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Donovan McNabb - The Questions Continue


Donovan McNabb was benched by his new coach. At first Could Donovan McNabb's days be numbered in Washington? Photo:http://www.sportsfanlive.com/fileuploads/2010/1102/1288715874993_Redskins_McNabb_Benched_Footballsff.jpgMike Shanahan said that he did this because his quarterback did not fully understand how to run the two-minute offense.  Later, he amended his comments to say that he was not sure McNabb was healthy enough to run the two-minute offense. 


From Syracuse To Philly

Booed on draft day, then cheered upon his return to Philadelphia recently as a Redskin. Countless number five jerseys were always visible while he was an Eagle, but there was a contingent who never donned the Don's name on their backs.  Why such conflicted feelings about a guy who has the career stats that he does?

McNabb quarterbacked four Syracuse teams to Bowl games, before he lead five Eagles teams to NFC Championship Games.  That is not luck.  While he hasn't attained legendary NFL status, he has generated good numbers.  Regardless, understandable questions about his pressure performances do linger.     

When asked about his own recent performance, McNabb referenced past Birds squawking.  He noted that he always managed to work through issues and would do so again.  He also added that getting benched was what is was. The past obviously lingering for him as well.

In 1933, the Eagles were hatched from the egg laid by the bankrupt Frankford Yellow Jackets.  They went on to win three championships in 1948, 1949, and 1960.  A new book, The 1960 NFL Champions, by Eli Kowalski, colorfully enhances black and white newsreel footage that has been seen.  That great group stands alone as the only team to beat Vince Lombardi's Packers in a championship game.


Quarerbacks We Cared About

There was a coach-quarterback controversy back in the day as well, though driven by a different dynamic. Quarterback Norm Van Brocklin believed that he had been promised the head coaching position that the retiring Buck Shaw was departing from. So, he retired as a player after the 1960 season.  After the Eagles did not give “The Dutchman” the job, he drove a big-finned car straight to Minnesota so he could coach the Vikings.  Later, he resigned in 1967, after battling with quarterback Fran Tarkenton.   

Twenty years after their last championship, the Eagles played in a rebranded, infinitely more hyped, championship game.  Ron Jaworski led them to the stadium in Louisiana, but not much further, when they played the Raiders in Super Bowl XV.  Later, Randall Cunningham took the helm. The “Ultimate Weapon” never had the chance to run, or to fire his cannon, because the Birds couldn't quite make it to the big one during Buddy Ryan's defensive tenure. 

In 2005, during the team's second Super Bowl birth, McNabb played under an evaporating fourth quarter time clock that has forever remained dangling over his head.  In that pre-Phillies championship era, two lost minutes crushed everyone's green dreams.  Those February moments also paved the way for baseball to rise like a phoenix in the hearts of Philadelphians.  (The phoenix reference clearly inserted as a reference to Leonard Tose, in order to stir the reader's memory drink just a bit more.)    

Bootleg - The Tape, Not The Strategy

Andy Reid's Super Bowl play calling didn't give the team it's best shot to win. It had been challenging to fully confirm how Reid and McNabb were affecting each other during those critical moments.  Now, due to Shanahan's off-handed comments and McNabb's responses, maybe we have some closure on that cold case.

As we later came to learn, the Patriot's “Spygate” operation was most likely maneuvering on that fateful game day.  But the gridiron geeks must have been perplexed as they fed information through to Belichick.  Though, how many stolen signs did he really need, when Reid couldn't adapt in-game and the quarterback appeared incredulously unable to perform? Did you ever SEE the highlight film of that Super Bowl? Just look at Reid's face after the excuse McNabb gives him after the first of several red zone blunders that would occur in that game.

Terrell Owens had not yet begun to Tweet, or maybe we would have gotten the real scoop on what happened on that Super Bowl field in Texas.  Owens did chime in on the situation now though, while co-hosting his television show with Chad Ochocinco.  The talented, honest, and maybe not so wacky T.O., made sure to mention that there had been questions between players about how McNabb was running the offense.  Okay, it is going too far to say that T.O. is not wacky, but a point is a point.

The Reid - McNabb relationship is the heart of the matter.  Clearly Donovan is not enjoying a protected atmosphere in Landover, Maryland.  Jack Kent Cooke's memory was erased when FedEx delivered their paid name to Redskins' stadium. 

That dynamic clearly shows typical workplace favoritism that is no different than what many experience in the business world.  The co-worker who is allowed unreasonable leeway as part of an overall dysfunctional environment.  One where the boss enables one person to tilt the entire field in their favor, regardless of how it affects anyone else, or what it does to the business.  Eventually, that weak leadership drags everyone down.

Now, let's consider each of the Four Horsemen of the Eagles Apocalypse.  Jeffrey Lurie, Joe Banner, Reid, and the departed McNabb.  Lurie, the money man.  Banner, the sweaty lawyer-type.  Reid, the previously referenced boss.  McNabb, the guy who was the high school hero in your Math class.  The one who the teacher was so enamored with that there was no time left to help the rest of the class with last night's Algebra homework. Or, at least that's where blame was placed when a report card was taken home and that gentleman's C had to be explained. 

After the Redskins beat the Eagles, McNabb talked to his teammates about how he appreciated them. Good. He stated that his past year's experiences didn't really didn't matter now. Okay. Then he said that the Eagles had made a mistake in trading him. 


An NFL player in his mid-30's is eminent trade bait.  Reid must have considered his own future prospects in voting to send McNabb to the Redskins. Plus, he had two other project quarterbacks left to dote on.       

So, here we are.  The first post-Dononvan McNabb season in Philadelphia and maybe the only McNabb year in Redskin clothes.  With an approaching Monday night game, pitting these two teams against each other, more story lines will be written.  Though the words you read, about the actual game, will only be a part of the tale.  Team drama, verses team production, is a clear factor in why the Eagles have sometimes lost opportunity during these last fifty years.

After college, Sean O'Brien worked in the front office for the Phillies former Triple-A team in Scranton.  He went on to write professionally during the next few decades and is currently a teacher in the great state of Pennsylvania.  He can often be seen, with a variety of family and friends, in one of Philadelphia's great sports stadiums.

You can contact Sean at seanboru68@yahoo.com