In My Write Mind
After six years in the NFL and three straight championship game appearances, Donovan McNabb knows the time is now for the Eagles to fly higher
By William I. Dawson
The Philadelphia Eagles are on a collision course for the NFL playoffs, and the main reason now, as it has been for the past six seasons, is clear. Terrell Owens has helped Philly to their best regular season in the franchises' history. A healthy Brian Westbrook in the backfield and the menacing presences of Jevon Kearse and Jeremiah Trotter on defense has diversified the Eagle attack.
However, just like it has been for the past six seasons--five of which saw the Eagles making the playoffs—whether they soar or are denied once again attainment of a Super Bowl ring is literally in the hands of quarterback Donovan McNabb.
And clearly, he'd have it no other way.
Of course he appreciates the help this season, the way guys have stepped up, the difference having Owens and others has made. It's made it easier for the 28 year old. It's made the game of football more fun.
But now Owens is out for the foreseeable future. And people are already foreseeing the demise of the best team in the NFC this season.
Not Donovan. "It's unfortunate that people are pretty much turning their backs on us because we lost T.O.," McNabb said recently. "I'm still the captain of this ship and this ship is going to move. I'll take this team as far as we need to go with the guys that we have."
Typical Donovan. Even way back when he was on the south side of Chicago, starring at both football and basketball at Mount Carmel High School, he had a strong work ethic and a sense of purpose. He knew he would be successful. He knew that he would reach greater heights. According to McNabb, he lives "to be the best" and is "never satisfied." That drive, that determination was what led Syracuse University to recruit him, was what made him one of the most beloved athletes in their history, where he was a four-year starting quarterback and a key reserve on the nationally ranked basketball team.
At 6 foot 2, which is a great height for the NFL and not so much for the NBA, McNabb's quest to be the best forced him to give up basketball so that he could concentrate solely on football. It proved to be a wise decision. Check out his college resume.
Was named the Big East Conference's offensive player of the decade (1990's)
Named Big East offensive player of the year an unprecedented three times from 1996-98
Named Big East 1st-team all-conference QB in each of his four seasons
Set the Syracuse and Big East career records for TD passes (77), TDs responsible for (96), passing yards (8,389), total offensive yards (9,950) and total offensive plays (1,403).
Set the school's all-time records for total yards per game (221.1), passing efficiency (155.1) and yards per attempt (9.1).
Finished his career ranked 2nd in school history with 8,389 yards passing, 548 completions, 938 attempts and a 58.4 completion pct.
Started every game during his career, compiling a 33-12 record
As a senior, led SU to an Orange Bowl berth vs. Florida as he completed 157 of 251 passes (62.5%) for 2,134 yards
He took that team where they needed to go. Just like he promised. He opened the eyes of many NFL scouts with his athletic prowess and canon of an arm. And on NFL draft day in 1999, McNabb was selected as the second overall pick by the Philadelphia Eagles, becoming the highest drafted black quarterback in the history of the league. His being drafted took many off guard, including Eagle fans, who desperately wanted the franchise to select running back Ricky Williams of Texas with the #2 pick. They openly booed McNabb when his name was called and lambasted the choice all the way through to training camp.
Brotherly love, indeed.
McNabb, unfazed by his critics, used that negativity as motivation. As a rookie, he started in six of the final seven games of the season, winning his first start. The 2000 season saw the fans come around as Donovan caught fire, passing for an astounding 3,365 yards, rushing for 629 more and scoring 27 touchdowns. He led them to their first playoff victory in five years and was runner-up in the MVP voting.
2001 saw the Eagles go 11-5, winning the NFC East, only to lose to the eventual Super Bowl-champion St. Louis Rams in the NFC championship game. The next two years brought about similar results, with Philly losing in the penultimate game in both 2002 and 2003 to Tampa Bay and Carolina, respectively.
His career statistics, which include 115 passing touchdowns (against only 54 interceptions), 2,422 yards rushing with 20 rushing touchdowns, his career quarterback rating of 84.2, five Pro Bowls--all of those numbers that would define most careers, let alone just one’s first six seasons--still are not enough. Not to the man with a purpose, the man who’s never satisfied.
Which brings us to this year and the team facing yet another quest toward the Super Bowl without McNabb’s favorite target, the outspoken and flamboyant Owens. Is he concerned? No. In fact, he says, No T.O., no problem. "We sign T.O. and we turn into the world's greatest football team. We lose T.O. and we get buried in the dirt," McNabb said. "This team has been through a lot. We know what we need to do in order to get us where we need to go. If we continue to do what we've been doing, things will work out well."
In the game where Owens was hurt, the Eagles won, beating the Dallas Cowboys, 12-7. They won it on the strength of Donovan’s legs and his arm. They found a way. And if they are to win it all--six years after McNabb was the second overall pick, five years after the franchise began its string of playoff appearances, this year after compiling a 13-2 record through December--it rests once again on the shoulders of #5 from Chicago’s south side, and upstate New York, and the city of brotherly love.
Once again, Donovan Jamal McNabb will have his chance to be the best, to take his team to the last game played on a Sunday evening in February in Jacksonville, Florida.
What happens during the next month, during the playoffs, will determine whether this will be yet another "sore spot" or a "soar spot" for the Eagles.
For McNabb, it's time to fly.
scribbled by Will at 1/24/2005 01:15:00 PM
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I write entirely to find out what I'm thinking, what I'm looking at, what I see and what it means. What I want and what I fear. (Joan Didion)
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Will. Lefty. Since Summer 1971. Over the next six months, I'll be saying some hellos, some goodbyes. Living, laughing, growing. Don't.miss.a.word.
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