McNabb retires, reflects on career in Philadelphia and Washington

July 29, 2013

Clay Matthews sacks Donovan McNabb during the 2010 season. (John McDonnell/The Washington Post)

PHILADELPHIA — Nearly two years after his last game, quarterback Donovan McNabb formally retired Monday from the NFL in a ceremony in Philadelphia. There was a lot of reflecting that took place, and perhaps not surprisingly, much of it focused on the way McNabb’s football career ended.

Washington fans may not have the fondest memories of McNabb’s brief stint as Redskins quarterback, but the six-time Pro Bowler said his time in burgundy and gold wasn’t all bad: It helped him appreciate what he had for 11 seasons with the Eagles.

“The last two years of my career, to be honest with you, they were fun, even though we didn’t win much,” he said. “It was one where you begin to realize and appreciate the guys I have here [in Philadelphia], the stuff we were able to accomplish here.”

Both McNabb and Eagles owner Jeffrey Lurie re-lived the Easter day trade that brought McNabb to the Redskins in 2010. The team’s owner said Eagles’ brass was certain they were making the best strategic decision, but it was with a “heavy heart” that he pulled the trigger on the deal.

“I remember I had to make the call to Donovan,” Lurie said. “I couldn’t see. Tears were coming down [while] talking to him, telling him he’s traded. I just tried to reassure him that he’ll always be an Eagle, and that I hoped we were delivering him to a coach who was a really competent offensive coach in Mike Shanahan.”

Redskins fans know all too well how that worked out. In December 2010, Shanahan demoted McNabb to No. 3 on the depth chart, handing the quarterback reins to Rex Grossman. McNabb said he enjoyed his teammates in Washington but his well-aired grievances with Shanahan and offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan haven’t subsided.

“I just felt like the scheme, the approach just wasn’t what I was used to,” he said Monday. “Things just don’t work out. You look at, say for instance, Peyton [Manning] going to Denver and how they brought his offense to Denver. The guys in Washington knew the West Coast offense. I felt like if we would’ve incorporated what we knew in that, and just added a few things, we would’ve been a lot better. It just didn’t work out.”

Michael Vick, Donovan McNabb
Eagles quarterback Michael Vick, left, hugs former quarterback Donovan McNabb, right, during a ceremony to honor former players before the first session of training camp open to the general public on Sunday. (Matt Smith/The Express-Times, via AP)

Lurie said Monday that the Eagles will retire McNabb’s No. 5 and the former quarterback will be honored before Philadelphia hosts the Kansas City Chiefs next month. The announcement marks a thaw in McNabb’s relationship with the team.

McNabb said the trade from Philadelphia created bad feelings that have only recently begun to ebb. The second overall pick in the 1999 NFL Draft, McNabb led the Eagles to five NFC title games and one Super Bowl appearance. He retires as the Eagles’ career leader in most passing categories.

After the Redskins traded him in July 2011 to Minnesota for what amounted to a sixth-round draft pick, McNabb appeared in only six games with the Vikings before losing his starting job.

“You got to know when it’s time. …When you’re not able to do the things you were doing back when you were younger, you got to know the game changes,” he said Monday. “For 13 years, the game has continued to evolve. Can you catch up or can you play at the pace that they’re playing? I felt like I could but opportunities weren’t there where I wanted.”

Related: McNabb officially hangs ‘em up

Have a Redskins question? E-mail Mike Jones at mike.jones@washpost.com with the subject line “Mailbag question” for him to answer it in The Mailbag.

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What’s ahead:

Robert Griffin III meets with reporters after the early practice.

Today’s afternoon practice is at 3:20 p.m. Here’s our guide to camp, if you’re headed to Richmond.

More from The Post:

The Mailbag: Carriker and T. Jackson’s futures, right tackle and more

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D.C. Sports Bog: Fans go to training camp for honeymoon | The Bog & Redskins

John Keim is leaving The Post for ESPN

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Still in the running for LB Joe Mays

Wide receivers Hankerson and Robinson have much to prove

Observations: Day 3 | Day 2 | Day 1

Training camp photo gallery

Rick Maese is a sports features writer for The Washington Post.
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Mike Jones · July 29, 2013

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