Brian Westbrook: The Career that Could Have Been

Joe MintzerCorrespondent IFebruary 23, 2010

SAN DIEGO, CA - NOVEMBER 15:  Runningback Brian Westbrook #36 of the Philadelphia Eagles looks onto the field from the sideline near the end of the 4th quarter during the game against the San Diego Chargers on November 15, 2009 at Qualcomm Stadium in San Diego, California. Chargers won 31-23.  (Photo by Donald Miralle/Getty Images)
Donald Miralle/Getty Images

How will Brian Westbrook be remembered?

He could be remembered as one of the best Eagles running backs of all time, and he deserves it. He was one of the best dual-threat running backs of all time. He is the second-best running back in Eagles history, behind Steve Van Buren.

He was the "Where's Waldo?" of the Eagles' offense. Defenses had to plan around him. Defensive coordinators cringed in fear at the thought of facing Brian Westbrook in the prime of his career. He was as good a runner as any back in the league. He was patient, he recognized the holes, he blocked well, and, of course, he could catch out of the backfield. He could take any typical screen pass to the house and that is what made him special.

But he could be remembered as a major "what if" guy.

What if he hadn't dealt with injuries his whole career? Just imagine. He would have rivaled Marshall Faulk as the best pass-catching running back of all time.

It is really a shame that we only got to see two years of Westbrook's real ability.

In 2006 and 2007, Westbrook was nothing short of amazing. In those two years, he was the centerpiece of an offense lacking big-play receivers. In 2006, he had a breakout season. He rushed for 1,217 yards and seven touchdowns while catching 77 passes for 699 yards.

2007 was even better. Westbrook had 2,104 yards from scrimmage, which led the NFL and broke an Eagles record. 1,333 came on the ground. The other 771 yards came from his 90 receptions, which is also an Eagles record. I was fortunate enough to be present at Lincoln Financial Field when he broke both of these records.

He did this in fewer than 16 games. Amazing.

Imagine what could have been. Imagine the career that he could have had. Imagine what he could have done if he had been healthy throughout his career. He legitimately could have been one of the greatest running backs in the history of the NFL.

In his career, he never played in 16 games in a single season. He never reached his full potential.

So while Brian Westbrook will be remembered as an Eagles' great and a fan favorite, he will also be remembered as a running back that could have been so much more.