Friday, January 16, 2009

The Curious Case of Donovan McNabb

Early morning local sports radio chatter on Nashville’s 104.5 turned today momentarily to Donovan McNabb and his status as a potential Hall of Fame candidate. The shorthand assessment—mainly from Paul Kuharsky, former Tennessean writer and now with—seemed to be that, since the standard of the era is Peyton Manning and Tom Brady, McNabb might not qualify. The Philly QB doesn’t have a Super Bowl ring—something that might yet be rectified, and possibly very soon—and Kuharsky seemed to be saying that, without one, McNabb can’t automatically expect to get the HOF nod.

This spurred on a review of McNabb’s career numbers. In fact, they’re pretty damn impressive, maybe moreso than the average fan might realize.

McNabb just turned 32. He’s got some years left probably, if he stays healthy, something that has been a bit of a problem. In a 10-year career that might’ve encompassed 160 games, he’s participated in only 134. At present, he’s thrown for 29,320 regular season yards, completing passes at a 58.9% clip. He’s also rushed for 3,109 yards, averaging 5.8 yards per carry. His overall QB rating is 85.9. What really stands out, though, is his TD/INT ratio of 194/90, better than 2 to 1.

McNabb’s 2004 season was phenomenal: 3,875 yards, a 64% completion average, a 104.7 passer rating, and 31 TDs vs. only 8 INTs. The man’s talent isn’t in doubt, but what about this Super Bowl thing? Is it really the benchmark of achievement it ought to be?

In 1983, Sonny Jurgensen was inducted into the HOF. In 1993, Dan Fouts. In 2005, Dan Marino. Not one of ’em ever won the Super Bowl, but that didn’t seem to bother the voters.

Here are the key comparative career stats (Yards passing-Completion percentage-TD/INT ratio-QB rating):

Jurgensen: 32,224 yards-57.1%-255/189-82.6
Fouts: 43,040-58.8%-254/242-80.2
Marino: 61,361-59.4%-420/252-86.4
McNabb: 29,320-58.9%-194/90-85.9

No question: McNabb stacks up. Only Marino’s got him beat in completion percentage and overall passer rating—but just barely—and McNabb’s got ’em all beat in TD/INT ratio, which is considered a key marker of efficiency.

Furthermore, what exactly is the true value of a quarterback? Is it the statistics he piles up if he happens to have a lengthy career? Is it his raw, demonstrable talent as a passer? Or is it his ability to win games?

Here are the career regular season stats for all four of our subjects in team winning percentage. Stats are based on games started, and ties are not factored in:

Fouts: 86-84-1 (50.5%)
Jurgensen: 67-70-7 (48.9%)
Marino: 147-93 (61.2%)
McNabb: 82-45-1 (64.5%)

McNabb again, and it’s not even close where Fouts and Jurgensen are concerned, both of whom’s reputations have rested on their undeniable gifts as pure passers. Marino was both a pure passer and a consistent winner, yet a Super Bowl ring eluded him.

In some statistical levels, McNabb might have a way to go, but if his career continues apace, he should get the numbers. In fact, his raw numbers already surpass those of Bart Starr (80.5 career passer rating, by the way), who made his HOF claim based practically on winning alone, with the great Packers teams of the 1960s.

McNabb may be Hall-worthy already. If he can triumph in SB XLIII, he should be a lock.

No comments: