Banner on McNabb: We had him rated over Couch in ’99 draft


No surprise here: You can add former Philadelphia and Cleveland executive Joe Banner to the list of Donovan McNabb supporters pushing for the Hall of Fame.

In his first year of eligibility for Canton, McNabb last year failed to make the list of 25 semifinalists. And while he may be a Hall-of-Fame longshot, especially with the inflated passing numbers of today’s quarterbacks, McNabb has plenty of time to advance his case.

And advance he should, said Banner, who was the team president when the Eagles made McNabb the second pick of the 1999 draft — a move that provoked an outcry from Eagles’ fans hoping for Ricky Williams.

“I don’t have a vote,” Banner said on the latest Talk of Fame Network broadcast. “I just have a huge bias, and I love Donovan. He did great things for us. It was a pleasure being with him. I would love to see him get in the Hall of Fame, but that’s my very biased view. I’m not sitting in your seat with a vote.”

McNabb set a raft of franchise passing records in Philadelphia, led the Eagles to five conference championship games in eight years, including four straight, and took them to Super Bowl XXXIX. And that was the idea, Banner said, when Philadelphia had him ranked as the top quarterback in the 1999 draft.

Cleveland had the first pick that year and took Tim Couch. The Eagles followed with McNabb at the second spot, while Cincinnati took Akili Smith with the third overall selection. Five quarterbacks went off the board with the first 12 choices, including Daunte Culpepper at No. 11 (Minnesota) and Cade McNown at No. 12 (Chicago), but three of them (Couch, Smith and McNown) were off NFL active rosters within five years.

“We did not have a lot of debate,” Banner said a McNabb-vs.-Couch decision. “We actually had Donovan as our top-rated quarterback in that group. We had Culpepper a bit behind as the second-rated guy in that group. So we didn’t have a big debate about Couch vs. McNabb.

“If we had had the first pick, we would’ve picked McNabb as well. We actually had good grades on all five of those quarterbacks. It’s always a little bit of an element of luck, but we did have Donovan first.”

McNabb proved to be the best of the bunch and was rewarded with six Pro Bowl nominations and places in the Eagles’ Hall of Fame and on their 75th anniversary team. He also had his No. 5 retired by the club.

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