Orange Watch: Former Syracuse great Donovan McNabb should stay humble

Syracuse legend Donovan McNabb has his No. 5 jersey honored. Mandatory Photo Credit Kicia Sears, The Juice Online.

Item: Eyes were opened last week following McNabb’s comments to TMZ Sports in which he stated that he’s “absolutely” a Pro Football Hall of Fame player, specifically citing his numbers versus Canton enshrine Troy Aikman in making his case. The problem is, the all-time former Syracuse star (1995-98) doesn’t need to enter any particular 24 hour news cycle with attention-grabbing comments to TMZ or any other outlet with too much inventory to fill. His post-career negative headlines, dating back to 2013, means the best way to impress Hall of Fame voters, not to mention his alma mater, professional colleagues, and fans, is with community service-oriented ventures and focus on his private endeavors. There’s simply no need to toot his own horn.

We’ll never forgive legendary Philadelphia sports radio host Angelo Cataldi, who we worked with amicably for about a year during 2002-03, and one-time Philly mayor and Pennsylvania governor Ed Rendell, for the way they treated McNabb prior to the May 1999 NFL Draft at The Theatre at Madison Square Garden.

The many pre-draft weeks of Cataldi pounding the WIP airwaves with anti-McNabb rhetoric, the pleading to Andy Reid to select Ricky Williams, culminating with a station-sponsored busload of negativism that drove up the Jersey Turnpike the morning of the draft, waiting to spew its verbal venom towards Commissioner Paul Tagliabue’s announcement that with the second pick, Philadelphia had indeed chosen McNabb.

The shaken look of McNabb’s family on stage was prominent from our vantage point feet away as “Boos” cascaded down. We’ve always thought about those moments, which seemed to unfurl in slow motion at the time, over the next 11 seasons as McNabb became the greatest quarterback in Eagles franchise history leading the team to five NFC Championship games and one Super Bowl defeat.

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Long before last week’s gabfest with TMZ Sports, we’ve believed McNabb is one of a quintet of former Syracuse football players that should be future members of the Pro Football Hall of Fame, along with Walt Sweeney, Gary Anderson, Dwight Freeney, and Tom Coughlin, just as we campaigned for Art Monk (2008) and Floyd Little (2010) in the closest couple of years prior to their long overdue elections.

(Side Note: If those five Orangemen somehow do end up with induction in Canton, it would give Syracuse an incredible 12 members, currently a number that belongs to only Notre Dame and Southern California.)

We based McNabb’s ‘Hall’ worthiness on the run he had from 2000-2004, when he led the NFL in quarterback victories during that stretch, and overall he was behind only Hall of Famers Peyton Manning, Tom Brady, and Brett Favre in victories during his overall 13 year career.

Aside from a championship, McNabb’s been a winner on the field from high school to SU to the pros, finishing with 37,276 career yards passing and 234 TD passes – higher than Aikman, so there was no need in a no-win situation to compare his numbers (or himself in general) to Aikman’s, who won three Super Bowls and has been FOX TV’s top NFL analyst for 18 years.

McNabb lost his high profile media job at ESPN in January 2018 after the network conducted an investigation into allegations of sexual harassment during his tenure as an analyst at the NFL Network from 2012-15, and while the voters are asked to specifically look at on-field performances, off-field transgressions (including two DWI arrests near his Arizona home) can’t help but be noticed.

The recent enshrinement of two of McNabb’s Eagles teammates from the glory early 2000s run, Brian Dawkins and favorite target Terrell Owens during the Super Bowl season, may portend good news for the offensive leader of that team. For now, McNabb simply needs to remain patient (Manning becomes eligible for induction in 2021) and low-key.

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About Brad Bierman 848 Articles
Now in his sixth decade of covering SU sports, Brad was sports director of WSYR radio for eight years into the early 1990s, then wrote the Orange Watch column for The Big Orange/The Juice print publication for 18 years. A Syracuse University graduate, Brad currently runs his own media consulting business in the Philadelphia suburbs. Follow him on Twitter @BradBierman.