Donovan McNabb knows a thing or two about being a young quarterback in the National Football League. A 13-year career that began with his top five selection out of Syracuse in 1999 was primarily spent in Philadelphia and has made McNabb an authority in discussing such affairs.
Appearing at the DraftKings Kickoff Bash in Hoboken, NJ, McNabb wasn’t suiting up for opening weekend in his eighth year of retirement from football. However, the 42-year-old was still enthused and excited at the plethora of young quarterback following in his footsteps.
“It’s exciting! You know, it’s a big class when you talk about young quarterbacks, guys that, to me, are six, seven years or less,” McNabb said. “That group brings excitement to the game.”
He was particularly intrigued by the diverse formations quarterbacks have run in recent years.
“Everyone has presented themselves differently,” McNabb explained. “Whether it’s a read option-type offense, if it’s a spread offense, if it’s a dropback West Coast offense, everybody’s presenting something different. They all have a few weapons around them that can take a little pressure off of them, so it gives you something every Sunday, Monday, Thursday to be excited about.”
In terms of the best advice he would impart on the stars in the making, McNabb said it came down to a single word.
“Patience,” he declared. “Everyone wants to become a star quickly, to win a Super Bowl. Everyone wants to be a Pro Bowler, everyone wants to get the accolades, but it’s about patience. You have to create steps for yourself and understand that not everything is going to go according to plan.
“Are you willing to overcome adversity? You have to put your ego to the side, you have to grind. You have to put in the time in order to get the results that you want.”
McNabb’s own career was molded by his lesson. A tough rookie season (948 yards, 8 touchdowns, 60.1 rating in 12 games) was soon transformed into one of the most illustrious quarterback careers of the early new century. The 98 wins he achieved under center (accompanied by 234 touchdown passes) were good for fourth-best in the league during his span (1999-2011) behind only Peyton Manning, Tom Brady, and Brett Favre.
Philadelphia’s former franchise man smiled when discussing the differences between the game then and the game now, highlighting that today’s game places an increased focus on scoring. It’s a trend perhaps brought upon by the theme the fans in Hoboken came to celebrate: fantasy football.
“It’s just the fact that a lot of players are conscious of it,” he said. “People on Twitter, on social media, are responding back to them. Back when I played, we didn’t even know much about fantasy football. I didn’t know how the points added up and stuff.”
McNabb would go on to list several throwers that he felt well represented the youth movement at the position. One was Carson Wentz, the man following in McNabb’s green footsteps as the Philadelphia Eagles’ franchise quarterback.
Wentz would throw for 313 yards and three touchdowns in a 32-27 win over the Washington Redskins in Week 1.
Asked about a hypothetical Philly special showdown between Wentz’s Eagles and his own, McNabb somewhat hesitated to give his group the automatic victory, only further expressing his awe for the athletic prowess of modern athletes.
“I’d like to be the old man on the block and say, ‘They can’t compare to us.’ But, you know, they have different types of athletes,” McNabb pondered. “Defensive linemen that are running sub-4.6 40’s at 300 pounds, running a little bit more of a blitz package than what we’re seeing now. You look at offenses, they’re doing more spread, more sideline-sideline running. Back when we played, it was more downhill running.”
McNabb retired in 2011 after a single final season with the Minnesota Vikings. He departed as one of four quarterbacks in league history to earn 30,000 passing yards, 200 TD passes, 3,000 rushing yards and 20 rushing touchdowns in his career. With 3,549 rushing yards, he still ranks in the top ten amongst quarterbacks in the category.