"Respect is earned, never given"... We've all heard that quote or some synonymous version of it. However, in the case of Donovan McNabb, it seems he could never do enough to get the respect he has long earned. It is a given that in the world of professional sports, the concept of "what have you done lately" reigns. There is no greater truism of this concept than in football where contracts aren't guaranteed and players are cut and traded the moment a team determines that their benefit no longer justifies their cost. Though in the case of McNabb - a consummate professional on and off the field and a proven leader that made Philadelphia a fixture in the playoffs over the last decade - the Eagles move to trade him is another link in the chain of inexplicable disrespect he has received during his NFL tenure.
Donovan has taken a lot shots over the years. He was booed by Philadelphia fans when selected in the 1999 draft (they wanted Ricky Williams . . . and we see how that turned out); he was labeled a "company man" by former teammate Freddie Mitchell (the brash under performing wide receiver that labeled himself Fredex); he was the subject of controversial race based remarks by Rush Limbaugh; he took a gut punch from a Philadelphia NAACP president that claimed McNabb was disserving the black community by not scrambling as much; he endured the unforgettable soap opera with the NFL's biggest diva, Terrell Owens; he's been the subject of the annual jabber by unappreciative Philadelphia fans because apparently being one of the best teams in the league each year isn't good enough; and the last blow was dealt by the Eagles organization seeking to trade its best player while he's still performing at a high level.
Perhaps I'm missing something, but I don't get it. I can't think of a quarterback that has compiled as many superlatives as Donovan, yet has had as many detractors. Since acquiring McNabb in 1999, only the Colts and Patriots have more wins than Philly. The Eagles have been in the playoffs eight times in his eleven seasons. Over that period, McNabb led the Eagles to four consecutive NFC East division championships from 2001 thru 2004, five NFC Championship Games and one Super Bowl. He's been his team's leader and a model citizen within his community. So why trade the guy that has made you a perennial championship contender for the past decade and just led you to an 11-5 season and another playoff appearance for an unknown and unproven quarterback?
The common knock on McNabb is that he hasn't been able to win the big game, losing in his one Super Bowl appearance against the Patriots. Although there are no moral victories in sports, something can still be said for losing the big game to one of the greatest NFL dynasties. There is never an excuse for losing, but in case this comes as a surprise to anyone, winning the championship isn't easy. Just ask Peyton Manning and Brett Favre, arguably two of the greatest quarterbacks in NFL history, who each have one championship ring to their names in two respective appearances in a combined 31 seasons. Another Hall of Fame quarterback by the name of Dan Marino, like McNabb, lost the one Super Bowl in which he played. I don't recall the Dolphins ever seeking to trade its legend. Needless to say, this just goes to the point that a team is only as good as the sum of its parts. The solution to the Eagles' perceived problem is not to trade its best player. The 2004-05 season clearly demonstrates what McNabb can do with a strong supporting cast. In that season, McNabb led the team to the Super Bowl and he and T.O. made NFL history as one of the league's most prolific QB-WR combinations. That season exemplifies what McNabb is capable of when he has a solid defense, an offensive line that can actually block, and a receiver that can both beat a defender and catch the ball . . .you know, the things almost every Super Bowl winning quarterback has needed. McNabb finished that season with 31 touchdowns, 8 interceptions and 104.7 passer rating. Since that breakthrough year (a run prematurely ended by the T.O. debacle), the Achilles heel of the team has always been a critical missing piece - no game breaking wideout, a sub par running game, or a porous defense. But I guess someone has to play the goat, right?
As we've come to expect, Donovan has been the ultimate professional throughout the trade saga and said all the rights things, as he typically does, about the trade . . . "I'm really excited about my future with the Washington Redskins . . ." Kudos to Donovan. Yet in between the words, what I'm sure he's also saying (with a devilish grin) is that he's enthusiastic about going to a team where he'll face the Eagles and their prematurely hailed savior, Kevin Kolb, twice a season. That is what makes this trade disrespectful. This is no personal knock on Kolb, but from Donovan's vantage point, the Eagles are replacing him with an untested and unproven backup while he is still performing at a Pro Bowl level. It's not the case of the head office trading for a younger gunslinger like a Matt Schaub or Aaron Rogers whom have shown real talent, or an explosive running back like Chris Johnson. It's common knowledge that NFL franchises are a business and players are bargaining chips to further the business, but trades that at least appear to improve a team on paper are easier to swallow. On the contrary, this is a complete roll of the dice with only a theoretical upside. It's akin to the Eagles tossing the bird in the hand to go with one in the bush. Let's consider Kolb's resume. In three seasons, Kolb has played in two more NFL games than you and I. To his credit, Kolb put up big numbers in those games; however, it was against two of the worst defensive teams in the league. Let's also not ignore the fact that Kolb was playing in those games without the real pressures and expectations of a starting quarterback, much less a quarterback of a team where its fans won't appreciate anything less than a championship. So essentially, the Eagles are putting their franchise in the state of the unknown. This trade was not an addition by subtraction . . . the Eagles are clearly worse off, so I'm sure the Cowboys and the Giants are all smiles.
Philadelphia has enjoyed a lot of success with #5 at the helm and the level of respect and appreciation for what he's accomplished should be commensurate with that. So for those in Philly that don't seem to get that 10-plus-win seasons, division titles and annual trips to the playoffs aren't a given, I predict that the light bulb will be going off in the very near future. Good luck Kevin Kolb. . . .you're damn sure going to need it.