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Birds Need to Keep Donovan through 2009 and Beyond

By C.J. Hecht

Although many thought the Donovan McNabb era came into an end on a cold and windy day in Baltimore, Eagles fans should consider it nothing more than a mere bump in the long and windy road which is Donovan McNabb’s career. After being benched in the Eagles embarrassing 36-7 loss at the hands of the Ravens on November 23rd, McNabb responded in a big way. He put on a clinic in Philadelphia’s next game at home against the Cardinals, throwing for 260 yards on 29 of 37 passing including 4 touchdowns as the Birds sailed to an easy 48-20 win over Arizona. Since that mishap in Baltimore, McNabb and the Eagles are 6-1 including huge playoff wins on the road against the Giants and Vikings. Their lone loss came against a stingy Redskins defense in Washington. Although that game was one to forget, some fail to notice that McNabb led the Eagles down the field with 3:48 to play and only one timeout. And it was not him, but Reggie Brown, that failed to deliver. McNabb delivered a perfect strike on a deep curl route to the end zone which was incorrectly run by another classic Eagles wide receiver disappointment. As a result of Brown’s debacle, he makes the reception an inch shy from the goal line and the Eagles can do nothing but watch the final seconds tick away. My point being that McNabb has been near perfect since his benching.

To further McNabb’s case, his quarterback rating was 91.9 in the month of December, while throwing 5 touchdowns and only one interception. Now I know that Donovan has his flaws, such as durability issues and an inability to make plays when it counts (all of which are valid arguments); but all things considered, the Philadelphia Eagles and their fans take Donovan for granted. He is not a top five quarterback in the NFL, nor is he a slinger that you can singlehandedly ride to victory. Donovan is, however, a top ten NFL quarterback with a rifle arm and a great ability to read defenses and handle complex blitz packages. The overall feeling of disgust regarding McNabb’s recent performance is due to lofty and out-of-date expectations by many football minds. Although in 2004, Donnie may have been that quarterback that was capable of singlehandedly driving his team down the field to win the game, and probably even a top 5 NFL quarterback, time has caught up with Donovan. He simply is not what he used to be when he was in his prime, and Philadelphia writers and fans continue to judge him according to those standards. The majority expect nothing but pure excellence from Donovan. If that is not what they see, the common response is to call for McNabb’s job. It is the nature of Philadelphia fans who expect nothing more than pure excellence. But can you blame them? What’s wrong with demanding for the best? Such a quality among its citizens is something that many cities could benefit from. However, such expectations have their drawbacks as well, such as taking success for granted. Consider the Yankees’ 2008 finish of 89-73. Winning nearly 90 games in Major League Baseball is an accomplishment for most, but not for the New York Yankees, George Steinbrenner, and the Yankee fans. Philadelphia calling for the end of Donovan McNabb, who has taken the Eagles to a Super Bowl, 5 NFC Championships, and the playoffs 7 out of his last 9 seasons is just as, if not more, absurd than the Yankees labeling their 2008 season a total failure.

So what if the Eagles were to get rid of McNabb? Certainly the team would turn to Kevin Kolb who has not shown much in the little action he has received under center in the regular season. What if Kolb is not the answer? Begin the endless search for a quarterback which many Philadelphia fans forget how painful it is. Allow me to bring back some names which will spark some terrible memories; Bobby Hoying, Ty Detmer, Koy Detmer, Rodney Peete, and could it get any worse than Doug Pederson? The Eagles search for a quarterback between Randall Cunningham and Donovan McNabb was a terribly long and turbulent process. Just ask teams like the Vikings, Bears, 49ers, Lions, and Chiefs who are currently undergoing the same process. They all would kill for a quarterback as consistent as Donovan McNabb. If McNabb is integrated into a balanced offensive attack the results will be surprisingly good. The only problem being that Donnie’s role was not nearly that for the first half of the Eagles 2008 season, as Andy Reid’s play selection became highly imbalanced. In the Bengals disaster, Reid threw the football 74% of the time as the Eagles escaped with a tie against a hopeless 1-8 Bengals club in Cincinnati.

So my message to Eagles fans and the Philadelphia media, stop expecting an MVP season from McNabb and start accepting reality. That reality being that Donovan is an above average quarterback that does plenty of things well. He is not, though, an excellent, playmaking quarterback as is the case with stud quarterbacks Tom Brady and Peyton Manning. Let Donovan play his role amidst a balanced game of football and the 32 year old “washed up” quarterback who has played in 32 of his last 34 games will surprise all with consistent success. Success that he is capable of maintaining at least until the conclusion of his monotonous twelve year contract he signed with the Eagles in 2000, and perhaps beyond.

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