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Donovan must put up or shut up
Donovan McNabb is out of excuses.
The lockout and perverted offseason won’t protect the former Pro Bowl quarterback from his critics. He won’t get to hide behind his age, 34, a new offense, a new system or new teammates.
McNabb must deliver for the Minnesota Vikings at a high level this season or suffer the consequences. No player in the NFL faces more pressure.
Traded from Washington to Minnesota for a couple of sixth-round draft picks, McNabb has one season to remove the stench from his year in the nation’s capital. Last season, McNabb couldn’t get along with the Shanahans, Mike and son Kyle.
The elder Shanahan used his media mouthpieces to paint McNabb as mentally and physically unprepared and fundamentally unskilled.
The initial reaction of McNabb’s supporters, including yours truly, was to reject the criticism of the quarterback. No way. How do you explain the decade of success in Philadelphia? The Shanahans portrayed McNabb as lazy and arrogant. They benched him in favor of Rex Grossman.
There couldn’t be any truth to the malicious potshots Mike Shanahan was taking publicly and privately.
Or could there be?
The lockout was a blessing for McNabb. The more than four months of inactivity stopped us from examining the curious case of Donovan McNabb.
His odyssey from potential Hall of Fame savior to Rex Grossman backup would’ve been one of the offseason’s best story lines. He likely would’ve spent the entire offseason in limbo as Mike Shanahan decided where to send McNabb.
ESPN would’ve hounded McNabb for a "Sunday Conversation." Reporters would’ve asked him how it felt to be disgraced and relegated to journeyman status. Terrell Owens would’ve unloaded several catty and controversial tweets.
Instead, just a few hours after the lockout ended, McNabb is informed he’ll need to restructure his contract and report to Minnesota, where he’ll learn to hand the ball to Adrian Peterson and play indoors.
That’s not a bad deal. That’s why no one will have patience for any excuses.
McNabb had better report to Minnesota in the best shape of his career. He has a reputation to save — his own.
His handling of the Shanahan affair soured me. Rather than take on the Shanahans, McNabb hid behind his agent, Fletcher Smith. In a city predisposed to protect a black quarterback, McNabb uttered soft mumbo jumbo while the Shanahans savaged his reputation. McNabb left his agent to take on the Redskins. McNabb kept insisting he hoped to play in Washington this season.
Weak. McNabb’s tepid response somewhat proved the point that Owens had been making about McNabb since their year together in Philly.
Donovan McNabb lacks the balls for the big moments. He’s not a true leader.
As a hardcore McNabb fan, I never would’ve believed that until last season. I looked at McNabb’s horrendous supporting cast — a bad offensive line, terrible receivers and a washed-up Clinton Portis — and attributed his problems to it. I stand by that assessment.
But I’m now also willing to acknowledge McNabb did little to help the situation.
Because of the Albert Haynesworth situation, the Redskins were a team in desperate need of leadership. The only way for Washington to consistently win games was with intangibles. The Redskins needed to be one of the smartest and most efficient teams in football.
McNabb needed to take the 3- and 4-yard scramble, duck out of bounds or slide to the ground and line up second-and-6 or third-and-4. To my eyes, that rarely happened. Always a streaky passer, McNabb appeared wildly inaccurate last season and comfortable throwing into heavy traffic.
Who knows what mentality he’ll bring to Minnesota?
There were reports he had trouble accepting the one-year deal the Vikings offered, which would be an indication McNabb does not comprehend his plight.
He’s no longer a franchise quarterback. He’s no longer in the tier of quarterbacks just below Peyton Manning and Tom Brady.
McNabb is a veteran quarterback with much to prove. What he does in Minnesota will go a long way in proving what we should believe about his year in Washington, and it will also say something about his glory days in Philly.
I’m still rooting for McNabb. I’m just wondering whether he’s some sort of football knockoff of LeBron James, a remarkable talent who lacks the killer instinct.
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