On April 17 the Eagles drafted quarterback Donovan McNabb with the second overall pick in the 1999 NFL Draft. NFL fans and Eagles fans remember this day not only because of when Donovan’s name was announced he was emphatically booed but also because it was the start of a Hall of Fame worthy career. The Eagles had hoped they were drafting their future, their franchise quarterback. Almost every Eagles fan wanted Rickey Williams with that second pick but I bet today they are glad to have gotten #5.
In his rookie year he made his first appearance in a game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers but the Eagles ended up losing 19-5. McNabb made his first career start on November 14 vs the Washington Redskins, an NFC East division rival. The Eagles won that game 35-28 as McNabb completed 8-of-21 pass attempts for 60 yards. He also added 49 yards rushing on 9 carries.
In his first full season as the starting quarterback he led them to an 11-5 record and a playoff birth. It was the first time the Eagles had been to the playoffs since 1996. The Eagles beat the Tampa Bay Buccaneers 21-3 but then went on to lose to the New York Giants in the next round 20-10. During his 2000 year McNabb had his first career 300+ yards passing game. This was against the Atlanta Falcons on “Monday Night Football”. He went on to finish second in that years MVP voting to St Louis Rams future Hall of Fame running back Marshal Faulk. He was also named to the Pro-Bowl as an alternate when Kurt Warner was not able to play due to injury.
From 2001-to-2003 he led the Eagles to three straight NFC Championship games. However the Eagles went on to lose all three games and fans were wondering if McNabb was ever going to be able to get the team over the hump for that elusive first Super Bowl. During that span the Eagles won the NFC East in each of those seasons with records of 11-5, 12-4, 12-4 respectively. In the 2001 season McNabb broke his foot in a game against the Arizona Cardinals. He had it taped up and would return to the field and finish the game. It was reported at the time to be a sprained ankle but x-rays after the gamed showed he had broken his fibula in three different places. Looking at his stats during that game no one would have ever thought McNabb had played through a big injury. He went on to throw for 255 yards, 4 touch downs, and completed 20-of-25 of his passes. This injury caused him to be out for six weeks.
With that being said the critics were out in full force. People refereed to McNabb as a choker and that he will never be able to get a Super Bowl because he struggles in clutch moments and big games. Rush Limbaugh made a controversial comment “I think what we’ve had here is a little social concern in the NFL. The media has been very desirous that a black quarterback do well.” while also saying that McNabb is overrated.
McNabb had been able to lead the Eagles in this stretch of success with no real help at the wide receiver spot. In the 2004 off-season the Eagles decided to find McNabb some help at receiver by signing a controversial super star in Terrell Owens. With Owens the Eagles marched through the season to a 13-3 record. This was the franchises best season to date. McNabb had his best year of his career with a 64% completion percentage, 31 touchdown passes, 8 interceptions, 3 rushing touchdowns, 3,875 yards passing, and a rating of 104.7. They went through the playoffs with a first round bye and wins over the Minnesota Vikings (27-14) and the Atlanta Falcons (27-10). In the Super Bowl McNabb got his favorite target back in Owens who was still recovering from a broken ankle. McNabb threw for over 350 yards and 3 touchdowns but had 3 interceptions and ended up losing to the Patriots 24-21.
The Eagles suffered the Super Bowl curse the year after finishing 6-10 in a very disappointing season. The years from 2006 to 2010 were up and down for McNabb and the Eagles. They finished first in the division in years 2006 and 2010, second in years 2008 and 2009, and fourth in 2007. However in 2008 He was able to lead the Eagles once again to an NFC Championship game but falter at the hands of the Arizona Cardinals. McNabb had his last run in 2009 where he led the Eagles to a 11-5 record and lost to their division rival Dallas Cowboys in the Wild Card game 34-14. That was his last game as an Eagle.
He finished his career with a 59% completion percentage, 37,276 passing yards, 234 touchdowns, 117 interceptions, 3,459 rushing yards, 29 rushing touchdowns, and an overall rating of 85.6. The only quarterbacks to have won more playoff games are Favre, Brady, Montana, Elway, Bradshaw, Staubach, Roethlisberger, and Aikman. Only eight quarterbacks have completed 59% of their passes and have thrown for over 35,000 yards and McNabb is one of them. He never had any weapons around him besides Westbrook, Owens for one year, but still he was able to produce. His stats say he is a Hall of Fame worthy player and he might just get there with the impact he has made on the game even though he wasn’t able to win a Super Bowl.
His accolades in the NFL include being elected to the Pro Bowl six times: 2000, ’01, ’02, ’03, ’04, and ’09. NFC Offensive Player of the Year in 2004 and NFC Player of the Year.
Hopefully now fans can learn to appreciate what Donovan was able to accomplish in his 11 years as quarterback for the Eagles although some will never be able to. Whether it be the day his was drafted, 4th and 24, 5 NFC Championship appearances, a Super Bowl appearance, the scramble against Dallas to complete a pass to Freddie Mitchell, to the 400 plus yards passing in the first half versus the Packers, his professionalism, and that smile. He will go down as the best quarterback this Eagles franchise has ever seen.
McNabb’s number is going to be retired by the Eagles on September 19 against Andy Reid and the Chiefs.