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.

Nerlens Noel posts thankful message to Philly fans

Nerlens Noel posts thankful message to Philly fans

Nerlens Noel's tenure in Philadelphia wasn't characterized by a whole lot of winning, but he'll still likely be remembered fondly by Sixers fans as being one of the original members of the process.

It's always an emotional time when a fan favorite departs for another city and a new team instead of seeing the championship aspirations many had for them in Philly through to fruition.

Noel posted an emotional message to his Twitter account on Thursday evening thanking the city of Philadelphia and its fans for the support they showed him through the ups and downs. 

The tweet contained the hashtag #Philly with a couple of exclamation points with a screenshot of a note that read:

What an exciting journey it’s been… To have such an amazing city embrace a kid from Boston coming out of Kentucky the way y’all did, is something I’ll truly never forget. And even through the ups and downs I never doubted the love here and that won’t change. Thank you to everybody that’s believed in me and supported through #TheProcess.

Love! -NN4

He posted the same message on Instagram as well.

Noel was traded earlier in the day to the Dallas Mavericks for Justin Anderson, Andrew Bogut, and a conditional first round pick that will likely turn into two second round picks.

Bryan Colangelo will address the media on Friday morning to discuss his rationale behind moving Nerlens.

Related:

>>Every reason why the Nerlens Noel trade was unjustifiable 

>>Video: Nerlens Noel and Joel Embiid say their goodbyes 

>>Joel Embiid reacts to Nerlens trade on Twitter: 'Trust it'

Joel Embiid: With Mavs, Nerlens Noel 'to get the chance he wanted'

Joel Embiid: With Mavs, Nerlens Noel 'to get the chance he wanted'

CAMDEN, N.J. -- Nerlens Noel emerged from the trainer’s room in a red sweatshirt and made his rounds of handshakes and hugs. It would be his last time in the Sixers' training complex as a member of the team, marking the end of the longest-tenured player’s stay in Philadelphia.

The Sixers traded Noel to the Mavericks on Thursday for Justin Anderson, Andrew Bogut and a top-18 protected first-round pick, according to a source (see story). He went through a portion of practice and was removed from it because of the deal. 

Noel’s now former teammates had a strong reaction to his departure. 

“Nerlens, he’s my guy,” Joel Embiid said. “He’s been my best friend since I got to Philly and I’m happy for him. He wants to start. I think in Dallas he’s going to get the chance to start and they’re going to re-sign him and they’re going to pay him a lot of money. Here it was kind of hard for him to start unless they were starting us together. But I’m happy for him. He’s going to get the chance he wanted.”

Noel’s future with the Sixers had been in question for two years as he enters restricted free agency this summer. Last season, the team struggled to find a way for him and Jahlil Okafor, both true centers, to play together. This season, the logjam was magnified when Embiid made his debut and took over the starting role. 

Noel candidly spoke out about the overcrowding at the beginning of the season but that situation was sidetracked when he missed 23 games because of injury. Once he returned, he quickly was on the short end of minutes. 

“I need to be on the court playing basketball,” Noel said in mid-December. “I think I’m too good to be playing eight minutes. Like, no, that’s crazy. That’s crazy. That’s crazy. They need to figure this s--- out.”

The Sixers did figure out his role, later making him the defensive leader of the second unit as Okafor became the odd man out. The Sixers also considered the possibility of pairing Noel and Embiid in the starting lineup, as they did with Embiid and Okafor, but that experiment played out only over a handful of minutes. 

“I’m a little bit disappointed,” Embiid said of not playing more alongside Noel. “I thought we should have tried that a little bit more. I think the few times we did, it actually looked pretty good offensively and defensively.”

Of the bigs, it seemed like Okafor would be the one moved at the deadline after being held out of two games because of trade talks. In the end, it was Noel as the one to go on Thursday. 

“He’s one of my favorite players here,” Dario Saric said. “He’s always ready for jokes, he’s always ready to enjoy every moment.” 

Noel was the only player remaining from Brown’s first season as head coach with the Sixers. Brown could not comment on the Noel trade because it was not official at the time he addressed the media. 

Ilyasova leadership missed
On Wednesday night the Sixers dealt Ersan Ilyasova to the Hawks for Tiago Splitter, a 2017 second-round pick and 2017 second-round pick swap rights. Even though Ilyasova played only 53 games for the Sixers, the veteran leader left his mark.

“He was a consummate pro,” Brown said. “He helped teach our young guys about that professionalism and helped contribute to our culture. He was good. You add those things up and we’re going to miss him.” 

Ilyasova’s departure affects those who played with him and behind him. Embiid credited Ilyasova for stretching the floor when they were in the starting lineup together. 

Saric, though, is perhaps the most impacted by the trade. Saric moved to the second unit when Ilyasova took over the starting role. He learned from his fellow international power forward, who helped him adjust to the NBA on and off the court. Saric is likely to get the nod as a starter. 

“For me, it’s hard,” Saric said. “I lost in Ersan some kind of mentor.” 

Brown also plans to play Robert Covington and Richaun Holmes at power forward at times, as well. If Covington slides over from small forward, Brown eyes Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot, Gerald Henderson and Nik Stauskas as players who could fill in at the three spot. 

The Sixers will resume activity on Friday morning for shootaround ahead of their game against the Wizards. They will approach that contest without familiar faces on the court. 

“I lost two good friends,” Saric said. “But this is the NBA. This is part of the business, part of the job.”