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Final Four: Can Villanova Stop Hield and the Sooners

1 Apr

 

 

VillanovaOU

Villanova’s Josh Hart (right) and Oklahoma’s Isaiah Cousins will see a lot of each other in Saturday’s National Semifinal at NRG Stadium in Houston.

By Chris Murray

For the Chris Murray Report and the Philadelphia Sunday Sun

Even if Villanova doesn’t end up cutting down the nets as the NCAA National Champions Monday night in Houston, you can’t say that it’s been another disappointing year for the Wildcats.

BuddyHieldvVillanova

Oklahoma’s Buddy Hield and Villanova’s Kris Jenkins will square off in Saturday’s National Semifinal. Photo courtesy roanoke.com.

After a couple of years of early exits as a high seed, the Wildcats dominated most of their tournament opponents and ground out a tough win over Kansas in the South Regional Final and now they’re two games from winning their first national championship since 1985.

Standing in their way is the University of Oklahoma’s all-everything senior point-guard Buddy Hield and his ability to score from just about everywhere. In the Sooners regional final win over Oregon, he was virtually unstoppable, scoring 37 points and shooting 8-of-13 from three-point range.

Earlier in the season, the two teams played each other in Hawaii with the Sooners coming away with a 78-55 win.

In that game, Hield wasn’t the problem, Villanova head coach Jay Wright said. The Sooners had four players in double figures with Hield ( 18 points) and Isiah Cousins (19 points) leading the way.

“We did a decent job on Hield in the first game, and [Isaiah] Cousins killed us,” he said. “So we know it’s going to be more than a basic plan. I think that’s how it’s going to go. We aren’t going to just do one thing because those guys are too smart and too good for that.”

“Hopefully, we can shut them all down,” Villanova point guard Ryan Arcidiacono said. “We know it’s going to be tough. We know they are going to score their points and make their shots, so we just have to make sure they are tough contested shots.”

While Wright concedes that his team will be a facing an Oklahoma squad that’s only gotten better with time, the same could be said about his squad, he said.

For example, the Sooners are going to have to figure out how to stop Villanova’s three-headed monster of Josh Hart, Kris Jenkins, and Arcidiacono, all of whom average in double figures in scoring. If those three get going for the Wildcats, expect lots of flying basketballs.

“Oklahoma has obviously gotten better but we have gotten a lot better in my mind,” Wright said. “I think we had a lot more room to improve than they did. When we played Oklahoma earlier this season, Jalen (Brunson) was starting for the first time. Kris and Josh were starting for the first time. We were an inexperienced team and it really showed, so I think we are a much more experienced team now.”

In that early-season game against the Sooners, , the Wildcats had problems scoring from three-point range, hitting 4-of-32 shots from behind the arc. To counteract the Sooners, they’re going to have hit their long-range shots, but they’re also going to have to go into the low post, something they did to beat Kansas in the regional final.

“We want our guys to come in and be really confident and aggressive at the start,” Wright said. “We realize when we do that we’re going to look bad sometimes, and then over a season, we want to go from aggressive to intelligent, without losing that aggressiveness.”

But in the end, how the team performs on the court is all that counts, said Brunson, a freshman who averages 9.8 points and shoots 38 percent from three-point range.

“We’ve come very far, we play better team defense and we’ve done a lot of things good offensively,” said Brunson, whose father Rick played for John Chaney at Temple in the 1990s. “As a whole, everyone’s been getting a lot better, but also, Oklahoma has gotten better…We’ll have to get out there and see.”

 

 

 

 

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The Big Ten’s Bad Weekend Exposes Flaw in new College Football Playoff

8 Sep

 

By Chris Murray
For the Chris Murray Report and the Philadelphia Sunday Sun

Michigan State quarterback gets a hard rush from Oregon linebacker Tony Washington.  Spartan loss to Oregon has apparently eliminated the Big 10 from playoff consideration.

Michigan State quarterback gets a hard rush from Oregon linebacker Tony Washington. Spartan loss to Oregon has apparently eliminated the Big 10 from playoff consideration.

PHILADELPHIA—The aftermath of last Saturday’s college football games has me shaking my head and coming to the conclusion that the new four-team college football playoff format is seriously flawed even before it begins.

The premier programs of the Big-10 Conference, seventh-ranked Michigan State lost to No. 3 Oregon, eighth-ranked Ohio State lost to unranked Virginia Tech and Michigan got shutout 31-0 by Notre Dame.

Those high-profile non-conference losses not only cast doubt on the conference’s credibility, but according to several college football media people, it has eliminated the Big-10’s chances of having a team in the new college playoff this season.

The headline on ESPN.com Sunday morning was crystal clear about that: “Big Ten Busted After Two Weeks.”

Ohio State lost at home to unranked Virginia Tech.  Along with losses by Michigan and Michigan State, the Big Ten's credibility as a power conference has been called into question by college football experts.

Ohio State lost at home to unranked Virginia Tech. Along with losses by Michigan and Michigan State, the Big Ten’s credibility as a power conference has been called into question by college football experts.

Really? Two weeks into the season and we’ve eliminated an entire conference from playoff contention. If you’re thinking there’s something wrong that, you’re absolutely right because there is something wrong.

Now before you go off thinking that I’m feeling sorry for the Big-10, this is not that column because they signed up for this madness.

What’s really under indictment here is the idea that the five power conferences, including the Big-10, came up with a format for themselves that had already eliminated the other five conferences—the Sunbelt, Mid-America, Conference USA, the Mountain West and the American Athletic Conference from competing for a national championship.

And now the beast that is the super conferences are feeding off themselves with a bit of elitism within their own insular group. At some point, they are going to be cries to expand the playoffs-even it is among the super conferences.

They probably won’t think of doing it until Southeastern Conference schools finds themselves where the Big-10 is now. In the cycle of sports all conferences go through their share of down years.

As it stands now, the College Football Playoff will be here for the next 12 years thanks to a $5.64 billion TV deal the super conferences made with ESPN.

A 13-person committee selects the teams for the two semifinal games while teams representing the “big five” will fill the other four bowl games with one guaranteed spot going to the highest-ranked representative from the mid-major group of five conferences.

The bone they throw to the Mountain Wests’ and Conference USA’s of the world is nothing more than a pat on the head.

For me, comparing college football’s playoff to the NCAA basketball tournament is like former Democratic Vice-Presidential nominee Sen. Lloyd Bentsen telling former Vice-President Dan Quayle that he’s no John F. Kennedy.

Unlike the equality the NCAA basketball tournament where smaller schools are allowed to compete, the current College Football Playoff allows no room for the Cinderella story as we have seen in basketball.
So when a team out of a Conference USA or Mountain West and they’re undefeated or have a solid record, they won’t get the opportunity to test themselves in the spotlight.

Under this system, the smaller FBS conferences are marginalized to play in meaningless Bowl games without the opportunity to compete for a national championship. That to me is shameful because the power conferences want to hoard the money and resources for themselves.

And so this brings back to the Big-10’s so-called “elimination” from College Football Playoff in just the second week is a good reason for expanding the field. It’s ridiculous to say that a team representing any conference is out of playoff contention in early September.

Again, I have no sympathy for the Big 10 or any of the five super conferences who may not have a team in January’s playoff because you created a playoff system that freezes out the other five smaller conferences from having any chance to compete. It is a screwed up by-product of your own insular elitism and greed.

I’ve always said that there needs to be a 16-team playoff system where the conference champs of all 10 FBS conferences get automatic bids while the six at-large bids go to the highest ranked non-conference champions. That’s more fair because one loss in week two on the way to winning a conference title should not knock you out of the playoffs before October.

Unfortunately, the idea of equality of any kind in big-time college sports is a foreign concept, whether it’s giving a mid-major program like Boise State a legitimate chance to compete for a national championship in football or even sharing a percentage of the revenue with the student athletes.

“Trying to Make Things Right”: A Scathing Critique of College Athletics and the Exploitation of Black Athletes

11 Jun

 

By Chris Murray
For the Chris Murray Report and the Philadelphia Sunday Sun

Stephen Satell's book, "Trying to Make This Thing Right" explores of the world of college athletics and academics. Photo by Chris Murray.

Stephen Satell’s book, “Trying to Make This Thing Right” explores of the world of college athletics and academics. Photo by Chris Murray.

PHILADELPHIA –If there were a non-athlete or coach who could give you some insight on the good, the bad and the exploitive nature of college athletics, Stephen Satell could.

He’s seen it up close.

From 1989 to 1992, Satell was a tutor for the University of Massachusetts basketball team when John Calipari was the team’s head coach. During that time, UMass was an up and coming college basketball program whose rise to national prominence came with a stint on NCAA probation.

Satell’s book, “Trying to Make Things Right,” is a fictionalized account of his time at UMass, the relationships he had with the players he tutored, and his relationship with Calipari, who is now the popular, yet controversial head coach at the University of Kentucky.

The story itself is a compelling coming of age tale focused on four central characters– Ka-Shawn, Tutor, Magic and Coach– and the parts they played in the rise of a college basketball program. It’s a story of how the road to hell is paved with good intentions and how that road can get even rockier when ambition trumps all.

The point of the book is to show that everyone benefits when the “scholar” part of the phrase “scholar athlete” is emphasized, said Satell, a doctoral candidate in Temple University’s African American Studies program. If the same things that make a successful athlete, things like teamwork, intensity, concentration and a knowledge of the fundamentals, are applied to academics, success is a given, he said.

“I want to get people to understand that those things can transform into academic success,” Satell said. “Using the same energy that coaches use to recruit players can also be used to helping bridge the gap between universities and poor communities.”

Satell, who is white, grew up in Philadelphia and lived among African-Americans in some of the city’s toughest neighborhoods and in Ch. He said he enjoyed his time working with Black athletes and helping them navigate academia despite coming from impoverished school districts.

“When you look at urban schools, you look at education that’s set up to fail,” he said. “This was a different situation. I happened to have the expertise to make it succeed in an institution where I had the opportunity to do something for a minute where a university can relate to a community.”

How the athletes in the story overcame their academic challenges to become successful on the court and in the classroom is what Satell hopes people take from his book.

“The fiction writer gets inside the character and that was what I thought I had the expertise to do. To relate the different struggles that are personal and universal,” Satell said. “I wanted to bring my experiences into fictional characters.”

During his time at UMass, Satell successfully tutored student-athletes who were admitted to the university under the NCAA’s Proposition 48 because they didn’t have the minimum SAT scores or grades to play right away. Those students have to sit out their freshman year of school.

“We were getting top players and the reason we were getting top players like Donta Bright and Marcus Camby was because other schools simply could not take them,” Satell said. “What we did we were able to get them to be very successful with school. We earned the right to get those students.”

The program maintained an academics-first focus until the Minutemen made their first NCAA Tournament Sweet 16 appearance in 1992, Satell said. Although the team lost to the Kentucky Wildcats, it was a taste of success.

After that, Calipari’s priorities changed. The “scholar” had been removed from the phrase “scholar athlete” in favor of an almost maniacal focus on basketball, Satell said.

“Once Calipari had made his reputation on the basketball court, he no longer needed to recruit to the academics,” Satell said.

“The rules went out the window and the integrity went out the window. There was a big emphasis on support and the academics. That’s what was very unique.”

Oddly enough, Calipari’s teams UMass and Memphis had to vacate their appearances in the Final Four because of NCAA violations. At Memphis, the school was placed on probation because another student took the SAT in place of star guard Derrick Rose, now a guard with the Chicago Bulls.

At a time when the integrity of college athletics is under constant scrutiny by fans, school administrators and the media, “Trying to Make Things Right,” is a unique work of historical fiction that explores the good, bad and the ugly of college athletics.

Big East Regular-Season Champ Villanova Ready for March Madness

9 Mar

 

By Chris Murray

For the Chris Murray Report and the Philadelphia Sunday Sun

(from left to right) Villanova senior guard Tony Chennault, head coach Jay Wright and freshman forward Darryl  Reynolds salute the crowd after Saturday's win over Georgetown in the regular-season finale. Photo by Webster  Riddick.

(from left to right) Villanova senior guard Tony Chennault, head coach Jay Wright and freshman forward Darryl Reynolds salute the crowd after Saturday’s win over Georgetown in the regular-season finale. Photo by Webster Riddick.

PHILADELPHIA –In years past winning the Big East regular-season title guaranteed a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament.

But in this bizarre new world of conference-switching to accommodate football, the newly, reconfigured Big East is not going to get the kind of juice it once got in the NCAA Tournament. Some RPI services have the new Big East rated as the fourth-rated conference in the nation.

Nevertheless, Big East regular-season champion Villanova head coach Jay Wright has been more enamored with how well his team is playing at the most critical stretch of the season.

Since a home loss to conference-rival Creighton on Jan. 20th, the Wildcats have won 12 of their last 13 games coming into Thursday’s Big East quarterfinal at Madison Square Garden in New York City. The one loss in that stretch came at the hands of Creighton.

“They’re very mature,” Wright said. “These guys bring it every day in practice. I think that’s what’s been unique about them is that they are able to keep an intensity, regardless of the circumstances.”

As well as Villanova (28-3, 15-2)  has played throughout the regular season, more than a few college basketball observers are saying that things  have to fall the right way for the Wildcats to get the No. 1 seed in the Big Dance.

That said, Wright said he is not overly concerned about where his team is seeded in this year’s NCAA Tournament. It’s more about getting his team ready for the festivities in New York this week.

“I really don’t think there’s that much difference in playing between a one and a two,” Wright said. “Being considered up there is great, but no concern at all. We want to get fresh here going into the Big East Tournament. The Big East Tournament is fun, man.  I just want to concentrate on the Big East.”

That message is something that’s been filtered down to the Villanova players as they go about the process of getting ready for their trip to New York.

“Coach makes sure that it doesn’t gets to our heads,” said Wildcats junior guard Darrun Hilliard, who scored 19 points in Saturday’s win over Georgetown.  “We don’t really buy into it really.  All the coaches keep us humble and keep pushing us to get better.

“We’re going to hear it on all the social networks, TV. It is what it is. Today’s today and so tomorrow’s a new day. We have to keep moving forward and getting better.”

The one thing to like about this particular Villanova squad is that they are team that truly plays together and they have no one player standing out as a superstar. In their 77-59 victory over Georgetown in the regular-season finale, the Wildcats had five players scoring in double figures.

“They have several players on their team that would be the point player or the star on other teams. They got different people who can step up and control the ball. Their unselfishness is the key,” said Georgetown head coach John Thompson III. “At the offensive end, they are very unselfish team. They drive and kick it to the person that’s open and that person can make a shot.”

Four of the five players in Villanova’s starting lineup are averaging in double-figures. The Wildcat are led by six-foot-six senior guard/small forward James Bell, who averages 15 points and six rebounds per game. Junior forward JayVaugh Pinkston averages 14.4 per game while Hilliard scores 14.2 points per contest. Sophomore point guard Ryan Arcidiacono contributes with 10 points per game.

Even with his team playing well, Wright said his team can get better and is starting to play well on defense. The two losses to Creighton in which the Wildcats allowed 96 and 100 points respectively made them realize that they play well on defense.

“Our defense is definitely getting better and they’re taking more pride in it. The second Creight taught them that we’re a good offensive, but you’re not going to be beat the best team just scoring,” Wright said. “After we got beat the second time that woke them up. I think we can keep getting better and that’s the approach we’re going to take.”

Women of Power: Hoops Legends Staley and Cooper-Dyke Coach Game They Play–Superbly

17 Feb

By Scott Talley 

For the Chris Murray Report 

Hall-of-Fame head coach Dawn Staley has been a winner as a player and as a coach at both South Carolina and Temple.

Hall-of-Fame head coach Dawn Staley has been a winner as a player and as a coach at both South Carolina and Temple.

It is often said that great players don’t make great coaches.  Apparently this adage was never communicated to Dawn Staley or Cynthia Cooper-Dyke.

Staley, one of the most decorated players in women’s basketball history is now head basketball coach of the University of South Carolina Lady Gamecocks.  At first glance, it would appear impossible for Staley to match her athletic resume, which includes being a two-time National Player of the Year (1991, 1992) while starring at point guard for the University of Virginia, playing on three gold-medal-winning Olympic teams, and 2013 enshrinement into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame.  However, the Philadelphia native is well on her way to achieving coaching greatness.

The Lady Gamecocks entered the 2013-14 campaign on the heels of two consecutive 25-win seasons, including a stellar record of 25 wins and only eight losses last season.  And with March approaching, Staley’s nationally ranked team is a virtual lock to make this year’s NCAA Tournament, also known as the “Big Dance.

This season, the Gamecocks are 23-2 overall and are first place in the Southeastern Conference with an 11-1 recording including Sunday’s road win over No. 19 LSU.

Staley arrived at South Carolina in 2008 to turn around the Lady Gamecocks’ basketball fortunes after a highly successful run as head coach of Temple University, where she posted a 172-80 record in eight seasons, including six NCAA Tournament appearances.

 

Basketball Hall-of-Famer Cynthia Cooper-Dyke won four WNBA titles as a player and is looking to bring USC back to prominence in women's basketball.

Basketball Hall-of-Famer Cynthia Cooper-Dyke won four WNBA titles as a player and is looking to bring USC back to prominence in women’s basketball.

Like Staley, Cooper-Dyke was often the center of attention during a spectacular playing career.  The fiery guard’s highlight reel included playing on two NCAA championship teams at the University of Southern California, winning an Olympic gold medal, leading the Houston Comets to four consecutive WNBA titles, and 2010 enshrinement into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame.

As a head college basketball coach, Cooper-Dyke also has mirrored Staley by turning losing programs into winners, including success stories at Prairie View A&M, University of North Carolina at Wilmington and Texas Southern.   When former Los Angeles Lakers standout Michael Cooper was unable to get the job done as head coach of the University of Southern California’s women’s team, Cooper-Dyke received a call from her alma mater.

Upon accepting the job she said:  “I’m very excited to coach every one of these USC players.  I’m excited about the talent we have.  I’m excited to teach and learn and motivate and really see them blossom into the players they can truly become.”

True to her words, after only a few months on the job, Cooper-Dyke’s Women of Troy are showing signs of returning to national prominence, including a home-and-home sweep of rival UCLA this season.

Under Cooper-Dyke’s leadership, USC is 16-10 overall and 9-5 in Pacific-12 Conference play and are in a three-way tie for second in the conference.

Since the NCAA began sponsoring women’s basketball in 1982, basketball has remained the most popular women’s sport and in recent years the talent has grown by leaps and bounds.  The sport’s continued rise will no doubt be fueled by coaches like Cooper-Dyke and Staley, who are committed to helping young women be successful on and off the court.

As Staley said during her Hall of Fame induction speech:  “I knew I had made the right decision to coach when I started to care more about my players than the win, and I really like wins…”

Scott Talley is a freelance writer and public relations consultant based in Detroit, Michigan. 

 

 

FBS Should Have a 16-Team Playoff to Determine the National Championship

20 Dec
Florida State and Auburn will lock horns for the BCS National Championship next month in Pasadena.

Florida State and Auburn will lock horns for the BCS National Championship next month in Pasadena.

By Chris Murray

For the Chris Murray Report and the Philadelphia Sunday Sun

 

PHILADELPHIA—A couple of years ago, I wrote a column for this blog about the need for the Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS—aka  Division I-A) to have a 16-team playoff.

https://thechrismurrayreport.org/2009/12/24/once-and-for-all-there-needs-to-be-a-playoff-in-fbs-div-1-a/#comments

The automatic bids would go out to the winners of the 10 FBS conferences. Six at-large bids would go out to the highest ranked non-conference champions, according to the final Bowl Championship Series poll of the regular season.

The opening-round and quarterfinal games might be played at the home of the highest seeded team or at the existing bowl sites. Semifinal and championship games would be played at the major BCS bowl sites on a rotating basis.

As a disclaimer, I am probably not the only one who has come up with this idea and so I am not seeking a patent. If you got a better plan, put it out there.

To accommodate final exams for the student-athletes, I would start the first-round games a week before Christmas. Most universities are either finished or close to finishing up exams by that point in December.

The playoffs, even if there’s a two-week delay between the semifinals and the championship game would end by mid-January—when most students would be coming back from the winter break.

Meanwhile, if your team doesn’t make the playoffs and has a good season, they can still go to a postseason bowl game. It would be the football equivalent of college basketball’s National Invitation Tournament—which is kind of what we have now in college football with the plethora of bowl games.

Even with next year’s four-team playoff on the horizon for next year, I still believe there needs to be a 16-team playoff.  On one hand, I think the four-team playoff is a step in the right direction because sooner or later it’s going to expand to eight and then to 16. It may take a few years, but it will get there eventually.

If there is an expanded playoff, it will no doubt make tons of money for those institutions—some of which should go to the student athletes putting their bodies on the line to play in those games.  In other words, they should pay the athletes in the revenue producing sports just on general principle, but that’s another column.

Bracketology College Football Style

So what if he we had a 16-team playoff THIS year? As we said earlier, your automatic bids would go to the winners of the 10 FBS conferences.  The at-large teams would be the six highest ranked non-conference champions in the final regular-season BCS poll.

According to the final 2013 BCS rankings, the six highest ranked teams without a conference championship are: No. 3 Alabama; No. 7 Ohio State; No. 8 Missouri; No.9 South Carolina; No. 10 Oregon and No. 11 Oklahoma.

In the round of the 16, ACC champion and No. 1 seed Florida State would play No.16  Louisiana-LaFayette, champions of the Sun Belt (UL-L had the same record as Arkansas State but beat them head-to-head).

FSU would beat Louisiana LaFayette and in the quarterfinals they would face the winner of eight-seed Missouri versus No. 9 seed South Carolina—I would pick Missouri to win that game.

An intriguing matchup in the first round would be Big-10 title-holder and No. 4 Michigan State and the nation’s best defense versus No. 13-seed and Mountain West standard bearer Fresno State, with their high-powered offense. If you believe defense wins championships, Spartans would probably win.

That would be a dangerous matchup for Michigan State with the way the Bulldogs can put points on the board.

The 5-12 matchup would be a tough fight. Pac-12 champ Stanford as the No. 5 seed versus American Athletic Conference champion and No. 12-seed University of Central Florida would be a heck of a contest. It’s another game that could go either way. Stanford would be the more physical team, in my opinion, and  would probably win.

In the quarterfinals—Florida State would overwhelm Mizzou while No. 4 Michigan State toughs out a physical contest with Stanford to face FSU in the semifinals. The Seminoles would beat the Spartans to get to the title game.

On the other end of the bracket, SEC champion and No. 2 seed Auburn would easily defeat No. 15- seed and Mid-America Conference champion Bowling Green.  In a game that could probably go either way, No. 7 Ohio State would probably be upset by No. 10 Oregon. Since both of these teams are lacking in defense, this is a pick-‘em game.

Meanwhile, No. 3 Alabama would easily run over No. 14 seed and Conference USA champ Rice.  Big 12 champion and No. 6-seed Baylor would beat No. 11-seed Oklahoma—another one of those games that could go either way.

In the quarterfinals, Oregon versus Auburn would be a game of whoever has the ball last wins since neither team is really that great on defense. The Tigers would beat a Ducks team that wasn’t all that sure of itself at the end of the season.  The Crimson Tide would rough up the Bears and would beat Auburn or Oregon to get to the national title game.

In the national championship, I believe that Florida State and 2013 Heisman Trophy winner Jameis Winston would be slightly better than Alabama. The Seminoles would take home the trophy.

I know some of the big conferences would complain about the idea of having to share the wealth with the smaller conferences. Even worse, I can almost hear the bigger conferences saying their fourth and fifth team is better than the champion of the Mountain West.

Every so often, we have teams from small conferences beating the big boys from the so-called bigger conferences. What harm is it to give those kids a fair shot at the title by including them in football’s big dance? Are big conferences afraid that a team from the MAC or the Sun Belt might upset an SEC team or an ACC squad?

I don’t know if this plan is perfect, it’s not.  Whatever plan or scheme they come up with, I hope it’s fair to the student athletes and their well-being, gives all FBS schools a chance to participate without big conference bias and gives those smaller to mid-level programs that one shot to slay Goliath on a big stage.

Hall of Fame: The Case for Donovan McNabb

1 Aug

By Chris Murray

For the Chris Murray Report

Donovan McNabb got a  huge ovation from the crowd last Sunday. Photo by Webster Riddick.

Donovan McNabb got a huge ovation from the crowd last Sunday. Photo by Webster Riddick.

PHILADELPHIA-It was an emotional Donovan McNabb who officially ended what was a tumultuous, enigmatic, oft-times controversial career in the City of Brotherly Love as a member of the Eagles.

McNabb, who is the Eagles all-time leading passer, will have his No. 5 retired in ceremonies on Sept. 19 at Lincoln Financial Field when the Birds play the Kansas City Chiefs, now coached by Andy Reid.

Ever since McNabb was traded to the Washington Redskins after the 2009 season, there has been debate about how should Eagles fans should remember him.  Some fans and sports media pundits will remember him as a player who choked in the big games.

The anti-McNabb crowd will tell you that he was a passive-aggressive crybaby who refused to take responsibility for Eagles losses.  They blame him for the losses in four of the five NFC title games and the Super Bowl.

There were some who were upset that he was too much of a Black quarterback and others who said he wasn’t Black enough.  Huh?  What? The anti-McNabb crowd questioned his accuracy as a passer as well as his heart and leadership. By the way, he completed 59 percent of his passes-sixth among quarterbacks who are already in Pro Football Hall of Fame.

To the anti-McNabb faction, I guess it didn’t matter that he played on what turned out to be a broken leg and threw four touchdown passes to beat the Arizona Cardinals in 2002. McNabb gamely tried to play with a broken rib in the 2003 NFC Championship Game against the Carolina Panthers.

“Those are the type of things that the average player can’t play through,” said former Eagles safety Brian Dawkins.  “He’s had other things that he played through that you would never know about because he would never let you know.

“(McNabb) was mentally tough not only to deal with those injuries but to deal with all the negativity that came across his table so many times.”

Meanwhile, the pro-McNabb crew said that he was a great quarterback who managed to win in spite of having mediocre receivers for the most part and a head coach who refused to utilize the running game, especially in the big games.

They also point the fact McNabb was a model citizen off the field who involved himself with a number of charities in the community.  He never got arrested or had any brushes with the law and he was a good family man.

This past Sunday at the Eagles training camp practice at Lincoln Financial Field, McNabb got a huge cheer from the 30,000 fans that came to see the Birds workout. That to me is an indication that maybe there were more people who appreciated him than those who loathed him.

I think the vitriol against McNabb is out of frustration because the team hasn’t won a championship since 1960.

I think with the passage of time people will appreciate McNabb in the same way fans like former Phillies Mike Schmidt, who was also disliked by fans when he was a player in spite of his success.

The anguish of coming so close to a Super Bowl win and not getting there is frustrating to fans and no one felt iit more than McNabb himself.

“My goal was to have that parade down Broad Street,” McNabb said Monday.  “Now the Phillies did it first, and I apologized to the fans because that was my goal.  I felt like I let them down.”

In the final analysis, I think McNabb, with the teammates he had, did everything they could on the field to win here.  If they had better personnel on both sides of the ball and maybe better coaching, who knows?

I do believe that there were times when I felt McNabb needed to just take over and dominate games with his ability to run and create on the fly. He did it at times, but not enough.

McNabb is the winningest quarterback in franchise history with 101 including the playoffs. He led the team to five division titles along with those five conference title games.

Is McNabb a Hall of Famer? It depends on whom you ask. There are a lot of people who say he falls just short.  I think you can make a case for him.

Well, if you like statistics, he has a good combination of numbers to get him there.  McNabb is one of four quarterbacks in NFL history to compile 30,000 yards passing, 200 touchdown passes, 3,000 yards rushing and 20 rushing touchdowns. He has the fourth lowest interception percentage in league history.

Only three other players have accomplished that John Elway, Steve Young and Fran Tarkenton.  Those three are in the Hall of Fame.

McNabb, Elway and Tarkenton are the only quarterbacks in league history to throw for 35,000 yards and rush for 3,000 yards.

In McNabb’s 11 years with the Eagles, he won 92 regular-season and nine playoff games.  Only Tom Brady and Peyton Manning and Brett Favre have more wins and more Super Bowl rings. A huge sticking point for fans in this day and age who believe that McNabb falls just shot of having a place in Canton.

“If you’re talking about the top three of the era, Tom Brady, Peyton, and Don,” said former Eagles running back Brian Westbrook. “When you’re talking about Hall of Fame credentials, they’re there.”

But if you’re still not impressed, remember one thing—The Eagles could have drafted then Heisman Trophy winner Rickey Williams and his fondness for the whacky weed.  Ask yourself who had the better career.