Donovan McNabb and Patrick Ewing; More Similar Than You Think

I woke up this morning to the news that the Philadelphia Eagles had traded Donovan McNabb to the Washington Redskins for the No. 37 pick in this year's draft and a conditional pick in next year's draft that could end up as either a 3rd or 4th rounder.  The move was inevitable with the Eagles not interested in giving McNabb an extension as he prepared to enter the final year of his contract. 

At age 33, it's hard to fault Philadelphia for making the move while they could still get value for him rather than risk McNabb walking away for nothing next summer.  They believe they have a young quarterback ready to take over under center in Kevin Kolb and with playmakers at wide receiver, tight end and running back next year, it's as good a time to put a young quarterback out there as ever for the Eagles.

Many Eagles fans and critics view McNabb's career as a series of moments where he came up short on the big stage, losing in the NFC Championship Game on four occasions and a Super Bowl loss to top it off.  As a diehard Knicks fan, that grew up watching Patrick Ewing attached with the same label in the 90's I think these people lack perspective.

You're probably wondering how Patrick Ewing is similar to Donovan McNabb.  Let's take a look.

The Knicks drafted Patrick Ewing with the No. 1 pick in the 1985 NBA Draft.  By the early 90's, the Knicks were one of the league's elite teams that had the misfortune of peaking at the same time that Michael Jordan and the Bulls also peaked.  Upon Jordan's retirement at the end of the 1993 NBA season, the Knicks became the favorite to emerge out of the Eastern Conference and emerge they did earning a birth in the 1994 NBA Finals against Hakeem Olajuwon and the Houston Rockets.

Thanks to a combination of Hakeem Olajuwon being a better center than Ewing and Pat Riley allowing John Starks to shoot 2-18 from the field, 0-11 from three and 0-10 in the fourth quarter, Ewing came up short in his championship quest.  Did Olajuwon outplay Ewing? Yes.  This is because he was a superior player not because Ewing wasn't clutch.

The next season the Knicks were thwarted in their attempt to win a ring by Reggie Miller and the Pacers as Ewing's game-tying layup attempt rimmed out as time expired in Game 7.  This is remembered as proof as why Ewing sucked as a clutch player and why the Knicks never won a ring. 

This myth persisted over the years and even gained more credibility when the Knicks made a Finals run in 1999 after Ewing was forced to sit due to injury after suffering an Achilles tendon injury.  Despite the injury, he played through it and helped the Knicks defeat the No.1 seed Miami Heat in the first round and the Atlanta Hawks in the second round before sitting out the conference finals against the Pacers.  The Knicks eventually lost to the Spurs 4-1 in the Finals.

There are two reasons why the Knicks never won a ring and neither of them involves Patrick Ewing.  The first is that Jordan was alive and decided to play basketball for the majority of his athletic career.  The other is that the Knicks' roster during Ewing's time, while being an all-time great defensive team, was simply not good enough offensively. 

Jordan had Pippen, Bird had McHale and Parrish, Magic had Kareem and Worthy. Ewing had......Starks?  Look at any championship team and there's generally at least two Hall of Fame caliber players on the roster.  During Ewing's time in New York, a span of 15 years, only four players ever made the All-Star team.  Mark Jackson in 1989, John Starks and Charles Oakley in 1994 and Allan Houston in 2000. 

Out of all the great players to never win a ring, there may not be a player that carried his team as far and as often as Ewing had too.   Any idea that Ewing was not great or clutch is plain stupid and perpetuated by people who are talking out of their ass without having examined the situation.  Without Ewing the Knicks would have been among the league's dregs in the mid-90's, not a perennial contender late in the playoffs.

Back to McNabb. 

He was drafted by the Eagles in 1999 with the No. 2 overall pick which was booed by Eagles fans at the time, who in their infinite wisdom wanted Philadelphia to pick running back and reefer addict Ricky Williams. By his third year McNabb was carrying an offense with the most pathetic group of wide receivers and tight ends ever to the 2001 NFC Championship game, which they lost to a heavily favored Rams team. 

The next season McNabb also lead the Eagles to the NFC Championship game in which they lost at home to the eventual Super Bowl champion Buccaneers.  What is forgotten is that McNabb was injured in a week 11 of that season breaking his fibula in three separate in three places and was still recovering from the injury when he made his come back in a playoff game against Atlanta

The next year the Eagles again lost at home in the conference championship game, this time to the Carolina Panthers.  McNabb played particularly poorly in this game, but was also working with a historically bad group of wide receivers.  The Eagles receivers didn't catch a touchdown through October of that year and tied the all-time record of fewest touchdowns caught by a wide receiving corps in a season with 5. 

In the playoffs when you're facing the league's elite teams and defenses, a glaring flaw like that will be exposed and the Eagles were done in by the Buccaneers and one of the league's greatest defenses. 

The next year with the acquisition of Terrell Owens, a guy that's actually good, McNabb led the Eagles to the Super Bowl where they lost to the Patriots.  After finally being given a legitimate wide receiver threat McNabb had his best season ever throwing for 31 TD's and only 8 INT's the first time in league history a player had thrown for 30 touchdowns or more and less than 10 interceptions.  

The next few seasons McNabb dealt with Terrell Owens throwing him under the bus, injuries and a growing number of fans and critics questioning his ability to deliver.  The Eagles missed the playoffs in 2006 and 2007 before Jeff Garcia took over for an injured McNabb and led them to the divisional round in 2008, losing to the Saints 27-24.

McNabb came back the next year and was extremely productive leading the Eagles to the playoffs in 2009.  Surprise, surprise McNabb's resurgence that season came after the Eagles drafted tight end Brent Celek in 2007 and wide receiver DeSean Jackson in 2008.  It's amazing how a quarterback looks really good when you put quality players around him at the skill positions. 

The Eagles advanced to the NFC Championship Game and lost to the Cadinals in Arizona 32-25.  McNabb was criticized for the loss though he threw for 375 yards, three touchdowns and completed 28 of 47 passes. What a choke artist.  It's all his fault!

McNabb will be calling Washington home next year.  Much like Ewing, McNabb has been surrounded by a team that has been excellent defensively throughout the years, but has failed to surround him with offensive talent for much of it.  Also like Ewing nobody would ever make the mistake of viewing McNabb as great a quarterback as the best of his generation like Peyton Manning or Tom Brady. This doesn't mean he wasn't great in his own right.

Throughout both of their careers McNabb and Ewing carried much of the load for their teams and led them deep into the playoffs though ultimately failed to win a championship.  They were criticized and berated by local and national media as well as fans for failing to deliver a title and both handled it with class never blaming anyone else but themselves for their team's shortcomings.

Ewing was finally appreciated by many in New York as the franchise descended into irrelevance in the 2000's with the Ewing trade often seen as the beginning of the decline.  The Eagles are unlikely to ever sink as low as the Knicks have, but hopefully McNabb's abilities and achievements will finally be recognized while Kevin Kolb adjusts to the pressures of being the starting quarterback for the Eagles next year.

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