Look, let’s just get one thing straight. Donovan McNabb was the coolest guy on campus when I was a student on The Hill.
I stepped onto the Quad as a freshman in August ’97 and D-Nabb was already a school hero. During my freshman and sophomore years, #5 led the Orangemen to a Fiesta Bowl, Orange Bowl, Big East title and one of the greatest days in program history – the 66-13 thrashing of big, bad Miami (when granted, the U wasn’t quite so big and bad).
I was at the Dome and flooded the field with the rest of my student body when he found Steven Brominski in the corner of the end zone for yet another Houdini act over Virginia Tech. He brought SU to the Loud House and left it quiet. He drove a black, pimp Ford Explorer around campus with the vanity plate, “DNABB 5.” You always knew when Donovan was at Byrd Library.
And frankly, he was a bad ass because he wasn’t a bad ass. He was a good guy. A decent dude who didn’t throw chicks down stairs and didn’t get drunk and fight frat guys at 44’s (yes, our definition of nice guy athlete has devolved a bit over the last twenty years).
So, as McNabb has been torn up and beaten down by the city of Philadelphia, fans and media alike, you can’t help but feel sympathy.
That was our last great football star. He led SU to its last window of glory, when Saturdays mattered. Really mattered. Upon his trade to Washington, even Philly writers felt some guilt about his 12 years in the Iladelph.
“No matter how many games he won or team records he broke, the quarterback’s critics always seemed to find something wrong with him. It was either he smiles too much or he has too much fun when he is on the field or he said the wrong thing in the news conference. Even when McNabb threw completions, some Eagles’ fans would argue his pass was still too low or it was still too far behind the receiver.”
I’d bet my set of Groobers voodoo dolls, Kevin Kolb won’t lead the Eagles to five NFC title games. Kolb will most likely be “the guy after the guy.” He’ll end up getting the same brutal Philly treatment after his first 4th quarter INT against the Cowboys or the next Wild Card exit.
But there was also something broken with the puzzle on D-Nabb’s side. The booing on Draft Day was ridiculous. But he never let it go. The harsh treatment of the fans and media was unfortunate, but he just couldn’t rise above it.
When T.O. swaggered into Philly and started griping and pouting about the coaching and the quarterbacking and seemingly everything else, McNabb never asserted himself as the Alpha Male. McNabb just couldn’t bite back. We were all just waiting for him to vent, “Dude, this is my team. Fall in line, or get out. Shut up and ball.”
See, this is why D-Nabb is the man, as well. He is congenial and friendly and loves his mom. He loved being loved at the ‘Cuse, and that love from CNY will never change. But when there wasn’t complete and total adoration back from Philly, you could tell it weakened him.
E:60 did a fantastic piece on the poisoned relationship between Kobe and Philadelphia this weekend. Kobe was booed by his hometown fans upon winning the All-Star game MVP. But Kobe is ruthless. He’s a predator. He plays angry. He’s also a dick. I’d have a Miller Lite with D-Nabb. I’d hate to be in the same CPR class as Kobe.
There is a small slice of insecurity in McNabb no matter how many touchdowns he throws. Maybe if Tom Brady isn’t Tom Brady in Jacksonville and the confetti falls on the Eagles, McNabb is a different leader. But maybe he just was never Montana or Unitas or Brady. And maybe that’s ok.
Because the legends rip their receivers and bark at their coaches and command the locker room. That’s not in McNabb’s DNA. And possibly in a town of polite hero worship like Kansas City or Minneapolis or Seattle, McNabb would be the perfect quarterback.
But Philly can eat you up. And McNabb allowed himself to get eaten. The Eagles won’t do better than D-Nabb. But D-Nabb might have been able to do better for himself.