From 2000-2004, Donovan McNabb was a top-five player in the National Football League. Throughout his career, he was a top 10 QB in the game. It’s time for McNabb to get his props and be in the Hall of Fame.
The 2021 NFL Hall-of-Fame class will be inducted into Canton, Ohio in a little under a month. Many of the early 2000’s greatest players will see themselves immortalized in the most distinguished halls of sports history.
While all of the incoming inductees are more than deserving, and many more from that decade soon to follow, it’s time to bring up one former Philadelphia Eagle who was a top five player in the NFL during that time, and has not received the credit, nor the popularity of others.
No more. It’s time to talk about McNabb’s worthy candidacy for the NFL Hall-of-Fame.
Context is Key
As with every Hall of Fame player, context is key. When talking about McNabb’s impact on the NFL, context is more important than most other players.
McNabb entered the league when there weren’t a lot of African-American QB’s playing. He took over a team that had gone 3-13 and had won 2 playoff games in 19 years. McNabb had won three playoff games by his fourth season.
The talent around McNabb was also pretty poor. The fact he was beating defenses like the vaunted Tampa Bay defense of the early 2000’s, or the Bear defense with James Thrash and Duce Staley cannot be brushed aside.
Steve McNair won an NFL MVP Award in 2003 with incredible talent on defense and at the skill positions. Derrick Mason was an All-Pro wideout in Tennessee, Eddie George is one of the greatest power backs of All-Time. McNabb had Brian Westbrook, and James Thrash as his two best receivers during that stretch. Westbrook, of course, was a RB and only came on in 2003.
There is not a Hall-of-Fame QB in Canton right now that was able to succeed without a true #1 wideout. The fact McNabb went to five Conference Championship Games in his 10 years as a starter in Philadelphia makes him Hall-of-Fame worthy.
The biggest thing holding McNabb back of being in Canton right now is the fact that he was 1-4 in conference title games and lost his only Super Bowl appearance. In the minds of some people, losing as many conference title games as he did, no matter how lacking the talent was around him, makes it impossible to get in the Hall.
If the losses truly matter, then let’s compare him to another QB who lost championship games and yet is still in the HOF: Bills QB, Jim Kelly.
McNabb has more yards than Kelly career wise, their completion percentages are about the same, have similar TD #’s as well.
Jim Kelly won nine playoff games. McNabb won nine playoff games.
Both players lack a ring. So how does one make the argument that Jim Kelly should be in the Hall while McNabb doesn’t?
Kelly lost four Super Bowl’s in a row. Three in complete and utter blowouts.
McNabb lost four conference titles. His Super Bowl loss was a one possession game, and outside of the loss to Tampa, the Eagles had a chance late.
Jim Kelly’s career and McNabb’s career are very similar except for two major differences.
- McNabb was a scrambling QB. That added dynamic made him one of the most feared players in the NFL.
- Jim Kelly had Andre Reed, James Lofton and Thurman Thomas on offense. All three are HOFers. Thurman Thomas even has an NFL MVP Award to his career for god sakes.
McNabb had to find ways to win playoff games without a true receiving threat for most of his career. Kelly had the luxury of throwing to some of the greatest players in league history.
If the losses hold McNabb back from being in the HOF, but not for Kelly, then it was never about the losses.
The Modern Game
The one thing I will never be able to truly understand is the hatred McNabb receives for his play and lack of Super Bowl rings. It’s as if a Super Bowl ring is the only thing holding back McNabb from being a HOF worthy player. Yet not all Super Bowl winning QB’s have had, or will have their names called in Canton.
Eli had Tiki Barber, Plaxico Burress, Amani Toomer, and Jeremy Shockey for the early parts of his career. Victor Cruz, Odell Beckham Jr. followed after. Manning has a pair of rings, yet in the other four years he made the playoffs, he ended up losing without winning a playoff game. He even lost a playoff game to McNabb in 2008 as a #1 seed!
Manning played 17 seasons for the Giants. His numbers will, of course be higher than McNabb’s career wise because of the difference in longevity. How about the fact that Manning led the league in interceptions three different times when McNabb never had a dubious distinction like that?
Multiple Super Bowl rings should not be a reason to put someone in the Hall of Fame, nor should it hold back a player who was unable to reach that plateau in the first place. McNabb is far more deserving of a bust in Canton than Eli Manning.
If you ask T.O., McNabb is not a HOF QB.
If you ask the NFL fans who don’t really care about the game and only want to run with narratives, then McNabb is not a HOF QB.
But if you really look at his whole body of work, along with the context of who he was actually playing with, and STILL managing to win playoff games and Eagles passing records, then the asnwer is clear.
Donovan McNabb is a Hall of Fame QB and I’m tired of this narrative that he isn’t.
Enough is enough, McNab deserves his place in Canton.
Jay Gorodetzer/Zuma Press/Icon Sportswire