Donovan McNabb is correct. There is a retired Eagles great who belongs in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. In fact, I can name three strong candidates.
It’s just that none happen to be him.
The former quarterback and full-time provocateur brashly laid out his case for Canton last week to the sports geniuses at TMZ. McNabb compared himself favorably with Jim Kelly and Troy Aikman. He set reaching the NFC title game (as opposed to the Super Bowl) as the bar for greatness. And he noted that – one year of Terrell Owens aside – he never got to play with great receivers.
Being your own campaign spokesman is never a good look. And implying that teammates kept you from achieving immortality is, well, typical of the so-called team leader who spent 11 seasons in midnight green deflecting blame.
Look, McNabb was an excellent quarterback, the best in modern franchise history. He is, deservedly, in the Eagles Hall of Fame and his No. 5 jersey is retired. All great honors.
But in three years of eligibility, he has never been a finalist for Canton. That’s not likely to change. For quarterbacks to get a Hall pass, they need either Super Bowl rings (Aikman has three, plus the SB XXVII MVP) or imposing stats (like Dan Marino or Dan Fouts).
McNabb has no rings, of course. Playing in an era when rules favored the offense, his stats compare with passers like Drew Bledsoe, Boomer Esiason, and Tony Romo. Trust me, no one’s making a case for Romo to get sized for a gold jacket.
But while McNabb hit sour notes tooting his own horn last week, there are three Eagles legends deserving enshrinement. All played earlier than Donovan, so memories of their greatness may be fading.
Since all have the good grace not to scream through their own megaphone I’ll do it for them:
– Eric Allen started for 14 years in the NFL — all as a premier cornerback. He made the Pro Bowl five times in his seven seasons with the Eagles and is tied for the franchise record with 34 interceptions. Overall, he intercepted 54 passes, returning eight for TDs.
Allen wasn’t flashy like Deion Sanders, and perhaps that hurts his chances with voters. But he played fast and smart and was that rare cornerback willing to punish a receiver.
– Harold Carmichael. All these years later, his stats may not blow you away. But when Carmichael retired in 1984 he ranked sixth all-time in receptions (590), seventh all-time in both receiving yards (8,985) and receiving TDs (79).
The six-foot-eight target caught at least one pass in 127 consecutive games, a streak that long served as an NFL record.
– Seth Joyner. Famous for his scowl (I’ve been on the receiving end of it), Joyner is the only player in NFL history with at least 50 sacks and 20 interceptions. He also had 25 forced fumbles, 12 fumble recoveries and 1,056 tackles over a 13-year career, the first eight spent with the Eagles.
Playing linebacker, Joyner was a centerpiece on the great 1991 Eagles Gang Green defense that finished first against the rush, first against the pass, and led the league in sacks, turnovers and fewest points allowed. In a project two years ago, ESPN and Football Outsiders ranked that defense the best of the NFL since 1987.
Chances are none of my candidates will ever have their bust in Canton. But if there’s debate as to which former Eagles deserve it, I’ll put my three over Number 5.