Part Two Of What Is Sure To Be A Lengthy Eagles Post-Mortem Examination
Philadelphia Inquirer columnist and ESPN and TNT basketball pontificator Stephen A. Smith makes a very cogent point despite his disjointed writing style in an article about Donovan McNabb.
The question is, why does Eagles QB McNabb go gentle into that good night? Why does he take defeat without a show of emotion? Why won't he ever talk openly about defeat, about what he did wrong? Clearly, something was wrong with him in the fourth quarter. It has emerged that he was dry-heaving during the Eagles penultimate drive, in which they took too much time off the clock to score the touchdown that brought them to within three points. Why was he sick? He wasn't running around at all, really. If anyone should have been exhausted, it was the wide receivers and the linemen. He only scrambled once all night, in the first quarter, and that time for a loss.
Andy Reid should have been aware that his quarterback was struggling. Had he been on top of it, he could have stopped the clock to give his quarterback a minute or so to recover, not by calling timeout, but by employing one of Buddy Ryan's old gambits and having a player fake an injury on the field. Anything, in the biggest game of the year, to give his quarterback a minute to regain his composure. But Reid was oblivious, just as he seems to remain oblivious about why the Eagles weren't moving at a quicker tempo at the end of the first half (he actually said he doesn't remember the series) and in the final six minutes of the game.
My theory is that McNabb's inability or disinclination to criticize himself in public or at any rate to be forthcoming in his answers in response to defeat stem from questions of race. Anyone who follows the Eagles knows that McNabb is neurotically paralyzed by the thought of being known simply as a black quarterback who can run the ball but can't win games from the pocket. When the complex is heavy upon him, he tends to overthink and make bad decisions about when to stay in the pocket and when to go, go go! twisting him away from the mentality that all quarterbacks must have in order to succeed: What decision helps the team win? Running or throwing, the quarterback's job is to get the ball in the end zone.
So it's established that McNabb is conscious of race. Rush Limbaugh helped him out last year, just in case McNabb had finally managed to forget. We know McNabb was booed lustily on draft day when the Eagles didn't select moon-beam running back Ricky Williams. We know that McNabb's family experienced racism in Chicago when they moved out of the inner city to a predominatly white neighborhood. If I'm not mistaken, there was an incident in which a slur was spray-painted on the side of their home.
I think McNabb internalizes and hides his emotions because he perceives (no doubt rightfully) that he has been betrayed in the past by the outside world -- by the public, by the media, by the fans. In an interview that aired before the Super Bowl, he said there have been emotional moments in which he's poured out the frustrations he doesn't let the public see to his mother, Wilma.
McNabb's a great guy and by all accounts a wonderful human being. But like all of us he has work to do to overcome his emotional knots. Like all of us, he could use therapy to work past his psychological blocks. Am I serious? Do I think McNabb needs to therapy? Yes, actually. Would I say that if I were writing for a newspaper? No. Hopefully through the natural processes of maturation Donovan will untangle himself enough to allow his emotions to rise more to the surface. It could be the key to his achieving the ultimate measure of success on the field, the Super Bowl.