01/24/2007: Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Donovan McNabb is an otherwise good citizen. He works hard, he’s active in his community, he’s typically very good with reporters. He does everything one can expect from a model NFL player. Plus, he’s a decent quarterback.
But the past couple years have exposed McNabb’s weaknesses as a player. He has been known to suffer serious injuries that shorten his seasons. This year and last year, his knee injuries have forced him to miss substantial numbers of games. Last year, that cost the Eagles a chance at the playoffs; this year, the Eagles relied on backup Jeff Garcia–a fine quarterback from the San Francisco 49ers–to lead them to the playoffs.
Garcia delivered in ways that made people notice: where McNabb–like Michael Vick–is a scrambling quarterback who can run well but whose passing skills are mediocre, Garcia is a traditional quarterback whose passing skills are above-average.
If McNabb expects to become a championship-caliber quarterback, then he–like Vick–must decide, once and for all, to be a very good passer who can run, rather than a very good runner who can pass.
Otherwise, he–like Vick–will decline fast. That is because defenses catch onto scrambling quarterbacks. They bolster their defensive line in order to maintain containment, ensure that linebackers stay home and play off the quarterback, and–next thing you know–the scrambler is getting dropped for losses, or is throwing interceptions.
That is what has happened to Vick, and is happening to McNabb.
This season, Vick became the first QB to rush for 1,000 yards. His Atlanta Falcons ended up watching the playoffs. Similarly, McNabb struggled before going down with a torn knee ligament–the Eagles were in danger of not making the playoffs. Jeff Garcia salvaged the season for Philadelphia.
Now, many Eagles fans–rightfully–want Garcia as the starting QB. And, to his credit, Garcia has earned it. But at 36, Garcia might have a season or two left, and–at his age–injuries happen.
The smart money says McNabb won’t be riding the oak for long.
With that in mind, McNabb needs to avoid the Saul dynamic, in which Saul poisoned his kingdom with his response to the people who sung, “Saul has killed his thousands, and David his tens of thousands.” Envy and resentment will get him nowhere.
Instead, he should emrbrace the Jonathan approach: take his situation like a model citizen, accept the fact that Garcia earned the right to be a starter, be supportive of Garcia, and be prepared to take the lead at any given time.
If he does so, he will see his chances for success drastically improve.