By Jason Keidel
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It’s perilous for a New York sportswriter to babble about a hated player who played for two hated teams. But one question needs to be answered.
What has Donovan McNabb done to piss off so many people?
He’s been thrown under the bus so many times that he should have permanent tread marks on his helmet. Terrell Owens said McNabb was gassed at the end of a Super Bowl, forgetting that the only reason he was there was because of the sublime skills of his quarterback.
Mike Shanahan just asserted the same thing about McNabb last week after a loss to the Lions. Shanahan said McNabb didn’t have the cardiovascular endurance to run a two-minute offense. Or was it that he had a pulled hamstring? Or was it that Rex Grossman – Rex Grossman! – was better equipped to handle a game that too often handled him?
This all prolongs the hostile narrative that clouds McNabb’s career. Booed the moment he ambled up those steps to the stage on draft day and squeezed that cap onto his head – and booed ever since – McNabb is one of the few authentic victims in pro sports. Yes, he’s made lots of money, but he’s never been loved by a fan base that should.
Hatred in sports is normally territorial. If you wear the wrong colors you’re a stained person. But McNabb has been loathed all his pro life, as though every Sunday he played on the road.
There are 32 teams in the NFL, and about 25 of them would flip their football cards down the toilet for a stab at McNabb, who threw for about 32,000 yards and over 200 touchdowns for Philadelphia, and led the Eagles to the NFC title game five times and lost to a legendary QB (Tom Brady) by just three points in the Super Bowl. He’s also the team’s career leader in wins, pass attempts, completions, passing yards, and passing touchdowns.
Ask the Lions if they’d like a little of that action over the last decade. Or ask the Browns, Chiefs, Jaguars, Dolphins, Bills, etc.
Rap sheets are relative. Our sense of forgiveness is commensurate with our beloved felon’s importance to our team. But McNabb has never sniffed trouble off the field while taking a pounding on the field with almost unprecedented dignity. His silly Michael Jackson dance is the closest he’s come to a misstep in a career that comes close to Canton, but may fall just short.
Then when we assume it’s some surly derangement syndrome that is local to Philly, McNabb gets traded but treated the same by a new coach (Shanahan) with even more gravitas than the old one (Andy Reid). We all know the ornery reputation of Philly fans, but the McNabb dynamic is odd even by the vitriolic template they built and seems to transcend the city.
A football pall seems to hover over Donovan McNabb, who often finds himself before a forest of microphones explaining problems he didn’t create (like the Shanahan brain cramp in Detroit and the beef with Terrell Owens) while, astonishingly, his replacement in Philadelphia has been sainted despite his sins.
Michael Vick doesn’t even get booed, and he spent two years in prison for slaughtering a civilization of dogs. Vick is loved yet McNabb is loathed Forgive the cliché, but am I missing something?
Don’t hold your breath waiting for a “Kevin Kolb Day” in Philadelphia. Though Vick may get one just for his fast legs and his innate ability to make us draw sides with violent haste. McNabb gets nothing for being a good guy and a great player, saying as much about us as him.
Feel free to email me: Jakster1@mac.com