Wednesday, March 27, 2013

The 'Ultimate Weapon' turns 50

Former Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Randall Cunningham turns 50 years old today.

Plucked from UNLV in the second round of the 1985 draft, Cunningham set the hearts of Eagles fans aflame and set the rest of the football world on notice with his unique scrambling ability, escapeability, and penchant for turning broken plays into something spectacular.

He earned his first career win in relief of Ron Jaworski, on September 22, 1985 at RFK Stadium against the Washington Redskins, a 19-6 Birds triumph, and until his last game with the franchise -- a 30-11 loss in Dallas in the NFC Divisional Round on January 7, 1996, etched his name forever in the history books.

Cunningham threw for 22,877 yards in 12 seasons with Philadelphia, with 150 touchdowns and 105 interceptions on 1,874 completions. He set a still-standing franchise record for signal callers by totaling 4,482 yards and 32 TDs rushing. Only Michael Vick has rushed for more yards in NFL history than Ramblin' Randall.

Still, many wonder what could have been if Cunningham had enjoyed the full complement of his years. If only he hadn't been used as a tackling dummy as his offensive line allowed an NFL-record 104 sacks in his sophomore season, or if severe knee injuries hadn't totally wiped out his 1991 campaign or curtailed his 1993 season after only four games. Or if he had handled things better in 1995 as Rodney Peete permanently wrested the starting job.

But we'll always have the memories and tons of highlights to remember an electrifying era in Eagles history and one of the greatest quarterbacks in league annals.

The highlights are too numerous to mention, but to recap one from each of his full seasons as starter:

  • Leading the 3-9-0 Eagles into LA Memorial Coliseum and spearheading a late comeback OT win against the Raiders in Buddy Ryan's first year as head coach.
  • The infamous fake kneel-down in a 1987 post-strike home game against the Dallas Cowboys in revenge for Tom Landry's playing legit talent against the Eagles' replacements weeks before.
  • Evading Carl Banks to throw a TD pass to Jimmie Giles on Monday Night Football against the Giants in October of 1988.
  • His 92-yard punt, from inside his own end zone, to help the Eagles out of a jam in a December, 1989 contest at the Meadowlands which turned into a win over the Giants.
  • The above-pictured leap towards the side of the end zone to cap a December, 1990 rout of the Green Bay Packers at the Vet. 
  • Leading the comeback in November of 1992 against the Giants, from a 20-6 deficit into a 47-34 win dubbed "Miracle of the Meadowlands II" 
  •  Throwing the game-winning touchdown to Calvin Williams in the final seconds of a September, 1993 home win against the Washington Redskins.
  • Helping the Eagles bury the San Francisco 49ers in a 40-8 rout at Candlestick Park in October of 1994.
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