Monday, January 14, 2013

The Forty Greatest Philadelphia Eagles of All Time: Part 3 (##21-30)

Jim Taylor of the Packers leaping into the line during the 1960 NFL
Championship Game,  won by the Eagles, 17-13
(26 December 1960, Franklin Field, Philadelphia;

Here are numbers 21-30 in my countdown of the greatest players ever to play for the Philadelphia Eagles. For my previous posts in this series, see here and here.

30. Tom Brookshier (DB, 1953, 56-61)

Brookshire's 1960
Topps Card
Brookshire with
play-by-play man
Pat Summerall, early 1980s
Tom Brookshire is one of the most beloved figures in Philadelphia sports history. A 10th-round pick out of Colorado, the 196-pound Brookshire quickly established himself in the Eagles' defensive backfield with 8 interceptions his rookie season, though he ultimately became famous for being the league's hardest-hitting defensive back—which explains his enduring popularity with the notoriously hard-nosed Philly fans. Brookshire earned Pro Bowl and All-Pro recognition in 1959 and the team's 1960 championship season, before a compound fracture, suffered while tackling the Bears' Willie Galimore in 1961, ended his career and precipitated his transfer into the broadcast booth.

29. Timmy Brown (RB, 1960-67)
Brown as Dr. "Spearchucker" Jones
on the set of M*A*S*H*, 1972

Brown's 1964
Philadelphia Chewing
Gum Card
The electrifying, 198-pound Brown, a product of tiny Ball State, was my favorite Eagles player in my youth. He is also, along with Brian Westbrook, one of the two greatest all-purpose backs ever to play for the franchise. The 3-time Pro Bowler ('62, '63, '65) and 2-time 2nd Team All Pro ('63, '65) forever will be known as the first NFL player ever to return two kickoffs for touchdowns in the same game when he did it against the hated Dallas Cowboys on 6 November 1966. In his greatest season, 1965, Brown rushed for 861 yards (5.4 YPC) and caught 50 passes for 682 yards (13.6 YPR) in only 13 games.

28. Ron Jaworski (QB, 1977-86)

Jaworski in 1980
Jaworski in his current role as
NFL analyst at ESPN
The strong-armed "Polish Rifle" came to town with much anticipation from the Birds' faithful who were sick and tired of having to endure the likes of Mike Boryla behind the center. Jaworski, thankfully, was equipped with thick skin as well as a rifle arm, so as to weather the relentless boos that showered him for much of his tenure in Philly. Truth be told, most of Jaworski's career was mired in mediocrity. But not his Pro Bowl 1980 season, when he threw for 3529 yards and 27 TDs, leading the Eagles to the NFC championship and being awarded—in a show of classic home town favoritism—the Bert Bell Award as the NFL player of the year. For that season alone, "Jaws" is beloved by the fans of the town which he still calls home and from which he contributes his learned analysis to ESPN.

27. Seth Joyner (OLB, 1986-93)

The 241-pound Joyner was equally effective as a tackler, pass rusher, and pass defender. He is the Eagles' all-time leader in tackles for a linebacker with 875, and amassed 17 interceptions (including two pick-sixes in 1992) and 37 sacks in his 8 years wearing the green. The 3-time Pro Bowler was named NFL Player of the Year by Sports Illustrated in 1991.

26. Clyde Simmons (DE, 1986-93)

Simmons doing what he did best
Clyde Simmons was an unheralded, 292-pound defensive end out of West Carolina, whom the Eagles drafted in the 9th round in 1986. But when Buddy Ryan installed him at right end as Reggie White's bookend, the famous "Gang Green" defense took off. Three times Simmons recorded double digits in sacks, reaching his pinnacle with 19 in 1992, his second consecutive season as a consensus All Pro. For his Eagles career, he notched 76 sacks, second behind only White. One can't help but think the lack of a Super Bowl victory is the only thing keeping Simmons out of the Hall of Fame. I'm sure Troy Aikman, who was sacked 4 1/2 times by Simmons in a 24-0 Eagles' drubbing of the Cowboys on 15 September 1991, would agree.

25. Bill Bradley (FS, 1969-76)

Bradley's 1974
Topps Card
Bradley was the Eagles' punter and punt returner for much of his stay in Philly, but it is as a premier pass defending free safety that he is most well-known. The 190-pounder out of Texas was a 3-time Pro Bowler and 2-time consensus All Pro, who led the league with 11 interceptions in 1971 and 9 in 1972. He is the Eagles' all-time leader in interceptions with 34.

24. Charlie Johnson (NT, 1977-84)

Johnson finding his way to
Jim Plunkett in Super Bowl XV
The undersized (6'3", 266 pounds) Charlie Johnson was, nevertheless, the heart of the Dick Vermeil-era Eagles teams that made the playoffs each year from 1978-81. He anchored the team's 3-4 defense that in 1980 led the league in scoring defense (13.8 P/G). Johnson was especially effective against the run, yet remarkably had 3 interceptions that year. The 3-time Pro Bowler was a consensus All Pro in 1980 and 1981.

23. Pete Retzlaff (FL-TE, 1956-66)

Retzlaff, hailing from S. Dakota St. failed to make the Detroit Lions in 1953, but caught on with the Eagles after a two-year stint in the Army. He led the NFL with 56 receptions in 1958, and went on to play in 5 Pro Bowls. His best season came in 1965, when he caught 66 passes for 1190 yards and 10 TDs, earning All Pro honors and the Bert Bell Award as the NFL Player of the Year. For his career, he ranks second in team history with both 452 receptions and 7412 receiving yards, and ranks fifth with 47 TD receptions. Amazingly, he fumbled only 4 times in his 11 years with the team.

22. Jim Ringo (C, 1964-67)

An undersized 232-pounder out of Orange, NJ and Syracuse, the highly athletic Ringo was an 11-year veteran of Vince Lombardi's Packer dynasty (not to mention 7-time Pro Bowler and 6-time All Pro) before coming to the Eagles prior to the 1964 season. With the Eagles, he picked up where he had left off, earning three more Pro Bowl berths in his four seasons with the team. He was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1981.

21. Tra Thomas (OT, 1998-2008)

The massive William "Tra" Thomas (6'7", 349 pounds) had the rather important duty of protecting QB Donovan McNabb's blind side throughout the Eagles' playoff run of 2000-2004, not to mention the job of opening holes for Duce Staley and Brian Westbrook. The extent to which he succeeded is evidenced by the three Pro Bowls to which he was selected.


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