In the NFL, it seems like the bad guys are always the ones getting the benefit of the doubt, always being allowed that second, third and fifteenth chance. Guys like Pacman Jones, who has four interceptions, four punt return touchdowns and about 44 run-ins with the law over the course of his short NFL career. Or Chris Henry, who has treated the league like freshman year of college, spending the majority of his time high or drunk. Even Ray Lewis, who the media treats like your local pastor now, once played at least some role in the murder of two men.
That’s why it’s so refreshing to see Donovan McNabb back in the NFC championship game only two months after it looked like his career in Philadelphia might be over. He was benched for the second half of a week 12 loss to Lewis’ Ravens and that was supposed to be it. Eagles’ fans were sending him out the door the same way they welcomed him in – with an ensemble of boos and name calling.
But there he was just a week later playing his best game of the year, throwing for 260 yards and four touchdowns against Arizona, the team he just happens to be playing against Sunday for a chance to return to the Super Bowl. Since his short demotion, the Eagles have lost just once, defeating and ultimately eliminating the defending Super Bowl champs twice on the road.
The whole ordeal has been strange because McNabb isn’t the type of guy we normally see redeem himself. We’ve learned that you could be a team cancer or much worse – a rapist, drug addict, possibly a murderer and still find a place in the league. But throw a couple picks in back-to-back games and forget about an overtime rule and you might as well move to Canada. And it wasn’t just the pathetic (yet labeled as passionate) Philadelphia fan base calling for his head either. The national media was on board too – in fact that’s probably what led to his benching.
So now McNabb has his Eagles back in a championship game for the fifth time of his career. The guy is probably one of the three most successful quarterbacks of the decade. Yet while the other two, Tom Brady and Peyton Manning, have nothing left to prove, McNabb is still trying to earn the respect of his home crowd and win over the rest of the country.
A win Sunday might just be what it takes.