There was a great article by Drew Magary on Deadspin a couple weeks back about the whole Johnny Manziel kerfuffle. The gist was...because everyone is throwing so much hot garbage in his direction, he will eventually turn into the thing people claim him to be now (even though he isn't). Drew's prime example for this type of behavior is Donovan McNabb...
I don't remember a single person who had a bad thing to say about Donovan McNabb before he was drafted by the Eagles. But then he was booed on draft night (as you recall, Eagles fans wanted to draft Ricky Williams instead), and then embarked on a remarkable odyssey of having controversy forced upon him, seemingly without him seeking it out. He was openly insulted by his own nutjob wideout. He was infamously called out by some fuckhead at the NAACP for not running the ball enough even though history has proven time and again that Super Bowls are won by traditional pocket passers, and he was attacked from the right—by Rush Limbaugh, no less—as a kind of affirmative-action superstar. He got shit for throwing up on the field, even though plenty of players have done that. I barely remember that, at one point, Donovan McNabb was a remarkably effective NFL quarterback. All I remember is the petty nonsense.
By the end of his career, Donovan McNabb had essentially become the disingenuous idiot that his critics had made him out to be. He had his agent openly bitch about the Redskins coaching staff, which set off John Feinstein's racial-coding alarm. He complained his way out of Minnesota after getting demoted and found himself unwanted by every other NFL team.
I found myself in complete agreement with all of this. As someone who is not only a Syracuse fan but was also on campus for Donny's sophomore, junior & senior seasons at SU, none of the critiques that we take for granted now existed before he went pro. And as a Giants fan, I'm biased in my disdain for Eagles fans already, but there's no doubt that the entire exercise was destined to end is bile (McNabb's on-field version and Philly fans' version).
Drew points out most of the other acrimony above (as well as pointing out his questionable tweeting style) and by the time we got to today, when Donovan McNabb officially retired as a member of the Philadelphia Eagles, I find myself wondering if Syracuse Orange fans are the only people left rooting for him?
The big question is...will McNabb be a Hall of Famer? The numbers overwhelmingly say yes. And yet, you can't help but wonder if the numbers are irrelevant. For a guy like McNabb, reputation tends to trump facts. People tend to remember his career much more negatively than it actually was. And, of course, his accomplishments at Syracuse don't really count.
It's a shame because, depending on who you ask, he's either The Great Statistical QB In Syracuse History or The Greatest QB In Syracuse History Period. And he's always been one to speak fondly of his alma mater and his time there. He's on the Board of Trustees now, for God's sake.
He'll be honored here on November 2nd when his jersey is retired during the Wake Forest game. And by all accounts he's a shoo-in to get inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame one day. My guess is that, eventually, he'll get into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. But not on the first try. Maybe not the second, or even the third. He may or may not ever be honored by the Eagles (I honestly think Eagles fans would boo him). He certainly won't get any party favors from the Vikings or Redskins.
I remember watching NFL games around 2003-2006 pretty much religiously. During every game, the NFL would run their generic commercial for the league and brand. Legendary players and coaches would fill the screen, replacing one another as we moved from the 40's to the 50's, 60's, 70's, 80's 90's and eventually the present. For a good while, the last player to show up in that montage was always Donovan McNabb. The implication being that this guy represents what we want an NFL player to be.
So many years later, I don't think that's how most NFL fans remember him. And if they could go back right now, they might swap Donny out for someone else. Doesn't mean he wasn't basically the face of the league for a few years (God, so many commercials...). Just means he probably won't be remembered that way.