Dawkins is One the Eagles Should Have Never Let Get Away
On Monday, one of the NFL’s true good guys, Brian Dawkins, decided to call it a career after playing for 16 spectacular years. Although Dawkins spent the last three seasons of his career in Denver , to pretty much anyone in Philadelphia, the man affectionately called “Weapon X” is now and will forever be an Eagle.
When one thinks of all of the great defensive players who have donned a Birds’ uniform in the history of the franchise – and there have been many – there are only two who really belong in the conversation for best ever: Dawkins and Reggie White.
Both players were beyond loved in the city.
They were revered – and deservedly so.
Ironically, their Eagles’ careers ended in the same disappointing fashion, with the team’s brass refusing to sign them to free agent contracts, despite the fact that both had plenty of gas left in their football tanks.
White headed to Green Bay and won Super Bowl with the Packers in 1996 and tallied 68.5 sacks between 1993-1998 – a total that does not include the three times he dropped Drew Bledsoe in the Packers’ Super Bowl XXXI victory over the New England Patriots.
In his first season with the Broncos, Dawkins recorded 116 tackles, two interceptions and a forced fumble. Nagging neck injuries plagued him over the final two seasons of his career, but not enough to keep him from earning one more Pro Bowl invitation after the 2011 season.
Now, Andy Reid and the Eagles’ front office has a relatively good track record of cutting ties with players right before the players football usefulness runs out (i.e. Lito Sheppard, Hugh Douglas, Bobby Taylor, Donovan McNabb).
Dawkins, however, did not fall into this category. Ask the average Broncos fan if they would prefer Dawkins back for 2012 and my guess is that most would answer with a resounding ‘yes.’
But that is the Eagles. They take the “this is a business” mantra to the extreme, often alienating their fan base in the process.
But then again, who are the fans to question the delicate genius of Reid, Joe Banner and Howie Roseman. After all, the number of championship banners hanging at the Linc is enough to demonstrate that these guys are the smartest guys in any room (provided they are the only three in the room).
Alas, this is not intended to be a rant against Eagles’ management. As much as the fans, media and talk-show hosts love to bash the Birds for poor personnel decisions, the stadium will still be at max capacity come Sept. 16, making the everyone complicit to some degree.
Looking back on Dawkins career, however, there are so many endearing moments that it is hard to just pick one as a favorite. But if I had to, I would say that Dawkins’ last game in Philadelphia was his most memorable.
On the morning of Dec. 28, 2008, it appeared as if the Eagles would not have much to play for come their 4:15 kick off against the Dallas Cowboys. For the game to be anything more than a glorified exhibition game the Eagles needed both the Chicago Bears and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers to lose their early afternoon games – a tall task considering the Bucs were 13-point favorites against the woeful Raiders.
For once the football gods smiled on the Eagles and at 4:15, the Eagles and Cowboys played in what was a de facto playoff game with the winner snagging the final wild card spot and the loser hitting the links for the winter.
Dawkins did not waste the opportunity. In his finale for the Philly fans, Dawkins recorded five tackles, one sack and two forced fumbles that were both returned for touchdowns and the Eagles dominated the Pokes, 44-6.
Simply put, Dawkins was a game changer. When he was on the field, the Eagles always had a chance. He was a once in generation type of player and arguably the best safety the NFL has ever seen. A Hall of Fame induction in five years should be a no-brainer.
Shortly after White departed from the Eagles in the early 1990s, a player came to training camp wearing the number 92 jersey. Having recently bought the team, owner Jeffrey Lurie declared that no player had earned the right to wear that number and the team has since retired it.
The Eagles will honor Dawkins on Sept. 30 when they play the New York Giants. If they decide to go the classy route, they will officially retire his jersey as well.
It is unlikely that anyone could ever wear it as well as Dawkins did for so many years.