Yesterday, former Eagle Brian Dawkinswas a guest on 97.5 The Fanatic with Jeremiah Trotter and Harry Mayes. It was an incredibly interesting interview, but there was one segment in particular that had to have perked the ears of the Philadelphia Faithful.
Trotter mentioned that Dawkins was heading into Year 4 of his contract with the Denver Broncos. While admitting that it was unlikely Denver would let him go, Trotter asked that if he did become a free agent, would he be interested in coming back to Philly? Dawkins said:
“No, the place that I would be would be with the Broncos. I mean, my family’s here, I’m here now and, uh, you know, my kids are in school here. I’m not moving them nowhere. So the place that I would be would be here with the Broncos. If they gave me a chance to play and that’s if the Lord put it in my heart to play another year.”
It is doubtful that many fans thought Dawkins would ever suit up in midnight green again, but to hear him say it was hard to hear. Philadelphia fans take pride in the fact that so many of their former stars stay in town and remain forever part of the community.
Brian Dawkins is an all-time favorite. There is not a single Philadelphia athlete from his generation that is as beloved as him. Not Allen Iverson. Not Eric Lindros John LeClair. Not Jimmy Rollins or any Phillie from the World Series team.
Dawkins had a hold of this city’s heart like no one outside of the Broad Street Bullies ever had. In a way, not only did he have Philadelphia’s heart, but he was Philadelphia’s heart.
In the stadium, he was the one that inspired the crowd to stand on its feet. He was the one that made people watching at home jump off their couches.
When the Eagles lost in those NFC Championship games, Dawkins was the one they mourned with. When they finally got over the hump, in the snow in 2004, it was Dawkins they exalted with.
After the 2008 season, another ending in a NFC Championship game defeat, Dawkins was sent packing. It can be argued that Philadelphia’s heart flew to Denver with him.
Since his departure, fans have spent more time arguing and fighting over Donovan McNabb and Kevin Kolb and Michael Vick. Spent more time complaining about Andy Reid and Juan Castillo, Joe Banner and Howie Roseman than believing that this team could get to the promised land.
The Eagles lost their leader both on the field and in the locker room, but perhaps more importantly, the fans lost their galvanizing force.
Gone are the days when fans would say, “I like watching the defense more than the offense” or “I hope our defense gets on the field first.”
There is talent on that side of the ball, but there is no single player who holds the intangibles Brian Dawkins took with him.
The Eagles don’t seem to value those intangibles. Even though he was still a Pro Bowl player, they elected to let him leave. But a lot more than Pro Bowl votes went with him.
The Eagles are a team without an identity, and without a leader. They are a team that let its heart go.
Maybe there is someone lurking on the roster just waiting to step up and fill that role, but whoever it is has shown no signs yet.
The closest thing has been Brent Celek, but despite his hard work and physical style, he doesn’t generate the same spark.
Brian Dawkins, no player in the last three seasons has masqueraded as a heat-seaking missile the way you did. No player has intimidated opposing players the way you did.
No player has generated hits heard into the upper rows of Lincoln Financial Field the way you did. No player has inspired the fanbase or his teammates like you did.
Philadelphia still misses you. Philadelphia still loves you.
Sadly, the Philadelphia Eagles are still searching to find an adequate replacement for you. Or worse yet, maybe they aren’t.