No Eagle will ever again wear No. 20, that should be obvious. The Eagles would neither present a young player with that kind of burden nor annoy the fans by presuming to hand it out like just another piece of laundry. So, the question is when they will make it official, and retire the number with the proper ceremony.
I remain on record as saying that losing Brian Dawkins to Denver in free agency was unfortunate but not surprising, and that it was a combined decision by the team and the player -- and a product of an exorbitant offer from the Broncos. (We still don't know exactly what the Eagles offered. If we find that offer was criminally low for a player of Dawkins' franchise stature, we'll revisit the issue.)
Anyway, how should the Eagles handle honoring Dawkins' career? The Broncos come to Lincoln Financial Field this season, although we won't know until next month if the visit is early in the schedule or late. If they had real courage in the matter, the Eagles would announce right now that the number will be retired before that game, whenever it is.
The risk, of course, is that the Eagles are playing poorly at that juncture, the Broncos are playing well, and the fans are given the opportunity to fry the home team as they are toasting Dawk. And, given that set of circumstances, who would hand the jersey to Dawkins at midfield? Andy Reid? Jeff Lurie?
Maybe you take the easy way out and have all the members of the Eagles' defense go to midfield to meet Dawkins and collectively present him the jersey. That would be poignant, a lot of hugging and such. But it would still be an unpleasant reminder of what used to be.
If you could guarantee the organization right now that the Eagles will have a very good record when Denver comes to town, the Broncos just so-so, and maybe Dawk is missing a game here or there with little ankle problems or something, they would make the announcement today. They would be able to get closure, make No. 20 the eighth number retired by the team (the others: 15- Steve Van Buren, 40- Tom Brookshier, 44- Pete Retzlaff, 60- Chuck Bednarik, 70- Al Wistert, 92- Reggie White, 99- Jerome Brown) and move on.
It might be they intend to wait no matter what, and not pick at what is obviously a very sore spot for the fans. They could wait until Dawkins officially retires, and bring him back in street clothes for the ceremony.
But it would be a lot more effective, and a lot more meaningful to Dawkins probably, if they went ahead and did it this year. That would be risky, but as Harry Callahan would no doubt advise the owner, "You've got to ask yourself one question. Do I feel lucky?"
Well, do they?