Donovan’s Beef (Part One)

By Michael-Louis Ingram
Updated: September 28, 2007

“Sometime reality hurts.”

– Philadelphia Eagles’ quarterback on his view that Black quarterbacks are subject greater scrutiny in their overall performance.

Donovan McNabb PHILADELPHIA — By the time the New York Giants and Philadelphia Eagles finish scrapping late Sunday night, Eagles quarterback Donovan McNabb will deflect another army of microphones and recorders as he gives his account of what happened in the game.

Apparently, the words he spoke that were captured for consumption on HBO’s “Real Sports” seemed to produce something previously not seen on the usually jovial passer’s face — a sigh of relief.

For nine years since his arrival to a chorus of boos at the 1999 NFL Draft, McNabb has been everything the League could’ve hoped for — bright, strong, talented and exemplary in his on and off-field deportment; and it also helped that he can ball his ass off.

Among McNabb’s accomplishments are five division titles, one conference championship, a Super Bowl berth, five Pro Bowls, several other post-season awards, and injuries that have interrupted three of those nine seasons.

And his reward for those efforts culminated in 2007 with, “Kevin Kolb, quarterback, University of Houston,” at the NFL Draft.

Now, I’m not hatin’ — you come into the game knowing one day someone will come and take your spot — that’s reality.

But the constant exposure of the “Iggles” overall flaws, compounded by the unbridled lust of legions of Philly faithful longing for a championship, spurred this move to take a quarterback by the front office.

So on top of all this, McNabb, in true team spirit, now has to huddle with Kolb (and backup A.J. Feeley) and delineate on what is the best way for them to unseat him — if they can — with a smile.

And let’s not forget how Brett Favre was allowed to skate a couple seasons ago when he intimated he wasn’t going to help first-round draftee Aaron Rodgers take his job — nobody said shit.

Can you imagine the heat McNabb would have caught if he had said publicly he’s not going to help Kolb, especially in a media-saturated area like Philly and South Jersey?

Because you know the brothers cannot scowl, under any circumstances — it just might indicate they’re “moody” or “surly.” And we can’t have that in the photo-op world of pro football.

Unfortunately, for the Iggles, franchise saviors weren’t available in this draft.

It’s A Black Thing?

Consider Kolb’s would-be job description: run a predictable pass-first, pass-often offense. Inspire underachieving receivers to fight off scrimmage line jams, finish routes through and break them off when applicable by making the proper reads.

Absorb sustained pressure and beat downs that would be punishable by 2 to 6 years behind bars in the real world, but make your other teammates, coaches and staff feel their sweat equity and faith in you is warranted. Kiss babies and kick ass — and don’t forget the smile.

In a league where 65% of the players are Black, you might conclude it could be a black thing. But in a league where 80% of the league’s starting passers are white, these variables imply it’s another thang.

And what could that thang be? Do black quarterbacks not throw as hard or far? (When they zing it) Can they throw with touch? (When they don’t) Can they stay in the pocket and take the hit? (When the game flow and common sense tells them its okay to haul ass for the first down).

Do they have the capacity to make other players around them better? (Can they bail out less talented charges through their influence and force of will on the field?) Are they intelligent enough to read defenses? (Let’s not go there just yet; we’re supposed to be objective here)

Just how long have they been Black quarterbacks, anyway?

As much as some among football’s intelligentsia may have winced at McNabb’s contention, just as many may admit (grudgingly or not) that he’s right.

But of course, we have counter arguments of experts railing at how passers like Peyton Manning were torched as not having the capacity to win — until they won a championship.

No problem there — all quarterbacks pay the cost to be the boss; maximum blame, maximum credit. But when a Doug Williams wins a Super Bowl and writers imply he had the greatest game of his life (while the announcer is railing, “I hope this will kill the myth about Black quarterbacks once and for all”) — as if brother man never played ball before; it gives credence to Donovan’s beef.

So with that in mind, let’s look at all the factors which would facilitate the counter argument that McNabb was wrong to say what he said:


At 6-feet-2 and 240 pounds, McNabb came into the league about 15 pounds lighter; but didn’t come in shorter. For years, the height requirement for the position has factored in as players have gotten bigger — sorta. Had McNabb come in listed at, say 6-feet, he may not have been drafted at all.

And draft gurus love to selectively toss in that little tidbit as the menus for the position dwindle from prototype to archetype.

I cite as reference a 6-foot quarterback with 88 touchdowns, over 11,200 passing yards in a pro-style offense who led his team to a national collegiate championship.

I was in attendance at this year’s NFL Draft, and you could’ve knocked me over with a doo-rag when I did not hear Chris Leak’s name being called. Leak, out of the University of Florida, was invited to the Chicago Bears camp, but did not stick as the team was committed to other options.

Of current NFL starters, Tampa Bay’s Jeff Garcia and Chicago’s Rex

Grossman are listed at 6-feet-1, while New Orleans’ Drew Brees, who helped get the Saints to the conference championship game, is listed as 6-feet.

If that does not suffice, I cite as my second reference a collegiate star who was an undefeated field general throughout his entire career, going 35-0.

Chuck Ealey remembers those days at the University of Toledo in 1971 and he also remembers his reward for his accomplishments. “There were scouts coming to campus asking me to run forties (40-yard dashes). I was wondering what was going on because quarterbacks back then weren’t running forties,” recalls Ealey. “They wanted me to play defensive back.”

“As more scouts kept coming, I felt it made sense to let the NFL know what was on my mind. So I wrote the league a letter, stating I would not accept playing at a position other than quarterback.”

“I never heard back from them (laughs); I guess they thought, ‘who is this uppity person dictating to us?’ but it was as if what I did in college meant nothing. So I went on with my life.”

That life would take Ealey to Canada, where he would win a Grey Cup in his rookie season as quarterback of the CFL Hamilton Tiger-Cats. Ealey, who is an investment planner in Hamilton, says McNabb’s words were welcomed. “He’s playing the position he was meant to play — and leading on the field is unfortunately subject to those same things reflective of society.”

When asked about his height, Ealey said, “Six feet.”

It should be mentioned some of Ealey’s peers in the NFL at that time; most notably Fran Tarkenton, Charley Johnson, Sonny Jurgensen, Lenny Dawson, Tom Flores, Cotton Davidson, John Hadl and Billy Kilmer were 6-feet-1 or shorter.

Next Time: More Prototypes & Archetypes.