Donovan McNabb had a better Super Bowl than you thought

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Donovan McNabb had a better Super Bowl than you thought

This article first appeared in The Philadelphia Eagles Playbook by Reuben Frank and Mark Eckel (Triumph Books, 2015).

In the summer of 2005, five months after the Eagles lost to the Patriots in Super Bowl XXXIX, NFL Vice President of Officiating Mike Pereira visited Eagles training camp at Lehigh University. The Eagles were waiting.

They believed the Patriots had gotten away with countless cheap shots on quarterback Donovan McNabb in their 24-21 win over the Eagles in the Super Bowl, and now they had the video to prove it.

"At first, he didn't take us seriously," recalled John Harbaugh, then the Eagles' special teams coach and now head coach of the Ravens. "Then we showed him the tape and he could not believe the shots Donovan took out of bounds and late in that game. 

"Their whole thing was to hit Donovan and hurt him, and that's fine, but it was the officials' job to protect him, and they didn't. Imagine if Tom Brady got hit late that many times? Tell me they wouldn't call those penalties. When you watch that game, and you see the shots Donovan took, it's incredible what he was able to do."

So while many fans have focused on McNabb gasping for air and appearing to throw up in the final moments of the Super Bowl, the reality is that a moment early, All-Pro defensive end Richard Seymour demolished McNabb with a devastating hit that many quarterbacks would not have gotten up from.

"He got shellacked," said Andy Reid, then the Eagles' head coach and now head coach of the Chiefs.

Millions of fans saw McNabb doubled over in pain, desperately seeking to get the ball snapped before the play clock expired. They had no idea why.

"People always focus on me supposedly throwing up," McNabb said years later. "Richard Seymour got me pretty good. I got hit in the face and my helmet went backwards and I had stuff in my face. I'm trying to catch my breath and get my vision back. People make it out like I was tired. I just got killed.

"Nobody focuses on the plays we made, they just talked about, 'Oh, he choked in the Super Bowl.'"

Although McNabb passed for three touchdowns and over 350 yards against the Patriots — only Kurt Warner has also done that in a Super Bowl — he's remembered more for puking in the final minutes than throwing a brilliant touchdown pass to Greg Lewis that made it a three-point game. McNabb also threw three interceptions, although one came with five seconds left and the Eagles inside their own 10-yard line.

"First play of the game, he scrambled left and got hit pretty good out of bounds — it should have been a late hit, but they didn't call it," said Brad Childress, who spent the last five years with Reid in Kansas City and was then the Eagles' offensive coordinator. "That's never a good sign when your quarterback is getting hit like that on the first play of the game. He got hit a lot, but he continued to hang in there and compete."

Those hits took a brutal toll.

"Donovan got battered," Lewis said. "I know he was hurting at the end of the game. But in the huddle, he was his normal self. He was just like regular Donovan, running around and trying to make plays."

Whether he threw up or not, McNabb did complete 8 of 10 passes for 79 years on a critical fourth-quarter touchdown drive in the final minutes of a Super Bowl. And with 1:55 left in the game and the Patriots leading 24-14, he connected with Lewis on a spectacular 30-yard touchdown pass that brought the Eagles within three points. It may have been the finest pass of his career.

"Donovan took a beating in that game, but he hung in there, hung in there, hung in there," guard Artis Hicks said. "And eventually he came up with a big play when we really needed one."

Moments later, after an unsuccessful onsides kick, McNabb's only Super Bowl appearance was over, and the Patriots had won their third Lombardi Trophy in four years.

McNabb has taken grief for that performance for 13 years, and many fans still look back at McNabb's Eagles career as a failure, despite nine playoff wins, five NFC Championship Games and a Super Bowl appearance.

"If we as a team had won just one championship, they would have given Donovan the keys to the city," tight end Chad Lewis said. "If we had won two, he's in Canton. But when we lost those games, there was so much disappointment and frustration, because the fans wanted it so bad that Donovan became the scapegoat."

The Eagles traded McNabb to the Redskins after the 2009 season and after two years in Washington, he finished his career with the Vikings in 2011.

On Sunday, the Eagles will be back in the Super Bowl, facing those same Patriots at U.S. Bank Stadium, built on the site of the Metrodome, where McNabb finished his career.

This is a good a time as any to revisit and reevaluate McNabb's performance in the Super Bowl. 

"I understand you have struggles in this business at the quarterback position, nobody is immune to it," said Warner, who beat the Eagles in two NFC Championship Games for two different teams. 

"But the crazy thing is, how many people have doubted him? To his credit, he stood up with character every time. He's battled through it. He came back every single time and proved everyone wrong. I just hope, at some point, they start giving him the credit he deserves."

Is it believable when Eagles call themselves underdogs?


Is it believable when Eagles call themselves underdogs?

On the latest edition of Eagle Eye, a Philadelphia Eagles podcast, Derrick Gunn and Barrett Brooks share stories from their fishing trip over the weekend. Is it believable when the Eagles keep calling themselves underdogs? How OTAs are different today compared to when Barrett played. Also, Johnny Manziel is playing football again. Will we ever see him back in the NFL?

Also, how Barrett won an Emmy working on Hard Knocks.

1:00 - Gunner and Barrett's weekend fishing trip.
5:00 - Guys caught a hot streak fishing.
6:30 - What is Gunner's family like?
10:30 - Do you believe it when the Eagles use an underdog mindset?
14:30 - Difference between OTA's today compared to when Barrett played.
17:00 - Barrett won an Emmy working on Hard Knocks
21:00 - Guys think the Browns (yes those Browns) will be competitive this season.
25:30 - Johnny Manziel is back in football.

Subscribe to Eagle Eye: Apple Podcasts / Google Play / Stitcher / Spotify / Art19

Zach Ertz is only other player to leave field with Jason Witten's jersey

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Zach Ertz is only other player to leave field with Jason Witten's jersey

For a long time, Zach Ertz has always said that he’s emulated future Hall of Famer Jason Witten. Ertz loved the way he played and the way he handled himself on and off the field. 

Turns out it’s mutual. 

Because after Ertz went on social media to say goodbye to Witten after the longtime Dallas Cowboy retired recently, Witten returned the favor and praised Ertz. 

That’s pretty crazy. Witten played 15 years, a total of 247 games including the playoffs. And, according to him, the only other person to ever leave the field with his jersey is Ertz. It's become commonplace for players in the league to trade jerseys after games. During an NFL season, a peek into someone's locker will reveal a few jerseys of different colors. Witten's was probably be in demand, but Ertz is the only player to ever get one. 

It’s clear that Ertz gained Witten’s respect and Witten has probably heard the praise from Ertz before. He heard it again when Ertz tweeted earlier in May. 

“First off, I want to say congratulations to someone that had a profound impact on my career, by just being the man he is!” Ertz wrote. “At 17 years old when I was trying to figure out what a tight end meant and what they embodies I started following the tight end for the Cowboys. Everything he did on the field and off, I tried to emulate.” 

Oddly enough, this season Ertz made his first Pro Bowl, but couldn’t go because the Eagles were in the Super Bowl. Guess who took his place? Yup, Witten. 

Earlier this spring, Ertz said it’s strange to think that other tight ends are now growing up and trying to emulate him. He’s just trying to set as good an example as Witten did.