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Walkthrough: McNabb Deniers

Walkthrough: McNabb Deniers
Photo: USA Today Sports Images

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.

Comments

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

1 Re: Walkthrough: McNabb Deniers

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.

5 Re: Walkthrough: McNabb Deniers

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

28 Re: Walkthrough: McNabb Deniers

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.

Manning-Brady-Brees-Warner-Favre-McNabb.

Rivers-Rodgers-Bradford-Roethlisberger-Ryan-Kolb.

Seems plausible to me.

115 Re: Walkthrough: McNabb Deniers

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.

120 Re: Walkthrough: McNabb Deniers

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.

123 Re: Walkthrough: McNabb Deniers

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.

127 Re: Walkthrough: McNabb Deniers

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.

147 Re: Walkthrough: McNabb Deniers

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.

178 Re: Walkthrough: McNabb Deniers

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.

186 Re: Walkthrough: McNabb Deniers

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.

191 Re: Walkthrough: McNabb Deniers

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).

194 Re: Walkthrough: McNabb Deniers

Wait,

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?

196 Re: Walkthrough: McNabb Deniers

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.

2 Re: Walkthrough: McNabb Deniers

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.

3 Re: Walkthrough: McNabb Deniers

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.

8 Re: Walkthrough: McNabb Deniers

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.

13 Re: Walkthrough: McNabb Deniers

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.

14 Re: Walkthrough: McNabb Deniers

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...

15 Re: Walkthrough: McNabb Deniers

"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.

48 Re: Walkthrough: McNabb Deniers

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

57 Re: Walkthrough: McNabb Deniers

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.

128 Re: Walkthrough: McNabb Deniers

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".

25 Re: Walkthrough: McNabb Deniers

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.

68 Re: Walkthrough: McNabb Deniers

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.

17 Re: Walkthrough: McNabb Deniers

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.

20 Re: Walkthrough: McNabb Deniers

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.

30 Re: Walkthrough: McNabb Deniers

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.

122 Re: Walkthrough: McNabb Deniers

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.

124 Re: Walkthrough: McNabb Deniers

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.

111 Re: Walkthrough: McNabb Deniers

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!"

60 Re: Walkthrough: McNabb Deniers

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.

4 Re: Walkthrough: McNabb Deniers

Sir -

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

Bill

33 Re: Walkthrough: McNabb Deniers

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.

7 Re: Walkthrough: McNabb Deniers

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.

23 Re: Walkthrough: McNabb Deniers

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.

26 Re: Walkthrough: McNabb Deniers

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.

32 Re: Walkthrough: McNabb Deniers

"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.

35 Re: Walkthrough: McNabb Deniers

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.

54 Re: Walkthrough: McNabb Deniers

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.

56 Re: Walkthrough: McNabb Deniers

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.

79 Re: Walkthrough: McNabb Deniers

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...

</tangent>

174 Re: Walkthrough: McNabb Deniers

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

182 Re: Walkthrough: McNabb Deniers

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.

210 Re: Walkthrough: McNabb Deniers

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.

Maybe.

85 Re: Walkthrough: McNabb Deniers

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.

97 Re: Walkthrough: McNabb Deniers

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.

116 Re: Walkthrough: McNabb Deniers

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.

121 Re: Walkthrough: McNabb Deniers

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.

142 Re: Walkthrough: McNabb Deniers

"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.

152 Re: Walkthrough: McNabb Deniers

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)

154 Re: Walkthrough: McNabb Deniers

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.

155 Re: Walkthrough: McNabb Deniers

"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.

165 Re: Walkthrough: McNabb Deniers

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)

41 Re: geratest Eagles qb

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.

45 Re: geratest Eagles qb

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!

67 Re: Walkthrough: McNabb Deniers

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.

125 Re: Walkthrough: McNabb Deniers

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.

12 Re: Walkthrough: McNabb Deniers

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.

109 Re: Walkthrough: McNabb Deniers

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!"

158 Re: Walkthrough: McNabb Deniers

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.

87 Re: Walkthrough: McNabb Deniers

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.

88 Re: Walkthrough: McNabb Deniers

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?).

89 Re: Walkthrough: McNabb Deniers

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.

18 Re: Walkthrough: McNabb Deniers

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.

21 Re: Walkthrough: McNabb Deniers

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.

24 Re: Walkthrough: McNabb Deniers

does Tanier rhyme with denier?

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

27 Re: Walkthrough: McNabb Deniers

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.

29 Re: Walkthrough: McNabb Deniers

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!!

31 Re: Walkthrough: McNabb Deniers

McNabb 2009 != McNabb 2005.

Somehow you forgot to include those people into your analysis.

34 Re: Walkthrough: McNabb Deniers

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.

39 Re: Walkthrough: McNabb Deniers

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.

42 Re: Walkthrough: McNabb Deniers

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.

43 Re: Walkthrough: McNabb Deniers

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.

46 Re: Walkthrough: McNabb Deniers

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.

63 Re: Walkthrough: McNabb Deniers

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.

69 Re: Walkthrough: McNabb Deniers

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.

62 Re: Walkthrough: McNabb Deniers

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.

175 Re: Walkthrough: McNabb Deniers

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

188 Re: Walkthrough: McNabb Deniers

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.

47 Re: Walkthrough: McNabb Deniers

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.

71 Re: Walkthrough: McNabb Deniers

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?

49 Re: Walkthrough: McNabb Deniers

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.

50 Re: Walkthrough: McNabb Deniers

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.

173 Re: Walkthrough: McNabb Deniers

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...

51 Re: Walkthrough: McNabb Deniers

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.

52 Re: Deniers

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

110 Re: Deniers

In reply to by spenczar

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.

90 Re: Deniers

In reply to by Raiderjoe

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

149 Re: Deniers

In reply to by Raiderjoe

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

53 Re: Walkthrough: McNabb Deniers

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.

84 Re: Walkthrough: McNabb Deniers

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.

55 Re: Walkthrough: McNabb Deniers

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.

59 Re: Walkthrough: McNabb Deniers

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."

70 Re: Walkthrough: McNabb Deniers

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.

58 Re: Walkthrough: McNabb Deniers

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.

61 Re: Walkthrough: McNabb Deniers

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.

73 Re: Walkthrough: McNabb Deniers

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.

104 Re: Walkthrough: McNabb Deniers

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).

105 Re: Walkthrough: McNabb Deniers

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).

77 this column = genius

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!

78 Re: Walkthrough: McNabb Deniers

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.

81 Re: Walkthrough: McNabb Deniers

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.

137 Re: Walkthrough: McNabb Deniers

"...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).

83 Re: Walkthrough: McNabb Deniers

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.

91 Re: Walkthrough: McNabb Deniers

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.