Brian Westbrook on Bryce Brown's Fumbling, the "Dream Team's" Failure and More

Brad Gagnon NFL National ColumnistMarch 11, 2013

EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ - DECEMBER 17:  Running back Brian Westbrook #36 of the Philadelphia Eagles looks on against the New York Giants on December 17, 2006 at Giants Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey. The Eagles defeated the Giants 36-22. (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)
Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

As an undersized third-round pick with injury concerns, few expected Brian Westbrook to become the phenomenal player he was throughout his time with the Philadelphia Eagles. When he was drafted by Andy Reid and Co. in 2002, some considered it to be a reach. He came out of Division I-AA and had knee issues.

But that's why Westbrook went on to represent everything that went well with this franchise during the majority of that decade. They built through the draft and were always in contention. 

One year after Westbrook was released, the Eagles went in a whole new direction by building through free agency. It was Reid's final swing at a Super Bowl, and it missed. One day after riding the the Gillette float at the St. Patrick's Day parade in Philly, the Eagles legend spoke with Bleacher Report about that disastrous stretch, as well as the current state of the Eagles. 


Bleacher Report: The Eagles are leaning toward a two-back system with Bryce Brown and LeSean McCoy. What are your thoughts on that?

Brian Westbrook: LeSean McCoy is very capable of being that guy, but you have to have a secondary guy that can come in and spell your starter whenever need be. And what you saw from Bryce Brown last year is that he's a very strong runner, productive running back, a guy that can get it done. 


B/R: How can McCoy get back on track after a tough year?

BW: I think he'll bounce back great. He is a young guy that's gonna work hard and go out there and do everything he can to be very productive this season. I've spoken to him several times and he's told me he's doing work already for this year and ready to go. So I'm looking forward to him having a fabulous year.


B/R: You fumbled six times in your first three seasons but then did so only six times the remainder of your career. How does Brown fix that fumbling issue?

BW: I think you definitely have to be able to control the football, and that's number one. If you don't control the football you won't be able to play. That's number one. Second thing is I think his running style is what presented him with having the problem with the fumbling issues, where he would run with the ball away from his body. In the NFL, guys watch tape of the back just as much, and you have to be able to [work on] your tendencies, and with him, his tendency is to carry the ball outside of his body. And because of that, guys started attacking him. And what he has to do is make it a habit, especially in practice, to hold the ball tightly. And he has to make sure that he does those things in practice as well as in games. And if he does that, those things will disappear. 


B/R: Why is that something he didn't nail down as a college or high school player?

BW: Well I don't think Bryce played a lot in college so he didn't get a lot of reps at the college level. And in high school, the thing is this: When you're faster than everybody else, you don't have to worry about holding the ball because no one is catching up with you. So he just hasn't had the practice in that. This is what he has to develop as a pro.


B/R: Thoughts on what the Eagles should do in free agency to get back on track?

BW: I think they need to get another key player on the offensive side of the ball, whether it's at the receiver position or tight end position, and they need to work on their defense. A lot of attention needs to go to the defense and make sure that they're able to stop other teams' offenses. 


B/R: If you had to guess, what does the quarterback depth chart look like Week 1?

BW: I think the No. 1 quarterback is Michael Vick because of his skill set. Then I think Dennis Dixon probably has a little bit of a lead over Nick Foles because he's run that offense before. He has the knowledge and the ability to run it. And then I would think Nick Foles would be No. 3, unless they decide to make a move with that. But I think that would be the order.


B/R: Are you surprised that the whole "Dream Team" thing didn't work out?

BW: I'm not surprised. I think when you try to build teams through free agency instead of building them through a core group of guys that are willing to work and believe in the system, then you're always gonna have problems. And the Eagles ran into that problem these past few years. That's just not how you build a football team.


B/R: Do you think Andy Reid utilized you as well as he could have? Did you ever get frustrated with your workload?

BW: I think I was very successful in the things that Andy Reid asked me to do. Of course there was certain times in games that I wanted to run the ball more, but you can't argue with the success that I had there under Andy Reid's tutelage and his coaching. I think every player wants the ball more in different circumstances, and I think that's just part of being a player. But at the same time, you can never argue with the success that we've had as running backs in Andy Reid's system.


B/R: So you rode the Gillette float at the St. Patrick's Day Parade in Philly, helping spread the word that four out of five women prefer men to be stubble-free. But I'm sure you've had some facial hair going on every time I've seen you. You clean-shaven now?

BW: I normally have a beard or a goatee, and so it was a big change for me. Gillette did the research and they found that 85 percent of women prefer a man with a smooth, clean-shaven face. And so I said, Well if 85 percent of the women prefer that then I can't argue with the stats. So I went out there and I shaved everything—my goatee, my mustache, everything—and it was absolutely great [at the parade]. A lot of the women loved it. Gillette knows that two thirds of the women in America prefer to have a smooth-shaven kiss; they would rather not kiss a man with stubble. So kind of weird, but it was shocking to me. And it's a new look for me, but I definitely enjoyed it. And a lot of people actually like it.


B/R: I don't know if you're single or not, but have you had a chance to test that out yet?

BW: I'm a single guy and I haven't tested it out, but from the response I got yesterday, it's been good.