Being half-way through the season, I decided to ping our SBN Philly friends (JimmyK) at Bleeding Green Nation to take an unbiased litmus test on how McNabb is faring. We cover past benchings, the sub-par skilled players McNabb has to work with, and McNabb's career in winning close games. Let's roll.
Hogs Haven: As bad as the decision was to take McNabb out, I really feel the media is piling on at this point. He was a solid QB for Philadelphia, and through his career, he saw the bench several times. Last year he sat out 2 games with a rib injury and when he came back, he three for 3 TDs that week vs Tampa in a lop-sided win. In 2008, McNabb was benched for Corn on the Kolb during the Ravens game, and the following week he came out and threw 4 Tds in a crushing of Arizona. I really think the benching was a strategic move. Thoughts?
JimmyK: While I agree that McNabb has bounced back impressively in the past after dealing with a variety of adversity, I would disagree that Shanny benched him for long-term strategic reasons, hoping that it would light a fire under his ass like it has in the past. The timing of his benching (down 6 with less than 2 minutes to go in a winnable game) would indicate otherwise. Had he been benched at halftime or some other less critical moment, I might be more accepting of that theory.
Hogs Haven: I'm trying to compare apples and apples, but the Eagles OLine has had its problems as well....especially with all the injuries at the end of last year. The guy can handle a floodgate pass rush as well as the best of them...but McNabb doesn't have a Brian Westbrook or a LeSean McCoy to dump to. It's a massive drop-off when a key skilled position is not skilled. Isn't it also fair to say with as little talent as Donovan had in Philly, he has less in DC to help bail him out?
No question he has less talent around him at the skill positions. When you compare what McNabb had at his disposal last year (DeSean Jackson, Jeremy Maclin, LeSean McCoy, Brian Westbrook, Jason Avant, Brent Celek, Leonard Weaver, etc) with what he's working with this year (Santana Moss, Joey Galloway, Anthony Armstrong, Ryan Torain, Chris Cooley, Fred Davis, etc), the dropoff in talent can't be overstated. You mentioned the running backs, but let's take DeSean Jackson for example: Here's a guy that had receiving TD's of the following distances: 71, 64, 60, 57, 54, 48, 35. Whether it was Jackson getting 5 yards behind the defensive backfield and hauling in bombs or taking an intermediate pass the distance, he was making plays for McNabb that nobody on the Redskins' offense can make.
Fredex and T.O., who are the equivalent of Danny Bonaduce in the Celebrity world, claim McNabb can't run a 2-minute offense...which is laughable since NcNabb threw that infamous 4th and 26 pass to Freddie to keep that drive alive. McNabb has over 20 2-minute comebacks...another false accusation right?
Unfortunately, as much as I'd like to disagree with 2 of my most hated former Eagles, I can't. As an Eagles fan, I never felt comfortable with Donovan McNabb running the 2 minute offense. Not Donny's strength. He and Andy Reid (who definitely deserves his share of the blame as well) ran the 2-minute offense with extreme lethargy and gross clock management. I couldn't possibly estimate how many times I screamed "HUUUUUURRY UUUUUUP!" at the TV over the past decade.
First of all, I believe you've mixed up "20+ 2-minute comebacks" with "Game winning drives." McNabb has 20+ game winning drives (23 to be exact) in his career. They can be found here. The game-winning drive statistic is a little misleading. For example. Let's say the 4th quarter begins and the score is tied 14-14. A drive stalls, you kick a FG, and the score doesn't change for the rest of the game - That counts as a "game-winning drive." I equate it to the old baseball stat that you never see anymore, "Game winning RBI," in which a guy that hit a grounder in the 3rd inning that scored a run to take the lead got credit for a "Game-winning RBI."
Anyway, let's take a look at those game winning drives. I'll go back from 2009 to 2006, which is about the cutoff of where my brain can't vividly remember the details of every individual regular season game:
Denver - The Eagles had a 27-10 lead late in the 3rd quarter. Four 3-and-outs later from the Eagles offense, and Denver had tied it 27-27. After the Eagles defense gave the Eagles good field position, McNabb found Maclin along the sideline for 27 yards. It was actually a bad pass by McNabb and an amazing catch by Maclin. The Eagles then ran the clock all the way down and kicked a FG to end it. I would technically consider this a 2-minute drive for the win, although McNabb played very poorly down the stretch in this game.
Redskins - I remember McNabb engineering a nice, long 3-4 minute drive to get down into field goal range to break a tie with less than 2 minutes left. This one is legit.
Bears - The Eagles scored with 5 minutes left to take the lead. It was a nice clutch drive by McNabb, but it wasn't really a 2-minute hurry up situation.
Bengals - This is the infamous "I didn't know games could end in ties" game, one of McNabb's worst as a pro, and one of the worst professional football games I've ever seen. McNabb gets credit for the 4th quarter comeback because they tied it up with about 5 minutes left in the 4th quarter with a FG.
49ers - The Eagles took the lead with a FG with 7 minutes remaining. Not a 2-minute situation.
Redskins - This was the game where Brian Westbrook took a screen pass and weaved his way through what seemed like the entire Redskins defense for a 57 yard score with 3:16 left. Not really a 2-minute situation, and not really the work of McNabb.
Cowboys - This was the game where Lito Sheppard picked off Drew Bledsoe at the goal line and returned it for a TD to end the game. McNabb gets credit for a game winning drive because the Eagles broke a 24-24 tie with 9 minutes left in the game.
So as you can see, there really isn't much in the way of late-game heroics from McNabb over the past half-decade.
In short, just like with Jason Campbell, I guess it's hard and unfair to evaluate a player when you don't give him any protection or weapons. (Ssh...don't bring up Sam Bradford).