In 2006 it was The Return Of Terrell Owens, and Eagles fans lathered themselves into a frenzy and showered Owens with taunts and boos and glorious derision. In 2009 it was Brian Dawkins Is Back Week, and Dawkins was bathed in love when his name was announced at Lincoln Financial Field. Now it is The Week Of Donovan, and we wait in anticipation of the reception that will welcome Donovan McNabb back to Philadelphia.
Ah, glorious moments in the history of this football team. There is nothing like a formerly-beloved player participating with the visiting team. It adds to the drama and the intensity of the game for the media and for the fans, but how much does it mean for the players and the coaches?
It is an interesting question, one Andy Reid discussed with me in the Xfinity Studio during *Eagles Live! *on Monday. While we are going to spend a full week cranking up the hype machine banging the drum with McNabb coming back to Philadelphia, Reid won't deviate from his usual process.
He has a team to beat on Sunday. That's all that matters.
"It is an important game against an NFC East team," said Reid. "Donovan is just another very good player on an opposing team."
That is the cut-and-dried vision every coach has. They don't get caught up in the hype. Reid was asked during his Monday press conference if he would be more emotional than usual with McNabb playing in Philadelphia for the first time as a Redskin. Clearly, the out-of-town reporter who asked the question doesn't gauge Reid's emotional barometer like we do each week. We know that Reid's emotional level does not waver, no matter what.
Anyway, Reid's answer: "You know what, there's really no time, there's no time for that. I have a lot of other things I have to take care of and it won't be one of those types of things."
Of the 53 players on this roster, 13 are rookies who never played with McNabb. A few others -- Darryl Tapp, Reggie Wells, Owen Schmitt, Ernie Sims -- never played with McNabb in the NFL. Another handful of players were here for only one year with the Eagles alongside McNabb.
Do you really think the rest of the gang cares all that much about McNabb's return? This is a division game, and that is all that matters. For the media, it is a great he-said/she-said kind of week. It is great theatre. The fans are going to have a blast on Sunday, and hopefully they will treat McNabb with respect and appreciation before the game, and then treat him as a Washington Redskin the rest of the way.
With a brutal October waiting -- games at San Francisco, home with Atlanta and at Tennessee follow the Redskins -- the Eagles need to get the NFC East portion of the season off on the right foot. Sunday, then, is about beating the Redskins, not "showing" McNabb a thing or two about why he was traded.
Hey, I admit that the storylines are great. Michael Vick has resurrected his career as an Eagle and he faces McNabb, who had 11 fantastic seasons here. There is the coaching angle, with Reid on one sideline and Mike Shanahan on the other. There are personnel matchups all over the field that beg for more scrutiny.
The whole idea of trying to identify what the NFC East is all about is so intriguing after three weeks of such uneven play throughout the division.
The Washington Redskins are coming to town, and that in itself is enough to get excited. McNabb's presence is, of course, going to add major points to the television audience and the Q rating of this game.
For me, it's going to be a fun week of playing up all the angles and then on Sunday it will be just another very important NFC East game, with an eye pointed, naturally, at the quarterbacks. We are all going to watch, yeah, and we're going to make judgments and then we are going to move to the next week and talk about how important that game in San Francisco will be.