Donovan McNabb always has a lot to say. Since his playing career ended in 2011, McNabb has made a career in media, working for NFL Network, Fox Sports and NBC Sports, on both radio and television. But his “extreme DUI” in November, which landed the former Eagles in jail for 18 days and 90-days on house arrest, made it easy for media companies to back away, leaving McNabb with fewer opportunities to continue his media career.
ESPN Radio is set to announce its new weekend lineup for the fall, which includes McNabb hosting a three-hour program with Brian Custer on Sunday nights at 10 p.m. ET beginning September 11. We had the chance to speak with McNabb about his new gig, the opportunity to stay in the spotlight (for the right reasons) after his recent troubles, and his thoughts on the Philly media.
Obviously we talked about the Eagles as well, specifically his former teammate Doug Pederson taking over — and the narrative that McNabb couldn’t learn the playbook as a rookie — and the tetra-headed monster at quarterback for the Birds, a situation McNabb flatly called dumb.
“And now you sign — which was dumb — you sign Sam Bradford to a multi-year deal and give him big money, then you trade picks to move up to No. 2 – that was dumb. I mean, nothing against Carson Wentz, but why would you do that? That’s just a bad business decision from the Philadelphia Eagles.”
McNabb had a lot to say about a lot of things, presented in this Q&A, with accompanying audio. He seems excited to be back, and happy to ruffle any and all feathers.
On his up-and-down time after retirement — both as a member of the media and as a topic in the media following his arrest — and what he learned from both:
I’ve had this experience of working in media throughout my career, and once I retired I had the opportunity to move fully into the media, it’s something you already know is going to be a part of it.
When you make mistakes, obviously there’s consequences with it. Obviously I’ve acknowledged the mistakes that I’ve made and I apologized for it and I know that’s not going to happen again. But when you step away from a job that you truly enjoy doing — I was working at Fox and all the other networks I was a part of after retirement — you feel that drive of continuing on. It’s sort of unfinished business for me. ESPN gave me that opportunity when other networks were there, but nervous about making that decision early on because of the scrutiny they may feel they’d get.
Everyone makes mistakes. I’m so excited at getting this opportunity to work with ESPN and get back on track and get more involved in sports and being able to talk about them.
On radio vs. TV and his relative comfort level in each medium:
I think experience plays a major factor in the success you have on TV. Obviously when you’re talking about radio, it’s just you and maybe your co-host and you’re in separate places and you can relax and just talk about anything and give the listener something exciting to talk about or listen to or sit back and laugh and joke. It’s a great time.
But for me, TV, I was ready for it once I stepped into with NFL Network on the show The Playbook with Sterling Sharpe and Brian Baldinger and from there I went to Fox and it was easy for me.
Not everyone is able to talk in front of the camera. Now, we know about [people] who can talk to their friends or at the barber shop or whatever and they can talk about anything, but as soon as they put that light on them and they see that red light and it’s time to go, not everybody is comfortable with that. And I’ve been truly comfortable with it.
Obviously when you have a microphone in your face throughout your 13-year football career and everyone wants to talk to ask you questions about the game, practice, players, whatever it may be and you want to be up front and give them the right answer and be able to move on.
On doing a post-game NFL radio show for ESPN:
It’s really no different than having a Monday show. I had a show five days a week…so I think the fun period for me during that was the fact that I can talk about different quarterbacks, defenses that they’re running, why teams are struggling. Offenses – why they’re changing and why the Wildcat offense and all that gimmicky stuff wasn’t going to work for a period of time. And then everybody thought I was crazy and pretty much hating on it when really there’s no Wildcat anymore. There’s no read-option really anymore.
Because when you’ve played the position and played the game you know the way the game is supposed to be played. Yeah, sometimes gimmicky plays and gadget plays work in spurts in a game, but if you make that your offense you’re not going to be successful.
That’s what is going to be fun about the Sunday night show. It’s not just going to be football based. We’re going to talk about all the hot topics, what’s hot at that particular point, and roll through it.
On social media: McNabb has taken a ton of heat on Twitter. People like to have fun at celebrities’ expense, but what has he learned?
Well, that whole thing is – you can never get caught up in it. Whether you’re in the media or not, that’s something you can’t make your focus. Too many times as personalities, you know, guys get caught up in the way people feel about them or their reaction or their response to different situations that you may have been a part of. You know, obviously, with my issue that happened last year people had lots of comments about it. I’m sure they’re going to have more comments as we continue on. But as we continue with this whole deal — you know, this great step in which we are making — people tend to forget that.
I’m not the first who has ever had a tough situation that they were involved in and I won’t be the last. But the thing about it is I can at least step up to the forefront and say what happened and be able to move on and focus on my job. And that’s the main thing we’re looking at right now; being able to get back on track. I love this opportunity, this great platform of just being able to talk about what’s happening today and have fun with it.
That’s the most important thing. I love having fun, and what better fun can you have than reaching out to your listeners and giving them something to talk about throughout the week?
On his playing career, and what he sees in today’s media for other players like Cam Newton who have had a similar spotlight on them. Oh, and the Philly media:
DM: The game has fully changed. I should say, the world has changed from back when I came in ’99. I’m a ‘90s guy — ’90s and early 2000s — now we’re looking at millennials where we have kids who were probably in grammar school when I came out of high school. Not even that, when I came out of college they were in grammar school and then when I was drafted these are guys who were watching me play when they were playing Pop Warner football or possibly just going into high school.
Social media has changed a lot of what is going on in the world today. I mean, think about it – for a lot of situations that have happened throughout the last five years or so — five or seven years — a lot of it wouldn’t have been talked about until this whole social media thing now has blown up where everybody is in your business. Tough situations that you’d be a part of, hey, you handle it with your family or your employer or whatever, and it moves on. Now, it’s on TMZ, it’s on Twitter, it’s on Instagram. Everything now is everyone wants to capture the moment instead of just being in the moment and moving on.
So do I regret anything that happened in my career? No, not at all. I think a lot of times when you’re playing in a place for over a decade and you had success and then you had some trying times, I would say…the neighborhood media, or, you know, the media that interviews you each and every day each and every week, they tend to kind of block you out when you answer when you answer questions because they feel like, ‘oh, well it’s the same old answer again.’
Well national media picks up on it and then now they listen to it. It becomes a bigger story nationally then it is really regionally where you at, and so that was something the Philly media couldn’t understand. ‘Why is he talking so much to national media?’ I’m telling them the same thing I told you, it’s just that you think it’s just a normal answer or, ‘he’s lying’ or whatever, and then all of the sudden it’s a national thing and they’re like ‘well, he talks to them more than he talks to us.’ I see you every Wednesday and every Sunday. That’s my press conference, every Wednesday, and then I talk to you after the game. So if I sit down with an ESPN or if I sit down with a Fox or an NFL Network to talk about what’s going on, ‘well, why doesn’t he sit down with us?’ Well, I’m here. You talk to me at my locker every day. What’s the difference?
On Doug Pederson as a teammate, new head coach and McNabb’s rumored inability to learn the playbook:
The funny thing about it is you look all across the league and there is an experienced player almost at every position to help and show these young guys how to be professional; how to work; how to put in their time in order to get the good result.
Was Doug brought in to mentor me, so to speak? No. Absolutely not. Doug was brought in to run the offense and give me a chance to learn the offense and be under Andy Reid.
I don’t want to take anything away from Doug because it is unfair to Doug. Doug was the back-up quarterback to Brett Favre…and Doug was brought over to Philly because it was giving him an opportunity to start. Now how things went early on, we all know fans don’t dictate decisions that are made — was I thrown in there too early? I would say no, I would have loved to have been in there earlier, but it gave me a chance to get comfortable in the offense, get comfortable around the guys and be able to kind of watch myself make mistakes on film and correct them in the film room so that, come practice, I could change that.
With Doug now moving into this field now of a head coaching position, it’s a new arena, but it was also a new arena for Andy when he came over. I think Doug will be successful, but now this is a time for him to go ahead and draft and bring in the free agents that best suit his offense and defense and, really, get the good character guys like Andy did so that they can gel together in a 1-2 year span and all the sudden you see the Eagles going 10-6, 11-5, winning the NFC East, going to the NFC Championship. Whatever it may be. And then all the sudden people will give him his credit.
It’s just unfortunate for him right now because it’s the unknown. So of course they start to bring me up into it…that I couldn’t learn an offense. I learned a difficult offense at Syracuse which led to me learning a difficult offense with the West Coast offense that Andy had.
It’s funny, because they have to always throw my name in in Philly to make the story relevant, so to speak. Just talk about Doug and what he’s done so far at camp and now in this training camp and what to expect. Don’t bring me into it. That’s unfair to me, and it’s unfair to Doug.
On Carson Wentz, Sam Bradford and Chase Daniel:
You know the whole thing about it which is funny to me? When people jumped on Sam Bradford because he was seeking a trade, I told people, man, I said ‘I’ll be honest with you, I don’t blame him.’ Think about this whole situation, and I had to explain it to people because they think he needed to come back and compete. I said even if he competes and they go 9-7 or 10-6 and he plays the whole year, it’s time for the young kid to step in and play.
If he’s not ready in year two, then that was dumb on the Eagles’ part.
I said it in a sense that, did I think that the Eagles should have brought Sam Bradford back? No, but then I said yes because to be honest with you I didn’t have Chase Daniel in the mix to even come to Philadelphia. I knew Andy liked Chase Daniel and he was a good backup for Alex Smith. So it’s funny because it’s the same situation that Doug came over to be the head coach in Philadelphia just like when Andy came over. Who did he bring over? He brought the backup quarterback that he was coaching in Doug Pederson over.
So now you’ve got Doug in the same situation with Chase Daniel and now you sign — which was dumb — you sign Sam Bradford to a multi-year deal and give him big money, then you trade picks to move up to No. 2 – that was dumb. I mean, nothing against Carson Wentz, but why would you do that? That’s just a bad business decision from the Philadelphia Eagles.
Chase Daniel is not a bad player. Chase Daniel can hold the fort down for 6-8-10 weeks and then if things aren’t going well you move a slow transition to Carson Wentz. Because the crowd…I’m going to tell you, the people of Philadelphia — and you know it — the people of Philadelphia they’re not going to call for Chase Daniel. They’re calling for Carson Wentz.
So when Sam Bradford struggles, we can talk about all we want to, if he struggles or the defense ain’t stopping nobody and the offense is ranked around 15th, you’re going to make a decision around week seven, week eight or week nine. If he can hold it until week 10 or week 11 it’s better for Carson Wentz to come in and finish up that season, because he will learn the speed of the game.
‘You gotta get it out, or you better run. Or you’re going to get pounded.’
No matter how you look at this draft, I like the kid Jared Goff. I think he did a great job over at Cal, but to me the Pac-12 Conference in all sports is overrated. Unless you’re playing maybe baseball, it’s overrated. For Carson Wentz, he didn’t even come from a highly-rated Division I school, so he don’t know about the speed of the game. He don’t know about the blitzes he’ll see. Yeah he may be able to pick up on three-step or five-step drop, but you’re seeing the Pittsburgh Steelers defense, you’re seeing all these exquisite defenses that get to the quarterback, so you’ve gotta get the ball out of your hands, or you’ve gotta run.
It’s one or two as a rookie. You gotta get it out, or you better run. Or you’re going to get pounded.
On when to play Wentz:
I think for Philadelphia — for the fans — I think everybody needs to just step back and kind of watch it develop. If Sam comes out and stays healthy I think Sam can do a pretty decent job at least to hold the fort down and see where they’re at. If they’re .500 eight games in, do you make a decision then or do you just kind of let it ride out? I think for Doug, Doug is going to let it ride out at least until about Week 10 or Week 11 and then when the crowd is down and they’re not playing well, I think you get the crowd back by bringing in the young kid in.