It appears Donovan McNabb’s football career may be over. McNabb, who was released by the Minnesota Vikings during the 2011 season, drew no interest from the three playoff contenders who lost quarterbacks late last season. One, the Chicago Bears, opted for unproven youngsters Josh McCown and Caleb Hanie over native son McNabb on their way to a five game losing streak which left them out of the playoffs.
During an interview this week, McNabb stated he would vote for himself for the Pro Football Hall of Fame. His argument:
“When you sit and look at the numbers – and that’s what it is when it comes to the Hall of Fame – my numbers are better than Jim Kelly, better than Troy Aikman, better than a lot of guys in the Hall of Fame, but the one thing they do have is a Super Bowl.”
McNabb can try to make an argument based on statistics. He does have more career wins and more career passing yards than Hall of Famers Steve Young, Dan Fouts, and Troy Aikman. But guess what? So does Dave Krieg. As Mark Twain so eloquently argued, “There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies, and statistics.”
Donovan will have a hard time justifying his inclusion in the Hall of Fame to Philadelphia Eagles fans. We are the fans who threw snowballs at Jimmy Johnson. Heck, we threw snowballs at Santa Claus. We cheered when Michael Irvin lay prone on the field with a serious neck injury. And lest Donovan forget, we booed when the Eagles chose him over Ricky Williams. Had he proven us wrong, or had he won us a Super Bowl, perhaps we would feel differently. He did not.
We Philadelphians, especially Philadelphia Eagles’ fans, are just a little bit defensive about being judged, especially if we are being judged inferior. We do not tolerate being disliked, nor do we easily accommodate outsiders with a chip on their shoulder. We fight amongst ourselves, sometimes violently. But no matter how egregious the wrong perpetrated, we have a beer, we forgive, we are a family. Donovan McNabb and his family always held a grudge, and that is simply not the Philadelphia way.
The harshest argument against Donovan McNabb, from a Philadelphia fan’s perspective, is that he was always more Eric Lindros than Bobby Clarke. He was always more Scott Rolen than Larry Bowa. He was always more Matt Geiger than Allen Iverson.
We want blue collar. We want warrior.
We want Pete Rose or Lenny Dykstra stretching a double into a triple, sliding headfirst into third, and not even brushing the dirt off when they stand up. We want Pete Incaviglia leaning his massive forearm into a pitch, taking one for the team.
We want Jeremy Roenick taking a slap shot to the face, leaving him with a serious concussion and a shattered jaw, not just refusing to retire but coming back the same season. We want Eric Desjardins trying to play with a titanium plate in his surgically repaired broke arm because it was playoff time.
We want Chuck Bednarik standing over the broken body of Frank Gifford, savoring the damage. We want Andre ‘Dirty’ Waters laying out hits so vicious the league had to change the rules to protect the opposing quarterbacks.
We want Allen Iverson, smaller than everyone else on the court throwing his body around with reckless abandon. Damn the consequences, if I get hurt I will simply have to play hurt, but I am stealing that ball.
Donovan McNabb could not win the big one, and with the long history of losing in Philadelphia, that we could forgive. But he always seemed cold and aloof. He always seemed like he did not care as much as we did, smiling and joking after losses as well as wins. He was quick to point fingers at coaches, at teammates, and worse, at us.
Maybe in other sports, or at other positions, personal statistics matter most for hall of Fame consideration. In football, especially at quarterback, it is all about Super Bowls.
But in Philadelphia, whether your uniform is red, green, or orange, the collar better be blue. And there better be dirt on the front of it. Or better yet, blood. It shows us how much you care. We like that.