Cataldi: A house divided (about McNabb) cannot stand

San Francisco 49ers v Philadelphia Eagles
McNabb wasn’t booed at the 1999 draft because of his race.

I just had the craziest dream. First, it was 1999, and I was with 30 drunks booing Donovan McNabb. Then it was 2005, and McNabb was throwing up at the Super Bowl. Finally, I was debating the merits of McNabb’s career with former NFL quarterback Kordell Stewart and fending off accusations of racism by Temple icon John Chaney. That was some nightmare.

What’s that? All of that stuff actually happened? Ugh.

The strangest week of my 23-year career in radio began with a stupid remark I made on WIP last Tuesday morning. I suggested, with tongue in cheek, that we re-gather the members of the Dirty Thirty who had booed McNabb at the 1999 draft and blast him one last time at his retirement ceremony. I am no fan of old No. 5, but that would be a dumb move, even by my warped standards.

In the course of my rant, I also made the mistake of dredging up the issue of whether McNabb vomited in the latter stages of his one Super Bowl appearance, leading to a three-day e-mail war with reporters who still believe he did not. Did McNabb barf? Yes, he most certainly did, but what’s the point of arguing it again now?

All of the press I got for my McNabb comments earned me an invitation on an Atlanta radio show hosted by Kordell Stewart, who informed me that I’m nuts not to appreciate a quarterback who got the Eagles to five NFC championship games. I then suggested — nicely, mind you — McNabb is a hero only when compared to lesser quarterbacks like, say, Kordell Stewart.

Could I dig the hole any deeper for myself? Apparently, I could. As the week progressed, I offered some serious analysis of McNabb that did not sit well with his many admirers. I said he negated his many good accomplishments with passive-aggressive behavior that will permanently damage his legacy. I was logical with my criticism, accurately recalling his many failures at key moments and the absurd remarks that inevitably followed.

Unfortunately, timing is everything — and it is obviously considered bad form to tell the brutal truth about a player on the week when he announces his retirement. Among those offended by my commentary was former Temple coach John Chaney, who suggested that the negative 1999 draft reaction was like “a lynch mob.” In other words, we went to New York that day to protest the drafting of a black quarterback.

Chaney has no idea what he’s talking about. We actually made the trip — at the urging of then-Mayor Ed Rendell — to welcome Ricky Williams to the Eagles. The black running back, Ricky Williams. John Chaney owes me and those fans an apology.

Of course, it could be argued that I deserved all of the heat I got last week for stirring up arguments that were best left undisturbed. On that charge, I plead guilty. McNabb was a good quarterback, OK? There, I said it.

Now, please leave me alone while I take a long, dreamless nap.

 

Tough decisions: Chase Utley’s future

 

At a time when his popularity is at an all-time low, Phillies GM Ruben Amaro, Jr. faces his toughest decision: Is it time to trade Chase Utley?

On a team of beloved sports heroes, there is one true leader, Utley — the feisty, quiet Phillies second baseman who personifies the gritty fan base. Even his profane “World bleepin’ champions!” exhortation at the 2008 championship rally has somehow become a term of endearment for that legendary team.

But that was five long years ago — five years of punishment on already brittle knees, five years of falling short and falling hard. That Utley has returned to a semblance of his previous greatness this season is something of a medical miracle. He actually looks like Utley again, playing well and smart, squeezing a few desperate wins out of a declining team.

Utley is a free agent at the end of the season, and he will never again be worth the $15 million he is earning right now — especially to a rebuilding team like the Phillies. And that leads to Amaro’s decision about what to do with a player loved by all but worth more now to a contender.

Baseball sage Peter Gammons, of the MLB Network, said recently on my radio show that no Phillie will bring more in return than Utley, who would take both his talent and his aura to a contender. Doesn’t it make sense to use Utley as part of a rebuilding process that is inevitable now?

The best guess here is that Amaro will trade Utley because it will be the right thing to do for the franchise. And then Ruben Amaro will find out what being hated in Philadelphia is really like.

 

Sixers GM needs communication skills

 

Sam Hinkie is known as a meticulous number-cruncher with a tireless work ethic, so why did the new Sixer GM do so little homework on the Philadelphia sports fan before his tone-deaf introductory news conference last week?

It is a challenge to recall any executive, coach or player who seemed more out of touch with his surroundings than Hinkie appeared in his embarrassing debut. At 32, he is not expected to be a master of public speaking, but his stilted reading of boring clichés belonged at a college graduation, not at the dais of an NBA team.

Now maybe he’s one of those geniuses who is just a lot more comfortable making moves than talking about them. Maybe in the long run he will know what to do with a team that has two good players and a rapidly shrinking fan base. Maybe he will even be figure out how to overcome a clueless owner and a clownish CEO.

But what the Sixers really need, this minute, is someone who can represent the franchise with purpose and confidence — someone who has not lost his mind like Doug Collins, or someone who cannot communicate at all, like his predecessor, Tony DiLeo. They do not need yet another empty suit yammering about nothing.

What Sam Hinkie needed to do last week was declare, in a powerful voice, that Andrew Bynum is not welcome back here, under any circumstances. He needed to do what new Eagles coach Chip Kelly has done, to connect with the fans. He needed to provide some reason for hope. He failed miserably.

 

Idle thoughts from Cataldi

 

» Eagles coach Chip Kelly choreographed his practices last week with loud, pulsating music, a first in the NFL. Two days later, Andy Reid did the exact same thing in Kansas City. Hold on a second. Which one of these guys is a rookie? And which one has been doing the job for 14 years?

» Ilya Bryzgalov simply cannot shut his mouth. Last week, after blowing another game at the world championships, the goalie called Philadelphia dirty, depicted the people here as lazy welfare bums and praised Joseph Stalin. Just one question: Why is Bryzgalov still a Flyer?

» Danny Watkins explained the other day that his struggles with the Eagles were directly connected to unorthodox offensive-line coach Howard Mudd. Now that Mudd is gone, he implied that we can expect a much better return on the first-round pick. Wanna bet?

» If you were watching the miraculous comeback by the Phils Sunday, then you already know that Freddy Galvis absolutely must play every day, starting right now. Forget his game-winning home run. Galvis is potentially the best infield defender since Ozzie Smith. He is that good.

» Welcome to the Phillies, Carlos Zambrano. The former ace pitcher with serious anger-management problems — he has been known to physically attack teammates and Gatorade coolers without provocation — is working himself back into shape and should be on the major-league roster soon. Meanwhile, somewhere a village is missing its idiot.


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