In the 12 seasons with Andy Reid as the team’s head coach, the Philadelphia Eagles have had some pretty athletic players make some pretty athletic plays.
Quarterbacks Donovan McNabb, Jeff Garcia, and Michael Vick have electrified fans and opponents alike with their ability to throw and run with the best in the game.
Running backs Brian Westbrook and LeSean McCoy have ranked among the best backs in the league when factoring in running and receiving ability.
Wide receiver DeSean Jackson and cornerbacks Lito Sheppard and Asante Samuel have been a threat to score literally every time they touched the ball.
And a hundred other players have turned in athletic play after athletic play throughout their careers.
But there’s one play that ranks above all of the rest, and to be honest, it’s not even close.
It was a play made by quarterback Donovan McNabb on Monday Night Football against the Dallas Cowboys on November 15, 2004.
With the Eagles leading 28-14 late in the second quarter and the ball on their own 25-yard line, McNabb took the snap and was pressured after about a second.
Defensive tackle Leonardo Carson ran untouched past left guard Artis Hicks and had a free shot at McNabb around the 15-yard line.He actually wrapped his arms around McNabb but the Eagles quarterback spun to the left to avoid Carson. Guard Artis Hicks came in to block Carson, and McNabb began to move to the right side of the field.
Cowboys defensive tackle La’Roi Glover dove at McNabb’s feet but missed, and McNabb continued moving back and to the right of the field.
Defensive end Greg Ellis pursued McNabb all the way to within a few yards of the right sideline. At this point, McNabb had traveled 16 yards behind the line of scrimmage, back to the nine-yard line. Then McNabb stutter stepped, almost slipping, and began sprinting all the way back across the left side of the field.
Glover attempted pursuing McNabb but was immediately blocked by guard Jermane Mayberry. Defensive end Eric Ogbogu also pursued McNabb but was blocked by big Jon Runyan.
McNabb sprinted forward and to the left, moving all the way to the left side of the field. He was chased by Carson (again) and Ellis (again). He pump faked twice but kept moving to his left.
When McNabb got to the 23-yard line, he threw the ball.
He released the ball off his back foot, which, while sprinting to his left, is a virtually impossible task for a right handed quarterback.
The ball traveled 54 yards in the air, from the Eagles’ 23-yard line to the Cowboys’ 23-yard line. It landed right into the hands of wide receiver Freddie Mitchell, who caught it and was tackled after a few steps. In all, the play gained 60 yards.
Factoring everything in, the throw was probably the best of Donovan McNabb’s career. And for obvious reasons, so was the scramble. In fact, the scramble was timed at 14.1 seconds from the time the ball was snapped to the moment McNabb let go of the ball.
How many quarterbacks can say that their best ever throw and run came on the same play?
The Eagles went on to score a few plays later, and win the game 49-21. They eventually reached Super Bowl XXXIX a few months later.
In his book The 50 Greatest Plays in Philadelphia Eagles History, author Reuben Frank ranks the play as the 14th best play.
Donovan McNabb has since left the city of Philadelphia, but his scramble and throw will never be forgotten.