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Retire an Eagle?

Retire an Eagle?

By: Michael Christian

Not as easy as it sounds, folks. Not in this era, not in this town. And it’s only slightly easier to retire a Sixer, Flyer, or Phillie (See: Iverson, Lindros, and Shilling). But that’s what Donovan McNabb keeps telling us. He wants to retire as an Eagle. It’s rare for a player to stick with a single team for an entire career (Bernard Williams and Mike Mamula do not count for obvious reasons). It’s even more infrequent for a quarterback to finish out with one team. There’s a long list out there of star Q.B.s who finished their careers elsewhere. Unitus, Nameth, Montana, and the Green Bay Baron (I refuse to even say his name) are just a few of the star Q.B.s that moved on to other teams after their prime. And unlike McNabb, unfortunately, all of the aforementioned have super bowl rings on their resume. So why should we think he’ll stick around for another few years?

Retire an Eagle? Love the sentiment, I just can’t see the logistics working. You just don’t have the passion to stick with this team and these fans. Then again a more passionate player would have flipped us the bird by now. But will that stop me from donning my #5 jersey on game day? Absolutely not.

So why will McNabb be playing for a different team in a few seasons? You can point to free agency as the cause for player exodus, and to be fair free agency has played a major role in player movement. But it’s rarely the reason for star players leaving a team (See: Iverson, Lindros, and Shilling). Some of the time it’s a career ending injury, and some of the time it’s a contract dispute. For a player to actually stick with a single team for an entire career takes commitment from the team, the player, and from the fans.

The fans play a more important role in this progression than I think we realize. And lets not kid ourselves, Philly fans; we are fickle bitches with short memories and loud voices. We need to win now. No exceptions. No free passes. Maybe that’s a mistake on our part. Perhaps after the birds finally grab the elusive Lombardi hardware (I still believe) the fans will loosen up; but I doubt it. This isn’t San Diego.

Both the players and organization need to make concessions as players get older. The Denver Broncos and John Elway are prime examples of what needs to happen for a player to finish out a career with one team. Elway took a back seat to Terrell Davis, and the Broncos brought in pieces to help him. The organization needs to realize what the player has done for the team, and the city, in the past and consolidate that with what role the player will have in the future.

As for the players, they just have to show the fans they want it more than the other team. Philly fans demand heart. Ego without heart will breed indifference with fans. Just ask Ricky Waters (for who? for what?). Apathy will send an Eagle, Flyer, Sixer, or Phillie packing faster than you can say cheese steak. Superstar egos won’t go far in this town either. We don’t have the stomach for it.

Which is why McNabb is perfect for this city, and we do not comprehend that fact. Between throwing 4 touchdown passes on a broken ankle, and doing the thriller dance after TD runs, the fans should see that McNabb has the perfect combination of heart and ego for this city. Regardless of your opinion of McNabb, you have to admit to yourself that he would like nothing more in his career than to win a super bowl for Philadelphia. And we should recognize that.

McNabb’s most glaring weakness, aside from his lack of quality receivers throughout his career, is that he is too careful. He always tries to avoid the big mistake. Maybe it’s because he keeps seeing Ronde Barber streaking down the sideline at the vet. Maybe it’s because that’s how he was coached; Avoid the mistakes, take the plays that come to you. Maybe it’s because he knows how the crowd will react if the gamble doesn’t pay off. In the end this is where McNabb needs to have more ego; and the fans need to show more heart.

Ultimately it’s easy to see that McNabb will more than likely finish his career like Unitus, Namath, Montana, and that maniacal Missourian and join all other teams, if only for a season or two. He will join a long list of players who left the city under less than desirable circumstances. But when he comes back in a few years for a half time ceremony or coin toss, he will be cheered. And that’s what makes playing in this city worth it. Just ask Shilling, Iverson, and Lindros. Well, Lindros might still need a few years.

Retire an Eagle? Sorry, McNabb, it’s just not in the cards.

I could be wrong about all of this. And I hope I am. The latest grumbling is that the Eagles and McNabb are working on an extension. I hope they go the Elway-Broncos route. And I really hope that would bring about the same results.

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