Tuesday, January 22, 2013

The Forty Greatest Philadelphia Eagles of All Time: Part 5 (##4-10)

1948 NFL Championship Game between the Eagles and  the
Chicago Cardinals, won by the Eagles, 7-0, at Shibe Park,
21st and Lehigh, Philadelphia, 19 December 1948


Here are my choices for the fourth to the tenth greatest players ever to play for the Philadelphia Eagles. For my previous posts in this series, see here, here, here, and here.

10. Wilbert Montgomery (RB, 1977-84)


Montgomery in 1981 (photo@spokeo.com)

Wilbert Montgomery, simply put, is the greatest running back I have ever seen play for the Eagles. He was small (5'10", 196 lbs.) and fast, but he was not one to dither around in the backfield trying to juke opponents waiting for a hole to develop. Rather, blessed with excellent balance, toughness, and field vision, Montgomery would slash into holes with lightning speed and refuse to go down without putting up a struggle. Bud Grant, the legendary coach of the Minnesota Vikings, called Montgomery the game's best running back after Wilbert torched the Vikes for 169 yards and 2 TDs in 1980 (and remember, Montgomery's contemporaries at the time included Walter Payton and Tony Dorsett). Montgomery is the Eagles' all-time leading rusher with 6538 yards (4.5 Y/C), surpassing 1000 yards on three occasions (1978-79, 1981). He was a two-time Pro Bowler and Second Team All-Pro (1978-79), whose peak seasons were 1979 (1512 yards [4.5 Y/C] rushing, 41 receptions for 494 yards, 14 TDs, a league-leading 2006 yards from scrimmage) and 1981 (1402 yards [4.9 Y/C] rushing, 49 receptions for 521 yards, 10 TDs), and certainly would be enshrined in Canton were it not for the knee injuries that hampered him in 1980 and that would ultimately cut his career short. For all Eagles' fans, however, Montgomery's shining moment came in the NFC championship game on 11 January 1981, when he scorched the hated Dallas Cowboys for 194 yards, including an off-tackle 42-yard TD gallop on the team's second play from scrimmage, propelling the Birds to a 20-7 whipping of their greatest rival (see the run here).

9. Mike Quick (WR, 1982-1990)

No player ever had a more a propos name than this 6'2", 190 pound, sure-handed speedster out of North Carolina State. Quick ranks sixth on the Eagles' all-time list for receptions (363), third in receiving yards (6464), third in yards per reception (17.8), and third in touchdown receptions (61). But such stats fail to convey Quick's true greatness. During the five-year stretch between 1983 and 1987, Quick was named to five consecutive Pro Bowls and was 1st Team All Pro in both 1983 and 1985. During those five seasons Quick caught 309 passes for 5437 yards (3rd in the league) and 53 touchdowns (1st in the league). In 1983 alone Quick caught 69 passes for a team-record 1409 yards and 13 TDs. But he never fully recovered from a brutal broken leg suffered on a catch over the middle at Veterans Stadium in October 1988, cutting short a career that had Canton written all over it. For a nice montage of Quick highlights, see here. For footage of his overtime, game-winning 99-yard reception against the Atlanta Falcons on 10 November 1985, see here.

8. Maxie Baughan (OLB, 1960-65)

Baughan's 1964 Philadelphia
Chewing Gum card
Baughan in 2012

Baughan was a simple country lad out of southern Alabama and Georgia Tech who is criminally not enshrined in the Hall of Fame in Canton. In his six years in Philly, Baughan was selected to 5 Pro Bowls and was a consensus All Pro in 1964. After requesting a trade because of disagreements with coach Joe Kuharich, Baughan was selected to 4 more Pro Bowls and one further All Pro team (1969) with the LA Rams. In 2012 he was finally inducted into the Philadelphia Sports Hall of Fame.

7. Bob Brown (RT, 1964-68)

Brown's 1966 Philadelphia
Chewing Gum card
The 6'4", 280 pound Brown was one of the NFL's transformative players after being drafted out of Nebraska in the first round in 1964. Never before had such size been joined to stunning athleticism, which he maintained with a rigorous, 12-month training regimen. In his 5 years with the Eagles, Brown was named to 3 Pro Bowls and was a consensus All Pro in each of those seasons. In his subsequent career with the Rams and Raiders, Brown made 3 more Pro Bowls and was selected All Pro twice. In 2004 he was finally elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

6. Norm Van Brocklin (QB, 1958-60)

Van Brocklin throwing to Tommy McDonald
during the 1960 NFL Championship Game \

Norm Van Brocklin came to the Eagles at the age of 32 after 9 years (and 6 Pro Bowls) with the LA Rams, and he did not disappoint. He played only three years for the Birds. But in those three years, after all of which he was selected for the Pro Bowl, "The Dutchman" transformed the team, through both his passing and his leadership, from a last place also-ran into the 1960 NFL Champions, handing Vince Lombardi the only postseason loss of his storied career. After winning the league's MVP and Bert Bell awards that year, Van Brocklin retired while on top. The three-time league passing leader was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1971.

5. Pete Pihos (WR/DE, 1947-55)

Pihos's 1952 Bowman card

A key player on the Eagles' 1948-49 championship teams, "The Golden Greek" is the greatest receiver in team history.
He was selected to 6 consecutive Pro Bowls and was a consensus All Pro 5 times. His best seasons were his final three. In each of those seasons he led the league in receptions. He led the league with 1049 yards receiving in 1953 and 864 in 1955. He also led the league with 10 TD receptions in 1953. In his final two games, Pihos caught 21 passes, only to retire to devote full time attention to his sales job. He was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1970.

4. Brian Dawkins (FS, 1996-2008)


"Dawk," a 6'0", 210 pound safety out of Clemson, may be the most popular player ever to play for the Eagles. With size, speed, intelligence, and unmatched intensity, Dawkins was the heart and soul of Jim Johnson's great defenses that carried the Eagles to five consecutive divisional titles in the early 2000s. Equally adept at covering the run and the pass, Dawkins was known as one of football's hardest hitters. He consistently amassed more than 100 tackles a season and is tied for the team's all-time interception record with 34 (plus 4 more in playoff games). He even caught a 57 yard TD pass in 2002. For his consistent excellence, Dawkins was selected for 7 Pro Bowls while with the Eagles (not to mention 2 more with the Broncos, at ages 36 and 38), and was a First Team All-Pro pick on four occasions (2001-2, 2004, 2006). The only thing lacking in his Hall of Fame resume is a Super Bowl title. Here's to the hope that this lack will not be held against him. Of all people, Dawk is certainly not to blame for that.

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