Randall Cunningham was on WIP yesterday afternoon with Glen Macnow and Anthony Gargano and said he was in the middle of filming a “30 for 30” documentary with ESPN. It’s unknown whether it will be a short, but following NBA TV’s Julius Erving documentary, “The Doctor”, this would be the second extremely fascinating take on a Philadelphia athlete.
On WIP, Cunningham spoke of his time in Philadelphia fondly, often referring to Buddy Ryan reverently. Cunningham recognized Buddy as forward thinking, especially when allowing him to spell Ron Jaworski at quarterback during third and long situations. It was a strategy that proved fruitful, Cunningham said, increasing the team’s third down conversion rate by 20-30 percentage points. Cunningham credited Buddy with his development as a quarterback.
Providing some insight into what a Cunningham documentary might look like, here is Ryan explaining his fondness for Cunningham in a 1989 issue of Sports Illustrated:
“I’ve spent a lot of time watching people. I sit in the back of airplanes on road trips, just watching people. The players will tell you that. I study people. I knew Randall was my kind of guy.
“First of all, he’s the best athlete to ever play the position. Sammy Baugh might be right there with him. I hope Randall can win like Sammy. But Randall could probably lead the league in punting. He’s the best runner in the league, and if you can’t see he can throw the football, I won’t waste my time with you. I heard some of that black crap: ‘Move him to wide receiver, move him to defensive back.’ I don’t hear those voices too much anymore. I go with what I know. I’ve been around professional football for 27 years. So I don’t screw up too much.
“I know you’ve got to have that guy, that one guy, at Randall’s position. The old guard laughed at me a few years back, when I only put him in on third-and-long. When he calls his own plays this season, they’re really going to come after me. Oh, I’m asking for it. So what? Randall needs this. He needs to go one step beyond. The guys who have given me, as a defensive coach, the most trouble through the years are guys like Namath, Bradshaw, Tarkenton—guys who called their own plays. Randall’s going to that stage. He needs the challenge. And don’t try and tell me what one man can’t do. Anybody see what Namath did in 1968? Don’t tell me what Randall can’t do. I know better.
“I call him the Boss so the other guys can hear it. It’s his offense. I want him to realize that. See, a lot of guys have the will to win on Sunday, when the cheerleaders are out there. But Randall is willing to prepare to win. That’s the difference. He hasn’t missed a single workout of any kind for three years. So there’s nobody around here who’s going to have any problem with Randall being the Boss. I say so. Hell, it’s my team.”
And from that same SI issue, the one in which Cunningham is on the cover as the “Ultimate Weapon”, Cunningham relished the chances Buddy gave him:
“I want people to understand, whether it’s practice or a game, I don’t hold anything back. If you do that, you can live with your mistakes. Yes, I’ve been booed. But I want the people of Philadelphia to know that when I don’t get it done, I feel worse than the person who boos, because I’ve let myself down as well.
“My dad worked hard. When he worked. My mom worked hard. She worked every day until she got cancer. My mother would not allow us on welfare. If it meant she had to clean a house to scratch a dime, she would. After seeing her, I would collect bottles, wash cars, push lawn mowers to get five dollars for a date. So I know how to work. I think the fans see that. But the West Coast is different. It’s like history back here in the East. While growing up, I actually thought people didn’t care what color you were. Racism is history, but it’s real.
“One thing I’d like to say is that it must have come out wrong, comparing myself to Jordan, Magic and Gretzky. Guys like that were given talent from God, but more than that, they are proud of it. A lot of people have been given talent but strayed off and never appreciated their talent, and never worked at it. That’s why I work so hard, and always have, so God can see I’m not taking advantage of the situation in the wrong way. I want to be the best. It’s going to take work. When it’s all said and done Gretzky, Air and Magic tapped the potential that was in them. All I have ever wanted was a chance to do that.
“I’ve been given the talent to run and throw and kick. The way Buddy has built me up, the pressure’s definitely on me. I’d rather it be on me than on Buddy. He’s a good old man, and if you pass his psychology test, he’ll be on your side forever. Buddy calls me the Boss and wants me to run the offense the way I feel comfortable doing it. He believes a quarterback who calls his own game can dominate a game. I’m going to assume he’s right.”
Any documentary on Cunningham will undoubtedly include some highlights. And this one, Cunningham admitted to Macnow and Gargano, is his favorite (could any quarterback today elude Bruce Smith like this?):