The Eagles opened up training camp last week, and if you’re already tired of reporters asking everyone involved with the team what it’s like to go on with life after Donovan McNabb, you’d best prepare yourself for a very, very long season.
Mark Maske of the Washington Post asked the question to team president Joe Banner on Saturday. and Banner gave a response that was very diplomatic. Almost too much so. Witness:
I get in trouble every time I say it in Philadelphia, but he never got the credit he deserves for all the things we achieved and he achieved. He never got the credit he deserved as a person. He was out there doing charitable things all the time and caring about the community. To the end, even with the criticism, his preference was to stay here in Philadelphia. I think that says an awful lot about who he is as a man.
This, of course, begs the question: If you think he was so great, why’d you trade him? Banner isn’t at liberty to call out all the negative qualities that caused him to feel compelled to deal McNabb. You know, all those qualities you and I are happy to discuss at length: Donovan chokes, Donovan is wildly inaccurate, Donovan always kinda looks fat, etc.
Banner can be as diplomatic as he likes, but he’ll never be able to avoid the continuing storyline of this coming Eagles season, a season that will be defined entirely by how the Eagles fare in relation to their former quarterback. This season will be all about figuring out if the Eagles did the right thing by trading McNabb, or if McNabb will make them look like idiots for handing a decorated leader over to a division rival (or, most gut-wrenchingly, if the Eagles should have dumped both McNabb AND their pass-happy coach and truly started anew).
That’s how it works in sports. Deal away the face of your franchise, and you will inevitably be forced to spend a year haunted by the ghost of that player. We’ve only just begun to pick at this particular scab, and Joe Banner’s nice words about the former Face of the Eagles isn’t going to change that. In fact, it only makes things worse.