Friday, April 16, 2010

The Five Most Under Appreciated Athletes in Philadelphia History- Part 4


Part 4 of 6

3 Randall Cunningham

Like Dick Allen and Andre Iguodala, Randall Cunningham possessed almost freakish athletic capabilities. He was a "Pass, Punt and Kick" champion for the ages and once appeared on the cover of Sports Illustrated with the moniker "The Ultimate Weapon."

Ironically, these phenomenal capabilities were possibly his ultimate downfall in the "City of Brotherly Love."

Cunningham's marvelous skills led coach Buddy Ryan to concentrate on accumulating defensive talent with the notion that his quarterback could almost single-handedly generate enough offense for the team to win. Additionally, Randall played with a style that did not fit the traditional formulaic mold of the NFL.

Sports talk radio telephone lines and airwaves burned with the perpetual debate whether Cunningham's scrambling style could ever lead the Eagles to postseason success. Similar to a more recent quarterback in team history, his ability to read defenses, not choke in the big moments, and to make accurate throws were also a constant topic of discussion.

The quarterback was often tormented by the mocking chant of "Raaannndaaall, Raaannndaaall" by Philadelphia fans despite being a "Sports Center" highlight waiting to happen and accumulating some truly remarkable numbers.

Amongst them, he led the Eagles in both passing and rushing for four consecutive seasons, three of which landed the team in the playoffs. Perhaps the most astounding season in silver and green was 1990 when Cunningham fired 30 touchdown passes against only 13 interceptions— while accumulating 942 yards rushing with an 8.0 average per carry.

When he was benched in favor of the very pedestrian Rodney Peete as the team transitioned to the West Coast offense and feeling unappreciated by fans and the organization, Cunningham retired after the 1995 season.

After sitting out one season, Randall joined the Minnesota Vikings in 1997 and went on to have his greatest season in 1998. The team went 15-1 with Cunningham racking up a league best 106.0 quarterback rating on the way to leading the offense to an NFL record 556 points.

The player unwanted in Philly averaged a career high 247 yards passing per game and 34 touchdown tosses, while recording a career low interception percentage with 10 picks in 425 pass attempts. And, interestingly, Cunningham's delight in proving his critics wrong was enhanced by the fact that he only ran the ball 32 times for 132 yards and received a variety of MVP and "Player of the Year" awards.

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