For the second time this week, a star running back was released when the Philadelphia Eagles parted ways with Brian Westbrook after eight seasons. He is now a free agent and open to sign with another team.
Once again, the Eagles’ front office shows they aren’t afraid to put business first when it comes to their beloved players. Last March, there was little effort to resign safety Brian Dawkins simply because they felt there was little gas left in his tank. In his first season with the Denver Broncos, he reached his eighth career Pro Bowl after finishing the regular season with 116 tackles, two interceptions, and one forced fumble.
Like Westbrook, Dawkins was a fan favorite in Philadelphia during his 13-year run with the Eagles. His leadership and ferocious tackles sent chills through anyone watching—which was even more of the reason why they loved him.
Westbrook had the same effect, with the only difference being he would play offense rather than defense. At one point in his career, he was arguably the most explosive and dangerous running back in all of football. His explosiveness was astonishing to watch, leaving fans with anticipation and excitement as they waited to see what would happen when he touched the ball.
As painful as it sounds, Tuesday’s release should come as no surprise for Eagles fans considering the situation the front office was faced. By bringing back Westbrook, they would have owed him $7.25 million as he would enter the final year on his contract. In reality, it would have made no sense for the Eagles to bring him back considering his history of injuries.
Other than the ankle injuries and two concussions suffered last season, Westbrook has never managed to play an entire season during his eight-year career with the Eagles. As much as fans would love to see him back in green next season, the money spent would have been too much considering how much of an injury risk he is.
He may no longer be on the roster, but head coach Andy Reid said it best during his press conference, when he said Westbrook would always be an Eagle at heart—and he’s right. He’s provided so many astonishing plays throughout his career that will be in the minds of fans for the rest of their lives.
One of Westbrook's most memorable plays was the “Miracle at the Meadowlands Part II” in 2003, when he returned an 84-yard punt for the game-winning touchdown against the New York Giants when all hope seemed lost.
His 2007 season in which he finished with 2,104 yards from the line of scrimmage and 11 combined touchdowns. Not to mention the four-touchdown performance against the Arizona Cardinals on Thanksgiving in 2008.
And who could forget his unselfish play against the Cowboys in 2007 where Westbrook made the decision to fall on the one-yard line instead of entering the end zone so the Eagles could run the clock out with a 10-6 lead in Dallas—a play that not only sealed the win, but drove fantasy football owners across the country crazy.
When the Eagles take the field for the first time next September at Lincoln Financial Field, there will be a weird feeling among spectators when No. 36 isn’t announced during introductions. It’s hard to imagine what the last eight years would have been like had Reid never read stories in local newspapers about a local running back from Villanova who set 41 school, 13 Atlantic-10, and five NCAA records.
After he was selected in the third round of the 2002 NFL Draft, Westbrook saw little action as a running back during his rookie season playing alongside Deuce Staler and Correll Buckhalter. 2003 was when word started to spread about the dangerous type of player he was as he became part of Philadelphia’s “three-headed monster” at running back and return specialist for special teams.
Since that sophomore season, Westbrook has always been considered one of the most dangerous players in the league when healthy. It’s a shame his career with Philadelphia had to come to an end the way it did, but we currently live in an era where the careers of running backs don’t last as long as they used to.
For those who have been lucky enough to follow the Eagles over the last eight years, they should be thankful to have witnessed one of the greatest running backs this team has ever seen.
Whether he decides to sign with another team or simply call it a career by retiring, it’s safe to say Brian Westbrook will always be an Eagle at heart, and this fan voice isn’t the only one who believes that. Here are a few reactions from other fellow Eagles fans:
“When I heard that the Eagles had released Brian Westbrook, I was initially shocked…but then realized it was the most logical decision to make. For as much as he had done for the Eagles during his eight-year tenure in Philadelphia, it was too much of a risk to keep Westbrook on the roster, given his injury-laden 2009 season.
“For me, Westbrook’s standout season was definitely in 2006 by not only scoring 11 touchdowns for the Eagles, but also setting his then career-high 1,217 rushing yards and then continuing his outstanding performance during the postseason against the Giants and Saints. It was then, I believe, that he truly won over the hearts of Philadelphia fans. We are truly fortunate as Eagles fans to have witnessed his phenomenal performances and how they helped the Eagles become the fierce NFC contender they are today; the city of Philadelphia will never forget what an influential player No. 36 was for this team!” -Becky Kocon
“I’ll never forget Westbrook’s knee at the 1 against the cowboys right at the two minute warning to ice a close game. It showed everything that Westbrook had to offer: incredible vision at the line, great speed to get through a hole, elusive moves once in the open field, poise and intelligence (especially in the clutch), and a total unselfish, “team-first” attitude. Despite the fact that it cost me a fantasy championship, that run was the epitome of Brian Westbrook. He will be missed.” - Eddie Grant
“The greatest Giant Killer is no more. It was said that Donovan McNabb would never amount to anything until he could get past the Giants. He struggled against them every year until a frigid night in 2003. Well, he struggled that night too, but for the first of many times against the Giants, Brian Westbrook bailed out the team with a scintillating game/season/division clinching punt return in the last minute. Goodbye, 36. Thanks for the memories.” - Geoff Crawley
Dan Parzych is the Eagles Fan Voice for NFLTouchdown.com.
He is also the founder of the new NFCEastFootball.com.
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