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Philly Won't Have McNabb to Kick Around Anymore

(Photo Credit: Joe Gill/The Easton Express-Times)

So here I am, about four blog postings behind.  I haven't talked about women's basketball, and the gap between the Lehigh's and the UConn's (who blew out Baylor by 20 points last night).

I haven't talked wrestling - where I have a recap of the NCAA championships that I've been sitting on for two weeks.

And I haven't talked football, where Lehigh is in the middle of their spring season with a boatload of optimism for next year.

So what am I going to talk about instead?  The McNabb trade: which leads me to my first Nixon quote on this blog.  Like it or not, Philly fans won't have McNabb to kick around anymore.  (more)

With New Orleans winning the Super Bowl this year, I'm well on the record as being a Saints fan.  But you can't live in this area without at least following the team that is the one sports franchise around which the other Philadelphia franchises revolve, the Philadelphia Eagles.  (Think of the Phillies as Mars, the beloved red planet that - while interesting - doesn't mean as much to life in Philadelphia as the Eagles, and the new Major League soccer franchise the Philadelphia Union as Pluto, the out-reaching oddity (from Chester) that has folks wondering if it's really a planet, or not.)

And this McNabb extradition (and that's what it was) comes about because there are a group of Philadelphians that could never - for whatever reason - accept him completely as "the guy".

Never mind the seven postseason appearances (including the famous "4th-and-26" conversion).  Never mind the Super Bowl appearance.  Never mind, according to Wikipedia, that McNabb "is the Eagles' all-time leader in career wins, pass attempts, pass completions, passing yards, and passing touchdowns."  Never mind that he did all this - for the most part - with stiffs like James Thrash and Freddie Milons. 

Granted, he was frustrating to watch at times, even when the main receiver was Terrell Owens instead of Antonio Freeman.  When he was off during an Eagles game, it just seemed like he couldn't complete a pass or do anything right.  But - frequently in the same game, mind you - all of a sudden a switch would go on and he could do no wrong, completing eight passes in a row or finding DeSean Jackson on a picture-perfect route.

Overall, he gave way more of the "good" McNabb than the "bad" McNabb.  The "good" McNabb on the Eagles was a no-question-about-it top quarterback in the NFL.  The only think keeping him from being a NFL hall-of-famer was that pesky "bad" McNabb that would rear his ugly head at the worst possible times.  That's the basic conundrum with McNabb.  You had to take the good - which was better than most quarterbacks in the NFL - with the bad.  And you knew the bad was there, somewhere, just waiting to come out, in an NFC championship game interception or a late drive in the Super Bowl.

But you couldn't argue with the balance of the record.  It was much more success than disappointment.  And sad as it is to say, even with all this success there were some that could not bring themselves to say a kind word to the guy who actually made the Eagles a relevant force in the NFL once again.  Remember, the pre-McNabb Eagles are a team that actually started quarterbacks such as Ty Detmer, Brad Goebel, Bubby Brister, Bobby Hoying, Rodney Peete, and - my favorite - Ken O'Brien.  You made the NFC championship game?  He should have brought them to the Super Bowl.  Made the Super Bowl?  He should have won a Super Bowl.

There is a faction of Eagles fans that seem to have unfairly grafted Randall Cunningham's Eagles career onto McNabb, and never could they seem to untangle the two quarterbacks in their brains.  Cunningham and McNabb are both African-American and made their early names in the NFL by being athletic running and passing threats at quarterback, but their similarity ends there.  Cunningham - a pretty good quarterback in his own right - nevertheless relied on his athleticism to make everything work, and when Bryce Paup ended his season in 1990 by tearing Randall's ACL he never was the same quarterback again.  McNabb had some injuries, but his passing ability never faltered.  As McNabb leaves for Washington, he leaves as one of the five best quarterbacks in the game at the moment.  Cunningham was never a top 5 quarterback.

When he made a brief appearance as a ESPN football analyst, Rush Limbaugh (when was that ever a good idea?) once famously said that McNabb was overrated and got preferential treatment since the media wanted a "black quarterback to do well".   All that showed was that Limbaugh hadn't exactly been following McNabb's career very closely - while some gave McNabb props for his performance as an Eagle, there were too many that thought that he just wasn't good enough despite his proven track record.

It would be one thing if he achieved all of this in Philadelphia and he were a complete jerk.  But he opened himself up to the community, and went about his business in a completely professional manner.  The Limbaugh statement was so comical because McNabb was a role model in every sense of the word.  He worked hard, despite all the criticism.  He was the face of the franchise - think about that again, too, a second - and he walked the walk.  A decade without Mike Mamula-like visits to strip clubs.  A decade without a Tiger Woods three-wood-to-the-windshield moment.  No YouTube moments to explain away.  No Canadian doctors.  No mistresses.  Just appearances as Eagles Santa, raising money for the March of Dimes, and being an overall pillar in the community.

He didn't have to be the face of the franchise.  But he was, and he took on that responsibility when others may not have taken it.  That's not something that the Eagles will be able to replace easily.

That wasn't all, though.  He took an explosive situation last year that would have doomed any number of other starting quarterbacks or at least caused an extended brooding period  - you remember, that whole Michael Vick situation - and made it a non-issue (a non-issue!  Think about that a second!) while leading the Eagles to the playoffs.

Think about that a second.  Can you picture any other quarterback handling in the NFL today handling that situation with the level of professionalism that McNabb did?  Name one other season where there were three starter-ready quarterbacks on the roster and every player completely accepted their role for the greater good of winning.  If you think that was Andy Reid's great leadership ability and coaching that made that all happen, I'd like to let you know the Ben Franklin bridge is for sale.  Cheap.

Aside from the likely collateral damage of RB Brian Westbrook leaving the Eagles - it just feels like it's destined to happen, maybe even to join McNabb down in Washington - Philadelphia is losing the glue on this team.  I think in many ways McNabb kept the Eagle jalopy on the road even when it looked like it might break down at any moment, and that's a testament to his abilities as a leader and the stability of his presence.  He had seen an awful lot as an Eagle, and despite his maddening inconsistency the Eagles could always count on him to get them to NFC East championships and playoff appearances.

It's a glue that - without a doubt - Kevin Kolb or Michael Vick will never be able to deliver to this team.  Vick never was that glue that kept the Falcons together, and his 3% interception percentage meant he was never a guy you wanted to have the ball in crunch time.  Vick may be different now- who knows - or Kolb could be the answer.  But watching Kolb get dismantled by the Saints in Week 2 last year, I'm not at all convinced that he's the glue, the type of guy that the offense and the team will rally around with two minutes left to play needing to convert a 4th-and-26.

Ironically, I don't think this may work that well either for the Redskins either.  When your best receiver is a washed-up Santana Moss and you can't - quick- name another wideout on the Redskins, that's bad.  Couple that with a porous offensive line - and the fact that it will take time for McNabb to become the glue in Washington that he was in Philadelphia - it could be a rocky transition, especially in a market that could actually be more impatient than Philadelphia.  Having said that, the rumor is that McNabb only would allow himself to be traded to the Redskins - no humiliations in Oakland or Jacksonville allowed - and he would have the opportunity to humiliate the team and the fans that so wanted him out of Eagle green.

Time will tell what this will mean.  The only thing for sure is that there will be a couple dates now on the Eagles' schedule to circle for next year.  But I don't think this is going to end well for the Eagles.


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