Donovan McNabb’s Philadelphia Story: From “4th & 26” to the TIE?! in Cincinnati

This Sunday, Dovovan McNabb will be returning to Philadelphia, where he played 11 seasons, but as a member of the Washington Redskins.  Donovan has to go down as the greatest QB in Eagles’ history.  He has won more playoff games then any Eagles QB and statistically holds just about every record.  Many Eagles’ fans, however, will view the McNabb Era as a disappointment.

It all started on Draft Day 1999, when many of the Eagles fans in attendance booed the selection of McNabb as the #2 overall pick with former Heisman Trophy winner Ricky Williams still on the board.  But those boos quickly turned to cheers when McNabb took over as the full-time starter in 2000 and led the Eagles to the Playoffs.  Who could forget Donovan huddling a Redskins defender during a key late season victory in Washington.  Though they came up short, many Eagles fans felt that this team, led by Donovan, could be special.

In 2001, the Eagles fell short of the Super Bowl but they were on the verge.  During the ’01 season, the Eagles were able to overtake the Giants in the NFC East and make it to the franchise’s first NFC Championship game in over 20 years.  A wrench was thrown into the ’02 season when McNabb broke his ankle in week 11 vs. Arizona, a game in which he threw 4 touchdown passes and played the entire game, thinking it was just a sprain.  Once fans received news, the hopes and dreams of a Super Bowl were lost.  However, with third string QB A.J. Feeley filling in and a dominant defense, the Eagles were able to lock up the #1 seed in the NFC and received news that McNabb would return for the playoffs!  Everything was lined up – the Eagles hosted the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the NFC Title Game.  The same Tampa team the Eagles defeated the 2 previous postseasons.  But it wasn’t to be…and many fans still can’t get the imagine of Ronde Barber running down the sideline, having just intercepted McNabb and sealing the game.

There was much controversy and turmoil to start the 2003 season but the Eagles found themselves once again as the #1 seed in the NFC and after McNabb completed a 28 yard pass on 4 & 26 to stun the Green Bay Packers in the Divisional Playoff Game, there was no way the Eagles were going to get upset in the Championship game vs. the Carolina Panthers.  But that is exactly what happened and the Eagles were only able to tally 3 points in the game.  After the lose, many felt the Eagles didn’t have a strong enough receiving core to get the job done.  It also didn’t help that their dangerous, all-purpose back Brian Westbrook missed the game due to injury.

In 2004, the Eagles signed All-Pro Wide Receiver Terrell Owens and they steamrolled through the regular season and locked up the #1 seed once again.  The only problem was that Owens got injured and would be a question mark if the Eagles reached the Super Bowl.  The Eagles did reach the Super Bowl and Owens was ready.  THIS was going to be it, the Eagles were finally going to win the Super Bowl.  But once again fans were disappointed, as McNabb and the Birds came up short once again.  Reports that McNabb was sick during the 4th quarter of the game, and even threw up in the huddle surfaced after the game causing many fans to say that McNabb literally “choked”.  McNabb later denied any physical problems.

Heading into the 2005 season, many felt the Eagles would get right back to the Super Bowl.  An injury to McNabb and a benching of Terrell Owens led to the Birds missing the playoffs for the first time in 5 years.  Injuries also plagued McNabb’s ’06 & ’07 seasons, and he had to sit back and watch as the Philly fans rallied around backup veteran QB Jeff Garcia, who led the team the NFC East Title in ’06.

Heading into 2008, Donovan felt better then ever.  Statistically, he got off to a great start and broke the Eagles’ franchise record for total touchdown passes.  The highs would quickly turn to lows when the Eagles tied the lowly Cincinnati Bengals and Donovan said he didn’t know a NFL game could end in a tie.  The next week, McNabb was benched after a poor first half.  This dropped the Birds to 5-5-1 and many felt it would be best to insert Kevin Kolb as the starter and move in a new direction.  The following game, however, McNabb was named the starter and he led the Eagles (with a lot of help from the Raiders) to an unreal run, which saw the Eagles whip the Dallas Cowboys on the final game of the season to clinch a playoff spot, beat the Vikings & Giants, and make a 5th trip to the NFC Championship Game.  Their opponent was the Arizona Cardinals, a team the Eagles beat 2 months earlier, 48-20.  Unfortunately, the magical run ended and the Eagles lost their 4th NFC Championship Game in 8 seasons.

The 2009 season would end in great disappointment as well, as the Eagles lost to the hated Cowboys back-to-back weeks to end their season.  With it, brought the end to the Donovan McNabb Era in Philadelphia, as he was traded to the Redskins in the offseason.

Donovan will go down as the greatest QB in Eagles’ history and if he was able to win just 1 Super Bowl during his tenure with the franchise, there would already be a statue of him outside Lincoln Financial Field and he would join Dr. J, Bobby Clarke, and Richie Ashburn as one of the most beloved athletes in Philadelphia’s storied sports history.  Instead, most fans will remember the Eagles coming up short in all those big games and Donovan looking to blame anyone other then himself…


Tom Glatz, Bucks County, PA

I’ve lived in the Greater Philadelphia Region my entire life and have been watching/following sports since I was 5 years old!  I have grown to love all that is Philly sports – Phillies, Flyers, Sixers, Eagles, Big 5, Army-Navy, etc.  I love talking/chatting sports with those who like or hate the Philly teams.  I tell it like it is, whether in favor of our Phillies or in favor of those DAMN YANKEES!  😀

Donvan McNabb picture courtesy of

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