Five years ago, Donovan McNabb arrived in Washington in a stylish suit and tie and a declared that he was open for business.
In a high-priced Arlington penthouse, McNabb, several months after being traded from the Philadelphia Eagles to the Washington Redskins, met with White House officials, bankers, industry leaders and other power brokers in Washington and invited them to get in on the ground floor of Donovan McNabb, Inc.
“The game plan for me … is to inspire others to do right, and not do wrong,” he told the power crowd, according to a story in The Syracuse Post-Standard. “We have a new president from Chicago, and the thing he emphasizes is to make change.
“I’m starting a new chapter in the book of Donovan,” he told reporters.
Here is the latest chapter:
“There was a story that was released, and I want everybody to be cognizant of it, because I am very aware of it, handling the matter at this particular point,” McNabb said in statement. “But at this point, I have no further information, and as we continue on with the situation, then we’ll let it handle as it will handle itself.”
It’s a sad chapter in a story that became a nightmare ever since McNabb, 38, stepped foot in Washington in April 2010 following a trade from Philadelphia.
McNabb’s statement of jibberish was in reaction to his second DUI arrest in Arizona in two years, the latest happening on June 28. A police report stated McNabb’s vehicle rear-ended a car driven by the wife of a Gila River tribal police officer and McNabb appeared to be impaired.
“While Donovan spoke, I noticed a strong, fruity odor on his breath. I noticed Donovan’s eyes were watery and very bloodshot and his speech was slurred,” a Gilbert, Arizona officer wrote in the report.
After the officer made McNabb spit out cough drops, he was given some roadside tests and “was not able to stand without visibly swaying back and forth and side to side in a rotational pattern,” the report stated.
We have seen many falls from grace, but those are often precipitated by a particular event of self destruction. McNabb’s, though, is unique in that his spiral downward is marked only by life circumstances that proved, perhaps most shockingly to him, that he wasn’t who he thought he was.
McNabb came to the Redskins as the latest savior quarterback, the Eagles’ No. 1 draft pick in 1999 and a six-time Pro Bowl quarterback who led Philadelphia to the NFC championship in 2004.
He was also the corporate African-American quarterback, embraced by Madison Avenue with endorsements for Verizon, Nike and, best known, Campbell’s Chunky Soup, appearing in TV commercials with his mother. “His potential is tremendous. … A charismatic and handsome young athlete who plays the glamour position in football,” Bob Williams, president of Burns Celebrity Sports Service, told the Philadelphia Inquirer in 2000.
Of course, the next step for him when he arrived in nation’s capital in 2010 was to take that charisma and glamour and translate into power, political and commercial, far beyond the borders of Philadelphia.
Two things happened, though — he was soon not so glamorous, and he was never quite as charismatic as he and others believed.
He struggled under the Redskins’ new coach, Mike Shanahan, who was force-fed McNabb in the trade by owner Dan Snyder and general manager Bruce Allen. His work ethic and intelligence was called into question following a benching near the end of a 37-25 loss to the Detroit Lions in October 2010. He became the starter again under the illusion of the fanfare of a so-called contract extension signed with Washington on the eve of one of the worst losses in franchise history — a Monday night, 59-28, loss to his former team and his replacement in Philadelphia, Michael Vick.
McNabb’s fall continued when Shanahan benched him in favor of Rex Grossman for the final three games of the season, and his public opinion took a hit when he hid behind his agent, Fletcher Smith, to fight his battles with the Redskins. Smith issued a statement blaming Mike Shanahan’s son, offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan, for his client’s problems.
“I believe there is tension between Donovan and Kyle that’s rooted in the fact that Donovan has suggested modifications to Kyle’s offense based on intricacies Donovan has learned in his NFL career,” Smith said.
McNabb was gone before the start of the next season, traded to the Minnesota Vikings for two sixth-round draft picks. There, he was also not very charismatic or glamorous, and was out of football in a couple of months.
He has tried to recapture the glory of that Arlington business meeting ever since, most recently on the radio for NBC Sports. But now, after his second DUI arrest, he has taken a leave of absence and is facing a minimum of three months in prison, among other penalties.
“I wanted you guys to learn a little bit more about me, not just as a football player, but as a person,” McNabb told the power brokers in that meeting.
Sadly, what McNabb may have learned is that other than a football player, he has no idea who he is.
• Thom Loverro is co-host of “The Sports Fix,” noon to 2 p.m. daily on ESPN 980 and espn980.com.