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.

Tranquillo Barnetta will not return to Union next season

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Tranquillo Barnetta will not return to Union next season

Tranquillo Barnetta is going home.

In an abrupt announcement on Tuesday, the Union declared that the skillful Swiss attacking midfielder will not renew his contract with the club and will return to Switzerland following the 2016 season to play for his hometown club, FC St. Gallen.

According to MLS Players Union, Barnetta’s exit will free the Union of $687,500 next season.

“The entire soccer community here was so welcoming and I’m so thankful to everyone at Philadelphia Union for making me feel so appreciated,” Barnetta said. “Playing in front of my friends and family and making plans for life at the end of my career where I want to live is a force I can’t resist.”

Although the timing of the announcement is a surprise, the move isn’t one. With Alejandro Bedoya now in the mix, currently playing out of position in a box-to-box midfield role, the Union will replace Barnetta with Bedoya at the center attacking midfield spot. It’s a position that Bedoya is comfortable in, playing there with his previous club, FC Nantes.

Bedoya played for the injured Barnetta in the center midfield spot last Saturday and scored his first goal of the season in a 1-1 draw with Toronto FC.

But even with Bedoya ready to take over, the Union will miss Barnetta. Since joining the Union in 2015, Barnetta, 31, has been one of the better possession playmakers in MLS, scoring six goals and seven assists in 37 games.

“Tranquillo has been a key piece in what we’re trying to build here in Philadelphia but we appreciate his decision to return to Switzerland,” said Union sporting director Earnie Stewart, whose club has three matches left in the 2016 season, and will likely make the playoffs. “We look forward to continuing to push for the postseason.”

As Eagles enter bye, Doug Pederson aims to thwart complacency

As Eagles enter bye, Doug Pederson aims to thwart complacency

The Eagles are 3-0. They’re alone atop the NFC East and have been the biggest surprise of the young NFL season.

Doug Pederson’s message to his team: You haven’t done anything yet.

Although the Eagles are riding high, Pederson doesn’t want his team to change its outlook or hard work. That’s what teams have to worry about once they’ve found some success.

“The biggest thing is complacency,” Pederson said Monday. “You think you've arrived. You think you are all that. When that creeps in, that's when you get beat. It's my job not to let that creep in. I've got to keep the guys focused and grounded. I told them this week they're going to travel and go home and people are going to pat them on the back and say how great they are.

“But next Monday, I'm going to tell them, ‘Hey, we're back to work. We're 0-0. This is Game 1 and let's go.’ That's just the way it has to be. You are building for one ultimate goal and that's a few weeks down the road. That's what you are trying to get to. But you can't get there unless you take care of the next opponent. It's my job to keep them focused that way.”

Being 3-0 (they’re one of five 3-0 teams) gives the Eagles a head start, but it certainly doesn’t guarantee them a playoff spot. This is the ninth 3-0 start in franchise history. They’ve made the playoffs just five times in the previous eight. And they recently missed the playoffs after starting 3-0 in 2014 under Chip Kelly.

In NFL history (before this season), there have been 276 teams to start with 3-0 records. Of them, 200 (72.3 percent) have made the playoffs.

“We just have to approach it the same, one day at a time,” Pederson said. “That's the way this business goes. You are on top of the world one minute, and you can be at the bottom of the heap the next. Just got to keep things even-keeled and can't get too high, can't get too low. Approach it the same. Like I mentioned earlier, you can't substitute for hard work. That pays off on Sundays. We just have to stay the course. Again, a lot of football left.”

While the Week 4 bye comes pretty early, the Eagles have a couple key players who will use the time to get healthy. And Connor Barwin pointed out that the bye is coming about closer to the halfway point between when the team started its tough training camp and the end of the season.

Pederson told his players to use the week to get away from football and free their minds. Meanwhile, Pederson and his coaches will use the extra time to self-scout and prepare for the final 13 games of the regular season.

With a first-year head coach and a rookie quarterback who was thrust into action a week before the opener, expectations outside (and perhaps inside) the building were tempered.

The Eagles aren’t an underdog anymore.

“We kind of enjoyed flying under the radar, but obviously a win like this against a team like the Steelers will open some eyes around the league,” Malcolm Jenkins said. “For us, nothing different. We’ll keep our preparation the same. We’ll stick our heads down and focus on the work day to day and understand what’s gotten us to 3-0.”

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