Making it into the Hall of Fame is the highest honor in every sport. While players do so many different things in each sport, the easiest way to compare and judge all of them is by success. While that is the norm -- and many would argue is the right way to go about this -- it still leaves room for great players to slip through the cracks because their teams did not win it all. Donovan McNabb is a prime example of one of those players.
The Canton Case for Donovan McNabb
McNabb played from 1999 to 2011 and was on the Eagles from 1999 to 2009. He was drafted second overall and should be at least partly credited with the turnaround of the Eagles franchise. Before drafting McNabb second overall, Philadelphia had only advanced past the divisional round once, in 1980. They would go on to lose the Super Bowl in 1981 and not make it back after.
The Eagles went 5-11 in McNabb's first year, and he only threw eight touchdowns in his first 12 NFL games. The team struggled, and McNabb had to get better. From 2000-2004, McNabb made five straight Pro Bowls, and the Eagles led the NFC in wins with 59. A team with zero Super Bowls and only a little bit of success throughout history would go on to make four straight NFC championships and become a dominant force in the NFC.
McNabb originally did not receive a warm welcome to Philadelphia and was booed after he was drafted. Fans wanted the Eagles to draft running back Ricky Williams instead. But McNabb quickly changed people's opinions about him, including owner Jeffrey Lurie, who signed him to a 12-year contract in 2002.
"'I don't think there's a sports franchise in America that wouldn't like to be in our position to have a franchise quarterback that is as talented, as humble, as self-confident, as team-oriented,'' Lurie said.
McNabb only threw over 30 touchdowns once in his whole career, but football was different 20 years ago. His incredible 2004 season was the first time a quarterback ever threw more than 30 touchdowns and fewer than 10 interceptions in a single season. Many great quarterbacks, such as first-ballot Hall of Famer Troy Aikman, never threw for more than 25 touchdowns in a single season.
Aikman was able to win three Super Bowls with the Cowboys, and McNabb never was able to win one. However, when looking at a player's entire career, how can we leave out how much they meant to a franchise, or even to an entire city? McNabb changed the entire culture of the Philadelphia Eagles, and that should not be overlooked.
McNabb became eligible for the NFL Hall of Fame in 2017 and has been nominated each year since then. He has never made it onto the actual ballot -- and now, in 2023, it looks as if he never will. His statistics are better than a lot of quarterbacks already in the Hall of Fame, but that just is not enough.
He threw for 37,276 yards throughout his career, which is more than by current Hall of Famers Aikman, Terry Bradshaw and Jim Kelly. His 98 regular season wins are more than by Ken Stabler and Steve Young, and his 234 career passing touchdowns are more than by Joe Namath and Kurt Warner. Not to mention he was one of the best dual-threat quarterbacks when he played and is currently 10th in all-time rushing yards by a quarterback.
McNabb himself believes he deserves a spot next to his fellow teammates Terrell Owens and Brian Dawkins at the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio. His numbers speak for themselves -- yet still, all anyone looks at is the fact that he ended his career with zero Super Bowl rings.
"When they look at my numbers, yeah, but then they always want to add other stuff into it. 'Was he an All-Pro? Was he this? How many Super Bowl opportunities?'" McNabb told TMZ in 2019. "But, people don't realize how hard it is to get to the NFC Championship and to get there five times, and then make it to a Super Bowl? It's tough."
As the years go by, McNabb's Hall of Fame chances are falling, but they aren't gone yet. Not only was he an incredible player, but he was also an incredible leader, and exactly the guy the Eagles needed at that point in time. He completely turned the franchise around, and it has not looked back since. Although McNabb never won the Super Bowl, he played like a champion, and he should not ever be forgotten.
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