(Originally Posted: Thursday May 20, 2010)
It’s been over two months since that fateful Easter night when the Donovan McNabb era ended in Philadelphia. Everyone has written and talked about the impact this is going to have on the team. How it’s going to affect the Birds on the field. What the legacy of the McNabb era is on the field. How unbelievable it is that they traded him within the division. Now we’re going to have to play him twice a year. How risky it is to put the franchise in the hands of a quarterback who has 2.5 games under his belt.
There has been an immense discussion of how McNabb’s departure affects the Eagles on the field, but virtually no discussion of the effects McNabb’s departure to the Eagles fans psyche. If you juxtapose it to the recent farewells that both Westbrook and Dawkins received, it becomes quite staggering. It begs the question: Is it possible that Eagles fans didn’t love Donovan?
Donovan is one of the most polarizing athletes in Philadelphia of our generation. I’ve always been a supporter. That’s not to say I’ve never criticized him, because I have. I feel that’s the right, nay, the duty of any well informed fan. But during his time as an Eagle, I was always stayed a pro-McNabb guy. My estimation is the majority of Eagles fans have been on his side too. (WIP callers and personalities not withstanding.) But is being pro-somebody the same thing as loving the player?
McNabb’s relationship with the Philly fans has always been dubious at best. We never seemed to get each other. We never clicked. We never understood each other on the same level we did with Westbrook, Trotter or Dawkins. We always appreciated what McNabb did for us on the field, but once he took the helmet off, it was just awkward. The corny sense of humor, the working out in Arizona, and the whiff of martyrdom when things didn’t seem to go his way.
That’s not to say Eagles fans aren’t at fault too. (Sacrilege!) We weren’t always the best fans to you either. We expected the world out of you. When you dragged this team on your back to a couple NFC Championship games on your own, we still weren’t satisfied. Let’s just say the relationship never felt right for either when you were off the field. (Yes, I believe I’ve just compared our relationship to that of one that only works in the bedroom.)
So where does that leave our relationship now? You no longer play for us, so the only part of the relationship that was really working is gone. In fact, you’re now sleeping with the enemy. (Not sure how long I should keep this metaphor going.) After 11 years of service, you do deserve our respect. But is it going to last forever? What sins should we be willing to overlook?
The night McNabb was traded off the Eagles, the Couch made a personal commitment to himself that he wouldn’t take shots at him. (And anyone who knows the Couch, knows how hard it is for him to turn down shots – zing!) But we’re not even two months Post McNabb (P.M.) and I starting to believe that I’m not going to make it to the beginning of the season. And I doubt that I’m alone.
The next year is going to be a very dark one for the McNabb-Philly relationship. I can not envision it going well for anybody. McNabb never completely understood and embraced the Philadelphia fans, and no longer has the cloak of midnight green protecting him. McNabb’s comments on DeShaun Jackson’s Sporting News interview are just the first of what will be many barbs that will fly between Philly and Washington. McNabb’s “sense of humor” and attempts to try and bond with his new teammates are going to get him in trouble with the Philly fans. And who knows what the wackados at the Eagles games are going to do? (As a former season ticket holder, ‘wackado’ is meant in the most loving way possible.)
The really interesting question, the one we won’t be able to answer for a decade or so, is how will this effect McNabb’s legacy in Philadelphia? It’s a shame really. I don’t see the next couple years doing him any favors. Everything he’s done for this team and this city for the last decade was beyond our wildest dreams in ’99. As I said before, I’m going to try and use restraint in McNabb bashing this year, but I generally have a pretty good handle on which way these kinds of things are heading. And it ain’t gonna be pretty. (Who are we kidding, that’ll probably be more fun anyway!)
One last thought, do you know anyone over 18 who owns a McNabb jersey that’s less than four years old? Yeah, me neither. (And I got a buddy who has a Rocca jersey.)