Donovan McNabb in the Hall? Here's one no vote

Posted: July 31, 2013

DONOVAN McNabb doesn't have a Hall of Fame vote, but if he did, he said yesterday he would have no reservations about penciling his own name on the ballot when he becomes eligible in 2017.

"When I played this game, I didn't play to make the Hall of Fame," the former Eagles quarterback said after he officially retired as an Eagle and the team announced it would be retiring his number on Sept. 19.

"I didn't play to receive individual accolades. I played to win. If that [making the Hall of Fame] happens, it happens.

"Everybody talks about my numbers. My numbers compare to everyone that's in there. But do you need a Super Bowl [ring] to be kind of verified? To be [considered] one of the best? If that's the criteria, that's the criteria. But if I had a vote, I would vote [for me]."

Eagles owner Jeff Lurie was effusive in his praise of McNabb yesterday. Called him one of the greatest players in club history, which he was. Called him the greatest quarterback in club history, which, with apologies to Norm Van Brocklin, who only spent three seasons in Philadelphia, he also was.

Called him a franchise-changing quarterback, which he absolutely, positively was.

During his 11 seasons in Philadelphia, the Eagles made eight playoff appearances, won five division titles, made it to the NFC Championship Game five times and the Super Bowl once.

McNabb holds almost every significant Eagles passing record. He's one of just three quarterbacks in NFL history with more than 35,000 passing yards (37,276) and more than 3,000 rushing yards (3,459).

All of that warrants him becoming just the ninth player in club history to have his number retired.

But does it make him Hall of Fame-worthy?

"That's up to the voters in retrospect to look at," Lurie said. "It's hard to look at things right away. As you look back 5 years from now and see what's been accomplished, they'll come up with a good decision."

As one of the 46 members of the Hall of Fame selection committee, and a guy who has a lot of respect for McNabb both as a player and a person, I'd like to be able to tell you that I think he belongs in Canton.

But I can't. Maybe that will change by the time he becomes eligible in 2017, but I doubt it.

Four years ago, after Andy Reid happened to mention Donovan and the Hall of Fame in the same breath, I wrote a column gauging his Canton chances. This was late in the 2009 season. McNabb was on his way to one of the better statistical seasons of his career.

My feeling at the time was that McNabb, who had just turned 33, didn't have Hall of Fame numbers yet, but if - if - he could put together three or four more solid seasons, he probably would.

That seemed a reasonable expectation at the time. But 5 months later, the Eagles traded McNabb to Washington and everything went to hell.

He would start just 19 more games - 13 for the Redskins in 2010, and six for the Vikings the next season, and that was all she wrote.

Threw for just 4,403 yards, 18 touchdowns and 17 interceptions his last two seasons, which I don't think is enough to put him over the Hall of Fame hump.

You can play the numbers game to make a case both for and against McNabb being Hall of Fame-worthy.

He is 17th in career passing yards with 37,276. That's more than a number of quarterbacks already in Canton, including Jim Kelly (35,467), Steve Young (33,124) and Troy Aikman (32,942), who all got in in their first year of eligibility.

But it's also fewer than non-Hall of Famers such as Boomer Esiason (37,920), Dave Krieg (38,147), Kerry Collins (40,922), Drew Bledsoe (44,611) and Vinny Testaverde (46,233).

He is 22nd in career touchdown passes with 234. That's more than Young (232) and Aikman (165), but fewer than Esiason (244), Krieg (261) and Testaverde (275).

As I mentioned earlier, he's one of just three quarterbacks with 35,000 passing yards and 3,000 rushing yards. The other two - John Elway and Fran Tarkenton - are in the Hall of Fame.

But how much weight really should be given to a quarterback's rushing yards? Michael Vick has rushed for more yards than any quarterback in history, and the only way he's getting into the Hall of Fame is if he buys a ticket. Even McNabb always has despised any discussion of his running ability.

McNabb is 53rd in career completion percentage (.590), behind players like Brian Griese (.627), Marc Bulger (.621), Trent Green (.606), Jon Kitna (.603), David Carr (.597) and Tarvaris Jackson (.594).

He is 25th in game-winning drives with 25, behind former Eagle Randall Cunningham, and tied with Jake Delhomme.

He is 38th in fourth-quarter comebacks with 17, the same number as Ron Jaworski and four fewer than Cunningham. His 6.9 yards-per-attempt average is 105th, behind, among others, Cunningham and Vick (each 7.0).

The best thing about McNabb always has been his knack for not throwing interceptions. He has the fourth best touchdowns-to-interceptions ratio in history (2.00), behind only Aaron Rodgers (3.72), Tom Brady (2.71) and Steve Young (2.00). He also has the fourth-best interception percentage (2.2) in history, behind Rodgers (1.7), Brady (2.1) and Neil O'Donnell (2.1).

With respect to McNabb's suggestion that his lack of a Super Bowl ring might keep him out of the Hall more than his numbers, I don't agree.

Eight quarterbacks have entered Canton in the last 20 years - Warren Moon (2006), Aikman ('06), Dan Marino ('05), Young ('05), John Elway ('04), Kelly ('02), Joe Montana ('00) and Dan Fouts (1993). Four of those eight - Moon, Marino, Kelly and Fouts - never won a Super Bowl.

Another problem for McNabb is going to be the fact that there will be several other Canton-worthy quarterbacks who probably will be retiring in the next 4-5 years, including Brady, Peyton Manning, Drew Brees, Eli Manning and Ben Roethlisberger. Which means if he doesn't get in right away, he's going to get stuck in a Canton quarterback traffic jam.

I didn't write this column to rain on McNabb's retirement parade. I'm glad the Eagles are retiring his number. It is a deserving honor. He was a very good player and is an even better person.

And maybe, as Lurie suggested, time will change my opinion of McNabb's Canton chances. Right now, though, if I was him, I wouldn't get my hopes up.


Email: pdomo@aol.com

Blog: ph.ly/Eagletarian.com

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