Athlete of the Decade #8 Brian Westbrook

by Joseph Birmingham Athlete of the Decade  #8 Brian Westbrook thumbnail

Westbrook hits our list at #8.  He would be much higher but for one thing.  The guy can not stay healthy.  He was born in 1979 and came from one of my favorite local colleges, the Villanova Wildcats.   He still owns 37 school records at Villanova.

Early on in his career he got the reputation for being injury prone.  He has lived into this reputation.  In his 8 NFL seasons, he has NEVER started every game for the team.  McNabb got the reputation after getting hurt for the second time in his career, despite playing an entire game on a broken leg.  What chance does Brian have of overcoming the same rap ?

Never mind that he has 420 receptions for 3765 yards and 29 touchdowns, with 40 receptions over 20 yards and 10 over 40 yards in an 8 year career as a running back.   Forget his nearly 6000 yards rushing with a 4.6 yard average and 37 touchdowns.   Just scoring a touchdown every other game you start is not enough to endear you to Philadelphia fans.  Being the most versatile running back and leading the team in receptions 2 years, and leading the league in receptions for a running back on 4 occasions won’t do it either.  These fans want a Super Bowl and they want it bad !!

But, Westbrook is frequently mentioned as one of the top ten utility backs of all time, let alone of the past decade.    In 2007 he led all players in yards from scrimmage, first downs, and yards per touch.  He holds records too numerous to categorize in this post.

I will try to do him justice here.  Brian Westbrook IS:

the only active NFL player with 20-or-more TDs both rushing and receiving (27 rush, 23 rec.)

the owner of 52 career TDs (27 rush, 23 rec., 2 PR) 8th on the Eagles all-time list, 4th among RBs

the franchise leader in yards/carry (4.7) ,2nd in yards/touch (5.9  – min. 750 touches), yards from scrimmage (7,992) and receiving TDs (23)

the Eagles all-time single-season record holder in yards from scrimmage (2,104) and receptions (90), both set in 2007

the first Eagle to lead the league since RB Ricky Watters, who registered 1,855 yards in 1996.

According to the Elias Sports Bureau, the 4th-fastest player in NFL history to record 20 rushing TDs and 20 receiving TDs (76 games) behind Lenny Moore (46), Chuck Foreman (55), Timmy Brown (65) and tied with John David Crow (76)

Since 2003, leads all NFL RBs in yards/touch with a 5.9 avg. on 1,306 touches (min. 500 touches)

Since 2003, leads NFL RBs in receptions(338), receiving yards (3,121) and receiving TDs (23)

Since becoming a full-time starter in 2004, has amassed 6,768 yards from scrimmage in just 55 games, the 2nd-highest total in the NFL

With 17 career 100-yd. rushing games (regular and postseason), ranks 3rd in team history behind Wilbert Montgomery (26) and Steve Van Buren (19)

The average length of his 52 career regular season TDs is 20.1 yards

In seven career playoff games, ranks 2nd in team history in career rushing yards (472), t-2nd in career rushing TDs (3), t-3rd in career total TDs (5), and 4th in career rushing attempts (79)

Owns the two longest rushing TDs in Eagles playoff history (62 at NO 1/13/07, NFC-D; 49 vs. NYG 1/7/07, NFC-WC)

Has posted 12 TDs and 1,165 total yards from scrimmage in his last 9 games against the Giants

That last one may be the most important to the Eagles fan base as Westbrook has become the Amani Toomer of the Eagles when playing NFC East competitors.   If only he could suit up and play every game of the year for three or four years and achieve the desired results, I believe Westbrook could crack the top three on this list, and the top ten of all time in Philadelphia sports history.  Unfortunately, after a concussion early this season, Westbrook has been largely absent, and his replacement, the running back of the future, LeSean McCoy has performed so well that many have written the star off.  But now he looks to return next week against the Broncos and the return of Brian Dawkins (Think he is on this list further up somewhere ??)   Unfortunately, it is possible that Westbrook’s legacy in this city may very well come down to the last few games he plays here and the result of those contests, when in reality, he should be revered for what he has been able to do in his tenure here.   No matter what, it is hard to deny what he accomplished in the last eight years regarding overall productivity and it is also hard to deny the raw talent he possesses and the exuberance and sheer love for the game he displays on the field every week he suits up.  I hope the rumors are not true and his time playing is not over, but no matter what, he will always be on my list of players that were fun to watch and beneficial to my team.   When he does retire, he is sure to be missed.

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Comments

3 Responses to “Athlete of the Decade #8 Brian Westbrook”

  1. rick on December 24th, 2009 11:52 am

    Outside of Jackson, the Eagls have never had a player as explosive as Westbrook. One of my all-time favorite Eagles.

  2. BigGreek24 on December 25th, 2009 9:49 am

    As for the never playing a full season, here are Westbrook’s games played since and including 2002 – 15, 15, 13, 12, 15, 15 and 14 last year. The 2004 season where he played 13 games he wasn’t given the option – the Eagles had their playoff spot clinched and Reid sat him down the final three games. I’d say that playing 15 games four times is awfully good. McNabb, whom I’m sure is ranked pretty high over the same stretch beginning in 2002 – 10, 16, 15, 9, 10, 14 and 16. Yeah, he started two full seasons but has missed more games until this year than Westbrook did, and Westbrook had far more to do with the Eagles making the playoffs in 2006 than McNabb since Donovan missed most of that year with an injury. Westbrook is one of the top three running backs in Eagles history, possibly the second best next to Steve Van Buren.

  3. joseph birmingham on December 25th, 2009 1:09 pm

    Greek – I totally agree with you, that is why he is on this list. But, bottom line, he is simply not durable enough for the team to rely on him to carry them, neither is McNabb, that was the point I was trying to make. By comparison, look at Tomlinson of the Chargers, same period, games played 16,16,15,16,16,16,16,11. I agree Westbrook is top three all time, but my point was he could not be top three on the athlete of the decade list BECAUSE he doesnt have that Emmitt Smith, or LT workhorse endurance. Emmitt missed 8 games in the first 13 YEARS of his career, Brian missed 7 in his first 5 YEARS. And Brian is probably a better all around player (Running receiving returning) than Ladanian but LT ranks higher all time because he only missed 1 game in his first 8 YEARS ! All great running backs start to miss games when they hit their 30′s, but unfortunately for Westbrook, his nagging injuries hit him from the start and he never got a chance to play 30-40 consecutive games and really get in the groove. It was always, 6-10 games on, then a couple off, seems like his entire career.

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