Since posting the NYT article on Randall Cunningham, a lot of people have talked about his great 1998 season as proof that Vick might have some kind of magical season left in him.
It is possible, but you must understand how different the circumstances are.
Brian Billick was hired as OC of the Vikings in 1994. His system was well-established by the time Randall joined the team. That was actually 1997. Randall spent that season as a backup and had a chance to learn the system. He did get to start 3 games. Randall went 1-2 and posted mediocre numbers.
What happened in 1998?
2 things. First, the Vikings drafted a kid named Randy Moss. He took the NFL by storm that year and caught 17 TD passes, an astonishing number for a rookie.
Brad Johnson was supposed to be the QB, but broke his ankle in Week 2, allowing Cunningham to take the reins of a dynamic offense. That team set the NFL record for points with 556 and went 15-1. That is amazing, but needs to be put in context.
The offense was very good in 1997 with Johnson at QB and no Moss. 11th in points, 8th in yards.
Offense was all-time great with Randall in 1998. 1st in points, 2nd in yards.
Offense was outstanding with Jeff George in 1999. 5th in points, 3rd in yards.
Offense was outstanding with Daunte Culpepper in 2000. 5th in points, 5th in yards.
Randall had an amazing season in 1998 and there is no disputing that. You do have to understand that there was some “right guy, right time” thing going on. NFL teams didn’t know what to do with Moss and Carter and Jake Reed. Billick was in his final season as the OC. The OL started 77 of 80 possible games. The skill players stayed healthy. The Vikings only played 4 games all year against teams with winning records. And tough road games at Chicago and Green Bay came early in the year when the weather was irrelevant. The only game with a temperature under 42 degrees came in the season finale at Tennessee. In that game, the Vikings only had 26 points and 338 yards, both far below season averages. The Vikings played 9 games indoors. A 10th game was played at Dallas, where it was 58 degrees. That might as well have been in a dome.
Give Randall and the Vikings credit for taking advantage of all the favorable circumstances, but do understand there were some lucky breaks involved.
Vick could have a real good year for the Eagles in 2013 if he fixes some issues and clicks well with Kelly this summer, but don’t read into Randall’s 1998 season. The circumstances are very, very different.