EAGLES

Why Stephen A.'s McNabb vs. Wentz argument is correct

EAGLES

As the Philadelphia sports world burns in the wake of Carson Wentz's benching Sunday against the Packers, and Jalen Hurts' encouraging performance, everyone in the city is arguing over who should start in Week 14 against the Saints.

Well, except for ESPN personality and former Philly columnist Stephen A. Smith. He's thinking about Donovan McNabb.

Because why not?

Smith took time out of his busy Monday to fire off some tweets about Wentz and Hurts, and then he turned the situation into a referendum on something he had firsthand experience with: Philadelphia's treatment of Donovan McNabb during his 11 years with the Eagles.

Smith thinks the city owes McNabb an apology, now that they've seen truly awful play from their franchise QB:

Is he right? It's an intriguing comparison.

Wentz is the first real franchise quarterback - high draft investment, big-money commitment, the whole thing - the Eagles have had since McNabb's last season in Philly back in 2009. Now, both franchise quarterbacks were benched mid-game at one point in their careers for second-round pick backups.

But was McNabb playing this poorly when he was benched?

Here's a look at McNabb vs. Wentz, in the five games before their mid-game benching. The numbers are strikingly similar in some respects.

  • McNabb: 55.5% completion, 8 TD, 6 INT, 6.84 yards per attempt, 5 sacks  
  • Wentz: 57.2% completion, 8 TD, 6 INT, 6.1 yards per attempt, 21 sacks

At first glance, it sure feels like McNabb wasn't playing much better. But you have to remember these five-game stretches are taking place 12 years apart.

When McNabb was playing in 2008, he was 5.5% below the league average completion percentage, 0.1% higher than the league average interception rate, .06 yards per attempt below the league average, and actually 3.6% better than the league average sack rate.

 

In 2020, Wentz is 8.0% below the league average completion percentage, 0.9% higher than the league average interception rate, 1.1 yards per attempt below the league average, and 4.1% higher than the league average sack rate.

When you put things into that context, McNabb was just below the league average over those five games, while Wentz has been bottom-of-the-barrel bad. McNabb's Eagles were also 3-1-1 in those games, while Wentz's Eagles were 2-3.

So Smith does seem to have a point here, particularly when you remember that McNabb had already piloted the Eagles to four straight NFC Championship games, while Wentz hasn't won a single playoff game.

You don't know what you've got until it's gone. 

Even if it hits you 12 years later.

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