Donovan McNabb returns to Lincoln Financial Field for the first time as a Redskin this Sunday.
Unlike many Eagle fans, McNabb didn't grow on me; I loved him from the start. He was the kind of quarterback who thrived in an environment with very little margin for error. He remains the least-intercepted quarterback in NFL history by percentage.
McNabb's history with the Philadelphia Eagles is well-documented; not just in columns about McNabb's return to the Linc this week, but in Eagles franchise record books. He has a .647 winning percentage as a starting QB; the third-highest among active quarterbacks.
McNabb's tenure, however, never culminated in a Super Bowl. As a matter of fact, out of five NFC Championship game appearances, the Eagles only made the Super Bowl once, losing to the New England Patriots in a game that ranks up there in the top five reasons why my little brother (a rabid Pats fan) can talk trash on me for the rest of his life.
Four months after McNabb was dealt, I broke up with my girlfriend. The two events seem only superficially linked at first.
The breakup wasn't a pretty affair; I let her go because we were ultimately going in different directions. Many of you fellas know how this feels. Maybe my reasons for it were different from yours, but the fact was, my girlfriend of almost a year (laugh at the number if you want) was about to be cut out of my life.
The Eagles made a similar decision. By their analysis, McNabb was simply unable to work to a level deserving of a ring; I guess you could say the same thing about my girlfriend.
Is it McNabb's fault that the Eagles never won a ring those years?
I could say with confidence that McNabb played his heart out, that really, you can't put all the blame on McNabb.
However, after a breakup we don't think about the fact that McNabb played at a consistently high level throughout his career. Eagles fans want a ring almost as badly as Jennifer Aniston. So we forget that he led the Eagles past the Atlanta Falcons (with their then-star QB Michael Vick) in the NFC Championship game.
Instead we tell our friends how we could swear we saw McNabb throwing up with 0:55 in the fourth quarter of the Super Bowl. We complain that McNabb never had the stones to win a Super Bowl, and lay the blame of the Iggs' failure squarely on his shoulders.
My breakup with my girlfriend went no better— I'll man up to admit I sent my fair share of nasty text messages and spiteful e-mails. I never bit up the sheer gumption to rebound or so much as touch another woman in vengeance.
Instead, I focused on all the 0:55's, the lost NFC Championships, the midseason injuries, the ugly parts of our relationship. I will come forward and say that is no way to treat a relationship; as a matter of fact, that's the exact opposite of what we should do as men.
As Eagles fans, it's fair to say we've been heartbroken more than once. However, after a certain point, it's not fair to the game, or to the world, to stay heartbroken. After all, there are next seasons. I can't stay bitter towards my ex-girlfriend.
For all the times that I had to drive up 45 minutes from home to UCLA at 2am, wasn't there a time where she stood by my side and took care of me when I got a nasty case of the stomach flu?
In the same way, we can't stay bitter towards McNabb—for 0:55, wasn't there also a fourth-and-26? For all the complaints about injuries, wasn't there seemingly always a playoff berth for the Iggs during his tenure?
I'm not saying we as Eagles fans should be those old "back in the day" dudes sitting in a rocking chair, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past. I'm saying we ought to respect McNabb, the way I respect my girlfriend now, for always giving what THEY thought was the best they could do. Unfortunately for us, it wasn't enough—but wasn't it one hell of a ride?
Sunday at the Linc, I hope it's not about what McNabb couldn't do for the Eagles. We are a notoriously tough crowd to please, but this man delivered what he could.
So on Sunday at the Linc, when Dan Baker calls out McNabb for the 'Skins, try to visualize in your mind, McNabb dropping back in the midnight green, just one more time.