We all knew going into the NFL season that Donovan McNabb’s return to Philadelphia would be a big deal. But few, if any, would have predicted this outcome. Before the season even began, Loyal Homer selected it as the most interesting NFL matchup of the season, and this game is living up to the hype. This game was supposed to serve as a proving ground for Donovan McNabb, a venue for him to display whether he still had it or not. It was supposed to be about whether the Eagles were right to trade him within the division. But now with the season underway, the storyline has changed, and the game has taken on new meaning.
Like it or not, Philly has a new quarterback and it’s not Kevin Kolb, the man who was heir apparent to the starting gig when the Eagles originally dealt McNabb in the first place. In his stead is the man that McNabb helped bring to Philadelphia, the embattled quarterback Donovan helped give a second chance to when it seemed no one else would – Michael Vick. With Vick playing the best football of his career, the focus has shifted to his ascendency, and McNabb has become somewhat of an afterthought. The only question that remains now is whether the Philly faithful will show any love to old number five when he takes the field one more time… except this time from the away team tunnel.
Who Says You Can’t Go Home?
When it comes to football, the City of Brotherly Love has one of the most ruthless fan bases on the planet. Philly fans are known for booing Santa Claus and cheering the injuries of their opponents so it should come as no big surprise that McNabb’s big home coming might not be one of mutual respect. But perhaps it should be.
For 11 years Donovan McNabb gave Philadelphia the best he had to offer. He was booed from the start in Philly for not being Ricky Williams, but in the end he probably did more for the franchise than Williams ever could. He proved to be stable and consistent. He was the always classy and often humorous mouth of the franchise. He was a fierce competitor and locker room leader. He set virtually every quarterback record for the franchise, and yet that likely is not be enough for Philly fans.
When that anticipated moment occurs, and McNabb finally takes the field this Sunday, all Philly fans will see is red… or perhaps more accurately, burgundy. McNabb will be donning the jersey of one of the Eagles most hated rivals, the Washington Redskins, and that simple fact may mask every single thing he did for the franchise. While it may not be the Yankees-Red Sox rivalry, the hate of this rivalry runs deep enough to potential turn a former hometown hero into a heal. The ethical drama of “will they or won’t they” figures to be enough to capture the attention of the country. All eyes will be on number five in the tunnel when he makes those faith first steps onto familiar ground.
Not A Foregone Conclusion… Yet
Ironically, however, the question that initially generated so much pre-season interest about this contest seems to have been answered before the first snap has been taken. Many sources agree that McNabb doesn’t stand a chance against his former team. With the ex-con, Michael Vick, playing shockingly well right now, not only does all seem to be forgiven, but everyone seems to have jumped aboard the Vick bandwagon. It is easy to see why. Vick has posted terrific numbers through his first two starts and is surrounded by a much better receiving corps than he has ever had, while McNabb and company limp into town still licking their wounds from a demoralizing loss to a less than stellar St Louis Rams team. It seems as if the deck is stacked in Philly’s favor, but don’t count out the Redskins just yet.
McNabb is motivated, and motivated players are often dangerous. The Eagles would be foolhardy to believe the company lines that McNabb has been putting out there lately about how this is just another game. McNabb will be playing for himself and his legacy. The “any given Sunday” adage could prove accurate if Washington rallies behind their new signal caller, and McNabb is able to prove there is still gas in the tank. It could be one of those special moments in sports where the aging vet is able to capture lighting in a bottle just one more time, and that’s something that no one should miss.