It was only just a few months ago when former Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Donovan McNabb stated “I am a Hall of Famer. My numbers speak for itself.” That short bit from McNabb caused quite a debate between Eagles fans and gained traction across the league. Does Donovan McNabb belong in the Hall of Fame? The answer to that question is a little tougher than you think. It depends if you weigh the Lombardi Trophy as a necessary accolade to be considered a Hall of Famer.
During the same conversation, Donovan McNabb brought up a good point. If you compare his numbers to Troy Aikman, Aikman doesn’t hold up as a quarterback. Everybody goes directly to the Lombardi trophies and championships that the 1990s Dallas Cowboys won. In fact, it’s the oldest story any Philadelphian has ever heard. If you pick up a shell next time you go “down the shore,” you’ll hear a Cowboys fan saying “we have more rings,” twenty-two years since their last one. However, look at the statistics and compare what offensive weapons Aikman had in comparison to McNabb. Compare how long those weapons were around. It makes you reconsider for a moment.
Donovan McNabb: 234 TDs; 29 rushing TDs; 117 INTs; 37,276 passing yrds; 85.6 rating
Troy Aikman: 165 TDs; 9 rushing TDs; 141 INTs; 32,942 passing yrds; 81.6 rating
I look at these and think to myself that Donovan McNabb has a valid case. His prime targets for a long time were Todd Pinkston, James Thrash, Freddie Mitchell, and Greg Lewis. He had Terrell Owens less than two seasons in a highly memorable fallout. There was Jeremy Maclin and DeSean Jackson at his disposal for one year only. The bulk of his time between other receivers sounded like the group of Jason Avant, Hank Baskett, Donte Stallworth, and Reggie Brown. For about two years, McNabb had wide receivers that made up for a strong group. The best receivers around were usually Chad Lewis, LJ Smith, or Brent Celek.
The year that Troy Aikman was drafted, Michael Irvin was on the Dallas Cowboys. The very next season, add Emmitt Smith and Jay Novacek. Alvin Harper shouldn’t go unmentioned, but former Jacksonville Jaguars star receiver Jimmy Smith was on the Cowboys too. It wasn’t until 1996 that this really changed. It always felt that watching Dallas, Emmitt Smith was the big talent on their offense. With the Philadelphia Eagles, it felt like Donovan McNabb was the offensive star, except for 2004 with the addition of Terrell Owens.
However, that is who Donovan McNabb compared himself to. Let’s take a look at another quarterback in the NFL Hall of Fame, but without a Superbowl ring too!
Warren Moon: 291 TDs; 22 rushing TDs; 233 INTs; 49,325 passing yards; 80.9 rating
Warren Moon played four more years than Donovan McNabb. At that rate, I firmly believe that McNabb would have passed Moon in passing touchdowns, but not passing yards. Moon also was a prolific passer, meaning he was known for his throwing attempts in a game, like Brett Favre. As much as Moon was passing the ball, he should have accumulated those passing yards! If McNabb played another four years, he still wouldn’t have touched the interception total that Moon amassed. That’s where the quarterback rating for the career makes sense. I would argue that Moon threw the ball a lot more and further, but McNabb was the more efficient quarterback.
One legendary quarterback that is in the NFL Hall of Fame is Joe Namath. He, in my opinion, is in the Hall of Fame because of his charismatic personality as an NFL quarterback for the New York Jets. He is “Broadway Joe” and he called his shot when his Jets won the Superbowl. However, these are Namath’s career numbers: (keep in mind that Namath did play 27 fewer games than Donovan McNabb, the NFL regular season wasn’t 16 games)
Joe Namath: 173 TDs; 7 rushing TDs; 220 INTs; 27,663 passing yrds; 65.5 rating
I could agree that Joe Namath would probably meet Donovan McNabb in touchdowns if the NFL regular season was 16 games, but they did play the same amount of seasons. On that same point, Namath’s interceptions would have broken 250, he wouldn’t have matched McNabb’s passing yards, and his rating is surprisingly below average. If Warren Moon can be in the Hall of Fame without a ring, why not McNabb?
More recently, Andy Reid was outspoken about Donovan McNabb and the case for his Hall of Fame induction. “I’m his biggest fan. I was there. I know he belongs there,” he said outside at the Kansas City Chiefs training camp. He is right to stand by the player he coached for so long with the Philadelphia Eagles. During his tenure, the Eagles won a lot, but they couldn’t win the Superbowl. Now that Philadelphia has one in the Doug Pederson era, I feel refreshed enough to evaluate. Does Donovan McNabb belong in the NFL Hall of Fame? One day, I do feel he will be enshrined in Canton. He is the best Eagles quarterback in the Superbowl era. Yes, Nick Foles won the first for Philadelphia, but throughout a career, that belongs to McNabb.
Mandatory Credit: Ezra O. Shaw /Allsport