Donovan McNabb was not only a quarterback but a broadcast major at Syracuse when Andy Reid selected him with the Philadelphia Eagles’ first pick of the 1999 draft.
This week, McNabb, who led Reid’s Eagles teams to five NFC championship games and a Super Bowl, will start a new phase of his broadcasting career in a game coached by Reid.
McNabb will make his debut as a Fox game analyst for the Chiefs-St. Louis Rams game at noon Sunday at Arrowhead Stadium.
“It just so happens that me and the big guy have some kind of flow going on,” said McNabb, who has been doing studio work for Fox the last two years. “Just talking to Andy last year when I did a one-on-one interview with him, he likes his team, he enjoys the veterans he has on the team, and the message is still the same as he had with us, and those guys are implementing it on the field.”
McNabb and Reid combined to post a 99-49-1 overall record with the Eagles during 1999-2009, and McNabb sees a lot of similarities with what Reid accomplished in Philadelphia in the 2000s and what he has done since he inherited a dysfunctional 2-14 team last year and took it to the playoffs.
“When he walked into Philadelphia, they were coming off a 3-13 season,” McNabb said. “We went 5-11 that year, and from that point on, when we had everyone healthy. we won at least 10 games (a year).
“I wish we could have brought the (Super Bowl) trophy home, but the whole thing for us is we changed the dynamic of the Philadelphia Eagles, we changed the culture, the approach, the attitude, and that’s very important. That says a lot about Andy and his philosophies, and the guys he brings in … good character guys … and that’s what he’s doing in Kansas City.”
In fact, when watching the Chiefs, McNabb sees a carbon copy of his Eagles teams.
“When you look at the Kansas City Chiefs, all (Reid’s) asking of Alex Smith is to manage the game the right way, protect the football, convert the third downs and give those guys opportunities,” McNabb said of his mandate from Reid.
“Jamaal Charles reminds you of a Brian Westbrook … Knile Davis reminds you of Correll Buckhalter … De’Anthony Thomas can be used like a DeSean Jackson … Dwayne Bowe, maybe like a Terrell Owens … Travis Kelce can be like a Chad Lewis or a Brent Celek …
“Andy was a big proponent of during the draft of building from the interior out … meaning offensive and defensive lines. That’s why he went out and drafted (Eric) Fisher. He struggled early, but he’s starting to play well. That’s his Tre Thomas or Jon Runyan … And on defense, he’s got his Brian Dawkins in Eric Berry… when he’s healthy enough to go.”
McNabb also has a special relationship with Chiefs offensive coordinator Doug Pederson, whom McNabb unseated as Eagles starting quarterback midway through the 1999 season.
“Doug taught me a lot,” McNabb said. “His backing up Brett Favre, I was able to learn my first year of how to prepare. What things did Brett do, and what things should I avoid that Brett did … or what should I pay attention to, little keys of the game that would help me develop into the quarterback I wanted to be. And Doug was that guy.”
McNabb even recognizes the plays Pederson and Reid call on offense.
“It’s funny, on first down, ‘Oh I figured that one was coming …’ ” McNabb said. “Here comes third down … the red zone … I know this play. But it’s working. You never change anything that is working, and for those guys, it’s different faces, just different jerseys … they’re being successful as well.”
The secret to Reid’s success as a head coach, McNabb said is he allows the players to be themselves.
“He’s like a big kid,” McNabb said. “You hear so much about some of these other coaches who are hard to deal with … they’re sticklers on everything. Not that Andy isn’t a disciplinarian, but he treats you like a man.
“He’s one of those players’ coaches who you can go into his office, you can talk about anything on or off the field, and if he doesn’t have the answer, he’ll be willing to go out of his way to find that answer for you to help you out.”