Andy Reid walks off the field after his last game as the Eagles' head coach. (Getty Images)
They got booed at home while playing for Philadelphia teams.
Okay, they had another thing in common as well. They both were cheered wildly when they returned after a time to be honored by their respective teams - Schmidt by the Phillies and Chamberlain by the 76ers - by the same Philadelphia faithful who had booed them.
That's the way it works in Philadelphia. It's as tough a place to play professional sports as there is on the planet. Philly has passionate, knowledgeable fans who are famous for letting their teams know when they're not happy with the way things are playing out. Philly also has a discerning, critical sports media which has spent more than a century covering mostly failing teams. Venting negative emotions seems to come with the territory.
So it's natural to wonder if the same script will be followed on Thursday night when two more of Philadelphia's best ever return to Lincoln Financial Field – one to have his number retired by the Eagles franchise, the other to coach against an Eagles team he led to the most successful tenure in franchise history.
Donovan McNabb started more games at quarterback for the Eagles than anyone else. He attempted more passes, completed more passes, threw for more touchdowns and passed for more yards for the Eagles than anyone else. He guided the Eagles to five National Football Conference championship games and a Super Bowl in 11 seasons.
But he didn't win the big one. The heartbreaks clearly outnumbered the glorious moments. He often came off as aloof. He often reacted to criticism of his play with hypersensitivity. He might have taken the Eagles to heights rarely seen in Philadelphia, but he got most of the blame when they didn't reach the pinnacle.
Andy Reid was the Eagles' head coach for 14 seasons, winning six division titles and reaching five NFC championship games as well as a Super Bowl. He won more games - 130 - and more playoff games - 10 - than any other Eagles' head coach. In all of Eagles history, only Earl "Greasy" Neale, who coached two championship teams in the 1940s, had a better overall winning percentage, .594 to Reid's .583.
But Reid didn't win the big one. The heartbreaks clearly outnumbered the glorious moments. He came off as abrupt, consistently responding to media questions with the same answer - "We've got to do a better job." Critics questioned his offensive approach which almost eschewed the run entirely at times. They questioned his clock management. They questioned his personnel moves. Whatever blame Donovan McNabb didn't get went to Andy Reid.
We live in a sports world where getting close isn't good enough, especially when you get close repeatedly. Knock on the championship door enough, you have to get through it or you haven't really succeeded. Even reaching the top once, as Schmidt did with the Phillies and Chamberlain did with the 76ers, isn't enough. Getting close again and again begets expectations. What have you done for me lately?
[Related: Michael Vick calls Andy Reid 'a great man']
However, time seems to take care of it in Philadelphia. When fans had the chance to miss seeing Schmidt and Chamberlain in action, they realized how privileged they were to watch them. When they came back, they heard a rousing thank you for service and sacrifice that went way beyond excellence. Time made it easy to see how great they really were.
But has there been enough time to develop such appreciation of McNabb and Reid?
McNabb played his last game as an Eagle in 2009 but has remained in the headlines since for two failed seasons elsewhere and a rant about his qualifications for the Hall of Fame among other things. At this point, it's hard to tell if the positives from his Eagles career have had time enough to outweigh the negatives.
Reid was coaching in Philadelphia less than a year ago. He's coming on Thursday night planning to lead his Kansas City Chief past the Eagles any way he can. He left town after months of hearing critics call for his ouster. Now he returns as the enemy, at least for one night.
For Donovan McNabb and Andy Reid, the appreciation is inevitable. The cheers will come. It's just hard to say if they'll be coming on Thursday night.
Ted Williams lives in Emmaus, PA and is a lifetime Eagles follower. He spent 20 years in print journalism, winning state and national awards.
Reference: www.pro-football-reference.comNFL.com preview of Eagles vs. Chiefs:
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