The Numbers Game: How does Donovan McNabb compare to Hall of Fame quarterbacks?

Howard Smith-USA TODAY Sports

Former Eagles' quarterback Donovan McNabb is set to have his number retired in a grand fashion on Thursday night, during halftime of Philadelphia's matchup against the returning Andy Reid and the Chiefs. McNabb over the last 15 years has had a sometimes turbulent relationship with Eagles fans and the media, but is also widely-considered the franchise's greatest passer and his numbers backup that claim.

While McNabb is clearly the top quarterback in Eagles history, there is still a debate as to whether the Syracuse alum deserves other post-career recognition for his accomplishments. Over the years, the question has been: "Will McNabb be a Hall-of-Famer?" Similarly, there has been a notion that he may not even be worth the conversation of being inducted, due to his lack of Super Bowls and the way his career ended with the Redskins and Vikings. Still, McNabb was considered among of the top quarterbacks of his generation during his prime, took the Eagles to five NFC Championships and was a multiple-time Pro Bowler during his career.

In order, to understand whether or not McNabb belongs in the Hall of Fame discussion, one must understand history. Since 1993, nine quarterbacks have been inducted and eight of them played after the AFL-NFL merger. Those quarterbacks include those who played in the 1970s. 1980s, 1990s and even the 2000s. Below are their numbers:

Num Player TDs-INTs Comp. % Passer Rating Passing Yards Rushing Yards Years Pros Pro Bowls MVPs All-Pros Conf. Championships Super Bowl Wins
1 Dan Marino 420-252 59.4 86.4 61,361 87 17 9 1 8 1
2 Troy Aikman 165-141 61.5 81.6 31,726 1,016 12 6 3 3 3
3 Jim Kelly 237-175 60.1 84.4 35,467 1,049 11 4 1 4
4 Warren Moon 291-233 58.4 80.9 49,325 1,736 17 9 3
5 Steve Young 232-107 64.3 96.8 33,124 4,239 15 7 2 6 3* 3*
6 John Elway 300-226 56.9 79.9 51,475 3,407 16 9 1 3 5 2
7 Joe Montana 273-139 63.2 92.3 40,551 1,676 16 8 2 6 4 4
8 Dan Fouts 254-242 58.8 80.2 43,040 476 15 6 4

*Young only won one Super Bowl and one conference championship as a starter.

Here are McNabb's numbers:

Num Player TDs-INTs Comp. % Passer Rating Passing Yards Rushing Yards Years Pros Pro Bowls MVPs All-Pros Conf. Championships Super Bowl Wins
1 Donovan McNabb 234-117 59 85.6 37,276 3,459 13 6 1

When comparing the numbers, McNabb is clearly in similar company to Jim Kelly. The former Buffalo Bills passer has a similar passer rating and career touchdowns numbers to McNabb. However, McNabb has more Pro Bowls, less interceptions, more passing yardage and better rushing numbers. That said, Kelly was significantly more successful in the postseason. While McNabb went to five NFC Championships and won just one of them, Kelly won all four of the AFC Championships that he played in. Although, both McNabb and Kelly never won a Super Bowl.

While Kelly is probably the best comparison, McNabb stacks up from the middle to the bottom against the other seven quarterbacks in this study, for the most part. When comparing McNabb against the entire group, he shakes out as seventh in career-passing touchdowns, fifth in passing-percentage, sixth in passing yards, seventh in years played, tied for seventh with six Pro Bowls and is the only quarterback without an All-Pro selection. He is also one of five to not have won a Super Bowl during their career.

The case for McNabb may come from his lack of numbers in some categories. While he has not won a Super Bowl, you can make the argument that the criteria is not based on winning the "big one." Of the eight quarterbacks in the study, just 50-percent have won the Super Bowl. Also, while McNabb has only won one conference championship, that is still one more than Warren Moon and Dan Fouts. The 13 seasons that McNabb played are among the bottom of the rankings, which means his numbers are not inflated due to several years of over-staying his welcome in the league. He also has the second-least amount of interceptions of the group, which shows that he rarely impacted his team with turnovers.

Whether you believe McNabb, should go into the Hall of Fame or not, it is pretty clear that he will not be a first-ballot selection. His numbers when compared to Hall of Fame talent make him discussion-worthy, but perhaps not good enough for actual induction. McNabb seems like he could be on the cusp, but with Tom Brady and Peyton Manning retiring in the next few years and Kurt Warner eligible soon, he may have a serious up-hill battle.

Based on the numbers, do you believe McNabb is worthy of a Hall of Fame induction?

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