Believe it or not, the beginning of the Eagles 2014 season is rapidly approaching. Players will report back to the NovaCare Complex on April 21 for the start of the Eagles offseason program. Join us as we count down until the Eagles are back in town …
The Eagles gave up 12 rushing touchdowns on defense in 2013, which ranked 15th in the NFL. Even though the run defense was one of the league's best, ranking tied for third with just 3.8 yards per carry allowed, the number of rushing touchdowns allowed is likely one that Bill Davis would like to see improved upon in 2014.
First Eagle To Wear 12: QB/HB Ed Matesic (1934-5)
Last Eagle To Wear 12: QB Randall Cunningham (1985-95)
"The guy had a body like Gumby, the thing could bend in any direction." – Brian Baldinger, former teammate and current NFL analyst
"I think we're looking at Plastic Man." – Merrill Reese, Eagles radio play-by-play announcer
A second-round pick by the Eagles out of Nevada-Las Vegas in 1985, Randall Cunningham was the first of his kind at the quarterback position in the NFL. Standing 6-foot-4 and 212 pounds, the slender, long-limbed Cunningham dazzled with his breathtaking athleticism, instincts, escapability, running prowess and rocket arm. Nicknamed "The Ultimate Weapon" and "Starship 12," his dynamic skill set made the Eagles one of the NFL's most exciting teams and elevated the franchise to relevance in the second half of the 1980s and early 1990s. Not only did Cunningham provide timeless highlights that still make the rounds to this very day, but he also ushered in the era for quarterbacks of his ilk to rise above the stereotype that had previously plagued them.
After showing flashes of his potential as a second-year player in 1986, Cunningham became the full-time starter at quarterback for the Eagles in 1987, completing 54.9 percent of his passes for 2,786 yards, 23 touchdowns, 12 interceptions and an 83.0 rating, while rushing for 505 yards and three touchdowns on 76 attempts. Over the following three seasons between 1988-90, however, is when Cunningham really took over the NFL. He led the Eagles to records of 10-6, 11-5 and 10-6 and playoff berths each season. He made three straight Pro Bowls, throwing for 10,674 yards and 75 touchdowns during that span, and running for another 2,187 yards and 15 touchdowns. His best season came in 1990, when he completed 58.3 percent of his passes for 3,466 yards, 30 touchdowns and 13 interceptions for a 91.6 rating, and ran for 942 yards and five touchdowns on 118 attempts. Though he lost out to Joe Montana in official MVP voting, Cunningham won the PFWA NFL MVP and Bert Bell Award in 1990.
In 1991, everything seemed in place for the Eagles to make a legitimate run at a Super Bowl. Cunningham was coming off a transcendent season and in the middle of his prime, and the defense was about to stake its claim as one of the best in NFL history. Unfortunately, Cunningham tore his ACL in the first game. Despite a revolving door of quarterbacks and a punchless offense, the dominant defense (which finished first in yards allowed, sacks, fumble recoveries and takeaways) helped guide the team to a 10-6 record but missed out on the playoffs by virtue of placing third in the NFC East.
Cunningham returned fully healthy in 1992, completing 60.7 percent of his passes for 19 touchdowns and rushing for 549 yards and five more touchdowns. The Eagles finished 11-5 and defeated New Orleans in the Wild Card Game, before falling to Dallas in the Divisional Playoff.
The 1993 and 1994 seasons were marred by nagging injuries and a transition to the West Coast offense under new head coach Rich Kotite and offensive coordinator Zeke Bratkowski that did not fit Cunningham's style. He was eventually benched in favor of Rodney Peete and, amidst a soured relationship with the franchise and fan base, retired following the 1995 season. Cunningham resurfaced with the Minnesota Vikings in 1997 and had a career renaissance in leading one of the NFL's most prolific offenses of all time in 1998.
Cunningham is second all-time in rushing yards for a quarterback (4,928) and was elected into the Eagles Hall of Fame in 2009. Though his jersey number has not been officially retired by the team, no player has worn 12 since and Chairman and CEO Jeffrey Lurie has said that no other player will ever wear it again.