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Yes, Rush Limbaugh Was Right
In Dissent, Number One Hundred and Thirty-Five
by Brian S. Wise
3 October 2003

Rush Limbaugh wasn't right from a conservative standpoint, but from a statistical one.


Read the full transcript of what was actually said here. Transcribed by Brian S. Wise.

You know conservatism at large is up in arms when you start receiving random press releases from organizations you’ve never heard from before. From the National Center for Public Policy Research: “ESPN Especially Hypocritical in Accepting Limbaugh’s Resignation While Its Website Raises the Same Issue Limbaugh Did.” The Center is referring to the fact ESPN Sports president George Bodenheimer called Rush Limbaugh’s resignation “the appropriate action to resolve the matter expeditiously” while asking in a poll question whether McNabb was overrated because of his race. The answer is, No. Donovan McNabb was overrated due in equal parts to his stellar college career at Syracuse and the general uselessness of the Philadelphia Eagles at the time they drafted McNabb in 1999, not because he was black.

But we’re getting too far ahead. In the first place, what did Limbaugh actually say that got him into this mess? Last Sunday on ESPN’s NFL Countdown: “I’ve listened to all you guys, actually, and I think the sum total of what you’re all saying is, Donovan McNabb is regressing, he’s going backwards. And my, I’m sorry to say this, I don’t think he’s been that good from the get-go. I think what we’ve had here is a little social concern in the NFL. I think the media has been very desirous that a black quarterback do well … for instance, black coaches and black quarterbacks doing well. I think there is a little hope invested in McNabb and he got a lot of credit for the performance of this team that he really didn’t deserve … the defense carried this team, I think, and he got credit for it.” What about it?

Rush Limbaugh was right. Not as a matter of common conservative opinion, but statistically. In addressing the comments of the Countdown crew (Chris Berman, Steve Young, Michael Irvin and Tom Jackson), yes, McNabb is regressing. His stats so far this year compared to the average NFL quarterback: 506 total passing yards versus the 688 average; no touchdowns to the average 4; 141.7 yards per game versus the 190 average; 49.5 percentage of completed passes versus the average 59.4; a 51.1 quarterback rating versus the 79.4 average. Granted, the Eagles have played only three games in four weeks with 13 regular season games remaining, but as to the question of whether McNabb is regressing as of Friday, October third, the answer is yes.

To the offensive question, Slate.com’s Allen Barra made some pivotal points in a column dated October second, comparing McNabb – often referred to as one of the best quarterbacks in the NFL – to Brad Johnson, quarterback of the Super Bowl champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers. “I don’t know anyone who would call Brad Johnson … much more than mediocre. Yet, Johnson’s NFL career passer rating, as of last Sunday, is 7.3 points higher than McNabb’s (84.8 to 77.5), he has completed his passes at a higher rate (61.8 percent to 56.4 percent), and has averaged significantly more yards per pass (6.84 to 5.91). McNabb excels in just one area, running, where he gained 2,040 yards and scored 14 touchdowns to Johnson’s 467 and seven. But McNabb has also been sacked more frequently than Johnson – more than once, on average, per game, which negates much of the rushing advantage.” Barra is saying that McNabb gets much more attention because he’s the prototypical vision of a modern quarterback – one who rushes much more effectively than even quarterbacks drafted just a few years before – and he’s right.

As to the defensive question – that the Eagles defense deserves more credit for two consecutive NFC championship game appearances than anyone is saying – Limbaugh is also statistically correct. In the four years McNabb has owned the starting quarterback job (excluding the last six weeks of the 2002 regular season, when he had a broken leg), the Philadelphia defense has never ranked lower than 10th in yards allowed, even starting this season ranked fifth, despite being below the NFL average in interceptions, fumble recoveries, yards against, tackles, sacks and points against.

As to the racial question, I’ll defer again to Allen Barra, who covers sports for a living: “To pretend that many of us [in the media] didn't want McNabb to be the best quarterback in the NFL because he's black is absurd. To say that we shouldn't root for a quarterback to win because he's black is every bit as nonsensical as to say that we shouldn't have rooted for Jackie Robinson to succeed because he was black.”


Brian Wise is the lead columnist for IntellectualConservative.com.

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Transcript:

Rush Limbaugh: I’ve listened to all you guys, actually, and I think the sum total of what you’re all saying is, Donovan McNabb is regressing, he’s going backwards. And my, I’m sorry to say this, I don’t think he’s been that good from the get-go. I think what we’ve had here is a little social concern in the NFL. I think the media has been very desirous that a black quarterback do well …

Tom Jackson: Mm-hmm

Limbaugh: … for instance, black coaches and black quarterbacks doing well. I think there is a little hope invested in McNabb and he got a lot of credit for the performance of this team that he really didn’t deserve … [crosstalk] the defense carried this team, I think, and he got credit for it.

Jackson: But Rush, somebody went to those [NFC] championship games …

Limbaugh: Oh, they went …

Jackson: … somebody went to those Pro Bowls, somebody made those plays that I saw, running down the field, doing it with his legs, doing it with his arm. He had been a very effective quarterback for this football team over the last two or three years [crosstalk], different than what we see right -- and they didn’t have any talent then than they have now.

Limbaugh: On defense, on defense they did. [crosstalk]

Jackson: Well, on defense they did, but I’m talking about the offensive side of the ball.

Limbaugh: But that’s what I’m saying: I think he got a lot of credit for the defensive side of the ball winning games for this team.

Steve Young: But I’ll tell you what, I’ll say it even more strongly, Tom: When they’re [the Philadelphia Eagles] winning, nobody makes more plays …

Jackson: Than Donovan McNabb.

Young: … with his feet and with his arm than Donovan McNabb. That guy is really one of the best in the league at making plays. But making plays does not win championships. Running the offense does, so at some point I think that if Coy Detmer looks like a better option [crosstalk] because he’ll go in there, drop back and throw the ball correctly.

Chris Berman: Isn’t it odd that last year, with the broken leg, I know it was Arizona, but that one game he was in the [pocket] he looked great. [crosstalk]

Young: He had to run that offense.

Jackson: So Rush, once you make that investment, though, once you make that investment in him, that’s a done deal.

Limbaugh: I’m saying it’s a good investment, don’t misunderstand, I just don’t think he’s as good as everyone said he has been … [crosstalk]

Michael Irvin: Rush has a point … Rush has a point.