By Jordan Raanan, Xfinity Sports NFL Columnist
Donovan McNabb was making predictions and breaking down plays on NFL Network’s ‘Playbook’ show Friday night. He’ll be on the network’s new morning show ‘NFL AM’ dissecting the Week 1 action at dawn Monday morning.
The studio, not the football football, is McNabb’s new, permanent safe haven. That became official earlier in the week when the former star quarterback’s new role as an analyst at NFL Network was detailed. His primary responsibility will be the weekly ‘Playbook’ shows.
For the first time since 1999, his rookie year with the Philadelphia Eagles, McNabb will not be a starting quarterback on Week 1 of an NFL season. His playing days are over despite preparing this offseason as if they weren’t, changing his workout routine and altering his mechanics at the suggestion of Hall of Famer Warren Moon. He is unofficially officially retired. McNabb’s contractually obligated to the NFL Network for the season, according to a source.
There will be no last-minute phone calls to the 35-year-old former Pro Bowler or one last run at resurrecting a playing career that ended rather abruptly without a team the final half of last season. McNabb has turned the page to his post-playing broadcasting career, “something obviously I’ve been looking forward to,” as he explained on his maiden broadcast as a full-time NFLN employee.
It’s a transition that should be rather seamless. McNabb had always made it know that his secondary career ambitions were to sit on a set with other players and broadcasters opining about the game he loves. That was apparent when he would hijack locker room interviews throughout the years with make-believe microphones and questions.
In a way, he’s been preparing for this next step in life since his college days at Syracuse, when he earned a degree in speech communications. The past few years McNabb’s done prep work as a guest analyst at ESPN, appearing extensively on shows such as ‘First Take’ and ‘SportsCenter.’ He also popped in on the NFLN sets more than a few times.
The former NFL star knew this day would come sooner rather than later. It’s why McNabb looked and sounded stellar in his ‘Playbook’ debut. He spoke clearly and confidently with a comforting cadence. He had the knowledge and stats to make his points pop. Sure there was the occasional stumble or word invention, but that comes with the territory. Trust me, I know firsthand standing or sitting in front of a camera is not as easy as it looks.
But McNabb appears to be a natural. He’s always had that five-mile smile and corny sense of humor that translate so naturally to television. He’s always had that ability to spit fire and spark controversy with his words and mere existence (see Rush Limbaugh controversy). All of which makes him a talking head star in the making. Television and Donovan McNabb are a match made in boob tube heaven.
McNabb’s role at NFLN will include doing ‘Playbook’ for all 22 weeks including the playoffs and Super Bowl from NFL Films in South Jersey, only miles away from where he always kept a residence during his time with the Eagles. He will also be appearing on other NFLN programs on a varying basis, splitting his time between New Jersey and the network’s Los Angeles studios.
“He’ll have a nice footprint at the network. He will be across several other platforms at the network throughout the year on different shows,” McNabb’s media agent Mark Lepselter, owner of MAXX Sports & Entertainment, said earlier this week. “It will vary but it’s enough of a workload where he’ll have a relevant role on the network.”
That face and voice we’ve become so accustomed to seeing and hearing will remain in the public spotlight. As if there ever were a doubt. And McNabb will likely be as successful in his second career as he was his first.
Despite plenty of controversy and criticism that came along with his skills, McNabb had quite a run in Philadelphia from 1999-2009. The best quarterback in franchise history won 65 percent of his starts with the Eagles. That’s a better winning percentage than Brett Favre had with the Packers, John Elway with the Broncos, Troy Aikman with the Cowboys and Dan Marino with the Dolphins.
Of course though, McNabb’s playing career may ultimately be remembered by the sudden deterioration of his relationship with Terrell Owens and that missing Super Bowl. His broadcasting career likely will leave a different legacy considering he may just be even better suited for television than the football field. Plus he may finally have a coach to put him in a better position to succeed.
The opinions expressed are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Comcast.