When the Philadelphia Eagles, and first year head coach Andy Reid, were on the clock in the 1999 NFL Draft, everyone in the front office agreed on who their target was going to be with the No. 2 overall pick.
No. 5, Donovan McNabb.
Per a great article over at Birds 24/7 by Sheil Kapadia, team owner Jeffrey Lurie reflects on a day that ultimately would change the Eagles fortunes for better than a decade. A day where fans booed when the McNabb’s name was called due to wanting HB Ricky Williams, who went fifth overall (ironically enough) to the New Orleans Saints.
“It was really Donovan or ‘yikes.’ ” Lurie said. “What are we going to do?” This prompted the next obvious question, what if the Cleveland Browns selected McNabb rather than selecting QB Tim Couch?
“I guess the answer was Edgerrin [James]. We thought this was a potential Hall of Fame running back.”
1999 was said to the year to take a QB for any team needing one with five of the top 12 picks being a signal caller; Tim Couch (Browns/1st overall), Donovan McNabb (Eagles/2nd overall), Akili Smith (Bengals/3rd overall), Duante Culpepper (Vikings/11th overall) and Cade McNown (Bears/12th overall).
So why, then, with all these QB’s who were said to be the cream-of-the-crop in that years draft, was McNabb the guy for the Eagles? Lurie explains the move;
“I remember it like it was yesterday, the details, amazing,” Lurie said. “It was dubbed as sort of the year of the franchise quarterback. New Coach Andy [Reid] was here. We were interviewing all together and very intensely every one of these quarterbacks and the top players at the top of the round with the second pick. This was meant to be a very, very important pick.
“We, ironically, going back, didn’t have a lot of confidence in most of the quarterbacks in that draft. The only quarterback that we all, and Andy leading the way, was very confident in was Donovan. And it wasn’t just his athletic ability. It was his years at Syracuse, his being able to learn a complicated offense, the way he was as a person, stable family background compared to some other quarterbacks both in that draft and elsewhere. So it all came together that that was really the only quarterback that was really far above all the others for us.”
“But it was a no-brainer to go with the potential franchise quarterback [over] the running back, although Edgerrin became a superb player as well.”
As it turned out the decision to select McNabb over any other QB or player the fans may have wanted was a smart move. And in time the vast majority of the Philly fanbase grew to not only accept McNabb as their guy, but grew to love the man who gave nearly his everything for them.
Throughout McNabbs eleven years in Philadelphia he has unquestionably become the most prolific QB in Eagles history. He holds every statistical record for a quarterback in the Eagles organization. The only thing McNabb, a six-time Pro Bowler, didn’t accomplish in his time with Philadelphia was bring home a Super Bowl win for the fans and the city. He came very close in 2004 when the Birds faced Tom Brady and the Patriots, but trailed by three to end the game.
That is when fans attitude towards McNabb started to drastically change. They blamed McNabb for the loss saying it was because he either choked or threw up, or both, and even had a wide open Terrell Owens who McNabb failed to see.
But at the end of the day the simple fact of the matter is this. McNabb won a ton of games for the Philadelphia Eagles, he instilled a winning mentality among the fanbase to a point where losing was unacceptable, and he did it with zero help from his receivers, and almost always with a smile regardless of the verbal abuse he endured.
All of us here at Eagles Pulse want to thank Donovan McNabb for the good times, there were many, and wish him a happy and well deserved retirement with the Eagles organization.
McNabb retired a member of the Eagles today, Monday July 29, 2013 and will be inducted into their Hall Of Fame on September 19, 2013 following the game vs the Kansas City Chiefs, the new home of Andy Reid.