donovan mcnabb*It’s hard not to feel just a little bit sorry for Donovan McNabb, the former Eagles, Redskins and (briefly) Vikings quarterback whose #5 will be retired by the Eagles next year.

Like John McClane, McNabb always just seemed to be in the wrong place at the wrong time – beginning on draft night, when the always-patient Philadelphia fans booed him roundly for not being Ricky Williams (would you like a mulligan on that, city of Brotherly Love?) and when he was the unwitting target of Rush Limbaugh’s idiocy.

Even after he earned the respect – if not the love – of Eagles fans, his Philadelphia teams that dominated the NFC East in the beginning of the millennium were always just either overmatched (against the 2001 Rams) or just one guy short of being great. For the first part of the Eagles’ run, McNabb had to make do with a putrid mix of wide receiver talent; when he finally got a great one in Terrell Owens, the Eagles made it to the Superbowl – followed by one of T.O.’s epic meltdowns that torpedoed the following season.

It never really got better after that. The rest of his career was spent alternating injuries with successes, including one final run to the NFC Championship Game (a loss to Arizona) and fending off challenges from a string of talented backups before Philly shipped him out to wither in Washington for the 2010 season. He retires and rides off into the sunset as one of the most talented, accomplished and unfairly maligned quarterbacks of the last fifteen years. Perhaps it’s fitting that the enduring image of McNabb’s career might be from his one Superbowl appearance – that confusing fourth quarter against a dynastic Patriots team, McNabb and the Eagles drifting through their drives before suddenly coming alive. In the end, the team – and McNabb – just ran out of time.