Monday, March 02, 2009

Brain Dawkins

Les Bowen labels those of us who have little problem- from a football standpoint- waving good-bye to Brain Dawkins as “front office apologists” and then throws in a cheap taunt:
But never fear. I'm sure that even as you read this, the Eagles are assembling polling data that show I am wrong, that most of their fans support not bringing back Dawkins. I'm not sure, but I think they also have a poll that shows they won the last three Super Bowls.
There is a certain arrogance there. Let’s be honest about one thing, for all of their cultural arrogance, the Eagles never assemble poll data when it comes time to dismiss veteran players. If anything, they seem to almost relish it.

But equally candidly, they do very rarely mess this sort of thing up. Not that it is hard, the surest road to ruin in pro-football is lavishing big contracts on thirty-something free agents. Since Philadelphia rarely pay guys on a third or fourth contract, the writing was on the wall.

Particularly on the kind of really insane dollars Denver lavished here. I’m fine with the occasional “good soldier” contract- it is part and parcel for being an organization that has player respect in the NFL. Player respect is mostly a marginal effect- players chase dollars above all- but class does tell (see Dallas and Washington). But at almost ten million guaranteed, you need a guy who can play.

And that ain’t Dawk. Bottom line, the guy can’t play at a sustained level anymore. He has flashes. For some snaps he’s mediocre. For all snaps you’re protecting him. And he’s outright bad sometimes too.

It isn’t a question of playing serious money to a guy who can contribute in spurts, be an on-field mentor to young players and providing depth. It is more that he can’t do those things anymore. The Eagles survived with him out there last year. He was the worst regular on the defense. He was the worst part timer in the situational rotation schemes. He was horrid in pass defense. What happens when the two corners and other safety don’t play at Pro-Bowl level in pass defense- and Dawkins has got to participate. He can’t even run with tight ends anymore.

Again, there were flashes. He understands the starship. But he is in obvious decline- and the Eagles are loaded with young defense backs with experience who can play and probably need to play more. For nine million over two years you can get a guy who can contribute- not be hidden.

Of course, as a fan in 204, I will miss B-Dawk. He is a Hall of Fame player oozing with charisma. He won a ton of games here.

I don’t really believe in “off the field” leadership- a combination of winning and being well-paid solves almost all locker room issues. But in Dawkins case you’d have to be blind not to notice his impact. First, in a league that values continuity, he and Jim Johnson were the source of it on defense.

Second, I always point out that Reid’s great strength as a coach is guys play for him. A lot of teams left for dead rally back to life for him. The dreadful 0-2 start in 2003. Jeff Garcia sweeping three straight division road games en route to an NFC East title in 2006. The 5-8 squad from two years back winning three in a row to finish the season respectably. This year’s club coming from dead to the NFC Champiosnhip game. Ultimately, a lot of that will probably was Dawkins- it is hard to quit on a season when the best player never stops caring and, again, has that personal charisma to impose his will on the locker room.

You were the man Dawkins. Godspeed.

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