To Boo or Not for McNabb’s Return by Lloyd Vance

NFL nation is waiting to see how former Eagles and current Redskins QB Donovan McNabb will be received by Philadelphia fans this Sunday

Ever since the 2010 NFL Schedule came out on April 20th, one game stood out more than any other of the National Football League’s 256 regular season games. The Washington Redskins traveling to play their NFC East division rival, the Philadelphia Eagles, at 4:00 PM EST on Sunday October 3rd on FOX

The game will mark the first post-trade return of former franchise quarterback Donovan McNabb –- who I believe is the most overanalyzed and underappreciated player in Philadelphia Eagles’ history.  The trade sent the 11-year veteran from the Eagles to the Washington Redskins for a 2nd Rd (37) in 2010 and a 3rd or 4th on April 5, 2011.  But you know when the entire NFL universe was circling this game, they weren’t thinking about the trade’s details.  The one thing on everyone’s mind was, “What in the world are Philadelphia Fans going to do to welcome back McNabb?”

For over a decade in Philadelphia, the name “Donovan McNabb” was a lightning rod for both passion and scorn.  It all started that fateful April Saturday afternoon in 1999 when 30 knucklehead Eagles fans got lathered up and traveled to New York City to “boo” McNabb at the 1999 NFL Draft.  The group, that included 610 WIP’s morning host Angelo Cataldi, to this day still remains steadfast that the booing was in protest to their rebuilding team not taking Heisman Winner running back Ricky Williams rather than hating on McNabb.  But it doesn’t how the “Great Donovan McNabb” debate began, because it continues on to this day.  And you can bet that this Sunday that the Lincoln Financial Field sold-out crowd of 66,000+ will be bringing gasoline to the debate fire that has raged for over 11 years.

So far professionalism has been shown by both the Philadelphia Eagles and Washington Redskins.  Players and Coaches on both sides have “Downplayed” any Donovan Talk by saying that they are just focusing on the game. 

Some quotes attributed to McNabb this week when talking about his return to Philadelphia include:

“Honestly, I think I will be more cheered.  No matter what the situation is, right now I’m with a different team and it’s a rival and it wasn’t my choice. We had a successful 11 years. We had a lot of exciting plays and obviously some down times, but there were more exciting things in 11 years.”

“I’ve always said that I look at it just like a normal game.  This is a game the Washington Redskins need. It wouldn’t matter if it were the Cowboys or the Giants. After the last two weeks, this is a must-win situation for us. We just look forward to the challenge.”

“We had a lot of success together.  Obviously, we’ve been through some ups and downs together. Things happen. It’s unfortunate. Was I upset at the time? Absolutely. But I’ve moved on. I learned to move on and focus on the job at hand.”

“But in reality you’ve got to remember this is a big rivalry and we see each other twice a year so there will be some realization there,” McNabb said. “Hopefully after the fact they recognize that I’m back. Just knowing that I’m with the Redskins, I’m sure (Eagles fans) won’t be happy about that aspect.”

“This is the business we’re in,” Eagles head coach Andy Reid recently said of McNabb returning.  He added, “Fortunately, [the trade] didn’t destroy our friendship. It’s part of the business. He understands. I understand. I’m sure neither one of us wanted it to come to that day. But that’s how it works. That’s how this thing works. It was a tough decision on my part.”

C’mon guys…give us a little something to work with here.  Where is the “R” word in all of this?  I am talking about “revenge”.  Luckily the people not participating in the game, the fans, are much more interesting to talk about.  Both sides of fans in what I like to call, the “Donovan Divide”, have arguments fueled by passion that only Philadelphia can bring to table.

Some pro-McNabb comments from I what would say is a quiet majority of supporters in the Eagles fanbase have included:  “McNabb is the best quarterback the Eagles have ever had”; “Andy Reid never surrounded McNabb with enough weapons”; “McNabb played on a broken leg and won against the Cardinals”; “McNabb would have been fine if the Eagles had kept T.O”. And there are probably much more supportive words from Pro-McNabb fans, but they tend to stay off talk radio and message boards.

However the very vocal minority of Birds’ fans that are ardent McNabb detractors are more than willing to express themselves.  You can expect these ‘Boo Birds’ to be ready on Sunday as they were more than giddy on Easter Sunday when Big 5 packed up his air guitar and left the ‘City of Brotherly Love’ for DC. Wonder if any of these comments sound familiar.  “McNabb throws worm balls”; “The National Media has no idea, just how bad McNabb really is”; “McNabb is inaccurate causing him to not hit receivers in stride”; “McNabb’s parents are too involved in his life”; “McNabb has lost 4 NFC Championship Games, two of which were at home and three  where the Eagles were favored”; “McNabb smiles after interceptions”; “McNabb never scrambles anymore because he doesn’t want to be labeled a running quarterback”; “McNabb cannot win big games”; “McNabb should change his name to McChoke”; “McNabb caused the Birds to lose the last game at the Vet”; “McNabb is too injury prone” and “McNabb blew-it in the Super Bowl against the Patriots”. 

However love him or hate him…I believe McNabb deserves a warm welcome on Sunday befitting his hard-nose play and legacy in Philadelphia.  During the McNabb era there were the heights of 6 Pro Bowl selections, 5 NFC Title Games and a Super Bowl appearance in the 2004 season.  And there also were the depths of coming back from an ACL injury in 2006 and defending his play in four NFC Championship Game losses.  But fans should try and remember the good times more than the non-Championships.  McNabb holds almost every franchise passing record and Philly fans should ask themselves, “Would they boo Ron Jaworski, Curt Schilling, Ron Hextall, or Charles Barkley?”  All of these athletes, like McNabb, were all-star caliber players who shined but eventually passed through Philadelphia without attaining the city’s elusive championship.  Thankfully the 2008 Philadelphia Phillies ended the city’s 25-year drought by winning the World Series and hopefully softening Philadelphia fans a little.

We all know that a championship is the ultimate prize in sports.  But “Winning” is the first step, puts butts in the seats, and keeps fans coming back for more.  And that is what Donovan McNabb is, a “Winner”!  Yes…McNabb, head coach Andy Reid and the Eagles’ organization as a whole did not bring home a Super Bowl Championship in 11 years. Plus McNabb’s last game as an Eagles player in a 38-14 wildcard playoff round loss to the Cowboys is still fresh in some “Haters” minds — numbers of 19/37, 230 YDS, 1 TD, 1 INT and 1 lost fumble. 

But you cannot forget McNabb’s value to the Eagles franchise both on the field and in the community — does all the rights things when other athletes are being toasted despite their past shortcomings off the field.  Big 5 put it on the line each and every game that he played for the Philadelphia Eagles.  He battled through injuries and criticism to put up the best quarterback resume in the Eagles’ over 75-year history.  And to me, his resume is moving toward Pro Football Hall of Fame status too. 

In eleven exciting years in Philadelphia, which is more than any fan can ask for, McNabb was a leader as he passed for numbers of  2801-4746, 59.0% completion rate, 32,873 yards, 216 TDs, and 100 INTs – NFL record for touchdown-to-interception ratio — with an additional 3249 yards and 28 touchdowns rushing.  But it is his Eagles’ starting records of 92-49-1 in the regular season and 9-7 in the playoffs that have to move fans to give the man, the respect that he deserves.

I am expecting a half-hearted welcome for McNabb on Sunday which definitely will include some boos.  If there is booing, unfortunately Philly will once again be painted with the over-used phrase, “The city that threw snowballs at Santa Claus”.  In the end no one has a right to tell money-paying fans how to react to any player as long as they don’t break any rules.  BTW: I am cautioning fans to enjoy themselves, but don’t do anything too crazy like burning McNabb jerseys or hanging Eagles No. 5 clad dummies in effigy.

As someone that has followed the fortunes of  the Philadelphia Eagles for over 30 years.  And in particular Donovan McNabb since his early days at Syracuse, I am not even going to lie and say that I won’t be quietly pulling for McNabb to play well in his return. 

Hopefully the excitement of McNabb’s return will dissipate quickly and everyone can move on to focusing on the Philadelphia Eagles (2-1) versus the Washington Redskins (1-2) in a crucial NFC East match-up. 

So as Andy Reid says in every press conference, “The time is yours” and this time I am directing it at Eagles fans as we see how they react to Donovan McNabb returning.

 

Lloyd Vance is a Sr. NFL Writer for Taking It to the House and Sports Journey Network , who is also an award-winning member of the Pro Football Writers of America (PFWA)

Advertisements
  1. No comments yet.
  1. No trackbacks yet.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: