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Sunday, August 6, 2006

Remembering Reggie White's Eagles

Reggie White’s enshrinement into Pro Football’s Hall of Fame has many in Philadelphia remembering “the good ol’ days.” The days of bounties, Buddy Ball, the “Ultimate Weapon,” sticking it to the Dallas Cowboys, and a defense that was one of the best ever.

Sadly, we’re remembering a team that never won a damn thing.

Put White aside for the moment. He was one of the best ever, and deserves to be in the Hall of Fame. Personally, I don’t like athletes that bring their religion into their celebrity spotlight, but, despite all the talk this weekend, that’s a separate issue. White, unquestionably, was in the elite.

His Eagles teams were not.

White played for the Birds from 1985 through 1992. According to www.nestofdeath.com/eaglesInfo/yearly.htm, the team compiled a record of 71-55 with one playoff win.

One.

Buddy Ryan is still beloved in this town, and I was as big a fan as most. He knew how to rev up this city as well as anyone. He was a great defensive coach. As a head coach he was simply over matched.

Ryan’s game plan equated to having a devastating defense and an offense that didn’t bother him too much. He certainly never bothered with it too much. Ryan actually wasn’t bad at drafting offensive talent, but his strategy of having quarterback Randall Cunningham “make 5 plays a game” wasn’t exactly genius. The defense was so good, that strategy was fine during the regular season against weaker teams. It never worked in the playoffs – Ryan was gone before the one playoff win in 1992.

Of course, Ryan didn’t exactly have mensa material at quarterback. Cunningham seemed a lot nicer than his eventual replacement as team psycho in Terrell Owens, but he was just as flakey. Cunningham was more concerned with gold-tipped shoelaces and Whitney Houston concerts than his playbook. He racked up stats, no doubt, but the first sign of adversity was usually the quarterback’s sulking face.

Playoff teams don’t get beat very often by a quarterback that relied on the broken play, which was always where Cunningham excelled. Nor do they lose often to those with no leadership skills. An inverted Eagle jacket was Cunningham’s response to one playoff benching. His selfishness doesn’t seem to have changed much; in a phone interview last week on Daily News Live about White, he managed to squeeze in: “I hope people remember me next year.” (Cunningham’s eligible for the Hall of Fame next year.)

If higher powers must be discussed this weekend, they never seemed to be on the Eagles side, either. A strike shortened season that included the only games ever played by replacement players, in which Ryan basically ignored the replacements and went 0-3, caused the Birds to barely miss the playoffs. Then, possibly the best Eagle team White was on lost a playoff game most never actually saw — the “Fog Bowl” in Chicago.

So, remember Reggie White’s Eagles for many things – thumping Dallas, a devastating “D,” their devotion to Buddy Ryan, a highlight reel at quarterback, and plenty more.

And try to forget the inevitable disappointment they always left us with.

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