Donovan McNabb: If Troy Aikman’s in HOF, I should be, too
Three cycles of Pro Football Hall of Fame voting have come and gone since Donovan McNabb became eligible, and the former Philadelphia Eagles, Washington Redskins and Minnesota Vikings quarterback has yet to make it past the initial nominee stage (the 100 or so nominees each year are trimmed down to 25 semifinalists and then 15 finalists). McNabb thinks this is a grievous oversight.
“I’m not hesitating on that. I am a Hall of Famer,” McNabb told TMZ Sports this week. “My numbers speak for themselves.”
McNabb pointed to one Hall of Fame quarterback specifically as a point of comparison: former Dallas Cowboys star Troy Aikman.
“My numbers are better than Troy Aikman,” he said.
So let’s go to the tale of the tape:
Donovan McNabb (167 career regular-season games): 37,276 passing yards, 59% completion rate, 234 touchdown passes, 117 interceptions, 85.6 passer rating, 9-7 playoff record as starter, five NFC championship game appearances, one Super Bowl appearance, zero Super Bowl wins.
Troy Aikman (165 career regular-season games): 32,942 passing yards, 61.5% completion rate, 165 touchdown passes, 141 interceptions, 81.6 passer rating, 11-4 playoff record as a starter, four NFC championship game appearances, three Super Bowl appearances, three Super Bowl wins.
McNabb might have a point about the statistics: In basically the same number of games played, he had more than 4,000 more passing yards, 69 more touchdown passes, 24 fewer interceptions and a better passer rating. Oh, and he rushed for 2,443 more yards than Aikman, who was a first-ballot Hall of Famer in 2006.
Plus, McNabb is one of only four NFL quarterbacks with more than 30,000 passing yards, 200 touchdown passes, 3,000 rushing yards and 20 rushing touchdowns. The other three — Fran Tarkenton, John Elway and Steve Young — are in the Hall of Fame. Only seven quarterbacks have amassed more than McNabb’s 3,459 rushing yards.
Some of those stats can be explained away: McNabb, for instance, never had an all-time workhorse like Emmitt Smith behind him in the backfield, so Aikman’s passing numbers aren’t going to be similar. And 36 of Aikman’s career interceptions came in his first two seasons, when the Cowboys were all-around dreadful.
Pro Football Reference founder Doug Drinen has developed a statistic called weighted approximate value, which attempts to assign one number to a player’s career, based on their statistics, in order to determine the game’s all-time best players no matter their position on the field. Even Drinen admits it’s not an “be-all end-all” metric, but it’s a worthy attempt. And while McNabb is tied for 78th on the all-time weighted AV list, it’s the same position as fellow retired Eagle Randall Cunningham (who, like McNabb, hasn’t gotten past the Hall of Fame nominee stage the past three years). He sits behind such good-but-not-great quarterbacks as Ken Anderson (at 35th, he’s the highest-ranked retired player in weighted AV not in the Hall of Fame) and Carson Palmer (72nd).
But then again, McNabb sits a full 81 spots ahead of Aikman in weighted AV. He’s also ahead of other Hall of Famers like Terry Bradshaw, Jim Kelly, Roger Staubach, George Blanda, Joe Namath and Bart Starr (who is the lowest-ranked quarterback in terms of weighted AV to make the Hall of Fame). Four of those players were on Super Bowl-winning teams, however, and Kelly infamously played in the game four times.
“When they look at my numbers, yeah, but then they always want to add other stuff into it: ‘Was he an All-Pro? Was he this? How many Super Bowl opportunities?’ ” McNabb told TMZ. “But people don’t realize how hard it is to get to the NFC championship, and to get there five times and then make it to a Super Bowl? It’s tough.”
So is earning a gold jacket, apparently.