The NFL has had a lot of talented quarterbacks over the years, but few have had the impact Randall Cunningham had during his time in the league. Cunningham passed and ran his way to NFL stardom while creating a lifetime of fans in the process, especially in Philadelphia, where he spent the majority of his career.
A standout at UNLV, Cunningham was the Eagles' second-round pick in the 1985 NFL Draft. After being a backup for two seasons, Cunningham became Philadelphia's full-time starter in 1987. What quickly followed was three consecutive Pro Bowl selections as Cunningham helped the Eagles reach the NFC's upper echelon.
Cunningham then enjoyed a career resurgence in Minnesota while leading one of the most explosive offenses in league history. He retired after the 2001 season with nearly 30,000 passing yards and 207 touchdown passes. He also rushed for nearly 5,000 yards and 35 touchdowns while averaging a whopping 6.4 yards-per-carry. Cunningham also posted an impressive 82-52-1 regular season record as a starting quarterback.
In honor of his 60th birthday, here are five fast facts about Cunningham, who was born on March 27, 1963.
1. NFL rushing record
Cunningham's 942 rushing yards during the 1990 season stood as the NFL's single-season record for a quarterback until Michael Vick broke it in 2006. Lamar Jackson broke Vick's record in 2019 after rushing for 1,206 yards.
Cunningham's 8.0 yards-per-carry average that season was the second-best single-season total in NFL history and the best average since 1934. Vick tied Beattie Feathers' record when he averaged 8.4 yards-per-carry in 2006.
2. A gifted passer
While more known for his running prowess, Cunningham could flat out throw the football. His 1988 season is still the fourth-most prolific passing season in Eagles history. In fact, Cunningham's name is beside six of the 32 most prolific passing seasons in Eagles annals.
Cunningham is just one of four Eagles quarterbacks to throw 30 touchdown passes in a season. The other three: Carson Wentz (2017), Sonny Jurgensen (1961) and Donovan McNabb (2004).
His best season in Philadelphia was in 1990, when he threw 30 touchdown passes while also setting the NFL's single-season rushing record for a quarterback. That was also the season when Cunningham threw the NFL's longest pass, a 95-yard bomb to Fred Barnett. Cunningham completed the pass after evading the grasp of Bruce Smith, the NFL's all-time sack leader.
The great Randall Cunningham turns 60 today. He was ahead of his time… 🔥 pic.twitter.com/ANdTyMZRAg— NFL Legacy (@NFLLegacy) March 27, 2023
3. NFL Comeback Player of the Year
Cunningham's streak of three straight Pro Bowl selections came to a screeching halt when he tore his ACL during the first game of the 1991 season. Undaunted, Cunningham returned in 1992 and led the Eagles to the franchise's first playoff win in 12 years en route to winning NFL Comeback Player of the Year.
Despite facing a vaunted Saints defense, Cunningham threw two touchdown passes while leading the Eagles to a 36-20 win over New Orleans in the wild-card round of the playoffs. The Eagles came up short the following week against the eventual Super Bowl champion Cowboys.
4. A second comeback
More injuries plagued Cunningham during his final years in Philadelphia. He started just four games for the Eagles in 1995 before retiring ahead of the 1996 season.
Cunningham was coaxed out of retirement by then-Vikings coach Dennis Green prior to the start of the 1997 season. Brad Johnson's backup that season, Cunningham led the Vikings to a come-from-behind win over the Giants in the wild-card round of the playoffs. His 30-yard touchdown pass to Jake Reed late in the game helped the Vikings turn a 19-3 deficit into a 23-22 win.
An injury to Johnson once again thrust Cunningham back into the starting lineup just two games into the 1998 season. The '98 season would be a magical one for Cunningham and the Vikings, who that season won an NFC-record 15 games during the regular season. Cunningham threw 34 touchdown passes that season while being named an All-Pro for the first and only time in his career. He had a field day throwing downfield to Reed and Hall of Fame wideouts Cris Carter (a former teammate with the Eagles) and Randy Moss. Moss caught a still-standing rookie-record 17 touchdowns that season, with the majority of them coming off the arm of Cunningham.
Unfortunately for the Vikings, their magical season had a less than fairytale ending. In the NFC Championship Game, the Vikings were unable to hold onto a 20-7 lead and lost to the Falcons in overtime.
"So laden with talent. You had Hall of Famers on it." - @CoachBillick— NFL Network (@nflnetwork) November 9, 2019
Led by @criscarter80 and @RandyMoss, the 1998 @Vikings were must watch television 🍿 #NFL100
📺: NFL 100 GREATEST TEAMS on NFL Network pic.twitter.com/EYHfHD2DaZ
5. Sack 'king'
Cunningham probably would have preferred to have been sacked less during his career. He was the NFL's most-sacked quarterback five times, including each year from 1986-88. Cunningham was sacked 72 times in 1986, which stood as the NFL record until then-Texans QB David Carr was sacked 76 times in 2002.