McNabb Has Character, But Not Leadership

By Stephen A. Smith
Updated: January 30, 2007

PHILADELPHIA — Donovan McNabb is a great person. Donovan McNabb is not a great leader. That was the case when he arrived in Philadelphia. It is the case now.

And long after coach Andy Reid finishes spewing his rhetoric of irresponsible conduct in a flagrant attempt to shift focus of the latest storylines from McNabb to the cynics monitoring his every move, that is the reality that remains stagnant, refusing to budge until Reid and his star pupil grasp a clue.

The Eagles made news last week for all the wrong reasons yet again. Reports surfaced that McNabb was unhappy with the Eagles, that he was in a squabble with the team about his rehabilitation from the knee surgery that ended his 2006 season.

Additional reports leaked that McNabb was behind in his rehab, that he blamed trainer Rick Burkholder and that it was believed the cancellation of McNabb’s news conference the previous week came about because Reid was concerned McNabb would blab about all of his concerns.

Reid, of course, denies the veracity of any of these reports. As does McNabb’s agent, Fletcher Smith.

“None of these stories quoted him,” Smith told The Inquirer’s Bob Brookover last week. “They’re all quoting sources close to Donovan. They claim to know what he thinks and what he’s feeling. Who are these people? I don’t know.”

And where, exactly, is McNabb? As usual, nowhere to be found.

When McNabb needs to lead, someone else is always stepping up. When McNabb needs to speak, there’s always someone else on a soap box speaking on his behalf.

It’s Reid one minute, Momma or Papa McNabb the next. Yet, others are left behind, finding themselves being ridiculed for the things being said about McNabb in the end.

How does this happen?

About the only time McNabb has stepped up and spoken on his own behalf in a timely fashion is when the Rush Limbaugh fiasco went down. Back then, McNabb spoke his piece, appeared bothered by others on the airwaves who procrastinated in coming to his defense.

Back then, McNabb seemed as if he had pushed the Eagles aside, said, “Hey, I’m a man before I’m a football player,” and appeared in total control, determined to define himself and not let anyone else do so for him.

Things have changed since that day in October 2003. Image has become conspicuously more important than anything else, and the result is a player who has become temperamental, along with the organization he represents, and goodness only knows how long it will be before McNabb’s family chimes in and explodes.

It was reported just days ago that McNabb was upset because of how his mother was portrayed after reportedly saying she had “bittersweet” feelings watching the Eagles’ success.

But this was the same McNabb who took issue with how his father was portrayed after the elder McNabb decided to compare Terrell Owens’ chiding his son to “black-on-black crime.”

If McNabb hasn’t had problems with the portrayal of his parents – from information disseminated through their own mouths – he’s had problems with reports on everything from the child he and his wife were expecting to how he should have handled things a bit more abrasively with Owens.

Let it be said right here again: The Eagles were a divided locker room when Owens was around. Most of it was because of Owens’ petulance. The rest of it was because of McNabb’s refusal or inability to deal with it man-to-man.

In the land of the Eagles, very little fault falls on the shoulders of McNabb. Then they have the audacity to appear perplexed as to why their locker room was divided in the first place.

McNabb doesn’t come late to practice. He doesn’t try to divide a locker room. He was raised beautifully, knows how to act, and could sit at anyone’s dinner table.

The thing is, it doesn’t make McNabb the complete package, just the package the Eagles wish the rest of their players possessed. Hence, the recipe for the dissension and turmoil Reid historically squashes but never eliminates.

We’ll all find out where Jeff Garcia will be next season within a few weeks, but it will probably take longer for us to learn how some in the locker room wish he were staying around for a while. And it won’t be because they prefer Garcia over McNabb or think he’s better.

It will be solely because they all want McNabb to earn his stripes like everyone else.

McNabb has been labeled Reid’s guy for quite some time, and he has acted like it, too.

For a while, many thought it was at the team’s expense. Now it appears to be at McNabb’s expense.

Never mind wondering how long McNabb will tolerate this.

Wonder, instead, if he even notices.