Of all of the NFL's active players, there might not be a more polarizing debate over one's Pro Football Hall of Fame credentials than the debate over QB Donovan McNabb's. Those who love him will defend every chink in the armor; those opposed to his candidacy will point to this: Five trips to the NFC championship game, one Super Bowl appearance and no Super Bowl ring. It's a tough stat for any quarterback to overcome.
Canton has experienced a lull at the position in recent years; not a single quarterback has been enshrined since Warren Moon and Troy Aikman were welcomed with the Class of 2006. But there are plenty of candidates coming, many of them sure to become eligible near the same time McNabb is expected.
How will he fare against the other quarterbacks of his era? Here is how McNabb's résumé stacks up right now …
Statistics: At present, McNabb ranks 15th in career passing with 36,517 yards. There is a good chance that by season's end he will have moved past Boomer Esiason and Dave Krieg into 13th place — one spot behind Johnny Unitas on the list. McNabb also ranks among the top 15 all time in completions and attempts, and is fourth among active quarterback in touchdown passes (231). Perhaps most impressive, McNabb ranks third all time in interception percentage (2.2). One thing that could hurt McNabb's Hall of Fame campaign is that his single-season numbers have never been overwhelming, just steady. He has reached the 30-touchdown mark only once (2004) and he has never reached 4,000 yards in any one season. It also might sting that McNabb's career completion percentage is below 60 percent. Of course, helping McNabb are his feet, which have travelled 3,444 yards over the past 12-plus seasons. If he gains 231 more yards before his career wraps, he will pass both Steve McNair and Fran Tarkenton.
Success: From 2000-06, McNabb helped the Eagles win 10 or more games six times. Entering this season, his career regular-season winning percentage was .629 (Peyton Manning owns a .678 regular-season success rate). He took the Eagles to the NFC championship game five times, including four seasons in a row (2001-04). In 16 playoff starts, he has thrown 24 touchdown passes and 17 interceptions.
HOF comparison: Jim Kelly
Like Kelly, McNabb is known for losing big games. The fact remains, we must still respect that both men guided their teams to postseason success. And McNabb is one of few quarterbacks who can claim to have led his team to five conference title games.
Accolades: This is another area of concern. McNabb has six Pro Bowl appearances but he has never been named to the All-Pro team and has never won league Most Valuable Player (four different quarterbacks have won the award in the years McNabb has been active). In short, it indicates he has been one of the best at his position for many years, but never the best.
Intangibles: McNabb should have a stronger likability rating. He has chosen to take the high road whenever he has been wrapped up in drama (Terrell Owens in Philadelphia, last year's benching in Washington) and always has conducted himself with a workmanlike attitude. He has kept his name out of the paper and has starred in national advertising campaigns. But, for whatever reason, fans have never showered him with the same love as they have for other elite signalcallers. McNabb is associated with one of the postseason's most famous plays (4th-and-26), but such a distinction probably means less for a quarterback than for a tight end like Dave Casper.
First-ballot candidate: No
HOF probability: 50 percent. Two years ago, McNabb's candidacy would have placed him in the 75 percent range. However, his troubles in Washington last season and his slow start to the 2011 season are starting to wear on his legacy. Like Brett Favre, it will be difficult for fans to forget McNabb's final years. The difference, of course, is that Favre won a title and owns every record a passer could hope to, so his candidacy is certain. McNabb's is very much up in the air.
Mike Beacom is a pro and college football writer whose work has appeared in numerous print and online sources. He is also the author of The Complete Idiot's Guide to Understanding Football (Alpha, 2010). Follow him on twitter @mbeac