In late November it was impossible to think that Donovan McNabb would be starting a game in the second round of the playoffs. He'd thrown five interceptions in six quarters before being benched in a blowout loss to the Ravens and speculation was running rampant that he'd never start another game for the Eagles. He came back the next week, threw four touchdowns and led the Eagles to this Sunday's game with the Giants.
It's been that kind of career for McNabb. He was booed on draft day by Eagle fans who wanted Ricky Williams and then finished second in MVP voting in his first full season as a starter while winning a playoff game. He led the Eagles to four straight NFC championship games, but lost all but one of them and played poorly enough to get labeled a choker. When he did get them to a Super Bowl, the Eagles played well but folded late and McNabb was rewarded with a full-frontal assault from Terrell Owens. And all of that was before 2005.
Through it all, he's battled serious injuries and always returned to play well. He's battled unjustified criticism from Rush Limbaugh because of his skin color and made injudicious comments of his own about skin color. To make this long story shorter, there's a lot of baggage when it comes to Donovan McNabb.
All of that baggage obscures what's been quite a good NFL career. McNabb has played only one full season with a big-time receiver, Owens, and went to the Super Bowl that year. He's never had a powerful back to balance Brian Westbrook, and he's coached by a guy who abandons the running game for long periods. That puts a lot on McNabb's shoulders, and he's responded by going 8-5 as a starter in the postseason and consistently quarterbacking winning teams.
McNabb's had his bad moments, and he's suffered the slings and arrows that accompany them. Without a Super Bowl ring, his career may well be remembered as less than it actually was. In many ways, though, the missed opportunities were caused by those around him. A win Sunday would go a long way toward reminding people how much he's accomplished and how much credit they've stripped from him over the years.