March 5, 2015

The Philly Fifty, #33: Randall Cunningham, Eagles

For the complete list and explanation of criteria and scoring, check out the Philly Fifty page

Longevity – 5

Randall was drafted by the Eagles in the 2nd round of the 1985 draft. He would spend his first 11 seasons in the league with the Birds.

Peak – 3

His best season as an Eagles was 1990, where he passed for 3,466 yards and 30 TD while rushing for 942 yards and 5 TD. Still he was never 1st team all-pro and was probably never more than a top-5 QB in the league.

Popularity – 4

As far as I can tell, Cunningham was, and is, very popular. He was a unique athlete that changed the perception of the quarterback position, and like Michael Vick now, you always held your breath whenever he got to running down the field.

Team Success – 2

Despite playing with some excellent Buddy Ryan/Reggie White led defenses, Cunningham won exactly one playoff game in his career with the Eagles. His regular season record was decent, at 63-43-1, but his 1-4 playoff record brings back some bad memories.

Awards – 2

Only 3 pro-bowls with the Eagles, and outside of 1990, nothing better than 1st team all-conference (1988, 1992).

Stats – 4

Cunningham’s Eagles ranks are as follows: 3rd in yards, TD, INT, 6th in QB rating. Also, he is 5th in rushing yards, and 4th in rushing TDs. All-time among QB’s, he ranks 2nd in rushing yards (just passed by Vick) and 8 in rushing TD’s.

Historical Standing – 2

Cunningham is not in the Hall of Fame and is an interesting case. As a passer, he was mostly average to below average with a career 56.6 completion % and 81.5 QB rating. But, up until Michael Vick, he was the most dynamic rushing QB in NFL history. I would think he probably stays out, but he’s borderline.

Excitement – 5

Where to start? The freakish arm strength? The gazelle-like speed? His famous leaps into the end zone? The fact that he punted a ball 91 yards once, and 80 yards another time? This video is a good collection of some of the best Randall moments.

Total: 27

For the complete list and explanation of criteria and scoring, check out the Philly Fifty page

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  1. Stu says:

    Now we are talking!

  2. jjg says:

    “You, button hook at the Caddy fin.  You, straight up right side, jus’ keep goin.  You, to the manhole cover then slant left.  On 2.”

  3. Ken Bland says:

    As far as I can tell, Cunningham was, and is, very popular.>>

    Seems that way, despite wearing some blue (not to be confused with purple) toward career end, and perhaps slightly enhanced by who he played under, and with.  And along the same lines, it’d be interesting to see how much more legendary he’d be if he won a ring.

    Randall at 35 assures that Donavan McNabb will rank higher, and I suspect significantly so.  I suspect Ron Jaworski is left off.  Long as the format is consistent, I suppose you cain’t be arguing with it, specially since I wouldn’t spend my time devising one, let  alone an induputably superior one.  But no matter what stat edges McNabb accumulated to place higher, it’s close.  Didn’t neither of em do what Van Brocklin did, admittedly in simpler times, and it’s hard to believe he’s not top 50 material with a championship ring.  If he does, and ranks some 20 or more minimum spots against Pete Rose, there oughta be an investigation.  It’ll be interesting to see where The Great Doctor places off just 2 stellar seasons with the Phils, and sadly, 0 titles to date.

    Ramble complete.

    • Pete says:

      Stormin’ Norman was left off the list because he didn’t meet the 4 years in Philly criteria. He only played 3 in an Eagles uniform.

      I have been told by some that Cunningham was scrutinized just as bad as McNabb, but I was too young to really be aware of it. Now though, it seems all is forgiven, as I think it will be (for most) with McNabb in the future.

      • jjg says:

        Gold-tipped shoelaces, ‘Let Me Be Me’ hat … guess he didn’t mind a little “scrutiny.”  Randle was/is a piece o’ work … rare athlete; rarer, likable guy … his improv feats on the field – scrambles, leaps, lasers, arced bombs, punts – ultimately outplay accrued defeats (like the bizarre “Fog Bowl” in which he threw for 407 yards but was intercepted 3 times, 0 TDs).  The “Ultimate Weapon” was SI hype but Randall was a late 20th Century gridiron icon/vaudevillian who gave you your money’s worth on his own entertaining, staccato terms.  Without the Bryce Paup-knee injury in ’91 season opener, his Philly legacy might’ve been different.  His great year in Minny was neat to see.  Loved his left field, organic replies to media questions.  Now an ordained minister in Las Vegas … talk about a hot seat! … hope he has his playbook.  For sheer viewing fun, #12 had it all over #5, McBlobb.        

    • phillyfan says:

      In talent McNabb and Randall were very close.  McNabb won many a game earlier and in the middle of his career with his legs too.  Both had strong arms, while not accurate.  Both had trouble reading complex defenses.

      McNabb wasn’t as popular because he always insisted on keeping his distance, like his coach.  Randall was more fun and affable, like his coach.  However, McNabbs coach made him better than he really was, while Randall’s coach made him worse.  McNabb is a fascinating case.  Based on where Randall is listed, I would expect McNabb to show up soon, between 28 and 33.  Very similar players, very similar careers (unfufilled expectations).  But McNabb has to get the nod based on palyoff appearances.

  4. joof says:

    I remember when he broke his leg in 91….first game of the season….wouldve been great to see him at his peak when the Gang Green D was at its peak.
    I dont see how Mcnabb could rank higher than him any manner, unless it’s strickly statistical….or years wise with the team….thats not even debatable in my eyes
    I also dont think he was never better than the 5th QB in the league….Im going back to grade school but Im thinking steady but quality QBs like Phil Simms or Warren Moon were alive and……Maybe Ill have to look up the QB stats and rosters from the late 80′s early 90′s.
    What was the greatest Cunningham play….hmmmm Id have to say the 96 yard touchdown throw to Barnett…after he threw Bruce Smith over her shoulder in the end zone…..close second may be the thrown against Giants or that one time we jumped over a few defenders into the end zone, and did pretty much a flip

  5. phillyfan says:

    I was in my late 20s when Randall came on the scene.  There are some real parallels with Big E.  Ton of talent but never could achieve the ultimate success.  One difference is that, unfortunately Randall never really had a coach.

    Part of my fondness for Randall was it was one of the few times in Philly history where the masses didn’t care what color he was – the other was probably Mr. Erving.  Randall was really beloved and there was very little controvery that ever popped up around him.  That was probably a big part of it.  White man is OK with the star black athlete, as long as they keep their mouth shut.  And Randall just pretty much went about his business.

    And man, what business that was.  Greatest football play I have ever seen was the Monday night game in 88 I think against the Giants when he took a good shot (who that linebacker?  wasn’t LT but another HOFer) and maintained his balance and threw a TD pass.  Won’t see Tom Brady pulling that one anytime soon.

    • joof says:

      The Giants play you mentioned (I mentioned it as “the throw against the giants”) is his most popular (I think) highlight play….I saw that play live, just like I saw most of his plays. That was Carl Banks, I think. (58)
      I dont know if you can say Cunningham was beloved. I recall a lot of anger and frustration directed towards him. Remember his hat “let me be me”. Many ppl said he couldnt read defenses.
      Buddy Ryan wasnt the greatest coach ever, but he sure did have great defenses….what track record, he went from the 86 bears to the gang green eagles..I read up on his time in Chicago..sounds like he tried to divide the team against Dikta,..kinda like an offense vs defense civil war……The main thing I remember about B Ryan and offense was that awful offensive line and how he told Cunningham to not worry about anything…just make 2 or 3 big plays a game…..
      I do notice a few parallels between Lindros and Cunningham…..Im biased but those were 2 of the greatest players in the history of sports….they stood out so great as B Westbrook was or Mcnabb played, they couldnt do what Cunningham did…same goes for pronger and Leclair, compared to Lindros

  6. phillyfan says:

    just to be absolutely clear, my “white man” comment was a criticism of white man, not an agreement.