Thursday, January 17, 2013

The Forty Greatest Philadelphia Eagles of All Time, Part 4: ##11-20


The 1949 NFL Champion Philadelphia Eagles
(photo@philadelphiaeagles.com)

Steve Van Buren rushing for some of his 196 yards in the LA Coliseum mud during the Eagles' 14-0
Championship Game victory over the Rams, 18 December 1949 (photo@sportsillustrated.cnn.com).
This, my friends, is real football.



Reminiscing while still unsure about the Eagles' hire of Chip Kelly ...

Here are numbers 11-20 in my countdown of the greatest players ever to play for the Philadelphia Eagles. For my previous posts in this series, see herehere, and here.

20. Harold Carmichael (WR, 1971-83)

(photo@almightyphilly.com)
(photo@bleacherreport.com)
Harold Carmichael, at 6'8", is the tallest wide receiver in NFL history. His greatest season was 1973, when he led the league with 67 receptions and 1116 yards, earning his first Pro Bowl. During the 1978-81 playoff seasons, he caught 216 passes for 3787 yards and 34 TDs, earning Pro Bowl honors in '78-'80. He is the all-time Eagles leader in receptions (589), yards receiving (8978), and touchdowns (79). He also holds the team record for consecutive games, with 124. He was selected a member of the NFL's All-Decade team for the 1970s.












19. Bill Bergey (MLB, 1974-80)

(photo@larry'sblog.com)
(photo@spokeo.com)
Bill Bergey was the Eagles' best player in the 1970s, which befits a man who cost the team two 1st round draft picks in 1974. In his 7 years with the team, Bergey became well-known for his uncanny knack for the ball, evidenced by his more than 1200 tackles and 18 interceptions, and was always as gracious off the field as he was terrorizing on it. Before retiring after the 1980 NFC championship season, Bergey was selected to four Pro Bowls and was a consensus All Pro in 1974-75.








18. Jerome Brown (DT, 1987-91)

(photo@thestartingfive.net)
(photo@phillyburbs.csnphilly.net)











Relentless. Irrepressible. These are the two best descriptions I can think of to describe the man-child known as Jerome Brown. The 292-pound Brown is certainly the greatest defensive tackle ever to wear an Eagles' uniform, and among the handful of greatest tackles I have ever seen. In his final two years ('90-'91) Brown made the Pro Bowl and was a consensus All Pro. In particular, his last season (9 1/2 sacks, 88 solo stops) provided a glimpse of what might have been had he not been killed in an irresponsible auto accident (for Ray Didinger's remembrance on the 20th anniversary of his passing, see here). As it turned out, Brown's death was the first step in the inexorable decline of the formidable team Buddy Ryan had assembled just a few years earlier.



17. Troy Vincent (CB, 1996-2003)

(photo@philly.com)
(photo@bleacherreport.com)
Another home town hero, the Trenton, NJ native is one of the greatest leaders ever to wear the green. He was a team captain in each of his 7 seasons with Birds, not to mention his 5 consecutive Pro Bowl berths in 1999-2003 and All Pro honors in 2002. He led the NFL with 7 interceptions in 1999. His 28 with the Eagles (47 for his career) is sixth in team history.





16. Donovan McNabb (QB, 1999-2009)

(photo@msn.foxsports.com)
(photo@pigskindoctors.com)
Five consecutive division titles. Four consecutive trips to the NFC Championship game. 6 Pro Bowls. A team-record 32,873 yards and 216 touchdowns. Nevertheless ... to my mind there was always something missing, be it field vision or the ability to rise to the occasion. His microscopic interception percentage was more a function of his caution than it was his accuracy, as his low completion percentages despite low yards per completion attest. Indeed, his success early in his career was often as attributable to his running ability (especially late in games) as it was to his passing. On the other hand, his Pro Bowl 2004 season with Terrell Owens was indeed one for the ages: 3875 yards, 64.0 completion percentage, 31 TDs, and only 8 interceptions. This is the single greatest season ever for an Eagles quarterback, and it cements his legacy as one of the greatest Eagles ever to play the game.



15. Brian Westbrook (RB, 2002-09)


Westbrook, scoring in the "Miracle at the Meadowlands II",
19 October 2003 (photo@pcpsports.com)
Brian Westbrook is the greatest all-purpose back ever to play for the Eagles, and is the team's all-time leader in yards from scrimmage with 8785. The diminutive (5'8") two-time Pro Bowler out of Villanova was at his best in his All Pro season of 2007, when he rushed for 1333 yards (4.8 Y/C) and caught 90 passes for 771 yards. His 2104 yards from scrimmage that year led the league and is an Eagles' team record.











14. Randall Cunningham (QB, 1985-95)


(photo@astropix.com)
Cover of Sports Illustrated, 11 September 1989
(photo@nflbook.wordpress.com)















Randall Cunningham is, simply, the most electrifying player ever to play for the Eagles. He is 3rd in team history with 22,877 passing yards and 150 TDs, 5th in team history with 4482 rushing yards (6.6 Y/C), and fourth with 32 rushing TDs. He also unleashed a 91-yard punt in a 24-17 victory over the New York Giants on 3 December 1989 (see it here). He won the Bert Bell Award as NFL Player of the Year in 1988, 1990, and also in 1998, when he had his greatest season, albeit with the Minnesota Vikings. He was a Pro Bowler every year between 1988-90, and was awarded the PFWA NFL MVP in 1990. That his career never made it to Hall of Fame caliber is due to three factors: leg injuries that cost him the 1990 and 1992 seasons, a poorly designed offense by Buddy Ryan that called on him only to improvise one or two big plays a game, and a poor work ethic (as he gladly admits). Nonetheless, he is the author of more spectacular plays (like this spectacular 95-yard TD pass to Fred Barnett on 2 December 1990) than any player in team history, and remains second on the league's all time list for rushing yards by a quarterback, with 4928 (behind Michael Vick).




13. Eric Allen (CB, 1988-94)


(photo@
phillysportshistory.com)
(photo@housethatglanvillebuilt.blogspot.com)
Eric Allen was yet another key player of the Birds' vaunted "Gang Green" defense of the late '80s-early '90s, being named to 5 Pro Bowls in his 7 years with the team. He is tied for the team's top spot in career interceptions with 34, and is one of only three players in NFL history to have returned four interceptions for touchdowns in a single season, when he did it in 1993.










12. Al Wistert (OT-G/DT, 1943-51)



(photo@bleacherreport.com)
(photo@blogs.canoe.ca)

The "Ox" was the team captain for the Eagles' first two championship teams in '48 and '49. He was regarded as the best tackle of his era, and was a consensus All Pro every year from 1944-47 and was named to the first Pro Bowl roster in 1950. Why he has yet to be enshrined in Canton is a mystery yet to be explained. For a compelling argument for his enshrinement, see here.














11. Tommy McDonald (FL, 1957-63)


(photo@prosportsblogging.com)

Tommy McDonald, a 5'9", 178 pound flanker out of Oklahoma, is the smallest man ever to have been inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame (by contrast, current Eagle DeSean Jackson is 6'0", 178 pounds). Yet he is fondly remembered for his fearlessness on the field—no Ricky Watters or DeSean Jackson "alligator arms" for McDonald—and for being the last player in the NFL not to wear a face mask. Remarkably, he missed only two out of a possible 92 games in his Eagles career due to injury (a torn hamstring in 1958). Even a broken jaw didn't stop him from playing in 1959.


McDonald after catching 35-yard TD pass in 2nd
quarter of 1960 NFL Championship Game
(photo@fs64sports.blogspot.com)







But what set McDonald apart was his speed and skill as a receiver. During his stay with the Eagles, in which he was selected for 5 consecutive Pro Bowls (1958-62), McDonald caught 287 passes for 5499 yards ( a team record 19.2 Y/R) and 66 touchdowns (second only to Harold Carmichael's 79). He led the league in receiving yards with 1144 in 1961, and in touchdown receptions with 9 in 1958 and 13 in 1961. The day he was traded to Dallas (20 March 1964) for journeyman punter Sam Baker and two other marginal players (yet another Joe Kuharich special) was a dark day in Philadelphia.

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