By Marc Farzetta
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – Following a preseason game in Denver in 2009, Brian Dawkins stood by his locker as a crowd of reporters asked him questions. When the crowd dissipated, a young, tardy reporter walked in and asked Dawkins if he could talk to him for a few minutes. The 6’0 free safety looked to be on his way out, until the young reporter, said “I’m from Philadelphia and just wanted to ask you a few quick questions.” Dawkins smiled and said, “What’s up?”
That night, Dawkins answered all my questions fully and thoughtfully (despite my tardiness) for one reason and one reason alone, I was from Philadelphia. He loves the roots he has in this city and the city loves him right back.
“Dawk” played the game with the same love, passion and intensity as the fans who are investing their money and emotion into a team that has ended every season with disappointment for 52 consecutive seasons … and counting. Philadelphia fans have a simple request for all their athletes, “care, as we care.”
In an era dominated by Donovan McNabb criticism and skepticism, no one could ever question Dawkins’ desire. While fans will forever debate McNabb, “Dawk” will be the role model. It seems most fans would agree, if you took Dawkins’ heart and intensity and put it into McNabb, the Eagles would have held a few parades “down Broad.” During the Eagles 1-4 run in NFC Championship games, Dawkins was the player fans could identify with the most and say, “that guy feels as bad as I do.” You always had that feeling with No. 20, you never had it with No. 5.
For a generation of Eagle fans, Dawkins defined what it meant to be an Eagle. If you’re in your 20’s and too young to really understand the “Gang-Green” days, Dawkins is the player that you will forever measure every Eagles’ player against. While other generations have Reggie, Bill, Brookie or Chuck, we “20-something’s” have “Dawk.”
No player personified the late Jim Johnson’s aggressive defense more than Dawkins. In their 10 seasons together, the Eagles’ defense finished in the top five in the NFL five times for fewest points allowed and top 10 in the NFL five times for fewest passing yards allowed. All the while, Dawkins made seven Pro Bowls and was named to the NFL’s First-Team-All-Pro four times. His honors alone will be hard to top, especially if the Eagles continue to attempt band-aide replacements since Dawkins signed with the Broncos (i.e. Macho Harris, Quintin Demps, Jarrod Page and now Nate Allen and Kurt Coleman, who some are holding out hope).
One of the toughest pills to swallow about Dawkins’ departure was the idea that he was “washed up.” Did he lose a step? Absolutely. But like all great players, he found a way to make up for it with his knowledge and experience. In 2008, his final season in Philadelphia, the Eagles were 6-5-1 heading into December with playoff hopes looking very dim. Then, thanks to a defense that allowed an average of 10 points per game in the final four games, the Eagles went 3-1 and made the playoffs. Dawkins capped it off with an incredible game against the Cowboys, where the Eagles won 44-6. In that win-and-in scenario, Dawkins recorded a sack and forced two fumbles that were both returned for touchdowns. He was later named Defensive Player of the Month and added an 8th Pro-Bowl season, at the age of 36 after singing with Denver. Lost a step? Yes. Washed up? Not so much.
Some speculation has been tossed around regarding what the Eagles offered Dawkins in 2008 to stay in midnight green. You would hope it was substantial, being that they were ill-prepared to replace him. One thing is for certain, they were not ready to make an offer that would have topped the Broncos’ five-year $17 million deal ($27 with incentives) that guaranteed him $9 million in his first two years. Tough to top, but one former teammate told me, Dawkins knew when he left to be entertained by Denver, he was done as an Eagle. The player telling me, “[The Eagles] told [Dawkins], if you get on that flight to Denver, don’t expect a new deal from us.” The source wasn’t specific as to who delivered the news, but was clear it wasn’t a coach.
Dawkins’ career is now over and the question should not be will Canton call, but when. The Eagles are doing the right thing by honoring No. 20 before their Sunday Night game with the New York Giants on September 30th. It will be a sight for sore Eagle fan’s eyes when they see Dawkins back on the field at the Linc. Fan’s will have a chance to really show their appreciation for a player that gave everything to try and win a ring for his team and a parade for his city. You just wish, in his retirement, Brian Dawkins would open a clinic to teach new athletes how to connect with their city the way he did and play the way he did. He was the ideal Philadelphia Athlete.
Marc Farzetta is an update anchor and host for SportsRadio 94WIP, follow him on twitter @MarcFarzetta