Fans give McNabb what he deserved

YONG KIM / STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER Donovan McNabb is all smiles as his number is retired at halftime.
YONG KIM / STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER Donovan McNabb is all smiles as his number is retired at halftime.
Posted: September 20, 2013

I AM NOT sure what the concern was all about.

Despite the talk from Philadelphia's vocal minority, there was little chance that Donovan McNabb was going to get booed last night by Eagles fans during the ceremony that retired his No. 5.

First off, Philadelphia fans aren't as crass as the national media play them out to be, and, with the game against Kansas City broadcast on the NFL Network, they weren't going to serve up any additional fodder.

More than that, however, the vast majority of Eagles fans appreciated McNabb and what he delivered to this franchise for a decade.

They weren't going to boo the greatest quarterback in Eagles history with his family on the field.

Just about all of the fans stayed in their seats for the halftime ceremony. The cheers were genuine. Considering the Eagles were trailing, 16-6, with four turnovers at the time, Birds fans couldn't have faked that response.

Admittedly, it was a brilliant decision to have beloved Eagle and longtime McNabb teammate Brian Dawkins introduce him.

What Eagles fan will boo when "Dawk" says cheer?

"Philadelphia, could you stand up and help me welcome the best Eagles quarterback to play on this field," Dawkins said, as McNabb fought back tears.

Then the quarterback who earned a reputation in Philadelphia for always having what he said come out wrong said everything right.

"Philadelphia," McNabb shouted. "I stand here to let you know that I truly appreciated everything you gave me for 10 years.

"I speak from the bottom of my heart. City of Brotherly Love, I thank you."

Despite some of the conversation about whether it was too soon to honor McNabb because of some of the hard feelings some fans held for the quarterback who holds virtually every positive franchise passing record, last night was the perfect time to have done this.

On merit, for all that he accomplished, McNabb deserved to have his No. 5 retired. No, he didn't deliver that long-lusted-after Super Bowl trophy, but that's the only thing he didn't do.

His number was always going to be retired.

Still, this saga needed closure - sooner and not later.

The love/hate aspects of McNabb's relationship with some Eagles fans cannot be ignored.

Maybe it's as simple as what my colleague Sam Donnellon said earlier this week - McNabb never fully got Philadelphia and Philadelphia never fully got him.

Whatever the reason, there was a disconnect, and it seems to have only gotten worse since McNabb took his last snap for the Birds.

Since his retirement from the NFL after the 2011 season, McNabb has worked as a sports analyst, first for the NFL Network and now for Fox Sports 1.

He has become considerably more outspoken as a commentator than he ever was as a player. That really hasn't gone over that well in Philadelphia, where McNabb is still viewed as a guy who can never say anything right.

On Wednesday, a day before he was honored by the Eagles, McNabb stirred up a ruckus among fans by seeming to criticize the offensive philosophy of new coach Chip Kelly.

"To me, it's just a fad," he said of the read option.

Even if McNabb was just answering a question that might have been phrased to elicit such a response, he's smart enough and played in this city long enough to know how his answer would be received.

Hope in Kelly's offense is the primary thing Eagles fans are holding on to right now. To hear their former quarterback criticize it seemed like a betrayal - especially since the fad had totaled 63 points in the first two games.

"I tip my hat off to what they've been doing the first 2 weeks," McNabb continued, "but there comes a time if you're up by 14, up by 21, maybe with about 11, 10 minutes to go, it's time to go into a mode where you're trying to eat up some clock."

That sounds kind of funny coming from McNabb, considering the offense he directed under Andy Reid for a decade rarely tried to protect leads by going into a clock-management mode.

A lot of Eagles fans have reached the point at which they just wish McNabb would shut up. But that won't happen. McNabb will be providing more and more controversial analysis for Eagles fans to digest. Many will find it indigestible.

I don't think McNabb will be like other Philadelphia athletes, such as Ron Jaworski, Mike Schmidt or Charles Barkley. They were guys who had rocky relationships with the fans during their playing careers in Philadelphia, but saw the appreciation for them grow as time passed.

I'd like to end up being wrong, but I don't think that happening with McNabb. I don't see the ice thawing much more than it currently has for him.

Fox is paying McNabb to be edgy, not play it safe. He's bound eventually to irritate Eagles fans who already find him irritating.

So, yes, last night was the perfect time to celebrate McNabb. The good times were still fresh enough and McNabb said just the right things.




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