Eagles to retire McNabb's number Sept. 19

PHILADELPHIA -- Former Philadelpia Eagles quarterback Donovan McNabb held a news conference here Monday morning to officially announce his retirement as an Eagle. It's a silly thing that NFL players do now when it's been almost two years since their last game and they realize they're not going to play anymore, but the Eagles and McNabb did it well. Highlight reels, emotional tributes to and by the player involved ... nice touches all around.

At the conclusion of the thing, the Eagles announced they would be retiring McNabb's uniform No. 5 in a ceremony at their Sept. 19 game against the Kansas City Chiefs. This is especially handy because the Chiefs are coached by Andy Reid, who coached McNabb for all 11 of his seasons with the Eagles and was let go by the team in January after 14 years as its head coach. In McNabb's 11 seasons, the Eagles had a combined 108-67 regular-season record, a 10-8 postseason record, eight winning seasons, five trips to the NFC Championship Game, and one trip to the Super Bowl. He is the best quarterback in franchise history, and retiring his number is an absolute no-brainer.

Of course, one of the big storylines leading up to Sept. 19 in Philadelphia will be, "How will the crowd react?" McNabb is still viewed by a significant portion of the Eagles fan base as the quarterback who couldn't deliver the Super Bowl title for which it remains so thirsty. He wasn't always the best at maintaining the emotional connection this town's sports fans expect of their star athletes. Add in the return of Reid, on whom the fan base had seriously soured prior to his exit last winter, and there's reason to wonder whether the reception will be chilly that night.

I doubt it, though. It's been four years since McNabb played for the Eagles, and I think that's enough time to allow for a softening of most people's feelings about him. He was the franchise's quarterback for a period of sustained excellence and prosperity that's going to be awfully difficult for anyone to repeat. And surely, the fact he couldn't deliver a Super Bowl title eats at McNabb even more than it bothers Eagles fans. I think Eagles fans should and will give McNabb a reception worthy of his excellent career, and that he'll have the great night he deserves when they honor his achievements on Sept. 19.

Of course, if the Eagles go into that game 0-2, all bets are off. (Kidding -- kind of.)