By Joseph Santoliquito
It’s something that I’m reluctant to come out and publicly admit. It’s something in these parts you certainly don’t readily come out and blare. But I know that I’m part of a minority in Philadelphia. It’s an affliction that didn’t attack me suddenly. I tried fending it off for years, but the problem was that it went back years. Back to a time when I was fortune enough to meet this rising star at Syracuse, who carried a boyish, goofy, self-deprecating charm about himself and who was able to also do some incredible things on a football field. I used to hope the Eagles would reach the depths that one day the team and the special player would coincide–and so they did.
I’m a Donovan McNabb fan. I firmly believe he’s the greatest quarterback in Eagles’ history. He did some amazing things wearing the midnight green. He dazzled, he entertained, and he also infuriated. Pissed off many. I’d frequently get into it with former middleweight world champion Bernard Hopkins (verbal barbs, nothing physical; I’m dumb, but I’m not that dumb) over the merits of McNabb. I’d bring up fact, and “The Executioner” would delve into McNabb’s personal side, frequently telling me how “McNabb will never win anything because he has no character and is a momma’s boy.” I’d ask what does that have to do with his ability on a football field? Hopkins’ patent reply was “plenty, when you’re talking about a real man’s sport like football. You want men to follow you, then you act like a real man–not like some sissy in a playground who whines whenever he doesn’t get his way.”
It took some time, a trade, and a Q & A in GQ to come around to Hopkins’ way of thinking about McNabb. I won’t budge from my stance that McNabb was the greatest quarterback in Eagles’ history. But I will openly admit I thought he was a more mature player/person than it seems he portrayed himself to be while he was an Eagle. The GQ interview seemed perverted with distortions and exaggerations. For McNabb to even think Andy Reid or Jeff Lurie would turn their backs on him and withhold support, as McNabb asserts, is preposterous.
“It went back to us not winning big games, me being criticized for whatever, leadership, whatever it may be, and how no one in the organization ever stepped up and said anything,” McNabb said in the interview. “They’ll say something to you in the building, but not publicly. My feeling was, ‘I’m out here getting cut up, where are you? I’m always defending and helping you guys, but where’s that support?’ I thought it was beneficial, because you can sit there and tell somebody you truly love them, you’re a big fan, your family loves you, but what about when we’re over here in the hot seat, where are you now?”
It’s funny but no one from the Eagles ever publicly admitted all of McNabb’s many foibles. Two former Eagles told me McNabb had trouble with the plays being called, and the blame for the Eagles lack of a cohesive two-minute offense should have never fallen on Reid, it should have been put on McNabb.
It seems McNabb has a way of rationalizing everything around him but himself. He blames Eagles’ management for not supporting him, the defense for blowing the NFC championship loss to Arizona, the younger players on the team last year for the playoff embarrassment in Dallas.
I’d like to hope McNabb could one day take a step back and realize how much support he did receive from Reid and the Eagles. I’d like to think that one day he’ll grow out of this petulant, childish funk where in his distorted world he’s always right and everyone who second-guesses or doubts him is wrong. I’d like to think it’s time for Donovan McNabb to grow up.