Philadelphia Eagles Cannot Forget Derrick Burgess


Philadelphia Eagles Cannot Forget Derrick Burgess

It was over on March 24, 2015. The career that wasn’t, the tenacious career that hung on by a shoestring time and again finally ran out of strength. It was a tweet that made the news official.

And so, the young man who was drafted in 2010 and named an immediate starter as the anchor of the 4-3 defense, was signed away without a tear, and parade, nor a cascade of well-wishing fans.

Wrong move.

I pushed hard in a recent article to retain the services of Casey Matthews.  Why?  Because the roster cannot be expected to be filled with 53 All-Pro players.  Some need to be team players – to excel at special teams play, to contribute when their number is called, not when the spotlight is on them.   To say that a player “sucks” because the same video is shown with a missed tackle over and over and over again makes as much sense as the national media continuously hounding Philadelphia Eagles fans for snowballing Santa.  For each bad play that ended up on a video, ten good plays happened without the benefit of one: good blocks, good gobbling up blockers, good turning plays in to other defenders.  But we focus on what we see in a video, and call for a change.  But why is that?

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The fact is that Casey Matthews was drafted in a later round as a prospect with upside, but was pronounced an immediate starter and therefore became a prospect with only downside.   Philadelphia fans are intelligent, passionate, but sometimes lose sight of the forest for the trees.   That was a complete no win situation, and we fell into the trap of rooting for his exodus as a result.

Before we go further, I want to segue into another player who had a similar experience in Philadelphia: Derrick Burgess.

The Derrick Burgess Story

Derrick Burgess was a defensive end from the University of Mississippi drafted in round three of the 2001 NFL draft by the Philadelphia Eagles.  At the time, the defense was the brainchild of mastermind Jimmy Johnson, who loved to stockpile defensive linemen and rotate them in to keep the guys fresh.  He also preferred to draft a player’s replacement before the player was traded or quit, which was likely the incentive to bring the 6’2″ youngster to Philly.

In 2001, Burgess surpassed the hopes laid on him and recorded six sacks despite rotating in while playing behind the likes of defensive ends Hugh Douglas and Ndukwe Dike “N.D.” Kalu.

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  • In 2002, his season ended in game one due to a broken foot.  In 2003, his season ended thanks to a torn Achilles tendon.  The hopes had faded, and the tone was now set by fans and media as “complete bust”.

    In 2004, he returned to the active roster, but only started twelve games where he registered two and a half sacks.   Despite contributing ten tackles and three more sacks in post season play, including one in the Super Bowl game, it was not enough.  The fans, the media, and the team, all decided it was time to part ways.   His contract expired at the end of the 2004 season, and the story would have ended there, but…

    He was signed by a very enthusiastic Oakland Raiders team who were high on his production and potential.  They also were in building mode, having signed wide receiver Randy Moss.  The news of Burgess’ signing was announced in almost the same fanfare.

    As Philadelphia fans celebrated Burgess’ departure, some wisely felt that his injury streak was just a run of bad luck, and that he had potential to star in the NFL.

    In 2005, as a defensive end of the Oakland Raiders, he did just that.  He was intended to be a benched reserve with some playing time in a game to keep the starters fresh, but his play was so good that they could not keep him off the field.   In a three game span, he had recorded six quarterback sacks.  And so, by mid season, Burgess took over the starting position for the Oakland Raiders and went on to have a pro bowl season, highlighted by a franchise record 16 sacks in one year.

    Proving that 2005 was not a fluke, he returned in 2006 to register another 11 sacks. During that same time frame, the Philadelphia Eagles team registered only 29 sacks in 2005, and 40 in 2006.

    The Eagles would continue to discard pass rushers.  After two years of a five year contract, they traded defensive end Chris Clemons to the Seattle Seahawks and a fourth round pick in 2010 for the services of Daryll Tapp.  Clemons went on to lead the Seahawks in sacks with 11 in both 2010 and 2011.  At the time, it seemed to be a trade of underperformers. But while Tapp continued to underperform in Philadelphia, Clemons turned around immediately in Seattle.  They also discarded defensive end Jason Babin, who found rebirth as a Tennessee Titan in the wide 9 and eventually returned to the Eagles as the team adopted its version of a wide 9 technique.  There is Jaiquawn Jarrett restoring his NFL career as a New York Jet safety, and Kurt Coleman who has made a comeback of his own as a Carolina Panther.

    I could cite more examples of a player who was discarded at a position of need by the Eagles who, due to our lack of patience and eagerness to “MOVE ON”, became exactly what we had hoped for all along while wearing the jersey of another NFL team.  The point is simple.  Good players have bad games, and bad streaks of games.  Its far too easy to want somebody “OUT!” because each team has players who do not meet the immediate expectations.  If the Eagles had drafted Dion Jordan, do you think he deserves another chance?  Many are fine with getting him into Philly and hoping things turn around for him.  But when our players show signs of turning the corner, it doesn’t seem as though we are as generous with our patience.  Media relies on stories.  A player staying put on a team content to have him is not a story.  So we hear about the virtues of getting rid of Nick Foles, Nate Allen, and Casey Matthews.


    The call to greatness is not answered on the first ring, and sometimes not even on the fourth.  Some players need time, good coaching, and a supportive fan base, before they become able to showcase their full potential on an NFL field.

    So Philadelphia, I challenge each of you who bleed green.  Regardless of what happens on the field in one season, don’t warm up your boots on the backside of players who didn’t meet your expectations.   Thank them for being a part of our family.  Fans of the Philadelphia Eagles cannot forget Derrick Burgess, and the fact that we sent him away where he became that which we wanted most.  A pass rushing terror to opposing offenses.

    With players like Casey Matthews, Nate Allen or Nick Foles, much like Derrick Burgess, a break-out year could easily happen the year after we give up. Each professional athlete has streaks of normalcy.  The great ones don’t avoid falling down, they simply get up to stand taller afterwards.

    Next: Philadelphia Eagles Bet Barwin And Graham Are Irresistible Forces

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