Donovan McNabb has been here before. Just three years ago while playing for the Eagles, McNabb was so horrendous during an 8-for-18, 59-yard performance against the Ravens he was benched at halftime. In 2005, while leading what was at the time one of the NFL’s most explosive offenses, he inexplicably recorded a 131-yard, 0-TD stinkbomb against the Cowboys. The year before that, he threw for just 109 yards against the Steelers in a season in which he ultimately threw for 3,875 yards and 31 touchdowns. In Week 7 of 2003, he accumulated a paltry 64 yards before going on to throw for at least 236 in seven of his next nine games.
And it’s not just McNabb. Even the best of the best are capable of laying the occasional egg. Last year, Tom Brady threw for 163 yards or less four different times. He finished the season with 3,900 yards and 36 touchdown passes. In Week 14 of 2006, Brady threw for just 78 yards and no touchdowns in an unexplainable 21-0 loss to the Dolphins. Even Peyton Manning is not immune to the occasional crap-the-bed performance. Late in 2008, he threw for just 125 yards while tossing two interceptions. In 2005, he twice threw for less than 125 yards in what was otherwise a typically Peyton-esque season of excellence.
I’m not defending the performance of McNabb nor the Vikings offense as a whole in the Week 1 loss to the Chargers; I’m merely illustrating that there are times when even the best quarterbacks on the planet go out there and fall flat on their facemasks. And maybe, just maybe, McNabb deserves the benefit of the doubt – at least for the time being.
Case in point, he nearly always bounces back in a big way from sub-standard performances. Dating back to 2003, McNabb has thrown for fewer than 175 yards seven times (excluding games in which he was injured and forced out of the game and meaningless Week 17 games in which he made only a token appearance). In those seven games, he averaged just 127 passing yards, completing 51% of his passes and throwing two touchdown passes with four interceptions.
In the seven individual games immediately following those seven Tarvaris Jackson-like flops, McNabb has averaged 313 passing yards, completing 64% of his passes while throwing 15 touchdowns and four interceptions. Included in those numbers is the 260-yard, four-touchdown performance the week after he was so horribly awful that he got benched at halftime. Thus, optimistic Vikings fans (assuming such a thing exists) can embrace the idea that No. 5 has a history of redeeming himself in a hurry.
Thirty-nine yards is an absurdly low total for an NFL quarterback. Tarvaris Jackson generated more yards last week in a single play (a 55-yard connection with “Doug Baldwin,” who may or may not be an actual NFL player) than McNabb could muster in an entire game. If he’d managed even the 127-yard average referred to in the above analysis of McNabb’s previous faceplants, there probably wouldn’t be the same level of public outcry.
Heading into Week 2, there’s an outside chance Donovan McNabb has forgotten how to play football and Christian Ponder will be the Vikings quarterback in a matter of weeks. There’s a chance Bill Musgrave, in a fit of amnesia, doesn’t remember how to call an NFL game. There’s a chance the offensive line won’t give whoever is under center any time to throw. There’s a chance Bernard Berrian and Michael Jenkins will prove incapable of providing McNabb with viable options to throw to. But if history is any guide, there’s an equal chance we’ll look back at Week 1 and remember it not as a huge embarrassing failure heaped solely at the feet of Donovan McNabb, but instead as merely a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day.
Christian Peterson of LeagueSafe.com is also a contributing writer at Vikings.com and a co-host of the Fantasy Football Weekly radio show on Saturday mornings on KFAN 100.3 FM.