Thank You Brian

(Originally Posted: Friday February 26, 2010)

Ever since I started this blog way back in January of aught 10, this is the one column I knew I was going to have to write at some point in the offseason. I’ve been avoiding writing it ever since I got the text from Johnny RAGE on Tuesday. It’s been clear to everyone, especially Brian himself that his time with the Eagles was done since that horrid playoff game in Dallas. I think I had as many touches as he did that day. It’s a shame that’s how his career with the Birds will end, since Brian Westbrook will go down as one of the greatest Eagles of all time for his contributions on and off the field.

Westbrook is the epitome of what every Philadelphia sports fan wants and expects from their athletes. A team first, no complaints, hard working guy who leaves everything they got out on the field and never give you any excuses in the locker room. He did everything asked of him on the field, whether it was return kicks or punts, line up in the backfield, split out, be the emergency quarterback or pick up a block. And he did it all exceptionally, and we will always love him for it.

When Westbrook was drafted, everyone thought he was too small. No one could understand why Andy drafted this smallish running back out of Villanova to return kicks in the 3rd round. This was still Duce Staley’s team (remember when everyone was heart broken over him leaving?) But Andy saw something that most of us didn’t. For that matter, he saw something that most of the personal guys in the league didn’t. A special talent. A smart, multi-dimensional player with the work ethic that couldn’t be beat. Andy knew that Westbrook could do some amazing things in this league. Did he know that Westbrook would end up as the career leader in yards from scrimmage for the Philadelphia Eagles? (9,785 yards!) Probably not.

Westbrook led with actions off the field as well as what he did on it. You always sensed that every player in that locker room respected him. Just look at what Brian Dawkins said to the Daily News about Westbrook, “Truly everything you want in a teammate and friend . . . an all-time great!!! A leader on and off the field, in the community.” Can’t find a better source than Dawk. (God, I miss him.)

We first discovered what a special player Westbrook was going to be was in October 2003. The Eagles were 2-3 and losing to the Giants 10-7 with under 2:00 to go in the game. The Birds forced the Giants to punt. The ball bounced once in front of Westbrook and then he grabbed it. I remember watching the game at Balloonknots’ house, and screaming at the TV, “WHAT ARE YOU DOING???” because of course, I always know better. But you all remember what happen next, Westbrook tore ass 84 yards down the field to score the game winning touchdown, the Eagles won 11 of their next 12 and got the number one seed in the NFC and closed out the final game Veterans Stadium with a victory of the Bucs in the NFC Championship and went on to the Super Bowl. (What? That’s how I remember it. Please don’t take that away from me.)

Okay, back to reality. Westbrook has had so many dynamic plays it’s hard to list them all. He’s had so many that it’s difficult to single out any or name them like 4th and 26 or the Miracle at the Meadowlands. He just runs so well that we became used to it and took it for granted as if he would as would always be there. It’s hard to accept that he’s not going to be a part of our Sunday’s anymore. So allow me to indulge with a look back at my all time favorite play by 36, which actually did not result in a touchdown.

It was December 16, 2007 and the Eagles were in Dallas facing the stupid Cowboys. The Birds were already out of the playoff picture, and Dallas was struggling through December, even though they had the top seed in the NFC. The Eagles were up 10-6 late in the 4th quarter and Tony Romo had just thrown an interception. With a little more than two minutes left, Westbrook broke off a 24 yard run and then slid down and took a knee at the one-yard line, instead of scoring the easy touchdown. I was blown away by the brilliance and team-centric attitude of the move. Most of my family that I was watching the game with had no clue what was going on. (They were also a little drunk. 4:00 game, you know.) But this was classic Westbrook. Putting the team’s need and the victory above his own stats and glory. The Birds were able to kill off the rest of the clock, and never give the Cowgirls another chance in the game. This will always be the signature play that I think of whenever I think of Brian Westbrook.

As I said before, we all saw this release coming. Unlike the Dawkins disaster of last year, most fans agree and understand that this is the right move for the franchise. Between his bad knees, the back-to-back concussions and 30-year wall for running backs, you can’t expect the franchise to pay him 7 million dollars next year. The fact that Brian was willing to renegotiate to a lower number and Birds were not makes me think that he’s probably done for good.

I love Brian Westbrook. He will go down as one of my top five Eagles of all time. I don’t ever want to see him wear another team’s jersey. I had such a hard time watching Brian Dawkins last season, but at least he was still near the top of his game. (WHY DIDN’T WE RESIGN HIM????) I don’t want to watch a 40% Brian Westbrook in a Texans jersey getting 7 touches a game in the preseason, and cut before the season starts. It’s beneath him. I know he says that he wants to keep playing, but I hope he has the sense to retire and move on to the next phase of his life as iconic ex-Philly athlete. You know, open a car wash, run for congress, or get a gig on WIP. (Okay, maybe that doesn’t sound so good.)

So let me wrap this up by being the voice for my tens of readers and speak directly to Mr. Westbrook. Thank you, Sir. Thank you for all the time, blood, and effort that you have put in for this team over the years. Many athletes have put on an Eagles jersey over the decades, but few have understood what wearing that jersey means to its fans. You have been one of the few men that have understood. Your passion for the game, the city and the fans has come through every time you’ve taken the field as well as your time off the field. You will always be in our hearts a true Philadelphia Eagle. Thank you and God Bless.

About Bill

A man in search of a mission at the age of 40.
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