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Doubting Donovan


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Doubts about Donovan

Eagles' McNabb facing the downside of his career

Posted: Tuesday November 21, 2006 2:24PM;

Updated: Tuesday November 21, 2006 4:57PM

Donovan McNabb tore his ACL in the second quarter of the Eagles' loss to the Titans. He could be out for up to a year.

As yet another mid-November injury sidelines him -- for the third time in five seasons -- it's getting ever more difficult to beat back the creeping notion that we might have already seen the best days of Donovan McNabb.

To some, that may sound either overly dramatic or patently unfair, given that McNabb won't turn 30 until Saturday. But that doesn't mean it's not valid to consider whether McNabb might have already peaked and is now headed downhill.

In the coming weeks, McNabb faces surgery to repair his torn ACL in his right knee, and then the commencement of an 8-10 month rehabilitation. As his 1999 draft classmate Daunte Culpepper has proved in the past year, bouncing back from knee surgery is not automatic for a quarterback, especially for one like McNabb, whose legs are a major part of his game.

When you throw in the broken ankle that cost McNabb the final six games of the 2002 regular season, and the sports hernia which shortened his 2005 season to nine games, the wear-and-tear factor on No. 5's body is building up to a not insignificant level. (And we haven't even mentioned the mental toll that the Terrell Owens fiasco took on McNabb in '05, which was truly his lost year).

Will McNabb play again? Of course he will, and chances are he'll play pretty well. But it's not a stretch to say that 2007 might wind up being all about his recovery from knee surgery, and that means it could be 2008 -- his 10th year in the league -- before we know whether we'll ever see the old McNabb again.

It might surprise you, but McNabb's record as a starter since his February 2005 Super Bowl appearance is just 9-11, with just six wins in his past 15 games. He started superbly this season, leading the Eagles to a 4-1 record and sparking early MVP talk with 11 touchdowns and just one interception. But in his past five games, his completion rate dropped below 53 percent three times, and he threw only seven touchdowns compared to five interceptions as Philly lost four times to tumble to .500.

Given McNabb's injury history, the Eagles likely have to at least investigate drafting a quarterback next spring, and that might end up opening a can of worms that could lead to a legitimate challenge to McNabb's vise-like grasp on the No. 1 job in Philadelphia. Who's to say if the Eagles will stand still at the position and wait for McNabb to return to form?

And while we're at it, maybe we should start to reassess the top of that celebrated class of quarterbacks in the 1999 draft, of which McNabb and Culpepper were the stars. Tim Couch, Akili Smith and Cade McNown -- the other three passers taken in the draft's first 12 picks -- have long since been assigned to bust status. But McNabb and Culpepper were the exceptions, and the shining success stories. They were thought of as personifying a new breed of NFL quarterback: Big, athletically gifted, and able to beat you with both their arms and their legs.

But now neither one of them can stay healthy enough to return to Pro Bowl form, and they both will have issues recapturing their mobility after serious knee injuries. At one point it looked liked they'd win a couple of Super Bowls each. But now, all bets are off. McNabb is 0-1 in the big game, and Culpepper lost the only conference title game he played in, in 2000, his first year as a starter.

At some point next season, McNabb will be back on the field and leading the Eagles once again. But his days of superiority might be over. Looking back on it, some day soon we might all have to acknowledge that his 2004 season was as good as it got.

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The continuing injuries to Donovan are going to start taking an emotional toll. This is especially true of this one, lots of work and time to come back from this one. Oh he'll come back and do fine but it must be draining.

Who Del, it is hard to take anything you say seriously with that sig :laugh: .

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