Donovan McNabb was supposed to be gone by now, traded to the Vikings, Bears or Ravens as the Eagles went younger and turned to 2007 second-round pick Kevin Kolb. Instead of yielding to a youth movement, McNabb is leading those youth for a rejuvenated Philadelphia team ranked No. 2 in the NFL in ESPN’s power rankings.
Donovan McNabb was supposed to be gone by now, traded to the Vikings, Bears or Ravens as the Eagles went younger and turned to 2007 second-round pick Kevin Kolb.
Instead of yielding to a youth movement, McNabb is leading those youth for a rejuvenated Philadelphia team ranked No. 2 in the NFL in ESPN’s power rankings.
“We’re younger. We’re healthier. And we’re experienced in a lot of key spots, which makes it easier for those young guys,” McNabb said in a teleconference. “Those young guys, they can just run through a wall right now because they have no responsibilities.”
McNabb is looking spry himself. The five-time Pro Bowler is off to one of the fastest starts of his career, with 838 yards, five touchdowns and a 102.8 passer rating heading into Sunday night’s game at Chicago (1-2).
“He’s healthy. That’s the important thing,” coach Andy Reid said. “He didn’t spend the offseason rehabbing. He came to camp ready to go. He didn’t have to answer a lot of questions on how he feels and all that stuff this time. Mentally and physically, he’s in a great place.”
McNabb has missed 11 games to injury the last three years and hasn’t reached 20 touchdown passes since 2004. But it’s often been even tougher on him mentally in a city that loves the fictional Rocky Balboa more than its best quarterback.
McNabb was booed on draft day. Ripped by former Eagles receiver Terrell Owens. Piled on by Rush Limbaugh. Accused of playing soft in the Super Bowl. And excoriated when his mom said Philly fans might “crucify” her son if the Eagles won the Super Bowl when backup Jeff Garcia led the team to the playoffs with an injured McNabb sidelined in 2006.
That all seems forgotten now that McNabb has the Eagles (2-1) averaging 30.7 points a game.
“To me, he’s the old Donovan McNabb,” Bears coach Lovie Smith said. “A guy that’s mobile and good-sized. You have to really wrap him up to bring him down. He has as strong an arm as anybody around. He’s the reason they are moving the ball down the field the way they are on everybody and putting up a lot of points.”
“This is as good as I’ve seen Donovan in the last couple of years,” Bears defensive end Adewale Ogunleye said. “He is really, really on top of his game. Honest to God, we have already played Peyton (Manning), but he is probably the best quarterback we’re going to see for the rest of the year.
“He’s looking like he’s in MVP form. He is not running to scramble anymore. He’s running just to get the ball out, and he’s getting it out quick.”
Indeed, McNabb may be rejuvenated by a new corps of young teammates, including rookie receiver DeSean Jackson (256 yards) and third-year receiver Hank Baskett (a 90-yard TD catch in the opener), but he’s no longer the young McNabb who once ran for 629 yards in a season.
He’s averaged barely one-fourth of that the last four seasons.
McNabb no longer runs for big gains. Nor does the former two-sport star from Chicago Mt. Carmel dunk the football over the crossbar after touchdowns. Those days are long gone. Yet, now that he’s gotten past last year’s rampant trade rumors, his best days might still lie ahead.
“I think I can (still dunk), but I won’t try,” McNabb said. “I’m to the point where Michael Jordan went to the Wizards. If he got a dunk, that was a beautiful thing, but I don’t think I will get up there to try.”
He doesn’t have to. Not as long as he keeps doing more than ever with his arm.
Matt Trowbridge can be reached at (815) 987-1383 or email@example.com.