RUSH: Fran in Philadelphia, welcome to the EIB Network. Hello.
CALLER: Rush, since Donovan McNabb has gotten over this latest hurdle, is your opinion of his ability as a quarterback and a field leader changed?
RUSH: You know, it has. Since you’ve called and brought this up, my quote on McNabb was back in September or October, I forget, of last year. Yeah, 2003, and at the time McNabb, the Eagles were 1-3 or 1-4. McNabb couldn’t complete a pass over 20 yards. They had just come off two championship game losses and the third was coming up, but since, yeah, there’s been a demonstrable change in McNabb’s performance, pure and simple.l There’s no question there has been. I think he was motivated, inspired by a whole lot of things — the arrival of Terrell Owens; he’s got a good coach. Andy Reid is a great coach. He was with Holmgren and Favre of Green Bay in his Super Bowl days — and he’s got a great owner who loves him and he’s had a great supporting family and cast. There’s no question McNabb has improved and I’m happy to see it. I like quality football.
CALLER: Right. You’ve said that many times. Donovan has been saying in the local press, and it’s probably been getting covered nationally, that he’s felt a great burden trying to carry the team, or helping carry the team, and he wanted to put his naysayers to rest. Do you think you’re on that list?
RUSH: Well, I don’t know. Until he would say so, I’m not going to put myself on the list. I don’t put myself on lists I don’t see my name on, and if he would say on I’d be on the list then I would say, Yeah,” but I think there’s something that motivates him. Based on something he said recently, by the way, I think there’s something that has motivated him long beyond anything any one critic has said. I think the day he got drafted has been a motivating thing, when the whole Philadelphia community booed when Andy Reid chose him as a quarterback from Syracuse, and they wanted Ricky Williams. The Eagles fans wanted Ricky Williams, and they had the draft in a little theater there in the Madison Square Garden, 5,000 people in there, and the Philly contingent, when they announced McNabb as the #1 pick, let out a whole room full of boos.
But no, I think he’s probably over that — and I didn’t even tell you people about this, but I got a call last… when was it, Wednesday, H.R.? There was a reporter for the Washington Post named Leonard Shapiro, and he was doing a story on the “groundbreaking social achievement” that occurred on Sunday, two black quarterbacks competing against each other in a championship game in the NFL which meant that a black quarterback would be going to the Super Bowl, and Leonard Shapiro wanted a quote from me, and I of course knew that the story was already written and he was going to be talking to a professor of black studies and some ex-NFL quarterbacks who are black. So I chose not to participate in it, and the story came out, and it is what I thought. It’s exactly what I say: It was a story on the social advancement of the black quarterback in the NFL, which all I ever said was that’s what the media is interested in.
That’s why I thought they looked the other way when the defense of the Eagles was propping the Eagles up and were still giving McNabb credit because there’s this social hope. I’ve never wavered from that and I think the story by Shapiro proves it. When that story came out in subsequent days after, McNabb made it plain that he didn’t want to be known as a running quarterback, you know, with T.O. out. There has been some question about the talent of the remaining Eagles receivers, which I think has been put to bed here. They’ve won these past two games in the playoffs without Terrell Owens, and who knows if they’ll have him for the Super Bowl, so those other receivers stepped up, and I think that motivated the Eagles, too. Frankly, human beings are human beings. I’m sure they love T.O. on that team but I’m sure there’s a lot of people on that team who would like to say, “Hey, we can win this ourselves. We don’t need one guy or we’re going to lose here.” I think there’s a lot of motivational things going on but the specific thing about Donovan McNabb was he said he didn’t want to be known as a running quarterback, because people said, “Are you going to have to run the ball now since your receiving quarterback is so weak with T.O. gone? Are you going to have to run the ball more?” and he specifically said, “No way, I am not a running quarterback,” and he smiled.
Now, the reason he smiled was because the rub against the black quarterback in the past has been they’re not pocket passers, they run the football, i.e., Randall Cunningham, Michael Vick, and there’s one thing that has — and it’s not just black quarterbacks — running quarterbacks, quarterbacks who lead their teams in rushing do not win Super Bowls, and McNabb didn’t want to go there. So I think he has been intent on establishing himself as a pocket passer which he’s done, which he’s done the past two years. So you have to give him all kinds of credit.
I did think about calling Leonard Shapiro back but I didn’t because I knew that no matter what I said, I would still get reamed for what happened years ago. But my only question to him was going to be, “Hey, Leonard, why can’t it be that two great quarterbacks are competing in the championship game? Why does it have to be two black quarterbacks who are competing in the championship? Who’s seeing that, Leonard? Is it you or me?” But I doubted that the nuance of the quote would be appreciated and rather it would be seen for something else. But no, I’ve never had any hope, schadenfreude, whatever it is, in the Eagles doing poorly or McNabb doing poorly whatsoever. In fact, I remember when McNabb, in the 2003 season actually said that he was thinking about hiring me as his marketing agent because that incident more people knew his name than ever before.