Denver Broncos: Brian Dawkins’ impact was enormous
Though he wasn’t with the team for a long period of time, Brian Dawkins had an enormous impact with the Denver Broncos…
Brian Dawkins spent 13 of his 16 NFL seasons with the Philadelphia Eagles, where his impact was profound.
In the time Dawkins was with the Eagles, he became known as ‘Weapon X’, one of the most feared safeties in the game of football.
While a member of the Eagles, Dawkins averaged 79 tackles, eight pass breakups, three interceptions, three forced fumbles, two sacks, and a fumble recovery every 16 games played.
That kind of production is Hall of Fame worthy, but his career did not end after those 13 seasons in Philadelphia.
Dawkins was part of the death and resurrection of the Denver Broncos.
When he signed in 2009, the Broncos had just fired longtime head coach Mike Shanahan. They had just traded away Jay Cutler, and new head coach Josh McDaniels was dismantling the roster piece by piece and replacing ‘Shanahan’ players with his own.
Despite what is said of McDaniels as a head coach and leader (and every comment is pretty justified at this point), he brought some pretty talented players to Denver.
One of the highest priorities on McDaniels’ offseason list in 2009 was signing Dawkins, whose availability and willingness to wear any other color besides green was a shock to some.
The Broncos signed Dawkins to provide some much-needed leadership and intensity to the defensive side of the football, which had been a weakness for Shanahan’s latest teams.
Denver already had veteran Champ Bailey, but as Broncos fans know, Bailey is a leader more by example in comparison to Dawkins, whose pre-game speeches and intensity could get just about anyone riled up.
Dawkins noted at the time of his signing (March 2009) that the Broncos’ championship history struck a chord in him.
Unfortunately, Dawkins (and Bailey, for that matter) will go down as one of the greatest players to ever play in the NFL and not win a Super Bowl.
Ironically, the Broncos and Eagles have each won a Super Bowl in the five years since Dawkins has retired and become Hall of Fame eligible.
But before the Broncos became a Super Bowl champion, they reached the lowest of lows as a franchise.
After a sizzling 6-0 start to the 2009 season, the Broncos won just six of their next 26 games, including one of the most embarrassing 4-12 seasons in franchise history in 2010, when Josh McDaniels was caught cheating and fired before the end of the season.
Effectively, at that point, the Broncos were among the lowest of the low in the NFL.
Dawkins was still bringing his all on every single snap.
After playing 16 games in his first season with the Broncos, injuries limited Dawkins to just 25 games in the 2010 and 2011 seasons respectively, but in 2011, he was part of the team’s resurrection.
Dawkins was 38 years old going into the 2011 season. The Broncos were bringing in another new head coach (John Fox), were under new management (John Elway), and had a completely new coaching staff and a core group of players.
The NFL was facing a lockout, so the Broncos — who were coming off of a horrible season anyway — had to deal with a rare offseason structure which limited their ability to rebuild one of the worst-constructed rosters in the league.
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John Elway had his work cut out for him, but it didn’t prevent the 38-year old Dawkins from buying in and once again giving his all to the team.
Dawkins stuck around for year 16 in the NFL and was able to be part of one of the most magical seasons in team history.
The Broncos’ defense was revived with the addition of Von Miller opposite Elvis Dumervil, and the team brought in a number of key players on that side of the ball whose careers were affected greatly by number 20.
Dawkins was a mentor to a young undrafted rookie in 2011 named Chris Harris Jr., who said the veteran players on the team lobbied for him to get on the field after he showed well in practices.
Harris is now one of the best cornerbacks (in our eyes, the best) in the NFL.
Though NBC failed to acknowledge Dawkins really at all and pretty much everyone has disregarded his three seasons in Denver, there’s no doubt about the impact he made on the Broncos, the city of Denver, and the future of the team in general.
It might be a little over the top to say that Dawkins helped save the Broncos, but the impact he made on some of the players who are still members of the team today — Von Miller, Chris Harris Jr., and Demaryius Thomas, to name a few — has had such a profound effect on the team.
Dawkins has already received his gold jacket. Most people remember him wearing green from his playing days.
But no one should forget the impact Dawkins made in yellow and brown…or orange and blue.