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McNabb made Eagles perennial playoff contenders

Eagles-McNabb's Legacy

PHILADELPHIA (AP) -Donovan McNabb was famously booed upon being drafted and many fans were eager to see him go.

In between, McNabb went to six Pro Bowls, led the Philadelphia Eagles to five NFC championship games and one Super Bowl appearance - and set franchise records in nearly every passing category.

Yet to some McNabb's years in Philadelphia always will be measured by what he didn't accomplish. He failed to win an NFL championship. To those who emphasize the bottom line, that's all that counts.

The McNabb Era ended Sunday night when the Eagles traded the star quarterback to the Washington Redskins for a pair of draft picks. The 33-year-old McNabb joins new Redskins coach Mike Shanahan, who won consecutive Super Bowls with John Elway in Denver more than a decade ago.

Yes, the Redskins: The Eagles will see their old quarterback twice next season in NFC East battles.

Philadelphia turns to McNabb's understudy, promising but unproven Kevin Kolb. They also have Michael Vick as insurance.

Obviously we have a lot of confidence in Kevin Kolb to make this decision,'' Eagles coach Andy Reid said on Sunday night.No matter how you look at this, he is a young and upcoming player who I think everybody in our building has a tremendous amount of confidence in him.''

Kolb, a second-round pick in 2007, has started two games in three seasons. He became the first player in NFL history to throw for 300 yards in his first two career starts - though he went 1-1 - when he filled in for an injured McNabb in Weeks 2 and 3 last year. Kolb piled up 391 yards while trying to play catch-up in a 48-22 loss to the New Orleans Saints, then beat the Kansas City Chiefs the next week.

During his 11 seasons in Philadelphia, McNabb was an elite player on a team that went to the playoffs eight times. But the organization decided it was time to move on after a disappointing finish last season.

McNabb played poorly in two straight losses at Dallas to end the year. The first one - a 24-0 loss - cost Philadelphia the NFC East title and a first-round bye. The Cowboys routed the Eagles again, 34-14, the following week in the wild-card playoff.

The defense deserved as much blame for both losses, but McNabb took most of the heat. Fans and talk-show hosts even harped on McNabb's air-guitar entrance onto the field before his final game. His goofy personality always rubbed them the wrong way. Peyton Manning or Tom Brady would never act silly before an important game, they said.

McNabb's relationship with the notoriously tough Philly fans immediately got off to a rocky start in 1999. A group of 30 fans - some with their faces painted midnight green and silver - went to the NFL draft in New York and booed vociferously when the team selected McNabb instead of Texas running back Ricky Williams with the No. 2 overall pick.

The fans said they weren't booing McNabb personally, rather the fact the Eagles didn't take Williams. McNabb and his parents have never forgotten it.

While Williams underachieved, it wasn't long before McNabb established himself as a premier player.

With his strong arm and scrambling ability, McNabb won Philly over by his second year as he turned the Eagles into a perennial playoff contender. McNabb finished as runner-up to Marshall Faulk for NFL MVP in his sophomore season and made the first of five straight trips to the Pro Bowl.

In those days, McNabb had little help on offense. He led the Eagles to three conference championship games despite a mediocre receiving corps. McNabb's targets included pedestrian wideouts like Torrance Small, Charles Johnson, James Thrash and Todd Pinkston.

When Philadelphia brought in Terrell Owens in 2004, the offense flourished. McNabb had his best season and the Eagles reached the Super Bowl, losing 24-21 to the New England Patriots.

McNabb threw for 357 yards and three touchdowns in the game, but also was intercepted three times. There's also the mystery of whether he actually vomited during the final drive.

McNabb has overcome numerous injuries throughout his career. His season ended in November three times, though he returned for the playoffs in 2002 after breaking his ankle in Week 11.

In that game against Arizona, McNabb stayed in and threw four TD passes after getting hurt on the third play. He had surgery for a sports hernia in 2005 and tore a knee ligament in 2006.

At different points, fans wanted A.J. Feeley or Jeff Garcia to replace McNabb. Of course, it didn't happen. McNabb did get benched for the only time in his career in the second half of a game against Baltimore in 2008. He returned the following week and led the Eagles on an improbable run to the playoffs and their fifth conference championship game in eight years.

But they came up short, losing 32-25 to Arizona. McNabb took the heat for that loss because he didn't lead the offense to the tying score on the final drive.

McNabb even dealt with criticism from some unlikely sources. Conservative radio personality Rush Limbaugh was forced to resign from a gig on ESPN after making negative comments about McNabb in 2003. Former middleweight champion Bernard Hopkins, a Philadelphia native, has blasted McNabb for years.

Though he comes across as sensitive at times, McNabb always handled himself with class and dignity. He set a fine example for younger players like Kolb.

I think the one thing he does is he handles every situation that the NFL, the city, the media has put on him with a smile,'' Kolb said on Monday.That's one thing that I noticed right away is, man, he's always in a good mood. That portrays well in the locker room because it doesn't show to anyone that that's affecting him, even if it is. He's real good about keeping that under his skin and making sure that everything is real smooth in the locker room. So, that's something I need to work on, I have worked on and will take from him as the starting quarterback.''

Teammates loved playing with McNabb - except for one. Owens and McNabb were best buddies in '04, but their feud a year later eventually led to Owens getting kicked off the team.

McNabb leaves the Eagles as the franchise leader in yards passing (32,873), completions (2,801), attempts (4,746), completion percentage (59.0) and touchdown passes (216). He also rushed for 3,249 yards and 28 TDs.

The Eagles were 92-49-1 in regular-season games that McNabb started and 9-7 in the playoffs. As he thanked the fans in a statement, McNabb said, ``While it's been my goal to win a Super Bowl in Philadelphia, we came up short. I enjoyed my 11 years here and we shared a lot more good times than bad.''

So what's McNabb's legacy in Philadelphia?

``I think it should be that he was the greatest quarterback ever to play for the Philadelphia Eagles to this point,'' Reid said.

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