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It's about time: McNabb fights back against Philly fanatics

by | CBSSports.com National Columnist
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Finally, after so many years of biting his tongue, of playing the polite politician, of being afraid to offend anyone, of fearing telling some Philly fan where to stuff his cheesesteak, Donovan McNabb has finally and forcefully defended himself.

Thank you, Donovan. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

It's about time.

In Philadelphia, McNabb has always been like an undervalued stock or that significant other you criticized while dating because they talked too much only to later realize that person was the best thing to ever happen to you.

Donovan McNabb's first chance to hear Philly fans again will be when the Redskins visit on Oct. 3. (Getty Images)  
Donovan McNabb's first chance to hear Philly fans again will be when the Redskins visit on Oct. 3. (Getty Images)  
And peck away is what many critics did to McNabb for over 10 years. He wasn't accurate enough. He didn't win enough. He wasn't gritty enough. He didn't curse enough. He wasn't one of us, a true Philly guy, bro'.

And McNabb rarely fought back. Quietly, to friends and others in the league, he complained about the ridiculous expectations and lack of public support from the Eagles and much (though certainly not all) of the fan base. Yet he always kept those thoughts close, fearing the repercussions of telling people Ron Jaworkski isn't walking through that door.

In a GQ magazine article, he finally does, and this is the best quote from essentially what is a conscience-clearing exit interview. McNabb discussed Andy Reid benching him after the first half of a 2008 game against Baltimore.

"I had a meeting set up with Andy and [owner] Jeffrey Lurie after the season. We sat down and talked, and I got everything off my chest from '99 on," McNabb explained. "It went all the way back to the T.O. situation, it went back to us not winning big games, me being criticized for whatever, leadership, whatever it may be, and how no one in the organization ever stepped up and said anything. They'll say something to you in the building, but not publicly. My feeling was, 'I'm out here getting cut up, where are you? I'm always defending and helping you guys, but where's that support?' I thought it was beneficial, because you can sit there and tell somebody you truly love them, you're a big fan, your family loves you, but what about when we're over here in the hot seat, where are you now?"

Writers in Philadelphia say McNabb played the blame game in that interview. What McNabb really did was play the truth game and Eagles fans -- when it comes to McNabb -- have never been able to handle the truth.

McNabb haters have always marinated in stupidity and turned a blind eye to some remarkable, Hall of Fame-caliber accomplishments. McNabb won four straight division titles, took the Eagles to five conference title games and a Super Bowl. In the Super Bowl he lost to a New England team in the stages of one of the great sports dynasties of all time.

He left Philadelphia as the team's leader in wins, pass completions, pass attempts, passing yards and passing touchdowns.

McNabb accomplished all of that while having only one high-quality receiver during the bulk of his Philadelphia tenure in Terrell Owens, who ended up stabbing McNabb in the back. (Though McNabb wasn't the lone quarterback to get knifed in the posterior by Owens.)

McNabb didn't win a Super Bowl, but neither have quarterback legends like Dan Fouts, Dan Marino, Warren Moon, Jim Kelly (though he played in four) and Fran Tarkenton (though he played in three). If we expanded that list to non-quarterbacks, the names of greats who never won a title could stretch into low orbit. Do Dick Butkus, Earl Campbell and Barry Sanders ring a bell?

And the beloved Jaworski never won a Super Bowl, either.

The biggest issue with McNabb in Philadelphia is that Eagles fans want their players to breathe fire and curse like Rex Ryan. But that's not McNabb (or Andy Reid). Never has been, never will be. McNabb has been tagged by some as a pretty boy goofball when that portrait couldn't be more inaccurate.

McNabb was mocked by Owens and Eagles fans for supposedly throwing up during the Super Bowl. If McNabb was the screamer Eagles fans wanted, tossing those cookies would've been lauded as a byproduct of him being so tough. McNabb's such a badass he threw up and kept playing!

Because McNabb was a quieter personality, his vomit comet was seen as weakness.

The Eagles always privately supported McNabb, but the organization suffered from shrinkage when it came to public support. Sure, McNabb was paid handsomely but that's what happens with stars. They get big money. That doesn't mean a franchise should hide when criticism of its best player starts to travel at warp speed.

Did McNabb make mistakes? Sure he did. McNabb forgetting the overtime rules in the Cincinnati game was, as Emmitt Smith might say, totally debacled. In the GQ article he seemed to be blaming the mess on others when it was clearly his fault.

McNabb's biggest error, however, was never returning fire against the chumps who constantly attempted to devalue his career and skills.

But now he finally fought back, even if it's a little too late.

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