Originally created 12/14/03

Eagles' fans sought Williams over McNabb



PHILADELPHIA - Four years ago, Ricky Williams was the people's choice in Philadelphia. Donovan McNabb turned out to be the right choice for the Eagles.

McNabb leads the Eagles (10-3) against Williams and the Miami Dolphins (8-5) on Monday night in an important matchup with playoff ramifications for both teams.

If the Eagles had listened to their fans in 1999, Williams would've become the franchise running back Philadelphia hadn't seen since Wilbert Montgomery played here.

McNabb was an unpopular choice when the Eagles selected him with the No. 2 overall pick in the 1999 NFL draft. Fans desperately wanted Williams, who had won the Heisman Trophy at Texas. A bus filled with rowdy Eagles fans went to New York for the draft, and chanted, "We want Ricky" until the Eagles picked.

When McNabb's name was announced, the fans booed loudly, an incident still etched in the quarterback's memory. Williams was passed over by two more teams before going to New Orleans with the fifth pick.

While Williams failed to live up to his expectations with the Saints and eventually was traded to Miami, McNabb established himself as one of the top quarterbacks in the league.

He quickly won over the fans with his strong arm and exceptional scrambling ability, finished runner-up to St. Louis running back Marshall Faulk for league MVP in his second season and has led the Eagles to consecutive NFC East titles and two straight appearances in the conference championship game.

Williams has been a successful performer, rushing for more than 1,000 yards in the last four seasons. But he hasn't made the same impact as McNabb. Williams has played in just one playoff game, with the Saints in 2001. McNabb is 4-3 in the playoffs, the winningest postseason quarterback in team history.

PANTHERS: For an NFL team one victory shy of clinching a playoff berth - but on a three-game losing streak - a December trip to Arizona would seem the perfect prescription.

The Cardinals have lost five in a row, are giving a second-year quarterback his first NFL start and were clobbered at San Francisco 50-14 last Sunday.

Still, in the unpredictable world of today's NFL, Carolina coach John Fox and his players were saying all the right things as they prepared to face the 3-10 Cardinals in front of 50,000 empty seats on Sunday.

"In this league, anything happens, and you better be ready to play," Fox said.

The Panthers (8-5) still lead the NFC South by two games, but are coming off consecutive losses to Dallas, Philadelphia and Atlanta.

A victory over Arizona would clinch the division title and Carolina's second playoff berth in franchise history. Their only other appearance came in 1996, the team's second season.