Those two words said it all about Brian Westbrook. That he was cut yesterday by the Eagles says more about being a RB in the NFL than about the player. Two concussions on top of the myriad injuries he suffered over the years simply took their cumulative toll not only on him but the Eagles. It is hard to gameplan and plan period when this great player who can do so many things is not around consistently enough to do the things you map out for him. How do you maintain your playbook when so many things can only be done by him? The answer was to let Westbrook go and move on. If someone else in the NFL wants to take a shot, they know exactly what they are getting.
A great player who can make a great impact every time he touches the ball.
A player who will be injured at least twice during the season and who will miss extended time.
Westbrook the Giant killer did some of his earliest damage to Jim Fassel. Fassel’s Prevent Offense was set ablaze by Brian, who was in his second year. The year was 2003. The Eagles had 0.0 offense. They were down 10-7 and likely would not be able to score if you gave them 5 quarters. Good teams put bad ones away. Instead, Fassel played clock instead of football. A punt returner named Westbrook took one back 84 yards for the win, leaving the faithful at the Meadowlands howling in disgust. What we preach here is NOT that the special teams unit made an error. The ill-informed fan can blame the special teams coach or the special teams player for not making his tackle. They can yell at the ref for not calling clipping. Where the fault truly lies is with a head coach who stops playing football midway through the second half. Bad things happen when you leave things to chance.
If Fassel had understood how good Westbrook would be, maybe he would have been more respectful of him. Maybe he would have been more respectful of the Eagles too. The better players and better teams find ways to burn you when you play Prevent. Westbrook killed the Giants that day. He would go on to kill the gmen many more times. You never wish a player harm, but it is a good thing Westbrook was not healthier. He could have easily cost us a Super Bowl in 2007 if he was not injured. These were the ups and downs of going against Westbrook. In Game 1 (Week 4) of the 2007 series, the game where Umenyiora sacked McNabb 6 times: “without Brian Westbrook in the lineup the Eagles were not able to exploit the fierce rush with effective screens or explosive edge runs.” Playing against the Eagles with and without him in the lineup was night and day.
In 2008, the lost championship season, it was Westbrook who unraveled the Giants. He put just enough pressure on Gilbride’s offense to do something, and Gilgarbage came up short. Adversity is supposed to make you stronger. Westbrook always gave the Giants fits, but he prepared the Giants for whatever else they’d see in the NFL from that checkdown RB. Maybe seeing Westbrook in Game 2 of 2007 got them ready for Kevin Faulk of the Patriots.
Giants fans can pay tribute to Brian Westbrook and be grateful he did not do a lot more damage to the gmen than he did. When he was healthy, he was one of the best.