Randall Cunningham

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Randall Cunningham
Randall Cunningham Pro Bowl.JPG
Cunningham at the 1999 Pro Bowl
No. 12, 7, 1
Position: Quarterback/Punter
Personal information
Born: (1963-03-27) March 27, 1963 (age 59)
Santa Barbara, California, U.S.
Height:6 ft 4 in (1.93 m)
Weight:215 lb (98 kg)
Career information
High school: Santa Barbara (CA)
College: UNLV (1981–1984)
NFL Draft: 1985  / Round: 2 / Pick: 37
Career history
Career highlights and awards
Career NFL statistics
Passer rating:81.5
Rushing yards:4,928
Rushing touchdowns:35
Player stats at NFL.com  ·  PFR

Randall Wade Cunningham Sr. (born March 27, 1963) is an American former football quarterback who played in the National Football League (NFL) for 16 seasons. He spent the majority of his career with the Philadelphia Eagles and is also known for his Minnesota Vikings tenure. A four-time Pro Bowl selection, Cunningham is third in quarterback rushing yards.


Cunningham earned first-team All-American honors at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas and was selected in the second round of the 1985 NFL Draft by the Eagles, where he spent his first 11 seasons. He retired after the 1995 season, but returned a year later to join the Vikings. In 1998, he enjoyed the strongest season of his career and helped the team set the NFL record for the most regular season points scored, although the Vikings would be upset in the NFC Championship Game. Cunningham lost his starting position during the 1999 season due to a performance decline and was released afterwards. In his final two seasons, he held a backup role with the Dallas Cowboys and Baltimore Ravens.

Upon retiring a second and final time, Cunningham became an ordained Protestant minister and served as the team chaplain for the Las Vegas Raiders from 2020 to 2022. He was inducted to the College Football Hall of Fame in 2016.

High school and college

Cunningham was born in Santa Barbara, California, in 1963. His older brother Sam would also become a future NFL player. He attended Santa Barbara High School, and was a graduate of the class of 1981. [1] As a senior, he led his team to a League title and the CIF Finals. [2] He also competed in track and field at SBHS in the high jump; his elder brother Frank was the state champion in the shot put. [3]

He then went on to attend the University of Nevada, Las Vegas (UNLV). He was a 1983 and 1984 College Football All-America Team selection as a punter. In 1984, his senior year, he led the UNLV Rebels to an 11–2 season—still the school's only 10-win season ever—however this was adjusted to 0–13 when it was found out several players were ineligible. [4]

Professional career

Philadelphia Eagles

Cunningham was the Eagles' second-round pick, and the first quarterback selected in the 1985 NFL Draft. Cunningham was also sought by the United States Football League's Tampa Bay Bandits that same year. Eagles owner Norman Braman refused to negotiate with Cunningham if he accepted offers from the Bandits. Ultimately, the USFL folded, thus ending that issue. In his rookie season he played sparingly as a backup to veteran Ron Jaworski but made a big splash with his uncanny scrambling ability, though he completed just 34 percent of his passes and threw just one touchdown against eight interceptions. In 1986, new head coach Buddy Ryan arrived in Philadelphia and made wholesale changes, many of them unorthodox, mostly due to his defensive-minded philosophy. At the quarterback position, Ryan designated 35-year-old Ron Jaworski the starter but would replace the aging veteran with the fleet-footed Cunningham in third-and-long situations where the youngster’s scrambling would presumably put the defense on its heels. After a hand injury to Jaworski in week 10, Cunningham would replace him as the Eagles’ starter. Despite his limited service and speed, the Eagles' porous offensive line allowed him to be sacked a franchise record 72 times that season. Cunningham was permanently handed the Eagles' starting job for the 1987 season. Cunningham was said to have reached "elite" status during the 1988 season, as he was elected by league players as the NFC starting quarterback for the AFC-NFC Pro Bowl (the first black quarterback to ever be elected a starter). That same year, he combined with fellow Eagle Pro Bowler Reggie White to lead the Eagles to the NFC Eastern Division Championship. In the 1988 Divisional Playoffs, Cunningham threw 54 passes for 407 yards during the "Fog Bowl" 20–12 loss against the Chicago Bears, both of which remain playoff franchise records. Unfortunately, he also shares the franchise record with 3 interceptions in that same game. [lower-alpha 1] In the subsequent Pro Bowl a few weeks later, Cunningham was named game MVP as the NFC defeated the AFC, 28–3.

In 1989, on October 2 Cunningham also set the regular season franchise record with 62 pass attempts (now shared with Nick Foles), also against the Chicago Bears. He had been an all-conference quarterback and punter while at UNLV, and unleashed a 91-yard punt against the Giants on December 3, the longest in Eagles history (and the fourth-longest ever). [5] He had 20 punts during his career, with an average of 44.7 yards per punt. [6]

In a 1990 game against the Buffalo Bills, Cunningham, throwing from his end zone, was about to be sacked by Bruce Smith from his blind side. Cunningham ducked and threw a pass 60 yards to wide receiver Fred Barnett, resulting in a 95-yard touchdown. That same year, Cunningham finished with 942 rushing yards, 6th most ever for a quarterback, 10th best in the league. He averaged 8.0 yards per rush, the most ever by an Eagle of any position with 100 attempts on the season, and third most in NFL history. [lower-alpha 2]

In 1991, Cunningham's season came to an abrupt end when he was tackled by Bryce Paup of the Green Bay Packers and tore his anterior cruciate ligament in the first game of the season. He would return to the Eagles completely healed the following season, and led the team to its first playoff victory in 12 years. However, it was evident that the injury he suffered took away much of his speed and athleticism. The 1993 and 1994 seasons would be riddled by a series of nagging injuries and a transition to the West Coast Offense that eventually led to his benching in favor of veteran Rodney Peete. Feeling as if the fans and organization did not fully appreciate his contributions to the team's success, as well as being unhappy with his role as a back-up, Cunningham retired from football after the 1995 season.

He left Philadelphia with the third most rushing yards in Eagles history, with 4,482, behind Hall of Famer Steve Van Buren and Wilbert Montgomery, although he has since fallen to sixth after Duce Staley, Brian Westbrook, and LeSean McCoy all rushed for more yards than him. He also left second only to Ron Jaworski in passing yards, with 22,877, though both were later surpassed by Donovan McNabb. He still holds the Eagles record with 6.62 yards per rush attempt, 422 sacks taken, and 6.5 yards per pass attempt in playoff games.

Minnesota Vikings

Cunningham joined the Vikings in 1997 after being out of football in 1996. Vikings' coach Dennis Green called him when he was on a job site for his granite business. There he reunited with former Eagles wide receiver Cris Carter. In his first year with the Vikings, he orchestrated two late scoring drives to bring them back from a 9-point deficit to defeat the New York Giants in an NFC Wild Card game at Giants Stadium, 23–22. However, the Vikings lost in the Divisional Round to Steve Young and the San Francisco 49ers.

Cunningham enjoyed the greatest season of his career in Minnesota during the 1998 campaign when he guided the Vikings to a 15–1 regular season record with 34 touchdown passes, only 10 interceptions, and 3,704 passing yards. Cunningham had a good supporting cast that year with Cris Carter, rookie Randy Moss, and Jake Reed at wide receiver and Robert Smith and Leroy Hoard at running back. Cunningham led the league with a 106.0 passer rating while the Vikings scored a then-NFL record 556 points during the 1998 season, making him the first black quarterback to lead the league in that category. Cunningham claimed the Vikings' Monday night 37–24 victory over the Green Bay Packers was "the greatest night of my football career". [7] He threw for 442 yards and four touchdowns. However, the Vikings ended up being the first 15–1 team to fall short of the Super Bowl, losing to the underdog Atlanta Falcons in the NFC Championship Game by a field goal in overtime.

During the early stages of the 1999 season, after throwing nine interceptions in just six games, Cunningham was benched again, this time in favor of Jeff George. After the team announced that second-year quarterback Daunte Culpepper would be the starter prior to the 2000 season, Cunningham was released.

Dallas Cowboys

Shortly before the 2000 season, Cunningham signed with the Dallas Cowboys to serve as backup to Troy Aikman. After a series of concussions ended Aikman's season, and ultimately his career, Cunningham again took the helm at quarterback. Despite posting a 1–2 record as a starter, he put up respectable numbers (849 yards passing with 6 touchdowns and 4 interceptions). One notable occurrence during his time with the Cowboys was a return to Philadelphia. Cunningham started the game and dueled the new Eagles quarterback, Donovan McNabb. The game was decided in overtime, with an Eagles field goal giving them the 16–13 victory. He received a mixed reception of cheers and boos upon his return to Philadelphia. A 5–11 subpar year for the Cowboys led to major roster changes, and Cunningham was one of the many changes. At the end of the season, he reached incentive clauses that voided his contract and made him an unrestricted free agent. He was not re-signed, after the Cowboys signed quarterback Tony Banks instead.

Baltimore Ravens

On May 29, 2001, he was signed by the Baltimore Ravens, reuniting with head coach Brian Billick, who was his offensive coordinator with the Minnesota Vikings. Cunningham was originally intended to serve as the third-string quarterback, but he was named the backup behind Elvis Grbac after performing better than Chris Redman. He went 2–0 as a starter. He was not re-signed, after the Ravens signed quarterback Jeff Blake instead. On August 15, 2002, Cunningham signed a one-day contract with the Philadelphia Eagles to officially announce his retirement.

In his final 10 NFL seasons, Cunningham played in only 80 games, but finished his 16-year career completing 2,429 of his 4,289 attempts for 29,979 yards and 207 touchdowns, with 134 interceptions. He was sacked 484 times, third-most all time behind (2nd) John Elway with 516 sacks, and (1st) Brett Favre with 525 sacks. Cunningham also rushed for 4,928 yards on 775 carries and 35 touchdowns. He retired after the 2001 season as the NFL's all-time leader in rushing yards and carries for the quarterback position, (a record broken in 2011 by Michael Vick), and tied for fourth with Steve Grogan in rushing touchdowns by a quarterback. Cunningham also averaged 30.6 rushing yards per game during his career—second most all-time for quarterbacks, behind Michael Vick.

NFL career statistics

NFL record
Led the league
BoldCareer high

Regular season

1985 PHI 641−3348142.05486.81829.8292057.1020150
1986 PHI 1551−3−111120953.11,3916.78772.9665408.2572489
1987 PHI 12127−522340654.92,7866.9231283.0765056.6354380
1988 PHI 161610−630156053.83,8086.8241677.6936246.7657442
1989 PHI 161611−529053254.53,4006.4211575.51046216.0445343
1990 PHI 161610−627146558.33,4667.5301391.61189428.0549431
1991 PHI 111−01425.0194.80046.90000216
1992 PHI 151510−523338460.72,7757.2191187.3875946.3560437138
1993 PHI 444−07611069.18507.75588.1181106.1173332
1994 PHI 14147−726549054.13,2296.6161374.4652884.4343333103
1995 PHI 741−36912157.06055.03561.521984.70137932
1997 MIN 631−2448850.05015.76471.3191276.7076041
1998 MIN 151413−125942560.93,7048.73410106.0321324.112013221
1999 MIN 662−412420062.01,4757.48979.610585.801510122
2000 DAL 631−27412559.28496.86482.423893.9184541
2001 BAL 622−0548960.75736.43281.314402.91126640

After retiring

After retiring from football, Cunningham returned to UNLV to finish his college degree in Leisure Studies. Cunningham has also been active in the Gospel music business since his retirement from the NFL by opening a recording studio and producing Christian worship music. Cunningham, a born again Christian, became an ordained Protestant minister and founded a church called Remnant Ministries in Las Vegas in 2004. [8] In 2020, Cunningham became the team chaplain for the Las Vegas Raiders, replacing former team chaplain Napoleon Kaufman, who stayed in Oakland when the team moved to Las Vegas. [9]

In December 2009, Cunningham was hired by Silverado High School in Henderson, Nevada as the offensive coordinator of the school's varsity and junior varsity football team. His son, Randall Cunningham II, was a freshman quarterback for the Skyhawks. [10]

On June 29, 2010, one of Cunningham's children, two-year-old son Christian, drowned in a hot tub while unattended at the family home in Las Vegas. [11] [12] [13]

In August 2011, following a rumored spat with Silverado's head coach, Cunningham resigned his coaching position at SHS. His son, Randall Jr, withdrew from SHS and registered the same day at Bishop Gorman High School, a private Roman Catholic school in Las Vegas. [14]

In July 2012, Cunningham was named the 23rd greatest quarterback of the NFL's post-merger era, according to Football Nation. [15]

In March 2013, Cunningham authored Lay It Down: How Letting Go Brings Out Your Best (Worthy Publishing, ISBN   9781617951275). The book shows readers how to work out the “lay it down” principle in all phases of life.

In December 2014, Cunningham was named head coach at Silverado High School. [16] In his rookie season as head coach, he and his staff turned the football program around from a previous record of 3–7 to a 2015 record of 7–4. The team recorded its first playoff victory since the year 2007. He helped coach two National All-Americans who were chosen to participate in the Blue-Grey All-American Bowl games.[ citation needed ] Cunningham was not retained as coach at Silverado High School after two seasons in April 2017. [17]

Cunningham's jersey is part of the costume for the Always Teste character of YouTube comedian Ed Bassmaster.[ citation needed ]

His daughter, Vashti Cunningham, is a track and field athlete who competed in the high jump at the 2020 Summer Olympics, placing sixth overall. [18]

See also


  1. Three interceptions in a single playoff game, record shared with Ron Jaworski and Donovan McNabb (who did it twice).
  2. Third to Michael Vick's 8.45 yards/rush in 2006, and Beattie Feathers' 8.44 in 1934. Jim Brown holds the record for rushers with over 200 carries in a season, with 6.40 in 1963.

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  3. California State Meet Results - 1915 to present
  4. "Members of UNLV's 1984 football team converge for reunion". October 19, 2009. Retrieved August 30, 2014.
  5. "Where are they now? Randall Cunningham" . Retrieved December 17, 2008.
  6. "Career Stats-NFL.com". NFL.com . Retrieved December 17, 2008.
  7. Freeman, Mike (October 6, 1998). "PRO FOOTBALL; Big Plays, Big Victory For Vikings". The New York Times. Retrieved February 20, 2017.
  8. "Las Vegas Weekly". Archived from the original on March 6, 2007. Retrieved November 28, 2006.
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  11. "Randall Cunningham's son dies in hot tub accident". USA Today. June 30, 2010.
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  13. Anderson, Mark (June 30, 2010). "Son of ex-Rebel Cunningham drowns". Las Vegas Review-Journal. Archived from the original on July 3, 2010.
  14. "Cunningham resigns as Silverado aide". Nevada Preps. August 17, 2011.
  15. "Top 100 Modern Quarterbacks: 40-21". Football Nation. July 26, 2012. Archived from the original on October 30, 2012.
  16. Ray Brewer (December 29, 2014). "Silverado High hires NFL great Randall Cunningham". Las Vegas Sun.
  17. J.A. Barnett (April 21, 2017). "Randall Cunningham not retained as coach by Las Vegas high school". USA Today.
  18. Anderson, Mark (August 5, 2021). "Vashti Cunningham only US hope in Olympic high jump". Las Vegas Review-Journal. Retrieved August 8, 2021.