Legends rarely get legendary endings. In Chuck Bednarik’s last season the Eagles went 3-10-1. In Steve Van Buren’s they went 4-8. Donovan McNabb was banished to the Redskins. Brian Dawkins also left on a down note. And then he left on the highest of notes.
At the height of the Andy Reid era, the Eagles were perceived by many to be cheap. Some of it was fair, some of it wasn’t. The team routinely let players walk or simply released them when they were 30 or 31, and replaced them from within or with low cost free agents. They rescinded Jeremiah Trotter’s franchise tag when they couldn’t agree on a long term deal. For years they never spent money on a top wide receiver for Donovan McNabb, then when they did it only took a year for them to get into a contract fight with him. Rightly or wrongly, there was a cloud of angst around the team for a while.
By the spring 2009, it seemed to have subsided. The Eagles had just reached the NFC Championship Game after an improbable run. So two months later when the Eagles wouldn’t match the Broncos’ offer to Brian Dawkins in free agency, fans revolted. And who could blame them? A franchise icon was walking away for nothing. Another contract dispute. The Eagles had reportedly offered $5 million over two years, the Broncos gave Dawkins $7.5 million guaranteed. The backbone of a defense that was one of the league’s best was let go over $2.5 million. Same old cheap Eagles. Time only made it worse. Dawkins’ play remained strong in 2009 while the Eagles spent five years searching for the Next Dawkins, and in between the team threw huge amounts of money down the drain on free agents. Another legend with a bad ending.
But Brian Dawkins is no ordinary legend. There was another chapter of his career to write, and it would be top class.
In 2016 Dawkins returned to the Eagles, first as a scout, and then less than three weeks after being hired, he moved to a catch-all “Football Operations Executive” position that better suit him. He scouted. He coached. He mentored. He was a part of the Super Bowl winning Eagles. He was inducted in the Hall of Fame. He was on top of the world.
And then he walked away. In May, Dawkins resigned his position, stating a higher calling, one that is clear now in the wake of him revealing his long battle with depression. There is no doubt he will tackle it with the relentlessness that made him great. There is no doubt that he will succeed.
Brian Dawkins went out with a ring a gold jacket. A legend through and through.