PHILADELPHIA -- When Donovan McNabb arrived in Philadelphia in 1999, he became one of the three generational sports stars in town at the time.
Iverson and Lindros were elected to their respective Halls of Fame over the past few months. Iverson was chosen for the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame in April. Lindros was elected to the Hockey Hall of Fame just this week.
That raises a question which would surely elicit loud opinions from Eagles fans: Should McNabb be voted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame when he becomes eligible next year?
This is not an argument in McNabb’s favor. Let’s start with that. McNabb comes close, and he deserves reasonable consideration. He started 161 NFL games with a career record of 98-62-1. He is the Eagles' all-time leader in wins, yardage and touchdown passes. He led the team to five NFC championship games and a Super Bowl.
But McNabb is competing with other quarterbacks for Hall of Fame admission. When Brett Favre and Ken Stabler are enshrined this summer, they will be the first quarterbacks to enter the Hall in a decade. Troy Aikman and Warren Moon went into the Hall of Fame in 2006.
Aikman won three Super Bowls. Steve Young (2005) won one. John Elway (2004) won two. Dan Marino (2005) never won a championship, but he had statistics so stellar, he had to go in. Same with Moon, who didn’t even get a chance in the NFL until he was 28.
Jim Kelly never won a Super Bowl, but he took the Buffalo Bills to four in a row in the 1990s.
Again, McNabb belongs in a conversation with players like that. It’s just not clear whether he belongs in the Hall of Fame with them.
That’s what makes the selections of Iverson and Lindros so compelling. They played different positions in different sports that have different Hall of Fame selection processes. That makes comparisons difficult, maybe even useless.
But neither Iverson nor Lindros ever took a team to a championship. Each got his team to one championship round, same as McNabb. Each lost, as McNabb did. But McNabb got the Eagles to four other semifinal appearances, more than either Lindros or Iverson managed.
All three even had similar careers after leaving Philadelphia. McNabb was traded to Washington and finished with a brief stop in Minnesota. Iverson was traded to Denver, stopped in Memphis and made a career-ending cameo with the Sixers. Lindros played with three teams after leaving the Flyers in 2000.
When it comes time to consider McNabb, the voters will weigh his career against the careers of other quarterbacks. That’s as it should be.
But the careers of Lindros and Iverson add perspective that helps make the case for McNabb. If they are Hall of Famers in their sports, then McNabb certainly looks like a Hall of Famer in his.