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NewsReal Sunday: Rush was Right, McNabb was Over-Rated (and Still Is)

October 18, 2009

Friday night, wrapping up the Rush Limbaugh/NFL brouhaha on Fox News’s Special Report with Bret Baier, the panel unanimously decided that Rush had been unfairly smeared as a racist, but that he was way off base in calling Donovan McNabb overrated.

That’s the consensus, but the consensus is wrong.  Donovan McNabb is consistently a merely above average quarterback with flashes of brilliance who has never justified the hype surrounding him.

Here is the  infamous quote (note that usually the first and last sentences are left off of this quote, which makes is sound slightly harsher out of context):

“I think what we’ve had here is a little social concern in the NFL. The media has been very desirous that a black quarterback do well. There is a little hope invested in McNabb, and he got a lot of credit for the performance of this team that he didn’t deserve. The defense carried this team.”

Mara Eliason, who is clearly not a football fan, said she had done some reading and found out that the quarterback Rush had criticized was actually good.  Charles Krauthammer merely said that this showed Rush wasn’t much of a football analyst.  Only Juan Williams has stepped forward on the channel to say that his football point was valid.

Most conservative commentary has focused on the fraud of the fake comments attributed to Limbaugh, which were endlessly repeated on mainstream media outlets, repeated by sports writers, and fed to some outspoken NFL players—but conceded that Rush was wrong or even “dumb” about McNabb (including our own Michael Rulle).

The consensus is wrong on two counts.

  • Rush never said McNabb was a bad quarterback, his point was that McNabb was an average quarterback being hyped as an elite quarterback.
  • Rush was right. In 2002, Donovan McNabb had been a poor playoff quarterback with flashes of brilliance, but displayed questionable decision making, and whose numbers were above average at best.

Coming into the 2003 season, McNabb had only appeared in a positive top 10 stat twice, for passer rating—a disputable stat no one can explain—and was 7th in touchdowns in both 2000, and 2001.  But this mobile quarterback was also appearing in the top 10 for being sacked and lost yardage from sacks.  As of 2003, McNabb was 4-3 in the playoffs, having only beaten the teams that the Eagles were favored to beat—and having lost to some they were not.

At the time of Limbaugh’s comments, McNabb was not completing 60 percent of his passes for the year, or averaging over 7 yards per completion, the generally accepted standards for being a top-flight NFL quarterback—sort of like hitting .300 in Major League Baseball.

And expectations were certainly higher than that for Donovan McNabb.  He had been the number 2 overall draft pick in 1999.   Anything less than stardom at that level is considered a disappointment.

Rush was reacting to the fact that McNabb had superstar status, but not superstar stats.

Donovan McNabb was getting Peyton Manning press with Brad Johnson numbers.  He was a superstar in the same way that Barack Obama is a Nobel Laureate.

McNabb had been to 3 Pro-Bowls by 2003, while Payton Manning, who was averaging about 1000 yards per season more than McNabb did not go to one until 2003, despite being in the Top 3 in passing yards each of his first 5 years in the league and top 5 in touchdowns.  McNabb had never done either.

For the first half dozen years of his career, McNabb had a team defense that ranked with that of Pittsburgh, Baltimore, Tennessee and New England, and was probably the best in the NFC over that period.  Imagine Peyton Manning with that defense…

In the 2000 season, his first full year as a starter, McNabb finished second in the Associated Press NFL MVP voting.  Only Marshall Faulk’s mind boggling offensive output that year kept McNabb from getting the award. McNabb finished in the voting ahead of Peyton Manning who had 1200 more yards than McNabb, Daunte Culpepper with 11 more touchdowns (50% more than McNabb), and Brett Favre, who beat him in both stats, not to mention Edgerrin James’s nearly 1800 yard season and receiver Tori Holt who had one of the 10 best seasons for receiving yards in the history of the NFL with over 1600.

All Rush was doing was his job—attempting to explain why all the excessive love for Donovan McNabb.

With all the retired quarterbacks and coaches on the market, ESPN did not hire Rush because he was the best X and O guy in the nation.  This kind of commentary was the only thing any rational person could have had in mind when hiring Rush Limbaugh to do football commentary.

Also, in 2003, there had been plenty of commentary in the sports press moaning about the lack of black quarterbacks, hinting that NFL owners were reluctant to hire blacks to the game’s “thinking position.”  Rush did not introduce race to the topic, it was ubiquitous already.

So when the topic of Donovan McNabb’s early struggles in the 2003 season came up on the ESPN panel that included Rush, it was perfectly natural, perfectly reasonable and absolutely RIGHT for Rush to respond as he did.

I can only think of one other factor in the media over-hype for McNabb.  The NFC East, which includes the Eagles, the Washington Redskins, the New York Giants and the Dallas Cowboys, is a glamour division which takes in the media elites rather neatly.  Quarterbacks in the NFC East get more attention than in other places.

The league’s most successful black quarterbacks were laboring in the hinterlands– Daunte Culpepper was putting up monster numbers at Minnesota, while ultra-effective leadership guy Steve McNair was winning games Tennessee.

Friday night on Hardball, Chris Matthews lambasted conservatives for not being “excited” by the mere fact that America had elected a black President.  Are we to suppose that the sportswriters who were bemoaning that there were not “enough” black quarterbacks did not want to see one succeed?  That’s absurd.  Rush merely stated the obvious—the obvious no one else was willing to say.

So Rush was right in 2003, you might say, but the consensus is that time has proved Rush Limbaugh wrong.

Sorry.  Donovan McNabb was probably about the 10th best quarterback in the league back then, and he’s probably about the 10th best quarterback in the league now.  That’s good, and WAY better than anyone has been for my local team, the toothless Lions; but in a league of 30 teams, that’s just above average.

McNabb’s playoff record hasn’t improved, either.  In his sole Super Bowl appearance against the New England Patriots in 2005, McNabb racked up some stats, 357 yards and 3 touchdowns.  But he took 51 pass attempts to do it, which got him just to the 7 yard benchmark, but he threw 3 interceptions (plus one that was called back due to a penalty) and was sacked 4 times.  In a 24-21 loss, it’s pretty easy to argue that Philadelphia would have won had McNabb taken care of the football and made better decisions—and, McNabb had as his weapons, the best running back in the game, Brian Westbrook, and the best receiver, Terrell Owens.

Across the field from McNabb was a quarterback who was his exact opposite in expectations, hype and accomplishment.  Tom Brady was nearly the two hundredth player taken (199th) the year following McNabb.  He won his 3rd Super Bowl that day, had never lost a playoff game, and the year of their first Super Bowl run, his team was not favored in any playoff game.  Brady accomplished this with no star skilled players—though he made some like David Patten and Dion Branch look good enough that they signed big contracts with other teams and went on to disappoint them.

But while Brady was winning Super Bowls, Donovan McNabb was appearing in Pro Bowls.

It’s not that McNabb shouldn’t be in the conversation among the league’s top quarterbacks, but no one can seriously say he’s nearly as good as Drew Brees, Tom Brady, Peyton Manning or Ben Roethlisberger; and any GM that would trade Eli Manning, Matt Ryan, Carson Palmer, Aaron Rogers, or Joe Flacco for him would be crazy.  McNabb belongs in the conversation with the next tier of QBs like Jay Cutler, Matt Shaub, Philip Rivers, and perhaps even Kyle Orton.  Then you have the venerable old guys, Brett “Cry for Me” Favre, and Kurt “Model Citizen” Warner, who right now are playing better than McNabb, too.

And if Rush Limbaugh is too controversial and divisive for the NFL, why are they comfortable with the fact that their only network primetime football show (since Monday Night Football went to ESPN) features a prominent role for TV’s biggest hater, Keith Olbermann.  Why can hip hop star Jennifer Lopez, whose lyrics include the word “nigga” be part owner of a team?  And we won’t even get into Michael Vick’s welcome back…

It’s clear that the NFL cares whose ox is being gored.  They can protest that they are avoiding controversy.  The fact is, they are avoiding a particular controversy, and their approach was not exactly Barry Sanders-slick about it.

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20 Comments
  1. David Thomson permalink
    October 18, 2009 4:16 pm

    Donovan McNabb’s so-called defenders have done him no favors. This current flap merely reminds the fair-minded that he is no more than an above average quarterback. He is not close to eventually getting into the NFL Hall of Fame. Limbaugh only voiced what may have been the consensus view behind closed doors.

    Rush Limbaugh always comes out ahead when he is the center of controversy. His ratings go up—and he has more money to put into the bank. My guess is that Limbaugh’s audience will grow minimally another two to five percent. That is probably worth annually at least another couple of million dollars. Those who truly hate him should have completely ignored Limbaugh’s opportunity to become a partial owner of an NFL team.

    • October 18, 2009 6:56 pm

      The Leftist loons in the MGMSM ignore Rush? You got to be kidding, right? They could no more ignore Rush than they could resist kissing the behind of every Islamic terrorist, every leftist tyrant on the planet and/or slobbering over Obomber!

      The present inculcation the MGMSM shall go down in history as being dishonest, demoralizing, disillusioned, duplicitous, destructive, and despicable! (Would adding Demonic, be over the top;-)

      America Again in 2010!

  2. October 18, 2009 4:39 pm

    Amen! I am a super NFL fan and a women, and McNabb is a lite weight if your QB is going to win you the big game. They just lost to the Raiders! They looked really bad.

  3. David Forsmark permalink
    October 18, 2009 4:43 pm

    Yeah, didn’t know when I wrote this that Tom Brady was going to set an NFL record by throwing 5 TDs in one quarter (in the SNOW, at that) and that McNabb would not be able to beat arguably the league’s lamest team…

  4. October 18, 2009 4:57 pm

    Looking back on todays Eagles Raiders game where the Eagles lost 13 to 9 to the lowly 1 win and 4 losses Raiders. In a game where McNabb didn’t throw for One Touchdown. Could it be that McNabb was reading the new clips about Limbaugh this past week instead of the playbook? McNabb definitely gave credit today to what Rush had said about him. Average QB yes, but Superstar, hardly.

  5. David Forsmark permalink
    October 18, 2009 4:59 pm

    You can’t blame everything on the QB, but 2 for 16 on 3rd down is not usually indicative of stellar quarterbacking.

  6. October 18, 2009 6:40 pm

    Like a lot of ‘in the public eye’ corporations, the NFL is staffed by pathetic cowards who pander way too much to MGMSM PC and the present leftist inclinations of same. The MGMSM has way too much influence in these types of decisions.

    Unless one of these media giants owns a team then they should keep their opinions to themselves. Even then they should be mindful of their public influence and not weigh-in in favor of one side or the other, especially based on lies and rhetorical propaganda from the haters on the loon left!

    Another reason to boycott the MGMSM!

  7. jbtrevor permalink
    October 19, 2009 3:47 am

    Another point Juan Williams made that stunned me was that the NFL claims not to want Rush because of his “controversial” persona. Juan pointed out that another “news pundit” is/was a broadcaster and is more controversial than Rush: Keith Oberman.

    A bit hypocritical, eh?

  8. bobbygee permalink
    October 19, 2009 7:02 am

    Rush was taking a shot at the elite state run sports media. McNabb has never led a team to a come from behind win. Reids play cvalling had soemething to do with this. No westbrook. You have a a fourth and four. You don’t go for a thirty yard bomb. Dumb play calling. This is not only about the NFL. This is about destroying our country. Read Saul Alinsky- It is called clearing the playing field. The truth always comes out. Rush always sees to that. http://www.associatedcontent.com/article/2286457/in_defense_of_rush_limbaugh.html

  9. Dave Malaguti permalink
    October 19, 2009 9:07 am

    After the afternoon games yesterday I flipped to ESPN to catch the scores and highlights.I switched to ESPN because I refuse to watch Olberman’s show on NBC.You know lesser evil and all that.

    The usual guys were on discussing the Philli-Oakland game.Tom Jackson as usual came to McNabb’s defense.He claimed that the only quaterback in the NFL that had to be perfect in every game (because the rest of the team is so unreliable) is McNabb.So not only must McNabb be protected but the rest of his team must be thrown under the bus in the process.

    I mention this because Rush’s statements in 2003 were not considered inflammatory by the panel which was discussing the subject.It wasn’t until later,the next day I believe,that his statement was decried as racist by none other than Tom Jackson.

    • Brent Smith permalink
      October 19, 2009 10:01 am

      You’re absolutely right. I was watching that day, and after he said it I believe both Tom Jackson and Michael Irvin agreed with the statements at the time. I did as well because I’ve pretty much felt that way about Donovan McNabb forever. I did want to disagree with a little of what you said. I think Tom Jackson is right in his assessment that for the Eagles to be good McNabb has to be perfect. However what he didn’t say that he should have is that McNabb plays inconsistenly far too often which leads to the Eagles to inconsistency. Getting manhandled by the Raiders that badly is pathetic.

  10. stormy permalink
    October 19, 2009 9:57 am

    I live in Philadelphia, and have always known that Donovan McNabb is overrated. I knew Rush would get chewed to pieces when he made the comment, even though he was right. Actually, nearly all Eagles’ QBs (post Ron Jaworski, anyway) are overrated. There are a lot of issues with the team, as evidenced by the signing of Michael Vick. It’s all part of the Eagles’ Mystique.

  11. Jack Hampton permalink
    October 19, 2009 1:06 pm

    Damn! that was superb and broken down where even an NFL Comish can understand it.

  12. G. Samsa permalink
    October 19, 2009 1:08 pm

    Correct spellings: Peyton, Favre, Edgerrin, Roethlisberger, Philip Rivers

  13. Judy permalink
    October 19, 2009 5:56 pm

    The real moral of the story is that Rush knows football inside and out and is probably it’s biggest fan. It’s too bad that political over-correctiveness and the spread of rumors, lies and inuendo prevented Rush from being a part owner. But, you know that those incredible and morally upstanding members on the NFL billionaire boys club have to maintain their immaculate image (Vicks, Soros the Nazi collaborator as examples, along with those with gun,DUI,manslaughter, possession charges).

  14. David Gillaspie permalink
    October 19, 2009 7:17 pm

    Just because the NFL passed on Rush doesn’t mean Rush needs to pass on all sports.

    http://deegeesbb.wordpress.com/2009/10/16/rush-to-care/

  15. Dan Mac permalink
    October 19, 2009 10:24 pm

    I am a life long Eagles fan….born and raised in Philly. I have said for several years now that Donovan McNabb is at best a mediocre quaterback. His is known to choke when it’s on the line. Rush didn’t lie. Problem is Andy Reid refuses to bench him regardless of how bad he may be playing. And there are many games where another coach would have benched him.

  16. October 20, 2009 2:20 pm

    I”VE LISTENED TO RUSH FOR OVER A DECADE, RACIST HE”S NOT, CONTROVERSIAL DEFINITELY. ACCURATE, SECOND TO NONE. IT”S A TRAGEDY THAT POLITICAL CORRECTNESS RULES THE DAY. SILENCING HIM OR ANY VOICE OF OPPOSITION CAN ONLY DEMEAN THE SPORT OF FOOTBALL AND ALL SPORTS INCLUDED. ALL RUSH IS SAYING IS THAT THE “EMPORER HAS NO CLOTHES”

  17. DWhite permalink
    October 26, 2009 8:32 pm

    You’re idiots if you think this was not racially inspired. Let’s assume McNabb is overrated. Take ANY other “overrated” quarterback out there and it’s simply that he’s overrated. With McNabb its because he’s black. Oh and the media has been “desirous” of seeing a black quarterback succeed. As if he would have been the first. Or was the only one at the time. Racist, he is. Ignorant, he is as well. Willing to face controversy he also is to his credit. Only I don’t know whether that is in sincerity or just for publicity’s sake.

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