On the Legacy of Andy Reid and Donovan McNabb in Philadelphia

On the Legacy of Andy Reid and Donovan McNabb in Philadelphia

Andy Reid and Donovan McNabb probably aren’t as polarizing in Philadelphia as they often seem. There is just this extremely vocal minority that refuses to display any appreciation—or even a modicum of respect in some cases—for the two men who were the faces of the Eagles’ franchise during the greatest era in the organization’s history.

That segment of the fanbase is entirely in the wrong, but thankfully it’s only a fraction of the team’s followers. We know this because Donovan will step out on to Lincoln Financial Field to roaring approval from 69,144 diehards when his number is retired at a halftime ceremony during the Eagles’ game against the Chiefs tonight. I suspect Andy will be cheered as well when he’s introduced to the capacity crowd for the first time, this despite the fact that he’ll be wearing enemy colors.

Nobody should require any convincing that Reid and McNabb were the two most influential figures* behind the Eagles’ amazing run of success during the previous decade. Not Jim Johnson, may he rest in peace—there’s a chance a lot of folks never would have heard of JJ had Andy not hired him in the first place. Not Brian Dawkins either, although he seems to be the consensus fan favorite these days. Not any other players Reid inherited, not a weak division, none of that bull.

Not to diminish the contributions of other Eagles greats, but the team only ever went as far as head coach and quarterback could carry them.

Similarly, nobody should ever find themselves in a position where they have to defend enjoying the period when the Eagles lived and died with Reid and McNabb. During their 11 seasons together, the Birds missed the playoffs a total of three times, with only a single first-round exit to speak of. They appeared in five conference championship games and came within a few points of winning a Super Bowl.

This wasn’t some kind of Dark Age for Eagles football simply because it didn’t produce a championship. They were in the mix to win it all every September. Only three or four teams in the NFL could claim to have been consistently as good as or better over the span when Reid and McNabb were at the wheel here. And while it’s easy to say you would trade it all for that one parade—and maybe a lot of people would—how could anybody claim they were not entertained year in, year out? Just think of all the legendary moments that were authored by these two.

There was the franchise’s meteoric rise from the ashes to become the preeminent NFC East powerhouse. There were four consecutive conference title games and that one glorious season with Terrell Owens. There was the moment Reid and McNabb finally hoisted the George Halas Trophy, and the two weeks of euphoria leading up to the big game. There were the improbable playoff runs of 2006 and ’08 long after most people had already given up on them.

We got McNabb’s 14-second scramble, 4th and 26, the game he literally played on a broken ankle, the excitement the first time he connected with T.O. on a deep ball, his famous juke of that poor player for Washington that we’ve all seen one million times. So many Sundays, so many indelible memories etched into time.

Yeah, Andy and Donovan had their shortcomings too, many of which have reached urban legend status. It won’t take two minutes for somebody to bring up worm balls and clock management, or something worse that’s hardly worth addressing.

We lived it. We know it wasn’t perfect.

Now that it’s all said and done though, the legacy Reid and McNabb left behind in Philly—the only one that matters regardless how many “haters” try to shovel dirt on it—was one of winning and remarkable success. It doesn’t matter if Five is going into the Pro Football Hall of Fame someday, or whether Big Red was ever a good enough coach to win the big one. They accomplished everything they could, and for all the debates through the years about the legacy they would be leaving behind, it was amazing fun for most people.

Do I wish they had taken one more step and finally cast a Lombardi Trophy for Philadelphia? Of course. But if I could go back in time to 1999 and re-do the head coaching hire, re-do the draft, re-do the 11 years that followed, I would probably take my chances on Reid and McNabb again. Is there a higher compliment than that?

*I would argue Joe Banner was actually the most influential person from this time period. The facilities that were built under his watch made Philly a destination for free agents, and his expert management of the salary cap allowed the franchise to keep their own stars while bringing in others from the outside. Having said that, as far as what most people saw on Sundays, that was Andy and Donovan to a large extent.

Union emotional after Maurice Edu's season-ending injury

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Union emotional after Maurice Edu's season-ending injury

CHESTER, Pa. — On the eve of his comeback after missing nearly 13 months with a left tibia stress fracture and other related injuries, Union midfielder Maurice Edu fractured his left fibula on Saturday, keeping him out for the 2016 playoffs and beyond.

“I was trying to take the shot on goal and my foot got stuck in the turf,” Edu said Sunday, in his blue Union-issued suit and supported by crutches. “My ankle rolled and twisted and it kind of snapped a little bit. I heard it crack, and a lot of pain from there. I got a scan afterward, and there was a break.”

There's no timetable his return.

Edu, 30, has spent over a calendar year fighting various injuries that have kept him out of game action. His trouble began on Sept. 30, 2015, when he played through the U.S. Open Cup final with a partially torn groin and sports hernia. It was during Edu’s recovery from those injuries that he developed a stress fracture.

"A little bit frustration. A lot of frustration, to be honest," he said. "But all I can do now is get back to work, focus on the positives and make sure that my situation isn’t a distraction from the team."

Edu’s teammates were equally devastated by the news. Edu, the Union captain when healthy, is popular and well-respected in the locker room.

"I feel so bad for him," said Alejandro Bedoya, who wore a dedication to Edu under his jersey on Sunday. "He’s one of my good friends, so I was looking forward to playing alongside him. I know how hard he’s worked to get back, and to see him go out like that, it’s heartbreaking. I’m sad for his loss and I hope he stays strong."

Edu, who has been with the Union since 2014, returned to training in July and played three conditioning appearances with the Union’s USL team, Bethlehem Steel FC. He was on the bench for the Union’s last three games and was set to make his first appearance in over a year against the New York Red Bulls on Sunday, a game the Union eventually lost, 2-0 (see game story).

"We’re gutted for Mo," Union manager Jim Curtin said. "He was slated to start today. It’s real upsetting because he’s worked so hard to get back on the field. It’s been a tough 2016 for him, but I know he’ll come back stronger."

While he was visibly shaken by recent injury, Edu is driven to return.

"What happened, happened," Edu said. "I have no control over that. The only thing I do have control over is my next steps from here, how I prepare myself mentally and emotionally and how I continue to support this group."

Sixers 'all over the place' different without Ben Simmons

Sixers 'all over the place' different without Ben Simmons

CAMDEN, N.J. — It has been over three weeks since Ben Simmons suffered an acute Jones fracture in his right foot during the final scrimmage of training camp. The Sixers had constructed schemes around the rookie point-forward and watched unconventional lineups play out at Stockton University.

Those “can’t-wait-to-see” situations have been delayed to “wait-and-see” as Simmons recovers.

“Where do you begin?” Brett Brown said after practice Sunday. “I could talk for three days on what’s different without Ben Simmons. It’s all-over-the-place different. The core values of how you want to do different things there remain the same, but the whole landscape changed.”

This week was supposed to be the debut of a new-look system featuring a player who could influence the game with his versatility and athleticism. Brown even had experimented with pairing Simmons and Dario Saric at the two and three positions. Instead, the Sixers once again will start a regular season shorthanded by injuries.

Simmons was projected to start at power forward and also handle point responsibilities. His multitasking lessened the need for the Sixers to find a standout point guard this summer. They signed veteran Jerryd Bayless and Sergio Rodriguez, who is returning to the NBA for his second stint.

Bayless was expected to start, with the intention of Simmons running the floor at times. Now, neither can play. Bayless has been sidelined by a ligament injury in his left wrist. The Sixers announced on Friday that Bayless will have a non-surgical rehab and will be reevaluated in two weeks.

Brown on Sunday was undecided on whether Rodriguez or second-year point guard T.J. McConnell would start at the one on opening night.

“He was going to be one of the primary ballhandlers,” Brown said of Simmons. “And with that, floor spots and spacing and how you actually set this thing up changes dramatically.”

The players also have noticed a change without Simmons in the backcourt. Joel Embiid, playing his first season after missing the past two with foot injuries, found himself struggling with his shot selection early on in the preseason. He got glimpses in camp of how Simmons could improve that.

“He’s such a big presence and he’s really important to us,” Embiid said. “He just makes plays. I’ve been rushing shots and that’s where it comes in play. Someone like him can help me get better shots because he can get me easy baskets.”

Simmons’ absence also fast-forwarded Saric’s transition in his first NBA season. The injuries to Simmons and Jahlil Okafor (right knee) have pushed Saric into the starting power forward role during the preseason. The rookie has been learning on the go in a new league.

“He has been thrown into the fire,” Brown said of Saric last week (see story).

Simmons recently went through a two-week, post-operative exam and had sutures removed. He is working on day-to-day rehab with the Sixers' staff while also spending time talking with Brown. The team is implementing a multi-faceted recovery program of education, health and shot improvement.

This includes meeting with Brown to break down his game — where it is now and where it can develop in the future. Brown wants to make sure Simmons knows the ins and outs of the system so he is best prepared to begin his rookie season once cleared to play.

“I think that part of my excitement is I get with Ben every day while we’re here and go into my office for half-an-hour and it’s like basketball-NBA 101,” Brown said.

That’s one aspect of Simmons’ injury for which Brown can prepare.