With the announcement coming this week that quarterback Donovan McNabb intends to formally retire from professional football as a member of the Philadelphia Eagles, it’s time to start the conversation regarding whether or not McNabb deserves to one day be enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. McNabb is the very definition of a borderline Hall of Farmer, and he’s bound provoke a variety of opinions about whether he’s Hall of Fame worthy or not. Generally, if you need to think about whether a player should be in the Hall of Fame or not, then the answer is no. However, McNabb is a special case that requires deeper thought and examination.
Statistically, the numbers are enough to get McNabb in the Hall of Fame. He has eight seasons with over 3,000 yards passing, and his career high of 3,916 yards came in his 10th NFL season, showing great longevity, which should also factor into his Hall of Fame resume. He has twice as many career touchdowns as interceptions in regular season games. McNabb also has five seasons with 20 or more touchdown passes, and during the 2004 season he became the first quarterback in NFL history to throw more than 30 touchdowns with fewer than 10 interceptions. McNabb also owns a unique NFL record for the most consecutive completions with 24.
In addition to pure stats, McNabb is a six-time Pro Bowler, including a string of five consecutive years, an era in which he was one of the top quarterbacks in football. That string of five straight Pro Bowls came to an end in 2004 when McNabb was NFC Player of the Year and led the Eagles to the Super Bowl. McNabb’s final Pro Bowl appearance came in 2009, further showing his longevity, as well as his ability to bounce back from several injuries and a few rough seasons. The stats, the accolades, and the longevity should be sufficient to put McNabb in the Hall of Fame.
The biggest knock against McNabb is a lack of winning, specifically his inability to win “the big one”. While it’s true that McNabb never won a Super Bowl, and only played in one, the Eagles made the playoffs in eight of the 11 seasons McNabb was in Philadelphia, only missing the playoffs during his rookie season, the 2005 season when McNabb played only nine games, and the 2007 season when he came back early from an ACL tear. Furthermore, with McNabb’s help the Eagles made it to five NFC Championship Games between 2000 and 2008, giving them a winning record in the postseason during that time, a rare accomplishment that McNabb was an integral part of.
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Surely, the lack of a Super Bowl ring can’t be the determining factor in keeping McNabb out of the Hall of Fame. He was the key figure in taking a franchise that was 3-13 in 1998 and turning them into the dominant team in the NFC East throughout the 2000’s. He did so, for the most part, with few quality skill players around him to help make things easier for him. Outside of a brief and contemptuous period with Terrell Owens, McNabb lacked a standout wide receiver for much of his career, but was still able to put up big numbers and consistently lead his team to the playoffs.
McNabb also deserves credit for being ahead of his time, in that he was a dual-threat quarterback more than a decade before Robert Griffin III and Russell Wilson made dual-threat quarterbacks seem like more than just a trend, but a viable approach to winning in the NFL. McNabb also predates former teammate Michael Vick in that regard, while also showcasing a better balance between passing and running than Vick. McNabb doesn’t get the credit he deserves for being a trailblazer for athletic quarterbacks, but he should. That contribution and impact on the game of football is something that can’t be overlooked when considering McNabb’s Hall of Fame credentials.
McNabb may seem like a borderline Hall of Famer at first glance, but after taking a deeper look it’s obvious that he belongs to be in Canton one day. He was one of the league’s best quarterbacks and was the leader of one of the league’s best teams for a full decade. Despite not winning a Super Bowl, he has an impressive postseason record, as well as stats that can match up with any other quarterback that’s in the Hall of Fame. All things considered, McNabb had a great career and definitely left his mark on the NFL, which should be enough to make him a Hall of Famer; not bad for a guy that was booed by his own fans on draft day.