Donovan McNabb is no Albert Einstein… or is He?


Leadership Lessons from Donovan McNabb

After five quarters of football on Sunday, November 16, 2008, the Philadelphia Eagles and the Cincinnati Bengals played to a 13-13 tie. This tie was the first the NFL had seen in six years – ties, it seems, are rare in the NFL.

After the game, Eagles quarterback Donovan McNabb was quoted as saying that he wasn’t aware that ties could occur in the NFL. He assumed, incorrectly, that the teams would continue to play until someone scored.

Since making these statements, McNabb has unfairly become the poster child for dumb jocks all across America. From where we stand there are only four people on Donovan’s side: Radio hosts Mike Golic, Mike Greenberg, and Colin Cowherd; and Steelers’ QB Ben Roethlisberger. Fans, especially in Philly, are loudly claiming that McNabb is either the worst quarterback in the NFL or an idiot, or both.

We argue that Donovan McNabb is neither. In fact, by not understanding this seemingly simple rule, we argue that McNabb could be one of the best leaders in the NFL today.

Leaders Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff

NFL quarterbacks are required to remember scores of plays, receiver patterns, defensive schemes, and blocking patterns. We find it easy to forgive Donovan for  being a little unclear on the nits and nats of the NFL rulebook. In our opinion, that’s the coaches’ job.

True leaders, guys like Lincoln, Reagan, Iacocca and Buffet, don’t get involved in every detail of the business. They understand that they are only one person and that the collective intelligence of their leadership team will help them make the right decisions.

McNabb is no Einstein

While probably the greatest athlete-quarterback of the last ten years, McNabb will never be confused with the study-crazy QBs of this generation: Peyton Manning and Tom Brady. He is no Albert Einstein, for sure.

Interestingly, Albert Einstein and Donovan McNabb are more similar than you might think. Analogous to McNabb’s current situation, it seems that a colleague once asked Einstein for his phone number. Albert Einstein surprised this person by picking up the nearest phone book and reciting the number from the White Pages.

Einstein, you see, refused to fill his head with information that was easily obtainable from other sources. Genius, we might exclaim. Why don’t we exclaim the same about McNabb? It seems odd to us that any quarterback would fill his head with the rules about tie games in the NFL when they happen so seldom.

They have so much more to think about.