Imagine if Donovan McNabb had been chosen first overall by the Cleveland Browns in the 1999 NFL Draft instead Tim Couch. Say what you want about Five, but in hindsight that’s definitely what should have happened. Well, where would that have left the Eagles?
Probably not where you would expect. Team owner Jeffrey Lurie shared an interesting story about that fateful draft at McNabb’s formal retirement press conference on Monday. Had the Browns taken the right guy, the Dirty Thirty would have wound up booing Edgerrin James instead.
Lurie told the assembled that if McNabb had not been available at No. 2, the long-time Colts running back would have been the pick over any of the other quarterbacks – notably Couch or Akili Smith – as well as fan favorite Heisman Trophy-winning back Ricky Williams.
"We were interviewing all together and very intensely every one of these quarterbacks and the top players at the top of the round obviously with the second pick," said Lurie. "This was meant to be a very, very important pick.
"We didn't have a lot of confidence in most of the quarterbacks in that draft. The only quarterback that we all - and Andy leading the way - felt very confident in was Donovan, and it wasn't just his athletic ability. It was his years at Syracuse, his being able to learn a complicated offense, the way he was as a person, stable family background compared to some other quarterbacks both in that draft and elsewhere. So it all came together that he was really the only quarterback that was really far above all the others for us."
And if the Cleveland Browns had selected McNabb instead of Tim Couch?
"It was really, Donovan or 'Yikes, what are we going to do?' " said Lurie. "I guess the answer was Edgerrin. We thought this probably was a potential Hall of Fame running back."
James wound up going one pick before Williams at No. 4, going on to carve out a nice 11-year career primarily in Indianapolis and with the Arizona Cardinals. The four-time Pro Bowler is 11th all-time on the NFL career rushing list with 12,246 yards on the ground, 18th with 80 touchdowns.
But it goes without saying James wouldn’t have had the impact in Philadelphia that Donovan had. Chances are nobody from that draft class would have.
That’s something to think about the next time you or somebody you know goes to bash McNabb’s career in Philly. True, he couldn’t bring home the Lombardi Trophy. Yes, he had his share of flaws. Also, where would the franchise have been for those 11 seasons if he wasn’t the starting quarterback?
Who knows, but chances are great it wouldn’t have been winning five NFC East titles, much less making five appearances in NFC Championship games.
If for some reason you can’t appreciate McNabb on his own merits, maybe you should consider how much worse things could have been without him. As long as he was here, the Eagles had a chance to win it all every year. Those were good times.
>> If not McNabb, James the pick [Rdg Eagle]