Eleven years ago next Saturday, a young Donovan McNabb was drafted out of Syracuse University. He came into the draft as one of the most decorated QBs available, having won 35 of his 49 starts and never missing a game due to injury. He led Syracuse in one of the most exciting bowl games in NCAA history and had a very impressive set of physical skills. However, he was also coming out of the deepest QB class the NFL had ever seen. Tim Couch, McNabb, Akili Smith, Daunte Culpepper, and Cade McNown seemed certain to become franchise quarterbacks, and all of them were gone by the 13th pick in the draft.
The Philadelphia Eagles had the second overall selection of the 1999 NFL Draft, and there were a number of holes to fill. A number of fans were hoping the Eagles would pick running back Ricky Williams, who seemed destined to be one of the best the game had ever seen. But the Eagles selected Donovan McNabb, and the fans booed.
That’s not to say all of the fans booed. But it is certainly fair to say that the majority of Philly fans were unhappy with the move. People doubted that this glorified option QB was a better pick than the other players available. McNabb would have to prove himself, and he did. In just his second season in the league he brought the Eagles to the playoffs and beat the highly favored Tampa Bay Buccaneers. He continued this great play, often amongst less than remarkable offensive talent, earning the Eagles the title of NFC East champion in 2001, 2002, 2003, and 2004. As a starter McNabb has gone 92-49-1, earning the third best winning percentage among active QBs, behind Tom Brady and Peyton Manning. He went to six Pro Bowls, and holds NFL records for most consecutive completions in a game (24), all-time lowest interception percentage (2.09%), first QB to throw for 30 TDs and less than 10 INTs in a season, and has the second best TD-INT ratio or all time. He also holds Philadelphia records for most career completions, passing yards, and passing TDs, single season completions, and single season yards.
But at the same time, McNabb has been remarkably inconsistent. He has missed games via injury in six of his eleven seasons and is known for hot and cold streaks. He brought the Eagles five NFC Championship games but only won one, and has never won a Super Bowl. He’s been known to struggle with certain throws and throw away from defenders, driving fans crazy with his worm burners.
McNabb may not be elite, but he’s certainly a Super Bowl away from a Hall of Fame career. He’s been a great QB and role model for this team, and now his old fans will see him two times per year and be forced to root against him as he starts for the rival Redskins.
Now the heir apparent, Kevin Kolb, steps in under similar-yet-different circumstances. Kolb, too, was booed on his draft day. McNabb was in his prime (although oft-injured) and the prospect of bringing in a replacement in the form of Houston’s system-QB Kolb with Philly’s first draft pick was not very well received by Eagles fans. Kolb struggled early in his career in relief appearances and fans were largely put off by the idea of Kolb starting. But when McNabb missed a few games Kolb got his first real chance to play and impressed in a loss to the Saints and win against the Chiefs, and ever since the cries for Kolb to start have grown louder and louder. Now the day has officially come; Kevin Kolb is the 2010 starter for the Philadelphia Eagles.
Kolb looks poised to be a very good West Coast QB; his accuracy on slant routes and out-routes is superb and he is fairly mobile. But his long ball tends to hang a little bit and so far he has had a penchant for interceptions, although it would be difficult to expect him to match McNabb’s impeccable interception percentage.
Whether we’re ready or not, the Kevin Kolb era has begun. Personally, I’m a little concerned. I have faith in our organization, and I don’t doubt that Kolb is as ready as he’s going to be, but it’s a little unnerving to transition from one of the most accomplished QBs in the NFL to his unproven understudy. McNabb will always be my favorite Eagle, and I will always remember and respect what he has done for this team. Thanks to Donovan McNabb and his supporting cast the Eagles have been one of the best franchises in the NFL for the past decade, and hopefully it’s a legacy that will continue after his departure. I wish the best for McNabb, as long as his success doesn’t hurt the Eagles, that is.
Donovan McNabb is arguably the single greatest Eagle of all-time, and he will always be Bleeding Green.