Brian Dawkins: The Player We Never Hated

Once the Eagles are out, let's cheer for the Broncos

Philadelphia isn’t the easiest city in America for professional athletes to call “home.” What would be considered satisfactory in other cities often falls short on Broad Street. Eric Lindros notched 716 points in 536 games as a Flyer, but he couldn’t stay on the ice with enough frequency to keep the city happy. Allen Iverson won MVP awards, led the league in minutes multiple times, and took the Sixers to the ’01 Finals, but he didn’t show up for practice. Pat Burrell, for the most part, was a serviceable outfielder who led the Phillies in RBIs over the first decade of the new millennium, but he was overpaid and could never live up to his first-overall-pick expectations. We bashed Terrell Owens for his ego, Ricky Watters for his attitude, Bobby Abreu for his apparent indifference, and a generation of Flyers for living it up in Old City. We still rag on Donovan McNabb for ralphing in the Super Bowl.

But I’ve never heard a Philly fan utter a negative word about Brian Dawkins—not one. And there’s a reason for that.

Dawkins was the life of an Eagles defense exalted by the city. He was the keystone of a team that played five NFC Championship games in eight years. He was the humility to T.O.’s egocentricity, the intensity to McNabb’s casualness.

On Sunday—just a few days after the Eagles disappointed the city (again) by allowing Marshawn Lynch and the Seahawks to go “beast mode” all over Thursday Night Football—Brian Dawkins and the Denver Broncos squeaked out a win against the Minnesota Vikings. Unsurprisingly, Tim Tebow dominated the news cycle with his two touchdowns and another last-second game-winning drive. But the Broncos’ 35-32 win wouldn’t have been possible without Dawkins. His four tackles were helpful, but it was his sack and forced fumble with his back against Denver’s own end zone that prevented a score and may have entirely changed the momentum early on.

Dawkins clearly has some gas left in the tank, and it’s a shame that Philly fans are watching a myriad of safeties blow coverage and miss tackles while he tears it up on Team Tebow. The Eagles brass missed out on some great football from one of the most beloved players to ever play in this city. But really, we can’t even blame them for the gaffe.

The Philadelphia Eagles have never been sentimental when making personnel decisions. Philly cut ties with Troy Vincent and Bobby Taylor. Brian Westbrook and Donovan McNabb both had to trade in the midnight green before they were ready to hang it up. This franchise has always been quick to sever ties in a game where age is relevant, joints can only take so much punishment, and impressive résumés usually signify an impending drop in productivity.

Brian Dawkins is the exception, not the rule. And considering their successful track record in making tough decisions—like putting seasoned and revered veterans out to pasture—it’s hard to blame the Eagles for this one. Although it’s difficult to keep that in mind as this team continues to struggle.

For Philadelphia, it’s been a rough 12 games in 2011. “Fire Andy” chants, losses to John Skelton and Tavaris Jackson, injuries to Michael Vick and Jeremy Maclin, and the entire situation regarding DeSean Jackson’s contract and attitude have made 4-8 feel like 1-65. As the team’s mathematical elimination from the playoffs looms over the city, it’s important to remember that every Eagles fan will have a rooting interest in the NFL as long as the Denver Broncos are relevant. Long live Weapon X.