Honor the Heroes of the Game, Preserve Its History, Promote its Values & Celebrate Excellence Everywhere
Jon Kendle is Director of Archives and Football Information at the Pro Football Hall of Fame. His biweekly columns tell unique and interesting stories starting from the league’s founding in downtown Canton in 1920 to the present day.
The 2018 National Football League Draft is just three weeks away and there is already movement among clubs trading up to secure their “quarterback of the future.” This is not always an easy thing to find and there is little consensus about what specific traits make up a franchise quarterback. Every player is unique, and every team will ask them to do something different related to their individual circumstances.
Many believe we are just now entering the era of dual-threat quarterbacks in the NFL. I would say that couldn’t be further from the truth. What about Bobby Layne, Sid Luckman, Ace Parker, Roger Staubach, Fran Tarkenton and Steve Young? Those are just a few Hall of Fame quarterbacks who could hurt opponents both through the air and on the ground. While Cam Newton and Michael Vick are now the names synonymous with running quarterbacks, the individual they supplanted was former Philadelphia Eagles QB Randall Cunningham. He gained an incredible 4,928 rushing yards during his 16-year career that also included stops with the Minnesota Vikings, Dallas Cowboys, and Baltimore Ravens.
Do you remember when Cunningham scorched the New England Patriots in an Eagles 48-20 victory at home on Nov. 4, 1990? The win evened the Eagles’ record at 4-4 en route to a 10-6 final record and their third straight playoff appearance.
“Rockin’ Randall” did it all that afternoon as he put together one of the best all-around games in NFL history. The day started well for Cunningham and the Eagles as they methodically moved down the field on their opening possession. The drive was highlighted by a 26-yard pass completion to running back Heath Sherman on second-and-22 from the Patriots’ 43-yard line and capped by a field goal that put the Eagles in front.
Things only got better from there, and after New England tied the game at 3-3, Randall converted a crucial third-and-2 when he scrambled right for 15 yards. On the very next play Cunningham connected with receiver Fred Barnett for a 37-yard touchdown pass to put the Eagles back on top 10-3 at the end of the first quarter.
The first five possessions of the second quarter ended without big plays or points from either team. But as the half inched closer to the end Philadelphia mustered a field goal. The Patriots then took advantage of a great punt return as they strung together two big plays from scrimmage to score their first touchdown of the game and cut Philly’s lead to 13-10.
Then with just less than two minutes remaining in the half Cunningham went back to work converting on a third-and-10 with a 13-yard run, before he fired a 37-yard strike to tight end Keith Jackson for his second TD pass of the game and 20-10 halftime lead.
The Eagles began the second half with the ball and Cunningham capped an eight-play, 80-yard drive with a 23-yard TD pass to receiver Calvin Williams. The Patriots answered with a field goal to cut the lead to 27-13, but on the very next possession Philadelphia shut the door as Randall threw his fourth TD pass of the game, a 3-yarder to Jackson, that gave the Eagles a comfortable 34-13 lead. New England continued to fight and scored another touchdown, but Cunningham put the icing on his career day when he busted through the Patriots’ line and cruised to the end zone on a 52-yard TD run.
Philly added one more touchdown late in the game, but the final score didn’t matter. Cunningham had already stolen the show. He completed 15 of 24 passes for 240 yards and four touchdowns while also rushing the ball eight times for 124 yards and a touchdown. By the end of that season, Cunningham had accounted for an astonishing 69.8% of the Eagles’ total net offense. He threw for 3,466 yards and 30 TDs and rushed for 942 yards (second most by a quarterback at that time) and five scores.