All right, it is now upon us. Donovan McNabb is coming home -- and Philadelphia will always be his home. The historians (and reality) will always demand it, as they should. And, well, I'm just going to stream-of-consciousness this thing for a while.
I love it as a newspaper guy -- because who doesn't love this kind of a story? But I hate it, too. It's complicated. In the time McNabb was here, and especially in the outer years, we have all taken sides and established positions -- and we are all cemented into place, even if we don't want to be. With this man, this topic, and especially on this weekend against the Redskins, nuance takes a holiday. But life is nuance and McNabb deserves at least that much.
At the end, like I said, we all chose sides. I thought it was time to turn the page and wrote it that way for at least his final year, and probably longer than that. Really good friends of mine, really smart people, disagree. You start with hints and shades of meaning and then you dig yourself in deeper over the months -- it is how opinions evolve. And the two schools of thought that resulted went like this: that the Eagles are just beating their heads against the wall here and should start anew with Kevin Kolb, or that McNabb is mostly blameless here and that the real problem is that he was badly served over the years by Andy Reid, who called the wrong plays too often and who didn't provide him with the surrounding cast until the best of McNabb's career was behind him and a portion of the fan base was poisoned.
My friends probably wouldn't even agree with the way I have stated their position, even though we have discussed this, for probably 3 years -- at various decibel levels and sobriety levels -- in restaurants, bars, cabs, press boxes, hotel lobbies, telepones, texts, tweets, blogs, columns, sidebars, television and radio appearances. And bars. Oh yeah, mentioned that already.
This Michael Vick business has thrown a complete curve into the old arguments, and that is true enough. I will repeat what I wrote the day Kolb was told to sit down: if the Eagles don't make a long playoff run after this season, Reid just wasted a year and really needs to be held accountable. We're months away from the answer there. In the meantime, there is Sunday, McNabb Day.
We all have these positions, and we're all locked in, and that's true. But it should not rob any of us of the ability to recognize what McNabb accomplished here. It is entirely possible to recognize the good things he did for the Eagles and still believe it was time to move on after 11 seasons. It is the nuance of the thing, and I really wish some of it would bleed through the rhetoric this week.
Because Donovan McNabb stabilized a franchise that was so prone to wild swings and misses (and mostly misses). He was an elite talent for a long time. Two aspects of his game made him special: his legs and his good judgment. He ran his way out of a lot of trouble over the years and his interception rate was so low that he never gave games away. It was a great combination.
But while he won a lot of big games over the years, a lot of playoff game, he was almost never the best player in the ultimate games. (His fault? Andy's fault? You want another beer?) And now his legs aren't there anymore, not to the same level, because of injuries and age. All of that, plus a contract that needed extending -- and which the Redskins have not yet extended -- led to where we are now. But you already knew that.
Just be honest with yourself. Think about the years 1999 to 2009. Eleven seasons. About 200 games. A long time. Can you really pretend that this was not the best long run for this franchise in any of our lifetimes? Because you are dissatisfied with the lack of a championship, a real and obvious dissatisfaction, can you really act as if the rest of it did not happen?
My guess, on the weekend when Donovan McNabb comes home, is that most people can't forget, not if they're honest with themselves.