Today, we take a trip down memory lane and remember a team that will either bring a smile to your face or elicit tears from your eyes: the 2004 Eagles.
ESPN.com is doing a series on the five most compelling NFL teams since 2000, and the 2004 Birds, led by Brian Dawkins, Donovan McNabb, Terrell Owens, Brian Westbrook and company came in at No.3, behind only the 2010 Brett Favre-led Vikings and the 16-0 New England Patriots (2007).
My Brian Dawkins moment happened on Friday, November 4, 2005. I know the date only because it was the same day Terrell Owens issued one of the most unconvincing apologies in American history after saying on national television that, among other things, the Eagles might be undefeated if they had Brett Favre as their quarterback instead of Donovan McNabb.
This was my first time inside the NovaCare gates and my introduction to the circus that can be the Philadelphia Eagles. For all the drama that was unfolding in the auditorium, it is what I saw before I even left my car that made a lasting impression.
Right after I parked a sleek four-door sedan pulled in about 10 yards in front of me. This was definitely a player. I was new to the game, this was pretty damn surreal, and I wasn’t moving until I found out who it was. Turns out, I would have to wait a while.
Though it’s hard to imagine now, Brian Dawkins was not the leader of this team from the moment he put on an Eagles uniform. He served as an understudy until it was his time to emerge, as he explained Friday.
“When I first got here we had some great guys already here,” said Dawkins, who will have his No. 20 jersey retired Sunday night. “And I didn’t have to do nothing. I was like, ‘Hey, if you guys have a question, you know where to go at. You go to Irving [Fryar], you go to Troy [Vincent]. I’m good. I’ll just go sit back and play football.’ Watching them handle their business as leaders, and knowing they were leaving, it was just something I knew that someone needed to step up and grab the reins.”
He never let a single finger slip from them until ultimately parting with the team following the 2008 season. The Eagles have been trying to find the next man up since Dawkins left, but their efforts have been unsuccessful to this point. Dawkins was asked if he sees any evidence that the leadership void on the defensive side might start filling in.