or goes, but that is only because of backloading (aka fake money) that is only there so that agents can say they got a great deal, and so that teams can keep them if the player is surprisingly great, and would actually command more. It is very normal to rework that.

I don't care about controversy, (obviously), and only occasionally about conventional wisdom. Williams and Ferguson were good picks, I agree. Hawk, I'm not quite so down on. He is still a decent player (mild bust). Young, has talent, and is largely in the same arena as Bush, where they could still be worth it or not. They could be mild busts, or they could be non-busts.

by tuluse :: Fri, 09/10/2010 - 5:03pm

Actually, no. Top picks don't make that much money. If they play about pro-bowl level, they're compensated properly. At least at the big money positions. If you draft a safety, that's your own fault.

For example, Bradford is making 13 million per year, Tom Brady is making 18.

by Xeynon (not verified) :: Fri, 09/10/2010 - 8:07pm

24 is very young to decide whether a man is going to be a great player, because 26 is the beginning of the physical peak for men. He's 25 now, give him a shot, he's shown enough flashes.

For normal men, this is true. Even for most athletes, it is true. But for NFL running backs, it is not true. The position does not require the mental maturation period that quarterback, middle linebacker, offensive tackle, etc. do, and is so physically demanding that most guys are washed up by the time they're 30. If a running back is not already a great player by the time he's 25 and is entering his fifth year in the league, it's likely he never will.

by duckfingers (not verified) :: Fri, 09/10/2010 - 1:34pm

You state that McNabb should have had a higher completion percentage due to being in a WCO.

Anyone who has watched the Eagles knows that theirs is a WCO with deeper looks and longer reads. You could argue that this system was created by the coaching staff because of personnel limitations, or because of McNabb's penchant to hold onto the ball, but you can't just waltz in and claim "The eagles are a WCO, therefore mcnabb is average at best according to completion %." That is a blatant simplification.

Your Y/A numbers inadvertently place Daunte Culpepper and Jake Delhomme above Marino, Elway , Moon and the like, so to throw that stat out without proper context is really misleading.

Also, stating neutrality does not make you more informed or less biased. If you don't care, then back out.

by Christopher (not verified) :: Fri, 09/10/2010 - 4:03pm

Anyone who has watched the Eagles knows they have a lot of very short passing plays, as does every west coast offense. It is deeper than some and shallower than others. It is not exceptional, and many of the passes were very easy ones to Westbrook or the TE. And it is below average completion percentage for anyone who is given a significant number of years as the starter, not average, well below for much of his career. So, is it a simplification? Yes, but not one that loses any important information. He definitely should have had a significantly higher completion percentage if he was a top QB. It really is that simple when evaluating a WCO. If he wasn't a solid runner, it is likely he wouldn't have stuck around this long.

Marino, Moon and the like were from an earlier time, and we know offense has improved in production nearly continually. The Daunte Culpepper comparison was not hand picked for where he ended up, but because it was an interesting comparison. Culpepper isn't good, and if he was, it wasn't for long, and was on a team with good surrounding players -I'm not saying it is a fair comparison, but it is illustrative of an actual successful passing game. He was a product of his receiver. He averaged .3 yards further per completion, and it wasn't a particularly deep passing game, excepting to Randy Moss. His completion percentage is much higher than McNabb's, and both have had exceptional receivers in their careers. McNabb shows a steep uptick now, first with Terrel Owens and then DeSeann Jackson, I wonder why? Maybe because they made him.

McNabb is competent, but no more. My Y/A stat was merely to show that he wasn't attempting the long/difficult passes you are claiming the system has, or if he was, it was always a mistake.

I care about the correctness of a measurement for the worth of a player. I am interested in football. I merely have no particular bias for or against McNabb and the Eagles. I have definitely seen enough of him over the eleven years he's played to make an informed judgment, especially when aided by stats.

Why should I back out? My points are valid.

by AlanSP :: Fri, 09/10/2010 - 7:50pm

I've watched nearly every game of the Andy Reid era and yes, the Eagles threw deep far more than most WCO teams, particularly later in McNabb's career. Take a look at his 2006 season. His completion percentage was the lowest he ever posted after his rookie year, but this was one of his best offensive seasons (even though he only played 10 games before tearing his ACL). The completion percentage was low, but he was excellent in basically any other metric you can come up with. That's essentially an impossibility if you aren't throwing deep and doing it well.

To say that Culpepper and McNabb "have both had exceptional receivers" and Culpepper's completion percentage is higher ignores the fact that Culpepper's 6 seasons with Moss account for 75% of his career pass attempts, while McNabb's 2.5 seasons with either Owens or last year's DeSean Jackson account for about 25% of his career attempts (those are the actual numbers btw, not guesses. I thought that might be unclear because they worked out to be round numbers).

More generally, the point about receivers completely belies the notion that McNabb was merely competent. Manning spent almost all of his career throwing to one of the best receivers of all time in Marvin Harrison, and Reggie Wayne has also been exceptional. Roethlisberger has had Hines Ward, who was great well before Big Ben arrived, and Warner had Holt/Bruce and Fitzgerald/Boldin. Brady's numbers were good, but not spectacular before Moss and Welker arrived and then shot through the roof. Elite WRs make every QB significantly better (well, except maybe Kerry Collins), and McNabb played almost all of his career with receivers that were not only not elite, but not even average.

by Verified (not verified) :: Fri, 09/10/2010 - 10:07am

...the sports world would be boring if every media outlet were Football Outsiders...

You said it, brother.

by MosesZD (not verified) :: Fri, 09/10/2010 - 2:37pm

Sigh. I have an AA friend. His favorite expression is "180 degrees from sick, is still sick." That is, the opposite of wrong isn't always "right."

This was as bad as the deniers as it seeks to gloss over McNabb's career, and many legitimate criticisms of him, in some silly, bully-pulpit, one-sided fan-fight fest.

McNabb was a good, but not great, QB playing in a system that pads completion percentage and QB rating, even with mediocre WRs. And, yes, it is true that his early-career WRs were, mostly, mediocre, but he had an excellent TE and RBs helping (who generate high completion % numbers) him out quite a bit. And he had perfectly good WRs, TE & RB's in his later career, and he still ran about 4% worse in completion percentage than a good WCO would be expected to run.

McNabb had his strengths. He had mobility and toughness, but even more important was how he combined them into his NFL-best ability to extend a messed-up play. More so than any QB of his era he was able to extend the life of a play and make something positive out of it.

Which, ironically, if he didn't possess, his negative attributes would have forced him out of the NFL. Because he's is, and was, a slow-read, slow-react QB with suspect accuracy.

Nothing wrong with that if you have compensating abilities. Joe Montana had a mediocre arm. But incredible touch, balance, dexterity and feel for the game that allowed him to become an all-time great -- despite being weak-armed and scrawny.

Players aren't perfect. Just like one-sided, strawman-baiting articles, Don Quixote.

by AlanSP :: Sat, 09/11/2010 - 3:08am

Who's this "excellent TE" you speak of? Chad Lewis? He had one legitimately good year in 2000 and that was largely because they had essentially nobody else to throw the ball too. Celek didn't come onto the scene until a few years ago and didn't have a breakout year until last year. L.J. Smith is nobody's idea of an excellent (or good) TE.

And his receivers early in his career weren't mediocre; they were bad. Like, really bad. Of Charles Johnson, Torrance Small, Na Brown, Todd Pinkston, James Thrash, Freddie Mitchell, and Reggie Brown, only Thrash managed to even hold a roster spot with another team, and that was primarily as a return man. McNabb had the success that he did (and he had a lot of success) by spreading the ball around to numerous different players, including his backs and TEs. Point me to an elite QB who had success with that kind of drek at WR. Brady's probably one of the closer ones, but while guys like Troy Brown, Deion Branch, and David Patten were never elite, they were at least capable of producing at a solid level and holding onto a roster spot on other teams (though Brown never got the chance).

Also, the Eagles did not run a typical WCO, at least not later in McNabb's career. They threw far more frequently than many people seem to realize, which played to McNabb's strengths. That's not to say that McNabb didn't have problems with his accuracy (it was his biggest weakness), but simply looking at the completion percentage overstates them.

by Kibbles :: Fri, 09/10/2010 - 10:40pm

I'm sure there are a lot of intelligent and interesting comments that have been made so far, but I'm not going to read them all. There are just two things I wanted to mention.

1) I've been telling my wife about how ungrateful Philly fans are (not all fans, but the huddled masses) for years. She always thought I was exaggerating, since we both grew up in a sports culture where even marginal players were propped up and praised profusely, and where the stars were all billed as the second coming of (insert HoFer here). We live in Texas, and have been going to a local Italian Ice shop where we've made friends with the proprietor, who was a Philly transplant. To demonstrate the phenomenon, one day I asked "So, it must be tough losing McNabb", and he responded with "you know, I'm really excited. This is the first time in decades that I've felt our team had a chance to really be competitive going into the season". He was talking about a team that had made 5 NFCCGs in the past decade. It blew my wife's mind.

2) One of my greatest sports regrets is that Donovan McNabb broke his ankle in 2002, and as a result, nobody remembers how absolutely unreal he was that season. Over 16 games, his numbers would pro-rate to 3664/27/10 passing and another 736/10 rushing- and those numbers UNDERRATE how good he was, because they're brought down by a game he played on a broken ankle. His WRs that season were the infamous Pinkston/Thrash duo, his RB was Duce Staley (and his sub-4.0 ypc), and he was just lighting people up. In my mind, it was one of the five greatest QB seasons of the past decade, behind only Manning and Culpepper's 2004 seasons and Brady's 2007. And that game he played on a broken ankle was simply remarkable. Whenever anyone questions how good he was at his peak, I question whether they really remember just how amazing Donovan McNabb was from 2002 to 2005.

by Mr Shush :: Sat, 09/11/2010 - 8:02am

It's probably only fair to mention that the hypothetical 3664 passing yards would have come on 578 attempts for 6.3Y/A, and been accompanied by 45 sacks behind a pretty good offensive line. His pro-rated combined DYAR would have been a decent but hardly earth-shattering 747, good for 10th in the league and ahead of such luminaries as Brian Griese and Brad Johnson by 5 and 7 points respectively. His DVOA, which cannot have been dragged down so very badly by one game out of ten, was -1.0%. I know the other skill players were terrible, but I'm still not sure I can buy that as one of the best QB seasons of the decade. I do remember McNabb being really good, but I don't remember him ever being truly elite.

Your freezer-toting friend is of course an idiot.

by Kibbles :: Sat, 09/11/2010 - 6:17pm

You kind of forgot about the 700 rushing yards at an absurd 50+% DVOA (good for another 328 pro-rated DYAR). That's not something to be glossed over, since it would have been the best rushing season by a QB in DVOA history by a HUGE margin. We're talking 20% better than the 2nd best QB rushing season in DVOA history (Vick's 1,000 yard campaign).

The thing that really impressed itself on me was that he really had no help. None. Supporting cast makes a *HUGE* difference. Don't believe me? Go compare Jake Plummer's stats in Arizona to his stats in Denver. That's the kind of difference supporting cast can make. More than the statistics he was on pace for (which, let's face it, 4400 combined yards and 37 combined TDs are pretty remarkable statistics for 2002), it was watching him do it all with no help that left such a strong impression on me. That, and watching him play an entire game on a broken ankle that wound up putting him on IR.

by Mr Shush :: Wed, 09/15/2010 - 11:54am

I didn't forget about it: as I said, 747 was McNabb's pro-rated combined DYAR. His pro-rated passing DYAR was only 419. I agree that supporting cast makes a big difference, and that in that light 747 DYAR is really quite impressive. I still don't buy it as a historically great overall performance (as opposed to a historically great rushing performance).

by AlanSP :: Sat, 09/11/2010 - 1:07pm

Actually, if you're going to marvel at injury-shortened McNabb seasons I'd go with 2006. It was the lowest completion percentage he posted outside of his rookie year, but his numbers were still outstanding, with the best Y/A of his career, along with his usual low INT % and effective running (he led all QBs in rushing DVOA by a huge margin). That year, he was extremely successful throwing deep, posting the highest yds/completion number of anyone in the 2000's, and that was with a receiving corps of Donte Stallworth, Reggie Brown, L.J. Smith, Greg Lewis, and Hank Baskett: not exactly world-beaters.

by asaltz :: Sat, 09/11/2010 - 9:21am

A lot of this is stoked by media; the same newspapers publish Stephen Smith and "Philly Fans Still Suck" articles.

by Orange_and_Black (not verified) :: Sun, 09/12/2010 - 1:15am

Sorry to go off like I am about to but this is not understood. People who blindly support #5 are wrong. They pretend to want trophies and titles then fail to see the one common factor keeping those titles away. The only irrational people are the ones who crucify Philly fans for believing their eyes.

The "McNabb spin machine" will tell you he had no chance in the last 5 minutes of the Super Bowl. A viewing of that game will show that he overthrew LJ Smith by 10 yards into Bruschi's chest to force 5 minutes of desperation.

He was plain awful for half of the 2009 NFCCG.
He tackled Baskett himself with a shoelace throw on a crossing route that could have gone for 70 yards. The 4th down to end the game was a bad break by bad refs but he had 2 hideous throws on the 3 plays before that.

McNabb's teams (2002, 2004, 2008) were good enough to win the Super Bowl.
-In 2002 the NFCCG opened with a long Mitchell punt return leading to a rushing TD and a 7-0 lead. McNabb was invisible for 3 quarters, made 1 spectacular play and then threw the "Ronde 6" to end the game.

In 2002 Philly went to St Louis for the NFCCG.
The opening possession was a McNabb fumble that turned into @ a 10 yard TD drive for St Louis. 7 points in a 5 point loss. Do we blame the GM or the 4th wideout for that?

- In the 2004 SB he threw a red zone INT while hesitating to an open Westbrook.
He floats a mirror image INT to the same safety on the other side of the field.
(yes, that really happened and people pretend it did not)
He then had the Bruschi floater to end the game with 6 minutes to play.
He drove them into the rocks in all 3 cases.
How should we feel about that?

-In 2009, Asante scored against Minnesota and he took the ball to the 1 vs NY.
McNabb needed to put earn like 10 points to win both of those games.
When the team needed an elite performance vs AZ, he made about 10 McNabb throws along with some great throws. We took a knife to a gunfight.

Please name another "elite" QB who constantly degrades his teammates?
"I need more weapons" has already been stated from DC#5.
This statement is a vote of no confidence for your teammates.
When he did get those weapons, he cried because TO was a meanie.
Did Brady cry when Moss joined him?

Sure he carried the team in 2000 and 2001.
4th and 26 will always be wonderful (it doesn't make Freddie elite either)
He killed Tampa 2x and he killed Chicago.
No one rationally blames him for 2003.
He got cheap shotted and his WRs got mugged all day.
The guy was a 10th best type of QB who could not consistantly put up pro bowl numbers in an offense sloped to the pass like no other.

Kolb was 2 for 2 in 300+ games
In 2006 the team won in the playoffs without him.
If you want to compare Reich and Kelly to Garcia and McNabb then I will tell you Reich should have played more in the playoffs for those Bills teams.

Look at McNabb's playoff numbers (
Look at Manning's
Look at Kelly's (focus on the final 4s)
If you like any of them then you are delusional.

There is no censorship on these numbers.

BTW, Cunningham's DVOA was probably SICK.
He had MVP type numbers in 1987, 1988, 1990, 1998.
He won multiple MVP awards (Bert Bell)
If he did not win APs it was because Montana, Rice or Terrell 2k beat him out.
He played in a division that won the SB SIX TIMES in his 11 year Eagle career.
He faced LT in his prime 2x a year and destroyed him half the time.
Blaming him for not winning in the playoffs is like blaming Reggie White or Seth Joyner or Eric Allen.
The guy threw for 400+ IN THE FOG! (penalties and drops killed him)
The guy started with Quick and Carter and in the playoffs he had Johnson and Garrity.
No excuses he came up small in 1990 but McNabb comes up small every year.
Montana had Walsh.
Kelly had Levy.
Cunningham had "go make 5 plays" Ryan and then Kotite.
Young got 5 years to learn the WCO.
Rhodes gave Cunningham 2 months.
His injury in 1991 was a national tragedy

Anyone who says McNabb > Cunningham is just plain wrong.
They can also tell you Testaverde has more yards than Montana.

Pretending McNabb deserves homage is like pretending Peyton Manning is clutch in the playoffs. It is solely for the delusion.

As for the Ryan Howard comparison... He keeps putting up numbers that compare to Babe Ruth. McNabb can even get in the top 5 for MVP while at the QB position on strong teams. I laugh at the reference like anyone with objectivity should.

I don't hate McNabb, I hate losing when we were good enough to win.
That is all and I am not alone.

by Orange_and_Black (not verified) :: Sun, 09/12/2010 - 1:28am

BTW, Cunningham's insane 1990 season was done with a pair of rookie WRs at #1 and #2.
Does anyone think Buddy Ryan, Kotite and Rhodes compares to Andy Reid?
Does anyone think the 85-95 Eagles O-line compares to the 2000-2010 versions?
Does anyone think Fassel, Spurrier, Campo compare to Gibbs, Parcells and later Jimmy Johnson?

by kamiyu206 :: Sun, 09/12/2010 - 2:29am

You compared Ryan Howard to Babe Ruth?

Howard's best season, which is 2006, is worse than Ruth's career average!

Anyone who says Howard can be compared to Ruth is just plain wrong. Sorry.

by Eddo :: Sun, 09/12/2010 - 10:19am

Yeah, I wish he had put that first, so that I would have just stopped there.

Ryan Howard's top even a top-ten player in his own era, let alone on Babe Ruth's level.

by tuluse :: Sun, 09/12/2010 - 2:48am

Yeah I hate those fans who pretend to want championships. Stupid poseurs.

by Orange_and_Dumb (not verified) :: Sun, 09/12/2010 - 11:19am

"Anyone who says McNabb > Cunningham is just plain wrong."

You have completely invalidated anything you have ever said or will ever say about sports by uttering that one comment. Cunningham's entire career was based upon his athleticism.
> He never studied game tape, either on his offense or an opposing defense.
> He could not read defenses.
> He did not run an offense. He would take the snap, scan the field for 2 seconds, then turn it into a scramble drill.
> His late career success in MIN was predicated upon deep throws to Chris Carter and Randy Moss. Any QB who can throw a deep ball can have success playing with that tandem.

I used to think Cunningham was a great QB. He was exciting, he could make play and he had a 90 yard punt! Then I learned a bit about real NFL preparation. And I learned Randall never did any of it. During an interview, a former Eagle OC who worked with Randall told a little story. He did not believe Randall looked at his playbook. He stuck a $100 in the middle of the playbook before checking it out to Randall. When Randall returned the book the next week, the $100 bill was still there. At best, Randall studied half the playbook.

McNabb is a better QB than Cunningham for the simple fact that he is a real QB. He runs an offense, studies film and executes plays as they are designed. And he can run the scramble drill when necessary. If Cunningham was half the QB McNabb is, the Eagles would have two rings with those early '90s defenses.

by AlanSP :: Sun, 09/12/2010 - 12:02pm

This is pretty much exhibit A as far as what Tanier was talking about. You have this bizarre version of events that basically just denies what actually happened, and anyone pointing out the huge amount of evidence to the the contrary is dismissed as part of the "McNabb spin machine."

Fortunately, you pretty much ceded any chance of being taken seriously with the "If you like Peyton Manning or Jim Kelly, you're delusional" bit, not to mention the absurd Howard/Ruth comparison (I love Ryan Howard, but he's nowhere even remotely close to Ruth).

by Orange_and_Black (not verified) :: Sun, 09/26/2010 - 11:27pm

I never said Howard = Ruth. He is not even as good as Pujos currently.
The fact is that there are a number of stats over a certain period where his RBI totals or HR totals compare to Ruth and few others. McNabb has never had anything like that. (well he does compare to O'Donnell for least INT%) Howard is an elite player in 2005-Now. McNabb has never been elite and never will be.

As to Kelly and Manning.
Look at Kelly in AFCCGs and Super Bowls (5 TDs 12 INTs)
Manning is an 8-8 playoff QB who had 2 monster games vs Denver in '04 and '05 (9 TDs and 1 INT) and 14 games where his totals are 19 TDs to 18 TDs. Of course he is a first ballot hall-of-famer for his unequaled regular season performance.

You can pretend they were both playoff studs and you can pretend McNabb carried the Eagles and is persecuted because people from Philly are monsters who randomly pick on people for no reason.

by helling (not verified) :: Sun, 09/12/2010 - 10:47pm

This article was just mentioned on National network television in the UK.Is FO mentioned on mainstream US TV?

Thank goodness for C4 employing an expert who not only knows about the game but is also interested in reading new things about it.

Sky are insane for not poaching him and ditching the pompous cliche spouter they use.

by helling (not verified) :: Sun, 09/12/2010 - 10:48pm

This article was just mentioned on National network television in the UK.Is FO mentioned on mainstream US TV?

Thank goodness for C4 employing an expert who not only knows about the game but is also interested in reading new things about it.

Sky are insane for not poaching him and ditching the pompous cliche spouter they use.

by helling (not verified) :: Sun, 09/12/2010 - 10:50pm

Sorry about that.Did I mention it was mentioned?

by Anonie (not verified) :: Tue, 09/14/2010 - 11:54am

This article does not provide any rationale as to why Reid traded McNabb. Is Reid a denier?

by Hud (not verified) :: Wed, 09/15/2010 - 5:20pm

I honestly don't think that was a Reid call. think he got out voted on that one by the other front office brass.

by Tofino :: Tue, 09/14/2010 - 2:55pm

Loved the McNabb essay, and was going to comment on it, but my brain was completely derailed by the fact that the President of the United States of America in your little dialogue appears to be Taylor Swift.

by Anonymouse (not verified) :: Tue, 09/14/2010 - 6:11pm

The best (or second best) quarterback the Eagles ever had? Sonny Jurgensen!

by Hud (not verified) :: Wed, 09/15/2010 - 5:18pm

I couldn't (wouldn't) read through all of the comments here, but did anyone make note of the game where McNabb BROKE HIS ANKLE and led a come back to beat the Cards?? that game alone puts McNabb in a whole other class of qb, because the only one I know who would do something similar is The Wrangler (Favre).

by tuluse :: Wed, 09/15/2010 - 5:28pm

Byron Leftwich at Marshall?

by Hud (not verified) :: Thu, 09/16/2010 - 10:18am

tuluse, good point! almost forgot about that, but that was college and his lineman were carrying him down the field. still, that makes 2 qb's outside of mcnabb that would have done it.