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The "Overrated" Donovan McNabb

How Rush Limbaugh, Allen Barra, and the High Church of Statistical Determinism misjudged a winner.

11:00 PM, Dec 9, 2003 • By JONATHAN V. LAST
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AS THE BCS has recently proven, in sports, numbers sometimes lie. Baseball tends to translate well into statistics, but other games--particularly football and basketball--do not. There are bigger things happening on a football field than yards-per-throw calculations and actuarial table readings. There's leadership, temperament, and the ability to make big plays.

Donovan McNabb excels in each of these categories. When the Eagles again got off to a rocky start this year (they've started out 2-2 in three of the last four seasons, yet made the playoffs each time), McNabb played through the doldrums. No problems in the locker room, no dissension in the ranks. Even with grand personages such as Limbaugh and Barra sniping at him in public, McNabb kept his cool. None of this shows up in the box score. All of it matters.

OR AT LEAST it matters to some people. Barra, with his gospel of mathematical determinism, is not one of them. To Barra, heroism and character never count and there's no room for the mythopoetic in sports. A couple of seasons back, Barra called Brian Griese, then of the Denver Broncos, "the AFC's best quarterback." He then astutely noted that, according to "our Pass-Efficiency Rating, he has better efficiency numbers than John Elway ever had."

Of course to anyone watching the game, and not the Pass-Efficiency Rating, it was obvious that Elway was a quarterback for the ages and Griese was a mediocrity, his numbers the product of a particular offensive system. Now in Miami, Griese has been benched in favor of the pride of Dartmouth, Jay Fiedler.

McNabb remains in Philadelphia, where all he does is win--and suffer critics graciously.

Jonathan V. Last is online editor of The Weekly Standard.