When the Eagles pulled the Steve Smith rug out from under the Giants feet this week, attention turned to what number the pro Bowl wideout would wear in Philly. He had worn No. 12 in NY/NJ.
Of course, No. 12 is synonymous with Randall Cunningham, the original human joystick, in these parts. While Cunningham is in the Ring of Honor as of 2009, his number is not retired. Nobody has dared donned the 12 jersey since. The question is, should anybody ever where it again?
The problem that the NFL has that other sports don’t is the fact that you have 53 guys who need numbers each week. You can’t retire too many and need to save them for very special players.
The Eagles have retired just seven numbers in their history:
- 15 Steve Van Buren
- 40 Tom Brookshier
- 44 Pete Retzleff
- 60 Chuck Bednarik
- 70 Al Wistert
- 92 reggie White
- 99 Jerome Brown
No quarterbacks on the list. The question becomes is Randall the best — or even second best signal caller behind Donovan McNabb — in Eagles history? Sure, Randall could run and make highlight films week after week.
Still, is he worthy of a retired number? Cunningham went to three Pro Bowls with the Eagles (1988, ’89, ’90). He was a league MVP in 1990. Dude threw for 22,877 yards and 150 TDs as an Eagle. He also rushed for nearly 4,500 yards and 32 scores. His Eaglex career completion percentage was 55.7 percent and he had better than 60 percent just twice.
Solid numbers that put him in a hall of Fame discussion, although the Hall has yet to call.
But, one number that has to stick out is one — as in career Eagles playoff wins. He was 1-4 in the playoffs and had the best defense behind him a number of years. If McNabb gets ripped for “failures,” where are the Randall bashers?
Honestly, McNabb’s number should be retired before Randall’s, but that argument will rest until McNabb retires. I doubt No. 5 gets issued as quickly as Brian Westbrook’s did. So, we’re not going to bring his numbers into this.
The best comparison for Randall is likely Ron Jaworski, the first guy — an only besides McNabb — to wear an Eagles jersey in a Super Bowl.
In ten years in Philly, Jaws threw for 26, 963 yards and 175 scores with a 55.3 completion percentage. He made just one Pro Bowl and won the Bert Bell Award as the NFL’s best player in 1980, the same year he guided Philly to the Super Bowl. Jaws also won three playoff games and took the Eagles to the Super Bowl.
Yet, Jaws’ number was not retired and was issued to Roger Ruzek, Bobby Hoying and others.
Taking the body of work in relation to Eagles history, the bottom line is that randall’s number likely isn’t deserving of retirement. Was he beloved by the fan base? He still is. But, is he a truly “special” player in terms of a career?
Considering the amount of time that has passed, it wouldn’t be horrible to see Steve Smith wear No. 12. Of course, he’s wearing No. 19 right now so maybe this argument lives on for another day.