No Huddle: Best stories from the Eagles' 2013 season
Brian Dawkins spent the first 13 seasons of his 16-year NFL career with the Eagles. (AP)
Howie Roseman essentially apologized Wednesday morning for one of the Eagles’ most egregious front office blunders in franchise history.
Appearing on 94.1 WIP, Roseman said the franchise never should have let iconic safety Brian Dawkins leave in free agency after the 2008 season.
“I’d be lying to sit here and say Brian Dawkins shouldn’t have retired as an Eagle,” said the Eagles’ general manager, who at the time was vice president of football administration and served under president Joe Banner and head coach Andy Reid.
“And every time I see him, and I have had a chance to visit with him a bunch, I call him and ask him questions about safety play. To me, it’s a great resource for the Philadelphia Eagles. He’s an unbelievable guy, but he was a Hall of Fame [caliber] player.
“When you look around the league, it’s hard to find safeties who can cover, who can blitz, who can play the run. I mean, he was an unbelievable player and I think the more we get away from him, and we knew what a great player he was when he was here, but the more you get away from him you find out how special he really was. He’s probably a once-in-a-lifetime kind of player.”
Dawkins, a nine-time Pro Bowler, was also the most beloved player of the Reid era and the unquestioned leader of the locker room.
He played 13 seasons from 1996 to 2008 and helped revolutionize the position, but the Eagles lowballed him after his contract expired and let him walk to the Broncos for a reported five-year, $17-million deal.
The failure to bring Dawkins back led to harsh fan backlash, a public relations backfire that added to the disconnect between the Banner-led front office (which was already viewed by fans as cold and arrogant), and the city’s blue-collar fan base.
An employee at Lincoln Financial Field lost his job for blasting the front office on his Facebook page after Dawkins left, further spoiling the team’s tainted image.
It took several years for Banner to express remorse for the fan heartbreak that ensued after Dawkins signed with Denver.
“I think that there were times where the true appreciation we had for the contributions of some of our players -- you know, Brian Dawkins comes to mind the most -- that certain situations were handled in a way that maybe the true, sincere, deep caring we had for those people didn’t show the way it should have,” Banner, now the CEO of the Cleveland Browns, said during a June 7, 2012, press conference to announce his stepping down as team president.
“I think those players were close enough to us personally to know how we felt, but I also understand how perceptions are driven. And those are people we care about deeply and cherish and value and were invaluable to what we were trying to do here, and there were times I wish that could have been handled a little cleaner, primarily from a public relations perspective.”
Dawkins played three seasons for Denver and made the Pro Bowl twice. The Eagles have since endured a carousel of replacements, including Sean Jones, Macho Harris, Nate Allen, Kurt Coleman, Jaiquawn Jarrett, Jarrad Page, Kenny Phillips, Patrick Chung and Earl Wolff.
Tensions have since smoothed between Dawkins and the Eagles. Dawkins had his No. 20 jersey retired last year at the Linc and came back for Saturday’s first-round playoff game against the Saints, a 26-24 loss.
Roseman said Dawkins set an impossible standard for Eagles safety play, which is good.
“You say that because you’re so appreciative of what he did here, but then you’re going, ‘Man, how do I ever find a Brian Dawkins? That’s the bar,” Roseman said. “That should be the bar. Leadership, playmaker, character, integrity. I’m just so glad he’s around all the time.”
Roseman also admitted the front office, led by president Don Smolenski, is committed to being more fan friendly and repairing its image in the public eye.
Roseman started appearing on his own hour-long radio show on WIP each Monday this past season, which included a question-and-answer session with callers. He’s the league’s only general manager with his own radio show.
“Don and I have been together for a long time and we always talked about how we’d do it if we ever got the opportunity,” Roseman said. “And part of it was our belief that we’re really shareholders for the fans. These jobs are going to come and go. We’re not gonna be here forever. This team is the team of the fans, it’s the team of the city of Philadelphia. We really feel that way.
“We feel that the passion that our fans have for this team is really unmatched in the National Football League. That’s a huge advantage for us. We have a 12th man. For us that’s a huge asset for our football team and a huge asset for all of us. We feel very strongly about that, that our fans should feel like they’re a part of it, because we need them.”