In the past year the Eagles have said goodbye to two of the great Eagles of the past decade. Two guys that will almost certainly go down as some of the great Eagles of all time. Two guys that were faces of the franchise and fan favorites.
Two guys named Brian.
Brian Dawkins and Brian Westbrook. Both moves have drawn some scorn from fans, but the most recent Brian to leave hasn't drawn near the same level of criticism. Still. some in the media have seen fit to dial up the melodrama... First, Beasley Reese of CBS
The Eagles unceremoniously fired Brian Westbrook Tuesday. He was a fan favorite and the best all purpose running back in their history, but once damaged, he is tossed aside.
He laid it on pretty think there... As did on again, off again Inquirer columnist Stephen A Smith.
No matter how much things may change, leave it to the Eagles to remain the same. Produce, and they'll keep you. At least until you're 30 years old. Then a meeting with the press ensues, of course, followed by gratuitous praise for years of service. Right before Andy Reid gets back to the business of being competitive, while Joe Banner maintains salary-cap space - and both are assured that Donovan McNabb is still around to receive the brunt of the blame.
Melodrama aside, the release of Brian Westbrook isn't anything like the release of Brian Dawkins. Despite the best efforts of these two, most Eagles fans aren't reacting the same way. Is it because Westbrook wasn't as beloved as Dawkins? Maybe... but mostly it's because Eagles fans are smart and they know letting the latest Brian go was a lot smarter than the one before him.
Find out why after the jump.
Let's skip a little further down Stephen A's article...
Brian Dawkins can attest to it. So can Hugh Douglas. So can Jeremiah Trotter, Bobby Taylor, Jon Runyan, Tra Thomas, Troy Vincent, and a host of others.
Stephen highlights a number of reasons why letting Westbrook go was the right thing while letting Dawkins walk might not have been. Look at the guys on his list and think about the circumstances of their departure.
Bobby Taylor and Troy Vincent were released after the Eagles spent a first and a second round pick on corners in the same draft. Those two picks were Lito Sheppard & Sheldon Brown. While they were unproven, we at least knew they were highly drafted, blue chip kind of prospects. And hey... when they decided to let Lito Sheppard go they had Asante Samuel there to replace him.
When Jon Runyan and Tra Thomas left, the Eagles traded a first round pick and handed out $100 million worth of contracts to offensive lineman. Jason Peters worked out pretty well, while Stacy Andrews didn't. Plus, they thought they'd have a two time pro bowler in Shawn Andrews back and there was still the second round pick in Winston Justice that they believed in. Obviously not all those paid off, but the point is that the team clearly tried to replace the departing vets with top talent.
I also think of them letting Duce Staley walk. Duce was a very popular Eagle, a team leader, and a very productive player. Like all these other guys, he was let go when the Eagles felt he wasn't worth a big new contract. Like all these other guys, the Eagles had a successor ready to go. His name was Brian Westbrook.
Letting the old guys walk has always been the Eagles way, but they've also always had a successor in place. They didn't with Brian Dawkins.
Sean Jones was a decent player for the Browns, but was never really suited to the FS spot. They probably did think Quintin Demps would be better, but that was a 4th round pick going into his 2nd year. Hardly a blue chip. Finally, Macho Harris was a corner in college, who was basically forced to play Safety for the first time in his career because they were scrambling. Any way you slice it, the Eagles were no where near as prepared to let Dawkins go as they were with Taylor, Vincent, Thomas, Staley ect...
That brings us to Brian Westbrook. The most obvious difference between he and Dawkins is that #20 was coming off a season where he made the pro bowl and was named NFC defensive player of the month for December. Brian Westbrook was coming off arguably the worst year of his career where he suffered two concussions while also battling knee and ankle injuries. Beyond that though, the Eagles seem far more prepared for the departure of Westbrook than they were for Dawkins.
In LeSean McCoy, they've got a second round pick who broke the Eagles rookie rushing record and is now heading into his second year. They've got an All Pro fullback in Leonard Weaver who proved himself a capable runner and pass catcher last year. They certainly could use some backups, but the top of the depth chart looks pretty well stocked with promising talent. Plus, there's scores of good veteran backs in free agency and likely several solid backs to be had in the mid rounds of the draft. Point is, they've invested a lot more in the future of the RB position than they did the future of the safety position.
There's just no parallel. You can make a lot of good arguments as to why letting Brian Dawkins go, or more specifically failure to adequately replace him was a mistake. But I really don't see how the same arguments can be made for Westbrook. Not only has his play declined much further than Dawkins, the Eagles have done far more to prepare for his departure.