- The Washington Times - Wednesday, October 1, 2003

Donovan McNabb has some advice for football fans in Philadelphia and around the country who are suddenly caught up in the soap opera that is his life:

Take a chill pill, folks.

The Pro Bowl quarterback is taking hits from every direction he turns these days, from Eagles fans frustrated by his slow start and from commentator Rush Limbaugh, who set off a national firestorm over the weekend when he said McNabb is overrated because the media wants to see a black quarterback succeed.

McNabb, whose Eagles (1-2) play host to the Washington Redskins (3-1) on Sunday, wishes everyone would calm down and let more than a couple weeks of the season play out before jumping to conclusions.

“It’s a new year — everything changes,” McNabb said yesterday during a conference call with Washington reporters. “You might not play as well as you did the year before, or start out that way. … [Critics] are obviously going off of two weeks of performance. It’s a long year. You live and you learn.”

Members of the Redskins’ defense don’t have to be reminded of McNabb’s prowess. They’ve been torched by the multi-dimensional quarterback too many times to believe McNabb’s abilities are suddenly slipping away.

“He’s a great quarterback,” linebacker Jessie Armstead said. “He had one bad game, and everyone started saying, ‘Donovan lost it. What’s wrong with Donovan?’ The man’s human. He had one bad game. He came back last week and did the things he’s good at.”

After getting off to a horrendous start in Philadelphia’s first two games — 37 for 84, 334 yards and three interceptions in losses to Tampa Bay and New England — McNabb returned to his familiar form in a 23-13 victory Sunday against Buffalo.

McNabb’s numbers (18-for-29, 172 yards and 47 yards rushing) weren’t exactly anything to gloat about. But he produced a couple of big plays, including a 25-yard scramble on the game’s first drive and effectively ran the Eagles’ ball-control offense to ensure the club’s first victory.

“We had a lot of mistakes in the first two games which we’ve learned from,” McNabb said. “We know we’re a better team. We went out against Buffalo and just showed people what kind of team we have. It’s a start and definitely something we can feed off of.”

McNabb’s latest performance came as no surprise to the Redskins. In a November 2000 game at FedEx Field, he passed for 137 yards and rushed for 125 more and a touchdown. Last September, he led a 37-7 trouncing of Washington with 292 yards and two touchdowns through the air, plus a rushing TD. He was out with a broken ankle when the teams met at Veterans Stadium last December.

“He’s one of the best in the league, and last week I think he showed why he’s one of the best — because he ran with the ball,” Redskins coach Steve Spurrier said. “They didn’t give him all that money [$115 million] because he’s an average quarterback. He’s one of the best in the league.”

Apparently, Limbaugh didn’t get the message. The conservative talk show host and new member of ESPN’s Sunday morning NFL pregame show stirred up a major fuss with his comments about McNabb.

“I think what we’ve had here is a little social concern in the NFL,” Limbaugh said. “The media has been very desirous that a black quarterback do well. There is a little hope invested in McNabb, and he got a lot of credit for the performance of this team that he didn’t deserve. The defense carried this team.”

McNabb said the remarks upset him, but he has no desire to meet with Limbaugh.

“There’s no need for me to speak to him,” McNabb said. “I don’t think he’s the first one who would ever have thought that, and there probably are a lot of people who are happy he said it. I’m not one of them. So there’s no need for me to talk to him one-on-one.”

During his radio show yesterday, Limbaugh stood by his original statement.

“All this has become the tempest that it is because I must have been right about something,” he said. “If I wasn’t right, there wouldn’t be this cacophony of outrage that has sprung up in the sportswriter community.”

Limbaugh wouldn’t have found many supporters yesterday in the Redskins’ locker room, where the story was the hot topic of discussion.

“Who’s Rush Limbaugh to make a statement like that?” linebacker LaVar Arrington said. “He needs to stay in his area of expertise, ‘cause he’s out of it right now. I think that’s one of the most asinine comments a person can make. … That just shows his IQ level, at least his IQ level in football.”

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