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Donovan McNabb Pick Could Have Been Edgerrin James

Jul 30, 2013, 11:10 AM EDT


Imagine if Donovan McNabb had been chosen first overall by the Cleveland Browns in the 1999 NFL Draft instead Tim Couch. Say what you want about Five, but in hindsight that’s definitely what should have happened. Well, where would that have left the Eagles?

Probably not where you would expect. Team owner Jeffrey Lurie shared an interesting story about that fateful draft at McNabb’s formal retirement press conference on Monday. Had the Browns taken the right guy, the Dirty Thirty would have wound up booing Edgerrin James instead.

Lurie told the assembled that if McNabb had not been available at No. 2, the long-time Colts running back would have been the pick over any of the other quarterbacks – notably Couch or Akili Smith – as well as fan favorite Heisman Trophy-winning back Ricky Williams.

“We were interviewing all together and very intensely every one of these quarterbacks and the top players at the top of the round obviously with the second pick,” said Lurie. “This was meant to be a very, very important pick.

“We didn’t have a lot of confidence in most of the quarterbacks in that draft. The only quarterback that we all – and Andy leading the way – felt very confident in was Donovan, and it wasn’t just his athletic ability. It was his years at Syracuse, his being able to learn a complicated offense, the way he was as a person, stable family background compared to some other quarterbacks both in that draft and elsewhere. So it all came together that he was really the only quarterback that was really far above all the others for us.”

And if the Cleveland Browns had selected McNabb instead of Tim Couch?

“It was really, Donovan or ‘Yikes, what are we going to do?’ ” said Lurie. “I guess the answer was Edgerrin. We thought this probably was a potential Hall of Fame running back.”

James wound up going one pick before Williams at No. 4, going on to carve out a nice 11-year career primarily in Indianapolis and with the Arizona Cardinals. The four-time Pro Bowler is 11th all-time on the NFL career rushing list with 12,246 yards on the ground, 18th with 80 touchdowns.

But it goes without saying James wouldn’t have had the impact in Philadelphia that Donovan had. Chances are nobody from that draft class would have.

That’s something to think about the next time you or somebody you know goes to bash McNabb’s career in Philly. True, he couldn’t bring home the Lombardi Trophy. Yes, he had his share of flaws. Also, where would the franchise have been for those 11 seasons if he wasn’t the starting quarterback?

Who knows, but chances are great it wouldn’t have been winning five NFC East titles, much less making five appearances in NFC Championship games.

If for some reason you can’t appreciate McNabb on his own merits, maybe you should consider how much worse things could have been without him. As long as he was here, the Eagles had a chance to win it all every year. Those were good times.

>> If not McNabb, James the pick [Rdg Eagle]

  1. TartanSixNine - Jul 30, 2013 at 11:24 AM

    “It it goes without saying James wouldn’t have had the impact in Philadelphia that Donovan had”. Definitely. James had a future HOF QB in Indy keeping defenses honest. No chance whatsoever that he does as well in Philly.

  2. Mike - Jul 30, 2013 at 11:31 AM

    Man, talk about a missed opportunity. The Eagles could have had a backfield combination of Edgerrin James, Duce Staley and Brian Westbrook. It would have been amazing to see those three guys in the backfield blocking as Andy Reid continued to have Akili Smith throw the ball to James Thrash, Todd Pinkston and Freddie Mitchell 60 times a game.

    • BenE. - Jul 30, 2013 at 12:49 PM

      Hahaha. This is great. Expect it to go over most people’s heads, though.

  3. JesseH - Jul 30, 2013 at 11:32 AM

    Not sure I believe Lurie, but assuming that he is telling the truth, I’m not so sure you can say with absolute certainty that the Eagles wouldn’t have been better off. What if they had drafted James in 1999, then, for sake of argument, Chad Pennington with their first pick in 2000? For the years the Eagles dominated the NFC (2001 – 2004), there’s no chance that a Pennington/James (add T.O. in 2004) led offense along with Jim Johnson’s defense could have had some great years in there too? Add in that Pennington, though he had 4 or 5 good years, may have been even better under Andy’s tutelage (and I am by no means an Andy Reid fan, but his supposed primary strength was developing QBs). Of course there are many other scenarios as well, but you have to at least assume that upgrading the QB position would still have been in the Eagles’ immediate plans had they not drafted McNabb.

    • Andrew Kulp - Jul 30, 2013 at 11:43 AM

      Of course nobody can say what would have happened for certain, but the odds are much better they would not have been as dominant without McNabb. I’ll certainly take my chances on Five and Corey Simon over Edgerrin James and Chad Pennington.

  4. Andy Schreiber - Jul 30, 2013 at 12:10 PM

    Will always wonder what #5 could have done without Reid.

    I’m convinced that if the Eagles had run the ball more (and taken some of the pressure off Donovan’s shoulders), they win a Super Bowl or two.

  5. Speculater - Jul 30, 2013 at 12:36 PM

    If my aunt had balls she’d be my uncle. What are we talking about here?

    • JimM. - Jul 30, 2013 at 7:07 PM

      Practice!…sorry. as for your point I agree with the aunt/uncle (uncle/aunt?) analogy. As for this debate, it looks like the balls are in their court.


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