McNabb's honor is well-deserved
Donovan McNabb never had much of a problem aborting a pass rush. It was the blindside hits off the field that he could never escape.
All the incidents - from the Dirty 30's rude welcome on draft day 1999 to Rush Limbaugh's "the media has been very desirous that a black quarterback do well" quote in 2003 to the Terrell Owens fallout in 2005 - have been well-documented.
A single controversy, however, still stings McNabb more than the rest.
He will never be able to make sense of the attack by J. Whyatt Mondesire, head of the Philadelphia NAACP, in a 2005 Philadelphia Sun article. Mondesire blasted McNabb for not running the football enough and said he shared in the blame for Owens' removal from the team.
Surreal debates about whether the quarterback was black enough followed.
"It was hilarious to me and it's still funny to me that you would be criticized by not only the masses, but by your own people," McNabb said Wednesday at Lincoln Financial Field.
McNabb didn't mean it was funny in a ha-ha sort of way, although the absurdity of it all does make it somewhat comical.
"To be criticized by your own people, that partly [ticked] me off more because of the struggles [African Americans] have been through trying to play the position," McNabb said. "To have now a handful of quarterbacks playing and for a guy to come out and say that I'm not running because I'm trying to prove a point or I'm not black enough. . . . I guess the door continued open and I guess we have a lot more quarterbacks who aren't black enough still. We haven't heard too much from [Mondesire] since."
Only a McNabb news conference could veer so far off track on the eve of such a joyous occasion as the one that will take place Thursday night at halftime of the Eagles' game with the Kansas City Chiefs. His friends, family, and many of his former teammates will be in attendance when the Eagles honor McNabb at halftime by retiring his No. 5 jersey.
McNabb, 36 and now working as an analyst on the recently launched Fox Sports 1 network, did not bring up the Mondesire controversy. He was asked about it. But it was fitting that he had to revisit one of the many unsolicited attacks that became such an integral part of his career.
Even the Eagles' decision to retire his number has triggered debate because some people do not think he deserves it.
The honor is entirely appropriate.
McNabb is the best quarterback in franchise history, and it's not even close. I've heard arguments that Norm Van Brocklin was better, and that's as silly as Mondesire's racial attack.
Maybe Van Brocklin's 1960 championship season was better than any of McNabb's seasons in Philadelphia. It's impossible to compare statistics from the two eras, but McNabb was here for 11 seasons and led the Eagles to five NFC championship games and a Super Bowl.
You need only one hand to list the number of quarterbacks who played in more conference championship games than McNabb. The list: Joe Montana (seven), Tom Brady (seven), John Elway (six), Roger Staubach (six), and Terry Bradshaw (six). Brett Favre and Jim Kelly played in the same number as McNabb. Peyton Manning has played in four.
Every retired player on that list has either a retired number or is in his team's Hall of Fame. Some teams - the Cowboys, for example - do not retire numbers.
The 49ers retired John Brodie's No. 12, and his accomplishments in San Francisco do not compare to McNabb's in Philadelphia.
Since race has crept into the conversation about McNabb so often, it should also be noted that he is the best African American quarterback in NFL history. Warren Moon, a Hall of Famer, played longer and threw for more yards and touchdowns, but McNabb won more playoff games, had a better completion percentage and passer rating, and did a better job of protecting the football.
"Over a decade, there were three teams whose winning percentage was very high," McNabb said. "That was the Philadelphia Eagles, the Indianapolis Colts, and the New England Patriots. That says a lot."
All of that winning, of course, came with Andy Reid as his coach, and it means a lot to McNabb that Big Red will be there, albeit on the visitors sideline, for the former quarterback's legacy moment Thursday night.
"I think [Reid's] legacy will be as a winning coach and as a players' coach," McNabb said. "He was what Philadelphia was looking for."
The 2010 divorce, with McNabb traded to Washington on Easter Sunday, hurt the quarterback's feelings, but he put that incident behind him earlier this year during a lunch with Reid at the owners' meetings in Arizona.
"He ate more tacos than I did," McNabb said. "I wish it had come earlier, but it was needed and we were able to put some things out on the table. I think that conversation gave us an opportunity to move forward.
"First and foremost, I wanted to know whose decision it was to move on. What was the next step? What was your game plan when you decided to trade me? Was it really to play Kevin Kolb and start a new regime and see what happens?"
That's just another part of the past now, and McNabb's fascinating history in Philadelphia will be celebrated when the Eagles retire his number Thursday night. It's exactly what he deserves.
5 - Donovan McNabb
15 - Steve Van Buren
20 - Brian Dawkins
40 - Tom Brookshier
44 - Pete Retzlaff
60 - Chuck Bednarik
70 - Al Wistert
92 - Reggie White
99 - Jerome Brown
1 - Richie Ashburn
14 - Jim Bunning
20 - Mike Schmidt
32 - Steve Carlton
36 - Robin Roberts
42 - Jackie Robinson
6 - Julius Erving
10 - Maurice Cheeks
13 - Wilt Chamberlain
15 - Hal Greer
24 - Bobby Jones
32 - Billy Cunningham
34 - Charles Barkley
1 - Bernie Parent
2 - Mark Howe
4 - Barry Ashbee
7 - Bill Barber
16 - Bobby Clarke
Contact Bob Brookover at email@example.com. Follow on Twitter @brookob.