Dawn Staley had to work a few hours before the Super Bowl. Logically, ESPN and the SEC thought early that afternoon on Super Bowl Sunday would provide a great window to feature her defending champion South Carolina Gamecocks against Kim Mulkey’s LSU Tigers. Surely the programmers knew that the Philadelphia Eagles would be a serious Super Bowl contender this season, but they still forced Philly icon Staley to delay her preparations to watch her football team play for the title.
The Eagles did end up making the Super Bowl, but Staley’s hours at the office before kickoff also turned out to be her most important to date of the 2022-23 season. The South Carolina vs. LSU matinee was a matchup of No. 1 vs. No. 2, both undefeated. Staley’s team handled business with an 88-64 victory at home. The always fashionable coach also chose to begin the day in her Super Bowl finest with a Randall Cunningham throwback jersey.
He was a star for the Eagles in the late 1980s and early 1990s. On his classic Sports Illustrated cover, the magazine titled the issue, “The Ultimate Weapon.” The speed, the agility, the arm, it all left many defensive coordinators popping up out of bed with cold sweats in the middle of the night.
Randall Cunningham’s legacy
Unfortunately for Cunningham, he only won one playoff game for the Eagles. The highlight plays, twice being named second-team All-Pro, and the Comeback Player of the Year award in 1992, none of it resulted in a championship-caliber team.
Those failures, however, weren’t for a lack of effort. Cunningham joined an Eagles team that with him at quarterback quickly went from league doormat to perennial playoff participant. But infighting, cheap ownership, Cunningham’s 1991 ACL injury, addiction, and tragedy kept the team in a holding pattern.
Still, while his most successful season was his sole first-team All-Pro performance with the 15-1,1998 Minnesota Vikings, those who saw him play for the Eagles remember Cunningham’s all-world talent.
That talent certainly should be remembered on this Super Bowl Sunday with two Black quarterbacks matching up for the first time with that championship on the line.
Patrick Mahomes and Jalen Hurts both have a little bit of Cunningham in their games. Mahomes has a mind-boggling ability to elude pass rushers in the pocket as well as the electric arm. Hurts has the strength and athleticism to lead a playoff team in rushing. What Mahomes and Hurts share that Cunningham did not have for much of his career, is that they play for organizations that have worked to put both players in the best possible position to succeed.
Many Black quarterbacks like Cunningham were put in less than stable situations and shouldered much blame when their talents could not overcome poor franchise management.
Staley didn’t get to see an Eagles’ championship until she played a whole professional basketball career and then became a coach. Still, she clearly remembers that Cunningham is one of the best to ever play home games in South Philadelphia, and she made a point to give him his flowers on national television.