Philadelphia Eagles: Will the Eagles Retire Donovan McNabb's Jersey? | Eagles Addict

Given the recent news regarding the Philadelphia Eagles’ decision to retire Brian Dawkins’ jersey, Ike Reese of 94 WIP made a statement on Twitter the other day that I thought would be a good subject of debate.

First, here is Reese’s statement:

I wasn’t joking, I think McNabb’s #5 should be retired by the Eagles eventually.  Let’s wait awhile though! Time heals all wounds.

Donovan McNabb


Donovan McNabb has yet to retire from the NFL, though he appears to be considering it.  Once he does, do you think the Eagles will do the same with him as they did with Brian Dawkins?

Should they?  Is McNabb “jersey retirement” worthy?

Interesting question, to say the least.

The Eagles now have a total of eight jersey numbers retired, they are:

92 – Reggie White

99 – Jerome Brown

70 – Al Wistert

60 – Chuck Bednarik

44 – Pete Retzlaff

40 – Tom Brookshier

15 – Steve Van Buren

20 – Brian Dawkins

My first thought is that no, McNabb will not be given the same honor as those eight players.  I believe the Eagles will invite him to sign a one-day contract and officially retire as an Eagle, but I don’t think they will retire his No. 5 jersey.

Brian Dawkins was beloved by Eagles fans.  Not only did he bring the brand of football that every Philly fan loves, he connected with the fans in a way that few Eagles players have.

When you combine Dawkins’ talent and production on the field with his personality and connection with the fans, there is no question he deserves a place in Eagles history.  He should also be a first-ballot consideration for the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

Simply put, Dawkins is one of the most revered players in franchise history.

The same goes for Reggie White and Jerome Brown — the only other players whose numbers were retired that were in my time as an Eagles fan.  Those two players were loved just as much for what they did off the field as for what they did on it.

Though I will point out that, as much as I loved Jerome Brown, I’m fairly sure his untimely death had a lot to do with his jersey retirement.  White’s death was premature as well, but he was much more accomplished than Brown and likely would have had his number retired anyway.

So, do you feel the same way about McNabb as you do Dawkins, White or Brown?

Based on his accomplishments and what he meant to the Eagles’ success during his tenure, we could make a good argument to have McNabb’s number retired.  McNabb is the Eagles’ record holder for all major passing records, including:

Pass attempts: 4,746

Pass completions: 2,801

Completion percentage: 59

Passing yards: 32,873

TD Passes: 216

Passer rating: 86.5

Games played: 148

Games won as a starter: 92

He also led the team to five NFC championship games and one Super Bowl appearance.  Early on in his career with the Eagles, he often “strapped the team on his back” and willed them to victory.

McNabb did more with less than most other QBs I’ve seen.  He took the Eagles to the playoffs and conference title games with receivers like James Thrash, Todd Pinkston, Torrance Small and Charles Johnson.

He was the Eagles’ offense before Brian Westbrook came into his own (no disrespect to Duce Staley, but he wasn’t a dynamic player).

McNabb’s critics will allow that, yes, he took the team to five conference title games and a Super Bowl, but that he only won one of the five title games and lost a Super Bowl the team should have won.

Sure, there were other reasons the Eagles lost those games but the end result is what matters and the only thing people remember.  Right, wrong or indifferent, McNabb is viewed as somewhat of a choker.

Heck, for as good as Peyton Manning was (is), he was viewed as a choker until he finally won the big game.

However, those things are best left for Hall of Fame discussions.  Having a jersey retired, while a great honor from the team, is not quite as glamorous as being enshrined with the best players in NFL history.

Donovan McNabb


The biggest obstacle for McNabb in having his jersey retired, is, and always will be, his relationship with the fans.  Though I don’t think public perception is the end-all-be-all as far as this type of honor is concerned, I do believe it counts for something.

From the day he was drafted, McNabb has had an awkward relationship with Philadelphia fans.  He has been embraced by many, but has also been a lightning rod for criticism.  Some viewed him as a lovable goof who liked to have a good time on the sidelines or on the field, while others viewed him as not being a good leader and coming through when it mattered the most.

Perhaps the infamous draft-day booing set in motion an 11-year roller coaster ride that excited fans just as much as disappointed and frustrated them.  McNabb’s time in Philly was mostly successful and filled with high expectations, but his relationship with the Philadelphia fan base was always erratic.

Some think he never fully allowed himself to embrace the fans because of a scarred psyche from the aforementioned booing.  In other words, he never got over it.

Others rush to McNabb’s defense because they see him as somewhat of a victim.  As in, he was was always under attack from the local fan base, the media, or even people like Rush Limbaugh (remember that ordeal?) and Bernard Hopkins.

Donovan McNabb


Whatever the case may be, nobody can deny that McNabb’s tenure in Philly was tumultuous.  From the playoff excitement to the big game losses to the Terrell Owens debacle to the to the “we showed our youth” statement, McNabb was never short on controversy.

Controversy seems to follow him wherever he goes, too.  It seems that every time he opens his mouth, some form of controversy follows.  For example, his recent comment on ESPN when he interrupted Skip Bayless after he said that Tim Tebow is the most unfairly criticized QB in NFL history.  McNabb then blurted:

“Negative — I am,” McNabb interrupted. “I am. Nobody’s been criticized as much as I have.”

Sometimes I hear the things he says and I find myself wondering why he makes such statements when he should know people might blow it up.  In that example, he ended up being criticized for saying he’s always criticized!

Donovan McNabb is probably one of the most polarizing players in Eagles history.  If I asked 1,000 people how they felt about him, it would be a good bet that at least half of them would be avid supporters and proud of what he did for Philly while the rest would view him as an inaccurate passer, choke artist and ultimate failure.

Personally, I’m grateful for what McNabb did for the Eagles.  He and Andy Reid brought back an era of winning and success, even though they were never able to “seal the deal” with a Lombardi trophy.

I experienced frustration with him and the team as much as anyone, but the only reason you can experience frustration is if you have a certain level of expectations.  And the only way you even have a certain expectation level is if you believe your team is good.

I always believed the Eagles were good when McNabb was playing at quarterback.  I always expected big things from them because, well, they were good.  But, frustration would mount every time I saw a pass land at the feet of a receiver or I’d see him smile and/or slump his shoulders after a bad play or mistake.

I wanted to see McNabb be a little more emotional, a little more “fiery” in the sense that when things didn’t go right, he’d be pissed off about it and show it in some fashion or another.

However, he never did and that’s one of the reasons why he never won over a certain subset of the fans.

The Eagles were reborn during McNabb’s time here, but for reasons I have a hard time explaining, I was never able to fully embrace him in the same way I did Brian Dawkins or Reggie White.

It’s for these reasons as to why I don’t think we’ll ever see the No. 5 jersey retired in his honor.

Now, being inducted into the Eagles’ honor roll is another story.

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