It happened September 28the. This is January 14th. This is a story that has survived and propelled the NFL season and maybe even the Philadelphia Eagles. On September 28th on ESPN’s NFL Countdown, the producers the day before decided to do a segment on what’s wrong with McNabb. In fact there were two segments on this show that day, what’s wrong with the Eagles and then what’s wrong with McNabb. And, of course, back then I was challenging things that I heard and wanted to comment on during the discussion after the setup had taken place, what’s wrong with McNabb? Something wrong here. He was not doing well. The Eagles weren’t doing well. There was a lot of people that were stunned, they were surprised. They’d been to the championship game the last two years, what’s wrong with the Eagles? So Tom Jackson says, “I don’t think that benching McNabb’s an option that they see right now. He’ll have to lose a lot of football games before he’s put on the bench. I’d like to look again at that supporting cast. The guy is struggling. I’d be amazed if they don’t come out today and run that football with whoever you have, Buckhalter, Duce Staley, run that football, give this guy a break at quarterback.” And then Chris Berman says, “Rush, I see you threw the flag, you want in there.” Now, keep in mind preceding has been about two minutes of Steve Young, Berman, Michael Irvin, and Tom Jackson offering their thoughts on what’s wrong with McNabb. I didn’t start this. I’m just informing you here.
So at this point I threw a flag in there, I heard something I wanted to get in on and so after what I just read you from Tom Jackson, I decided to comment. The whole thing runs about a minute-fifty. Listen all the way through the end. There’s a very important statement here at the end that is hard to hear because people are talking over. Michael Irvin says something. Listen to it. I’ll remind you what it is, point it out at the end of it, but here is the totality of the segment in question.
ESPN AUDIO BITE-
RUSH: Tommy, I’ve listened to all of you guys, actually, and I think the sum total of what you’re all saying is that Donovan McNabb is regressing, he’s going backwards. I’m sorry to say this; I don’t think he’s been that good from the get-go. I think what we’ve had here is a little social concern in the NFL. I think the media has been very desirous that a black quarterback do well. We’re interested in black coaches and black quarterbacks doing well. I think there is a little hope invested in McNabb, and he got a lot of credit for the performance of this team that he really didn’t deserve.
RUSH: The defense carried this team.
Jackson: Rush, somebody went to those championship games.
RUSH: Oh, they went.
Jackson: Somebody went to those pro bowls. Somebody made those plays that I saw running down the field, doing it with his legs, doing it with his arms. He has been a very effective quarterback for this football team over the last two or three years.
RUSH: Yeah, but you take the?
Jackson: The difference in what we see right now, and they didn’t have any more talent then that they have now.
RUSH: Oh yes they had, on defense, on defense they did.
Jackson: On defense they did. I’m talking about the offensive side of the ball.
RUSH: Well, that’s what I’m saying; I think he got a lot of credit for the defensive side of the ball winning games for this team.
Young: But I’ll tell you what, I’ll say it even more strongly, Tom, when they’re winning, nobody makes more plays.
Jackson: Than Donovan McNabb.
Young: …with his arm than Donovan McNabb. That guy is really one of the best in the league at making plays. But, making plays does not win championships. Running the offense does. So at some point I think?
Berman: Got to run the offense.
Young: Koy Detmer looks like a better, he’ll go in there, drop back?
Berman: Isn’t it odd that last year, with the broken leg, I know it was Arizona, but the one game he was in a pile, he looked great.
Young: He had to run that offense.
Jackson: So, Rush, once you make that investment, though, once you make that investment in him, that’s a done deal.
RUSH: I’m saying it’s a good investment, don’t misunderstand.
Irvin: Rush has a point.
RUSH: I just don’t think he is as good as everybody says he has been.
Irvin: Rush has a point.
RUSH: That was Michael Irvin saying Rush has a point, Michael Irvin. Perhaps the guy I was closest to on this whole set said, after I said I don’t think he’s as good as everybody says he’s been, “Rush has a point.” And Steve Young started talking about how they might have been better with Koy Detmer, the backup quarterback as running the offense. This has been taken, now, what you just heard has been taken, this whole discussion that I said McNabb is no good because he’s black. All I said was that there is interest…in fact I even said “we’re,” in the transcript, we’re interested in black quarterbacks coaches and black quarterbacks doing well in the NFL. Now, is this deniable?
If you look at the Eagles game on Sunday, there were a lot of people that did a lot of great things in that game, but if you look at the reporting there was one guy that engineered that victory, it was McNabb. This is my whole point. But Duce Staley had a long run, the defense kept the Packers out of the end zone on a crucial play, the defense caused Mike Sherman to have second thoughts about running for it on fourth and one with two and a half minutes left, Freddie Mitchell had a great catch over the middle, fourth and 26. You know, and Favre didn’t exactly have the best game of his life that day, especially in overtime. But they’re not going to criticize Favre because he’s a veteran and this sort of stuff. So, you know, a lot of people have gotten a lot of mileage out of this and by ignoring the point that I made. The point that I really made was that this was an integrity of reporting issue, that there are reporters here, and now they’ve chosen this occasion to go one up here, say, well, see, we’re above all this, we’re not racists, we’re not this, because Limbaugh is, when race was a secondary matter here and had nothing to do with an assessment of McNabb’s talent. In fact, McNabb even ended up laughing about this, December 1st, long after September 28th, McNabb was on ESPN, was asked about this, and this is what he said.
McNABB: ?Well, I use that as a little bit of motivation, going out to obviously show the world pretty much what type of player I was. It was funny how things had happened. You know, I think with everything that went on, I will probably hire Rush Limbaugh as my marketing agent because he’s done wonders for me. But I mean it’s been exciting, man, you know, everyone is still talking about the Rush Limbaugh comment, but I think, you know, when you continue to look at the end result, the Eagles team is really opening up some eyes.?
RUSH: They are. But, you know, let’s go back to September 28th. We are at Week 4 in the season. At that point the Eagles, when this comment was made, the Eagles are not doing well, they’ve lost two games at home, segment on what’s wrong with McNabb, and the comment that I made about the defense being responsible for a lot of victories for this game actually was an opinion on the subject of last year’s Eagles team, because there hadn’t been any victories this year to talk about at the time this comment was made. This is a comment on last year’s Eagles team, and everybody was praising the Eagles defense last year as a great secondary, great bunch of linebackers and so forth.
So, you know, this was just an ordinary, everyday run-of-the-mill comment, which was debated on the program. I had a bunch of people tell me they thought I was wrong. So if they thought I was wrong, fine, I was wrong. But look at what has been made of it. And you have to wonder, if anybody else would have said this, would it have survived as long as it has? I doubt it.