Donovan McNabb's career with the Philadelphia Eagles and his relationship with the fans was rocky at times, but there is no question he was the best quarterback in the history of the franchise.
That made his retirement with the team on Monday—and his induction into the team's Hall of Fame and the retiring of his No. 5 jersey—all the more special.
McNabb tweeted about the ceremony on Monday morning:
Officially retiring as a Philadelphia Eagle today. Unbelievable feeling. Dreams do come true.— Donovan McNabb (@donovanjmcnabb) July 29, 2013
During the press conference, Eagles owner Jeffrey Lurie announced that McNabb's jersey would be retired, per the team's official Twitter account:
That's a pretty big deal in Philadelphia, as Jeff McLane of the Philadelphia Inquirer noted:
The #Eagles have only retired several numbers, most recently Dawkins' No. 20. So it's significant. A bit of a surprise.— Jeff McLane (@Jeff_McLane) July 29, 2013
As you might expect, it was a packed room, with most of the current Eagles in attendance, per Eagles Insider:
Several important figures spoke before McNabb took the podium, including Lurie, team president Don Smolenski, general manager Howie Roseman and former teammates Brian Westbrook and Brian Dawkins.
Lurie noted two things of interest about drafting McNabb and the difficulty in eventually trading him, per Reuben Frank of CSN Philly:
Jeff Lurie just said after the presser that the 1999 No. 2 draft pick was really between Donovan & Edgerrin James, not one of the other QBs.— Reuben Frank (@RoobCSN) July 29, 2013
On trading Donovan: "It was hard. I had to make the call to Donovan and tears were coming down. I reassured him he'd always be an Eagle."— Reuben Frank (@RoobCSN) July 29, 2013
How about that? While a handful of Eagles fans booed the selection of McNabb because they wanted Ricky Williams, the Eagles were considering Edgerrin James ahead of the Texas superstar. That's one last bit of humble pie for that small group of malcontents to eat after embarrassing themselves that day.
In his speech, Westbrook went so far as to compare himself and McNabb to Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen, though as Pro Football Talk joked, it's unclear which player is Jordan in this analogy:
When Brian Westbrook says, "Jordan had Pippin, I had Donovan McNabb," who's Jordan and who's Pippin?— ProFootballTalk (@ProFootballTalk) July 29, 2013
McNabb was very emotional when he came up to speak, per Tim McManus of 97.5 The Fanatic:
McNabb emotional as he takes the podium. pic.twitter.com/uOZ5mRGwh8— Tim McManus (@Tim_McManus) July 29, 2013
He made a point to thank his former teammates and coaches, as Zach Berman of the Philadelphia Inquirer and McManus note:
McNabb talks about his OL, WRs/TEs, RBs/FBs, and especially Andy Reid.— Zach Berman (@ZBerm) July 29, 2013
McNabb to Reid: We made history big fella.— Tim McManus (@Tim_McManus) July 29, 2013
McNabb had this message for the fans, via Eagles Insider:
.@donovanjmcnabb: To the fans, I truly love you. I gave everything I had.— Eagles Insider (@EaglesInsider) July 29, 2013
And Frank tweeted several of McNabb's most meaningful quotes as well his final thoughts from the former quarterback's speech:
"I can honestly say I gave everything I had every time I stepped out on the field."— Reuben Frank (@RoobCSN) July 29, 2013
"My goal was to have that parade down Broad Street. We didn't do it, and I felt like I let down the fans."— Reuben Frank (@RoobCSN) July 29, 2013
Donovan feels he can still play & had opportunities as a backup but didn't want to put his family through more more moving. It was time.— Reuben Frank (@RoobCSN) July 29, 2013
McNabb's relationship with fans in Philadelphia was always somewhat bumpy, and it was on full display yesterday when McNabb and several other former players were introduced at Lincoln Financial Field for Alumni Day.
While most fans cheered, a few boos could be heard.
In 11 seasons with the Eagles, McNabb threw for 32,873 yards, 216 touchdowns and 100 interceptions. He made six Pro Bowls, helped the Eagles make the playoffs eight times and led them to the Super Bowl in the 2004 season.
He was a part of the organization's most successful run in its history, as under head coach Andy Reid the team reached four consecutive NFC Championship Games.