No, Donovan McNabb Should Not Have His Number Retired

No, Donovan McNabb Should Not Have His Number Retired

Most of us were happy if not downright enthusiastic about the news Donovan McNabb would officially retire a member of the Philadelphia Eagles in September. There are a few Angelo Cataldi types out there who still believe the greatest quarterback in franchise history should be booed some more, but thankfully they seem to be part of a very small minority.

A ceremony honoring McNabb’s career is completely appropriate not to mention well-deserved, and I’m sorry if you don’t think so, but the record supports this stance. The Birds made eight playoff appearances during Donovan’s 11 seasons in Philly, including five trips to NFC Championship games plus a Super Bowl. He went to six Pro Bowls and owns virtually all of the club’s meaningful passing records.

Even if you don’t feel this way right now, one day you should look back on it as a fun era.

There is another side to every coin though, and in McNabb’s case it’s the attempt by some to build him into more than he was. The announcement of this particular retirement sparked two discussions. The first – Hall of Fame candidacy – is one that has been debated ad nauseum, and while Donovan merits a certain amount of consideration, I personally do not feel he stacks up to his peers.

The second argument is actually a bit more complicated: whether or not McNabb’s number should be retired. I mean, he is the best QB the Birds have ever had, right?

Well unfortunately you can’t just retire a number in the NFL every time you have a new best whatever. 53 players are on an active roster. It’s not a distinction the organization can hand out to just anybody.

Not to say McNabb was “just anybody.” He is the best quarterback in Eagles history. But then none of the previous best quarterbacks in Eagles history have had their numbers retired, either. And while none of the signal callers from the modern era presided over the success McNabb did, it's not like he completely outclasses either Ron Jaworski or Randall Cunningham from a pure statistical standpoint.

McNabb is a special case in Philly sports, but not special enough to warrant the No. 5 never appearing in a game again. In case you need more evidence, here’s a closer look at the numbers the Eagles put away forever.

15 – Steve Van Buren

Hall of Famer. Retired as NFL’s all-time leader in rushing yards (5,860) and rushing touchdowns (69) in 1952 after eight professional seasons. Carried the Eagles to back-to-back championships in ‘48 and ‘49.

20 – Brian Dawkins

No introduction required around these parts. Only safety in history to record 30 interceptions (37), 30 forced fumbles (37), and 20 sacks (26). Member of NFL 2000s All-Decade Team. Bleeds green.

40 – Tom Brookshier

Key member of 1960 championship team. Missed two seasons (1954-55) while serving in United States Air Force. Two-time Pro-Bowl cornerback whose career was further cut short by a compound leg fracture in ’61.

44 – Pete Retzlaff

Key member of 1960 championship team. Five-time Pro Bowler who helped redefine the tight end position. Retired with franchise records in receptions (452) and receiving yards (7,412). 1965 Bert Bell Award winner for player of the year.

60 – Chuck Bednarik

Hall of Famer. Member of NFL 75th Anniversary All-Time Team. One of pro football’s last two-way players – linebacker and center. Only Eagle to win championships in two separate decades (1948 and ’60). Legend has it he is made of concrete.

70 – Al Wistert

Captain of the 1948-49 championship teams. All-Pro offensive and defensive tackle.

92 – Reggie White

Hall of Famer. Retired as NFL’s all-time leader in sacks (198). Remains the Eagles’ franchise leader in sacks (124). Two-time Defensive Player of the Year. Greatest defensive lineman in pro football history. Etc.

99 – Jerome Brown

Tragically killed in a car accident at the age of 27. Two-time All-Pro. Voted a member of the Eagles 75th Anniversary Team. A great life and career cut far too short.

So let’s recap. Every player on this list has either been an integral part of a championship team, is one of the greatest players in NFL history (statistically or otherwise), possibly had their career cut short for one reason or another – and typically it’s some mixture of the three.

Which of those does Donovan fit into?

Even if McNabb were to one day be inducted into the Hall, not every Eagle in Canton has had their number retired. It’s not a prerequisite or anything like that.

Simply put, the No. 5 is not immortal in Philadelphia. It has nothing to do with popularity, statistics, championships, or even whether or not the man who wore it will ever go to Canton. Actually, it’s all of the above. McNabb may be one of the greatest Eagles of all time without question, but his career – exceptional though it was – simply does not meet the unofficial criteria for this particular honor.

Embiid and Okafor want to play together, but not just yet, says Brown

Embiid and Okafor want to play together, but not just yet, says Brown

CAMDEN, N.J. — If all goes as planned, a time will come when the Sixers can roll out a dominating frontcourt duo with Joel Embiid and Jahlil Okafor sharing the court in lengthy stretches.

That moment has to wait, though, as both Embiid and Okafor are on minute restrictions. As he returns from a knee injury, Okafor currently is coming off the bench and backing up Embiid.

“This conversation with Jahlil and Joel is more intelligent and applicable at a later date,” Brett Brown said at practice Friday. “When Jahlil’s minutes start going up and Joel can, then it’s a real conversation. I do think you may see them sooner than even I thought together. But as far as making it a real constant part of a strategy or rotation, it’s beyond too early days.”

In an ideal world, Brown could pair the two bigs now and use all of their allotted minutes (Embiid 20, Okafor 14) at once. That would leave an extensive workload on second-year bench player Richaun Holmes.

“This is a hot topic,” Brown said. “I will say it one more time: If I play Jahlil and Jo together, I hope Richaun can play 35 minutes.”

It’s an unrealistic expectation for Holmes, who averaged 13.8 minutes in 51 games last season. Brown caps the majority of the Sixers at six-minute segments to keep them competing at a high energy level.

“Right now, he’s a backup,” Brown said of Holmes. “I think he’s going to be an NBA player for a very long time. I just feel like in the role, he’s a second-year player that didn’t really have much of a role last year. He’s shown everybody that he’s for real. He really can play a role. At this early stage, that is the key word.”

Embiid and Okafor have been envisioning competing together since Okafor was drafted two years ago. They became friends long before they were NBA players and have an easy chemistry on the court as a result.

“I think it’s going to be exciting,” Embiid said. “We played a little bit together today in practice. We’re figuring out how to play with each other. It’s a process and we’ve got trust it.”

Yes, the players know they have to wait, but that doesn’t mean it’s easy for them to resist an opportunity to play with one another.  

“I think once we figure it out, we can really dominate together,” Okafor said. “We were able to flirt with it again today. We accidentally keep ending up on the same team even though Coach keeps telling us to make sure we alternate. But we’re having fun. We’re trying to put some pressure on it because we want to play together.”

Is that accidentally with air quotes?

“Yeah, exactly,” Okafor said with a laugh.

'Trust the process' has a different, more personal meaning to Joel Embiid

'Trust the process' has a different, more personal meaning to Joel Embiid

CAMDEN, N.J. — Joel Embiid is all about trusting the process.

He manages to insert the well-known phrase into just about every interview, hashtags it on social media and soaks in the chants during games. 

While “trust the process” is commonly associated with former Sixers general manager Sam Hinkie’s patience-required approach to building the team — which resulted in three years of dismal losing and suffering setback after setback — Embiid has his personal take on the mantra.

“I think I have my own process,” Embiid said Friday at practice.

Embiid is playing for the first time this season after waiting two years to recover from foot injuries. His long-anticipated debut was a focal point of “the process,” and his return to the court marked a new chapter in the organization.

“I went through two surgeries, lost my brother, thought about some stuff I shouldn’t have thought about, so that’s my own process,” he said. “And then the process of going through the rehab and finally getting back on the court and getting the chance to finally play in the league, that’s my process.”

Embiid is now synonymous with the word. He credits Sixers fans for the moniker, which he added to his Instagram profile. 

“I don’t think it came from me,” he said. “Fans just started and then I just went along with it.”

Wednesday marked the next step in the process, both for the Sixers and Embiid. His regular-season debut (20 points, seven rebounds, two blocks) was a long time coming and garnered buzz all over the NBA world.

“I was the third pick and then I missed two years,” Embiid said. “The excitement in the city, everybody’s happy to finally see me play. Even though it was weird because a lot of people kind of wrote me off a long time ago saying that I’d never play as a Sixer, I’d never play in the league. So it’s all fun. Everybody’s going to have an opinion.”

He’s just got to trust in his own.