Talk of McNabb's health does more harm than good

Updated: February 11, 2005, 10:59 AM ET
By John Clayton | ESPN.com

Eagles center Hank Fraley didn't do Donovan McNabb a favor by telling the world McNabb was so sick in the fourth quarter of Sunday's Super Bowl loss to the Patriots that he could hardly call plays.

Donovan McNabb
The excuses made by his teammates only support the criticism that McNabb isn't in the same class as Tom Brady.
Though McNabb tried to dismiss the incident during an interview session with the press Wednesday at the Pro Bowl, the image of McNabb "dry heaving" isn't a good one.

As if McNabb hasn't had enough problems. He's had to overcome comments by Rush Limbaugh. He's had to overcome three consecutive losses in NFC championship games.

Now, until he gets back to a Super Bowl and wins the game, he has to fight the stigma of not being able to close the biggest game of his life.

Here's the problem created by Fraley's statements. The standard of excellence in the postseason is McNabb's quarterbacking adversary, Tom Brady.

Brady played the AFC championship game with a temperature of 103 and looked fresh. He made no excuses. Even after Super Bowl XXXIX, a game in which Brady didn't play with his usual MVP efficiency, he didn't cite fatigue or stress -- and he certainly had more than McNabb.

Brady's father was in the hospital. His grandmother died during Super Bowl week, and he wasn't able to attend the funeral. And friends admitted Brady was still weak from his bout with the flu two weeks before.

In the NFL, it's the player who finishes best who wins. Brady is a proven finisher. He's 9-0 during the playoffs and he's 3-0 in the Super Bowl. McNabb, on the other hand, has to overcome the look of tiring and not being able to finish strong.

In some respects, that's unfair. Though he moved the offense as if he had the lead and was killing the clock, McNabb garnered enough strength to throw a long touchdown pass to Greg Lewis to cut the Patriots lead to three, 24-21.

Everyone has been trying to come up with reasons why the Eagles didn't go into a no-huddle or didn't show more urgency during the final five minutes of the fourth quarter.

McNabb dismissed his teammate's claims of his feeling ill.

"No, I wasn't sick, and no, I didn't throw up. I was tired a little bit but we scored on that drive, and that's the main thing," McNabb said.

For a year, McNabb has to live with jokes that his mom didn't give him enough "Chunky Soup."

It's just one more obstacle he must overcome.

John Clayton is a senior writer for ESPN.com.

John Clayton

NFL senior writer

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