I still haven’t gotten over Brian Dawkins’ departure to Denver

Brian Dawkins retired yesterday.  A lot of time has passed since he hit the open market and signed with the Denver Broncos in free agency.  I liken the situation to the “Kübler-Ross model,” commonly known as “The Five Stages of Grief”:

  1. Denial: I remember when the first reports surfaced that Brian Dawkins was on an airplane on the way to Denver.  My immediate reaction was “Pfft, no way in hell.”  Even after the first reports came out that he had actually signed with the Broncos, I still kind of didn’t believe them.  But obviously, the news was all too real.
  2. Anger: After Dawkins bolted town, the Eagles faced probably the worst barrage of negative feedback the organization has ever seen.  The poster child of the bad feelings afterward was stadium employee Dan Leone, who was fired by the team after he posted his thoughts of the Eagles on facebook. His infamous post: “Dan is (expletive)-ing devastated about Dawkins signing with Denver … Dam Eagles R Retarted!!”
  3. Bargaining: Eventually, many fans will begin to look to negotiate a compromise within their own heads after their organization has messed up.  In this case, these fans began to talk themselves into the thinking that 2nd year player Quintin Demps had shown promise as a rookie, and was a true up and comer in the organization. After all, Dawkins couldn’t cover as well as he used to, and the dropoff from Dawkins to Demps would be marginal.
  4. Depression: I think this set in when Demps was beaten out, or rather, wasn’t even good enough to hold off rookie Macho Harris from taking his starting job.  Macho Harris, after all, was a 5th round pick that hadn’t played safety in his entire organized football life, but he was going to start Week 1 at FS at the highest level in the sport… for a team that had just played in the NFC Championship Game the previous season.
  5. Acceptance: Dawkins had a good year his first year as a Bronco.  In a slightly different role in Denver, Dawkins had career highs in tackles, fumble recoveries, and had his 2nd highest total of TFL’s. He became an immediate fan favorite in Denver, just like he had in Philly.  But with time, all wounds heal, and even though the Eagles haven’t yet come close to putting a player on the back end that has even remotely matched Dawkins’ physicality, I think that most people have made peace with the fact that he’s gone.

I, however, have not made peace yet with Dawkins’ departure, and to this day remain squarely on Step 4.

Revisionist history on Brian Dawkins will say that there were two very good reasons justifying his departure:

  • Due to old age, Brian Dawkins was in significant decline.
  • The Broncos severely overpaid Brian Dawkins, and the Eagles were right not to pay him similar money.

I couldn’t possibly disagree more with either assertion.

At the time, Brian Dawkins was 35 years old, no doubt a scary number to a team that so heavily utilized a smart, actuarial approach in regard to players’ age and the likelihood of their eventual decline in play.  At the time, the team was batting 1.000 in that department.  They were right in letting previous fan favorites walk, like Troy Vincent, Duce Staley, Hugh Douglas, Bobby Taylor, and others.

However, Dawkins was a different case, in that unlike the above names, he was still playing at a very high level.  The previous season (2008), including the playoffs, Dawkins had forced 7 fumbles.  He was the Defensive Player of the Month in December that season.  He went to the Pro Bowl, and not just on one of those “Lifetime Achievement” Pro Bowl nods.  While it was true to a degree that his ability in coverage was waning, the simple fact was that he was still making plays… enormous ones… all over the field.  The following is a quick look at 5 of his forced fumbles that last season in Philly.  This isn’t some “Weapon X” montage full of Dawkins suplexing various Redskins.  They’re all from the 2008 season, his last in Philly.  Note the athleticism.  If you didn’t know any better, would you ever guess this player was 35 years old?

But… what about the money?

Again, revisionist history will say the Broncos gave him an absurd amount of money, but that simply wasn’t the case.  The first reports that came out said that he received a 5 year deal worth $27 million, to which people immediately did a a collective “Whaaaaaat? 5 years? $27 mil?  For a 35 year old?”  It was later revealed that it was more like a 5 year deal worth $17 million with an extra $10 million in incentives.  And then even later still, we found out it was voidable after 2 years, with the realistic contract being nothing more than a 2 year deal worth $9 million, and a reasonable $7.2 million guaranteed.

What people forget is that at the time Dawkins left, the Eagles were more than $40 million under the cap.

But wait… 2 years, $9 million might sound like a reasonable figure in 2012, but wasn’t the salary cap in 2009 a lot lower back then?

Nope.  The salary cap was higher in 2009 than it is in 2012, and the owners knew full well that 2010 (which would have been Dawkins’ 2nd year of the deal) would be an uncapped season, as they had planned for years to opt out of the CBA.

Compare that with the 2 year, $10.75 million ($6.75 guaranteed) contract the Redskins just handed London Fletcher, which received a unanimous golf clap around the NFL. Fletcher turns 37 in May.  Dawkins, just to note, has more than double the forced fumbles over his career that Fletcher has.

At this point, I’d like for you all to note that I’m about 1000 words in, and I haven’t even mentioned the words “leadership” or “intangibles.”  Thanks.

In fairness to the Eagles, when you look back at their complete 2009 offseason as a whole, it was amazingly productive.  A quick list of some players they brought in that year:

  • Traded for Jason Peters, arguably the best LT in the league in 2011.
  • Signed Michael Vick, who was #2 in NFL MVP voting in 2010.
  • Signed Leonard Weaver, an excellent role player and Pro Bowler before his leg bent the wrong way and his career ended.
  • Drafted LeSean McCoy, arguably one of the top 3 RB’s in the game.
  • Drafted Jeremy Maclin, who has 189 catches for 2596 yards and 19 TD’s in his first 3 years as a pro.

I haven’t looked to see if some other team out there can match that, but I think you would be hard-pressed to find a significant number of teams in the past decade that had a haul like that.

And yet, it was that one player that they let slip away that still irritates me to this day.

33 Comments

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  3. Free Plax says:

    I for one was pretty happy to see Dawkins leave, the added bonus was the Eagles were not prepaired for his departure and their secondary has pretty much been crap since he left. Great Career, I thought he was a boderline dirty player but if he was on my team I would have proabably loved him so Congrats to Mr. Dawkins on 16 seasons.

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  5. ian says:

    dawkins was garbage with the broncos. he played as basically an extra linebacker. if you can’t cover then you can’t play safety, period. the eagles made the right decision in not re-signing dawk, but they failed to find an even adequate replacement for him.

    1. ian says:

      edit: i also just watched that video, and i noticed there are no highlights from the nfccg against the cardinals. that is probably the worst game of brian dawkins career. he tried to jack up larry fitzgerald, and was tossed aside like a little kid.

      1. Eagle eye says:

        Didn’t make big play in last game = he sucks. Makes sense.

        Also, Demps got tossed by Fitzgerald, not Dawkins.

        1. ian says:

          he did more than not make a big play, he got flat out abused in that game. it was embarrassingly bad. demps was also terrible, but yes brian dawkins got tossed around like a little kid by larry fitzgerald. you are thinking of the trick play where demps spun around in a circle and didn’t even make a tackle

  6. joe d says:

    Eagles fans need to give it a rest. Dawkins was DONE. He couldn’t cover, had to be hidden in coverage and he literally came up short by the end of the playoffs every year. The 2008 CG he was pretty bad, .

    I LOVE dawkins.. Love him, but he was toast as a player…

  7. giantsfan says:

    To be fair… one of those strip sacks was entirely on romo.

  8. hiccama says:

    Can’t put into words what watching that video did to me. It made me realize that losing Dawk robbed the Eagles of their heart and soul. Not just for the defense but for the entire team. The team has been missing something and I just found it in that video. What a playmaker. What a tone setter. What a game-changer. What a leader. If football is a game of inches, B-Dawk gave you an extra yard every game. He could’ve continued making a difference here.
    To think that he was here for 13 yrs and played pretty well elsewhere for another 3 is gut-wrenching. Considering safety has been a revolving door of average to mediocre play for 3 years…Man! We may have just found the missing link. Irreplaceable. B-Dawk.

    1. Anthony says:

      I had the same reaction as you. If you put Dawkins on the 2011 Eagles team…who knows what this team is capable of. The offense is definitely more talented now, although about as clutch as it was then (not very). The defense has talent, and the defensive line has more talent, and the secondary has some real talent, too. But it just hasn’t been put together.

      If Jim Johnson hadn’t passed in the same offseason, I can imagine a very, very different scenario for 2009-2011. I can imagine a defense that still worked, still came up with big plays, and didn’t play guys out of position constantly. I can imagine a defense that doesn’t contribute to 5 blown 4th quarter leads. That was bad luck. This was a bad decision by the Eagles front office. I hope with the marrow of my bones that Demeco Ryans can be the leader this defense so sorely lacks. If he can be the game changer, the big time, count on him every time, pulls off 2 forced fumbles against the hated Cowboys in a win and in situation, then I can get over the loss of Dawkins. If not, well…fuck.

      At least I’ll be able to tell future generations that I got to see Dawkins play in person. Because he truly is a special guy. I can’t think of anyone else who has retired this offseason who could possibly prevent him from being a first ballot Hall of Famer, but it shouldn’t matter, because he should be.

      1. Anthony says:

        To clarify – the ‘That was bad luck’ was referring to JJ passing, and the ‘This was a bad decision…’ was referring to letting Dawkins walk.

  9. Corry says:

    I was over Dawk leaving…then I watched that video.

  10. FrenchEagles says:

    Do you realize, that all the good moves in the 2009 offseason are on the offensive side? It’s really a switch for me: we lost Dawkins, the symbol of the aggressive defense, and built a new young offense that shines today. But we still have to build a defense with a real identity…

  11. Rickydiculous says:

    The very fact that you can write this sentence – “This isn’t some “Weapon X” montage full of Dawkins suplexing various Redskins.” – is a testament to how awesome Dawk was.

    However, the fact that he left for Denver allowed me to see him live at Wembley a couple of years ago, and that ranks up there with my most memorable sporting experiences…

  12. Dawkins was an amzing player an someone who I always hated to play against as a Boy’s fan…his departure from Philly put them in the same boat as Woody’s did from us….his wisdom, maturity, and all around leadership skills are what made your secondary top notch for so many years…..I dare say that if BDawk had been around last year your secondary and defense would have gelled much more quickly and produced a different outcome than what transpired….

  13. ICDogg says:

    I still haven’t gotten over the Eagles trading a 1st rounder for Ron Solt.

  14. Number5 says:

    1st ballot Hall of Famer and easily top 5 safety ever to play the position. Maybe even the best.

  15. bdawk4ever says:

    I disagree about the money point. Sure the Eagles COULD have paid them, but I’m okay that they didn’t want too. And Dawkins isn’t innocent here either. He could’ve accepted less money to stay here, but he didn’t.

    So I’m definitely on step 5.

    1. brisulph says:

      It’s a business… Eagles just made a poor decision to not give him a bit of the dough they had room to do so. That said, Dawkins also made his smart business decision, got some extra cash to retire on.

  16. Euler.is.a.pimp says:

    Great write up. I will say I accepted the move in the sense that I was very happy to see Dawkins perform very well in his first season in Denver as a big screw you to the Eagles for their lousy decision. I guess that’s not even close to true acceptance though.

  17. AustonianAggie says:

    wasn’t your username ByeDawk for a while?

  18. Uda says:

    I had accepted it…..but now that I read this im pretty sure you just knocked me back into depression

  19. Tracer Bullet says:

    And to nitpick, Weaver was All-Pro that year and Shady is inarguably a top 3 back.

  20. Tracer Bullet says:

    I was wrong when I thought letting Dawkins walk was the right move. He’d clearly slowed down and Demps looked like he could be a very good replacement if he could overcome his tendency for stupid penalties. I should have realized that the biggest problem wasn’t Dawk’s age and admittedly declining skills so much as a defensive coordinator who didn’t know his ass from a hole in the ground. (And what the fuck was Demps’ problem?!) They were probably right (maybe) in declining to match Denver’s offer, but it never should have gotten to that point.

  21. Alex K says:

    Great write-up. I didn’t know the details of the Denver contract, and now I wish I never did. The contract was the only thing that made sense to me and allowed me to get to Step 5. Gah!

  22. rage114 says:

    I’m at #5 but still have a little bit of #2 about it.

    At the time, I remember thinking the Eagles really overplayed their hand. They didn’t really think Dawkins would leave them and low balled him.

    They thought he would eventually accept less to stay in Philly rather than leave for a REASONABLE contract. Dumbarses. Just plain greedy dumbarses.

    They never thought Demps was the answer. They just had to scramble with damage control when they effed up.

  23. brisulph says:

    A damn fine player, was quite glad to see him go (as a Giants fan).

  24. RogerPodacter says:

    sigh. just had to bring me back to it, huh jimmy?

    also, many kudos for this:
    At this point, I’d like for you all to note that I’m about 1000 words in, and I haven’t even mentioned the words “leadership” or “intangibles.” Thanks.

    i think if you wanted to get in to that stuff, you could have easily stretched this out another 1000 words, but it really wouldnt have been much better than it is now. great stuff.

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