Never before in NFL history has a quarterback with such a pedigree been treated this way by coaches, or perceived this way by mainstream sports media.


Last week the 6-time all-pro, 5-time NFC Conference finalist, and future hall-of-famer (yes, see Jim Kelly[1]) was practically begging NFL teams to sign him. Last year the Chicago Bears passed on an available McNabb, and chose to place their playoff hopes in a man named Caleb Hanie (yes, the GM was fired). In 2010, Redskins Coach Mike Shanahan publically humiliated McNabb three times over that began with curse words like “Rex Grossman” and evolved into racially loaded stereotypes that would since stick better than Darrelle Revis.

How did we get here, and what’s white privilege got to do with it?

Why hasn’t McNabb’s distinguished career received half the line of credit given to scores of inept white quarterbacks? Why has every McNabb mistake been under the microscope , but not the brains of Mike Shanahan, Mike Martz, and other NFL coaches who believe their brilliant “systems” could turn Rex and Caleb into John Elway and Kurt Warner? Why do so few in mainstream sports media hold these coaches accountable for their arrogance and incompetence?



McNabb is not “done”. After his final Vikings game McNabb was replaced as starter in favor of their rookie quarterback. Although Christian Ponder struggled mightily (he went 1-7 with a 70.1 passer rating), the move could reasonably be defended as a future investment for non-playoff-bound team with a historically-bad defense– the real story of the 2011 Vikings.

To understand the difference between media perceptions and actual reality, McNabb’s final game must be watched in three steps:

Step #1 – Listen Only:

Close your eyes and you will hear announcer Chris Collinsworth dominate the telecast by dissecting each McNabb mis-thrown ball, and his alleged deficiencies instead of the Vikings abysmal defensive effort. Then in the 4th quarter, listen to his enthusiastic praise for rookie Ponder’s “tight spiral”, “mobility”, and everything else that could be a contrast with McNabb.  

Step #2 – Now Watch Only:

Without sound, you will see McNabb complete 19 of 24 passes despite two dropped 3rd down passes. Then you will see far more wild misses by Ponder (9-17) to wide-open receivers against a 4th quarter prevent defense.

Step #3 – Now Ask Yourself:

When was the last time a quarterback was widely pronounced as “done” after he threw 88% of his passes on target in his very last game?

This is not just about Collinsworth’s eyesight. His uneven media scrutiny of three poor passes over 21 well-thrown ones has been the common media rule on McNabb.  This is about subjective “perception” vs. reality based on facts. This applies to his last game, the last two years, and for many, even his entire career.

He has also been called “Most Unappreciated Player in Philadelphia” and “Most Underrated in This Era”.

Some McNabb misconceptions are rooted in his conservative style. For example, he often underthrows the ball when missing receivers, and bouncing balls appear 10 times worse than sailing overthrows. Such passes may skew perceptions, but prevent interceptions (only two in 2011). This is one reason why McNabb has the second best touchdown-to interception ratio in NFL history (behind Tom Brady).  As such, McNabb is a classic ball control quarterback perfectly suited for managing games for strong defensive teams who just want to win games.

But such misconceptions do not come close to explaining the biased coverage or deafening silence that has been the general response to the outrageous fact of McNabb’s current unemployment.


  • Why did the Redskins and Vikings combine for an 8-21 record after McNabb left if he was the problem?


  • If McNabb’s 82.9 passer rating in 2011 surpassed Joe Flacco, Matt Hasselbeck, Carson Palmer, and 15 other starting QBs, why are so many of other guys still starting?


  • Why wasn’t Kerry Collins pronounced “done” as a starter after atrocious stretches after 1999… or 2003… or 2006… or 2009 before receiving one last shot in 2011 at age 39?


  • How exactly did a 40-year old, bankrupt Mark Brunell receive a two-year contract in 2010 anyway?


  • If Eagles coach Andy Reid can adapt his offense for different skill sets of McNabb and Michael Vick, and if Denver coach John Fox can overhaul his entire system in one week for a 46.5% passer named Tim Tebow, why can’t a Shanahan or Martz just tweak his a little bit for a 6-time all-pro?”


  • If a coach chooses “their system” and chooses clearly inferior players over maximizing superior talent, shouldn’t everyone blame the coach for those absurd decisions?


  • Why doesn’t McNabb’s incredible 92-59 record with Philadelphia earn him coach and media deference and respect?



  • If we are continually told that Terrell Owens is currently unemployed because “he has no one to blame but himself”, then shouldn’t we spend time finding out who or what is to blame for McNabb?


  • If one of the most accomplished African-American quarterbacks is humiliated in an unprecedented way that we have never seen before in NFL history, doesn’t that automatically demand an examination where and how race and white privilege has played a role?


POPSspot thinks so, be on the lookout for “White Quarterback Privilege 2: Why Rex and Caleb Are More Employable Than Donovan McNabb”



Related:  White Quarterback Privilege: Tim Tebow, Alex Smith and the Freedom to Fail.

[1] McNabb’s statistics compare best with Hall-of-Famer Jim Kelly except that McNabb did not have the benefit of a Thurman Thomas and Andre Reed throughout his career. The lone year that McNabb was given an All-Pro wide receiver (Terrell Owens), he had a 104 passer rating, completed 64% of his passes, was an MVP candidate, and went to the Super Bowl.



3 Responses to “Will Throw for Food”: The Humiliation of Donovan McNabb

  1. CDF says:

    I remember a piece by Desi Cortez over on that touched on this with Shanny as the focal point. A lot of these cats are right-wingers who hobnob with GOP(Tea), so that could explain some of this. The rest is simply a byproduct of the outdated conditions of this country (from infrastructure to education). The obvious place (sans history) is the Bears, who have made little sense in terms of personnel over the years (Hanie?!). Otherwise, McNabb would be a starter somewhere or, at the very minimum, a player/coach for a contender.

  2. Josh says:

    McNabb will always be looked at as overrated. The numbers werent there and although he was in the playoffs a lot, when he did get to the Super Bowl he choked.

    I thought about Mr. McNabb during his days of playing. What came to my mind? 5 NFC Championship appearances, but again, how many did he win? What was he known for again after that 2004 championship game? Blowing the super bowl and getting a tummy ache.

    As for his % he was along the likes of J.P. Losman (30) 59.2% 2004-2011 3TM
    Ryan Fitzpatrick (29) 59.2% 2005-2011 3TM
    51. Elvis Grbac 59.1% 1994-2001 3TM
    52. Donovan McNabb (35) 59.0% 1999-2011 3TM

    He was good but he was never great.

  3. MODI says:

    Josh, thank you for your comment… It is easy to select final playoff game in a season and say that someone choked, but no playoff game is any more “do or die” than the previous one. McNabb played in 5 NFC finals because he won previous elimination game including a historic “4th & 26”. If 5 Conf finals were so easy, many others would have done it. His career matches Jim Kelly — except he had no Andre Reed.

    You have cherry-picked his 59% comp rate in its isolation, and compared him to bums who fall way short in wins and many other QB stats despite superior receivers. And remember, the only year he was given a great receiver (T.O.) his comp rate was 64% — a fairer measure to other passers who spent entire career with great receivers. If McNabb had T.O. for many years like Montana had Rice or Peyton had Harrison, he would likely between 1 and 3 rings.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *