Philadelphia Eagles: The 25 Best Players to Ever Play for the Eagles
Everybody loves lists. So to cap off the end of the 2012 season and give fans something to argue over, lets take a look at the best players ever to put on a Philadelphia Eagles uniform.
Given how long the team has been around, it would be nearly impossible for there to be any one perfect top 25 list. The Eagles have a long, storied history that stretches back nearly 80 years, and in that time there were many great players to pass through Philadelphia.
But for the sake of creating discussion, I created my own list of players who I feel deserve recognition as the best of the best. I made sure the list included a nice balance of players from different decades - including some as recent as the past few years.
I fully expect heated comments from all of you, as I am sure to leave out players who you feel are more deserving of being on this list. By all means, fire away.
With that being said, let's get this party started.
#25: David Akers, Kicker
David Akers deserves a spot on this list simply for the fact that he is the team's all-time leader in points scored. And it isn't even close. With 1,329 over the span of his career in Philadelphia, Akers has scored 442 more points than his closest competitor (who also happens to be on this list). Though he may have fallen out of favor with head coach Andy Reid at the end of the 2010 season, Akers still left quite the legacy in Philadelphia.
#24: Sheldon Brown, Cornerback
Sheldon Brown makes the cut because he was a great all-around cornerback. Not only could he cover, but he also knew how to deliver punishing blows. I think it is safe to say most fans remember the hit he laid on New Orleans Saints' running back Reggie Bush during the 2006 Divisional Playoff Game. Simply brutal.
There may be other players with better stats, but Brown brought a mix of passion and violence to the game that was easily recognizable.
#23: Seth Joyner, Linebacker
Seth Joyner was the type of linebacker that the Eagles desperately need right now. He was a sure tackler, and when he was asked to cover the middle of the field he did an admirable job as well.
His versatility helped earn him a spot on the Pro Bowl roster during the 1991, 1993 and 1994 seasons. Perhaps his biggest accomplishment, however, was becoming one of only 11 members of the 20/20 club, having notched at least 20 sacks and 20 interceptions in his career.
#22: Clyde Simmons, Defensive End
Despite being a part of a dominating defense, Clyde Simmons was still able to stand out. He became a well-known head hunter as he continuously found his way to the quarterback. His dominance was put on full display during the 1992 season, when he led the league with 19 sacks. He also was an aggressive tackler, making him one of the best overall defensive ends during his career in the late 80's and early 90's.
#21: Bobby Walston, Wide Reciever/Kicker
Bobby Walston makes my list for being both a skilled wide receiver and place kicker. In fact, his versatility allowed him to score 881 points during his career in Philadelphia, which lasted from 1951-1962. That puts him second on the Eagles' all-time scoring list, second only to none other than David Akers. His receiving skills shone brightest during the 1954 season, when he scored 11 touchdowns. He may have played in an age where two-position players were common, but he earns a spot here for excelling at both positions.
#20: Tommy McDonald, Wide Reciever
In his seven years as a Philadelphia Eagle, wide receiver Tommy McDonald led the league in touchdown receptions twice and earned Pro Bowl honors five times. Oh, and he helped the team win the 1960 NFL Championship.
His resume speaks for itself.
His success, by the way, came during a time where defenses weren't handicapped by safety rules.
#19: Troy Vincent, Cornerback
While he may have started his professional career has a Miami Dolphin, Vincent Brown will largely be remembered for his success as a Philadelphia Eagle. It was only after he signed with the Eagles that he went to the Pro Bowl, which he did five consecutive times from 1999 to 2003.
And Brown's association with the league didn't end after he stopped playing. Currently, the former defensive stud is now Vice President of the NFL Player Engagement Organization.
#18: Trent Cole, Defensive End
Trent Cole may still be playing, but that doesn't mean he isn't deserving of consideration for this list. No. 58 has routinely topped Pro Football Focus' list of best defensive ends currently playing.
What makes Cole unique is that, despite not being the fastest or strongest, he has one of the best motors in the game. The guy simply does not quit on any play. And while his sack numbers speak to how valuable he is as a pass-rusher, it is his exceptional defense against the run that makes him arguably the best in the biz.
#17: Jon Runyan, Offensive Tackle
A current U.S. Representative, Jon Runyan originally made a name for himself as a dominant offensive linemen. He helped anchor an offensive line that routinely was among the best in the league, and was a leader for the team throughout his entire tenure as an Eagle.
But perhaps most noteworthy about Runyan is that he was one of the dirtiest players in the game. Opposing defenses would constantly whine and complain about his style of play, but perhaps his less than savory style was what made him one of the best.
#16: Tra Thomas, Offensive Tackle
At the same time Jon Runyan was making a name for himself, so was Tra Thomas. The eleventh overall pick in the 1998 NFL Draft, Thomas quickly emerged as one of the best offensive linemen in the game. He made three Pro Bowls as an Eagle as he and Runyan made short work of opposing pass-rushers. It was always a treat for fans to watch Thomas as he man-handled defensive linemen on a weekly basis.
#15: Eric Allen, Cornerback
As a member of the suffocating "Gang Green" defense of the early 90's, Allen was a key contributor for the team. He earned his way to five Pro Bowl selections during his seven years as an Eagle, and had a knack for finding the football. During his days as an Eagle, he registered 34 interceptions. His habit of making big plays at crucial times will always be remembered.
#14: Randall Cunningham, Quarterback
Some may argue he deserves to be either higher or lower on this list, but there is no denying that Randall Cunningham was one of the best players to ever put on an Eagles uniform.
Cunningham was a pioneer for the mobile quarterback, as his quick feet and rushing ability were primary reasons for him earning Pro Bowl selections three times as an Eagle.
He also was a hint of things to come in Philadelphia, as the team would later go on to elect the likes of Donovan McNabb and Michael Vick as their quarterback, who both fall under the mobile quarterback category.
#13: Donovan McNabb, Quarterback
While many fans are quick to put him down, there is no question that Donovan McNabb belongs on this list.
He continuously led the Philadelphia Eagles to victories and division crowns, and oftentimes put the team in Super Bowl contention. Unfortunately, most fans will remember him as failing to bring the Lombardi Trophy to Philly.
Despite that, McNabb always made games exciting to watch, and routinely extended plays and made something out of nothing. He deserves to be remembered favorably and in a positive light.
#12: Andy Reid, Head Coach
Yes, I know Andy Reid is not a player. But he deserves to be mentioned here.
Reid has had his ups and downs as head coach of the Philadelphia Eagles, but he is the most successful coach the team has ever had. I mean the big man has been the top dog in Philly for 13 years. Obviously he is doing something right.
Granted, it would be nice to see him quiet critics by winning a Super Bowl, but he still is deserving of high praise regardless.
#11: Harold Carmichael, Wide Receiver
During his time in the NFL, Harold Carmichael changed the standard for how a wide receiver should be built. His 6'-8" frame was unusual among wide receivers at the time, but now teams look for those tall receivers.
His size allowed him to catch balls well over the heads of opposing cornerbacks, which helped him cause serious damage down the field. He was a four-time Pro Bowl player, and he will go down as one of the Eagles' greatest wide receivers.
#10: Norm Van Brocklin, Quarterback
He may not have spent the majority of his pro career in Philadelphia, but Norm Van Brocklin still warrants a mention on the list. Why? Because he was under center when the team trounced the Green Bay Packers in the 1960 Championship.
And for a fan base that has yet to see a Super Bowl, we like to reminisce on that championship.
It was a game dominated by defense, but in the fourth quarter Van Brocklin orchestrated a comeback that resulted in the 17-13 victory. His favorite receiver? Why it was none other than Tommy McDonald.
#9: Bill Bergey, Linebacker
Bill Bergey is yet another member of this list who did not start his career in Philadelphia, but definitely left his mark here.
The middle linebacker was a great tackler, so much so that in one season he record 233 of them. It was his knack for intercepting the football, however, that made him such a stud. Over the course of his career in Philly, Bergey notched 18 interceptions, which was unheard of at the time. Even in today's NFL, that is pretty darn impressive for a linebacker.
#8: Bob Brown, Offensive Tackle
It is pretty astonishing that three offensive linemen made this list, especially since it is a position that rarely earns recognition. But Bob Brown is very much deserving of the honor.
Drafted second overall in the 1964 draft, Brown found much success during his five years with the Philadelphia Eagles. His play was so impressive, it earned him the nickname "The Boomer". That nickname alone makes him worthy of this list. But it also doesn't hurt that he made three Pro Bowls with the Eagles as well.
#7: Wilbert Montgomery, Running Back
The team's all-time leading rusher, Wilbert Montgomery proved invaluable during much of his stay in Philly.
The man holds much of the team's rushing records, including total rushing yards and attempts. He was equally gifted catching passes as well, as he finished his career in Philadelphia with nearly 2,500 receiving yards.
A solid runner and receiver? Sounds similar to another running back who just so happens to be next on the list...
#6: Brian Westbrook, Running Back
For a large part of his career, Brian Westbrook was essentially the focal point of the Philadelphia Eagles' offense. He was a gifted runner, having never fallen below a four yards-per-carry average in a season. But Westbrook was worth so much more to the team than as merely a running back.
He redefined the position. He is perhaps the best pass-catching running back the NFL has ever seen, and he was a nightmare to stop when returning the football. His biggest strength was his versatility: the team could line him up anywhere on the field and he would find a way to make a play.
And now the Eagles have LeSean McCoy, a running back with very similar characteristics to this all-time great.
#5: Pete Pihos, Tight End
I'm sending you way back in history for this one.
Pete Pihos was perhaps one of the first tight ends in the game to be used as a receiving threat. From 1953-1955, he led the league in receiving and was extremely physical after the catch. Defenders would think twice before making a tackle on him.
Pihos proved his worth by making six consecutive Pro Bowls to end his career. Most players are lucky to even make one.
#4: Brian Dawkins, Safety
The fourth greatest Eagle on my list is arguably the most beloved player to ever play in Philadelphia.
Drafted in the second round of the 1996 NFL Draft, Brian Dawkins was a man amongst boys during his time in Philly. And he made his presence known all over the field. It is fitting that he wears No. 20, because he also belongs to the 20/20 Club as one of the few players in the history of the NFL to post both 20 sacks and 20 interceptions.
But stats aren't what made Dawkins great. It was the way he played. He was a wrecking crew out on the field, often making big plays and bone-crushing tackles that would change the momentum of a game.
Then there was his heart. Dawkins played with a fire and passion that was hard to come by. He was the soul of the Eagles' defense, and his signing with the Denver Broncos was a blow that both the team and the fan base has not yet recovered from.
To this day, his presence is sorely missed.
#3: Steve Van Buren, Running Back
Although he played way back in the 40's and 50's, Steve Van Buren still need to be considered one of the greatest players to put on an Eagles' uniform.
In four of his eight years as a pro, Van Buren led the league in rushing yards. That is no small feat. He was also deadly as a returner, as he had five touchdowns off of kick and punt returns.
Granted he may not have the stats of some of the other running backs on this list, but that has more to do with the fact that he played during a time where there were less games in a season. It is fair to wonder just how more illustrious his numbers would have been over the course of 16 games.
#2: Chuck Bednarik, Linebacker
The decision between first and second on the list was difficult, but in the end I had to place linebacker Chuck Bednarik in the silver medal slot.
But second place is still quite the accomplishment, and Bednarik fully deserves the honor. Known as one of the most punishing tacklers ever to play the game, Bednarik routinely made short work of any player foolish enough to run his way.
He was the first pick in the 1949 NFL Draft, and he absolutely lived up to expectations. During his 14-year stint as an Eagle, Bednarik was notorious for making big plays on defense. But it also worth mentioning that he was a stud on offense as well, where he played center.
After finally retiring, it didn't take long for him to be awarded a spot in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
Now if only the 2012 Eagles could find a linebacker even remotely as dominant as Bednarik.
#1: Reggie White, Defensive End
Surprised? I didn't think so.
Reggie White isn't just one of the best Eagles to play the game, he is one of the best players to ever play in the NFL. Simply put, the man was a beast.
After being a first-round pick in the 1985 Supplemental Draft by the Eagles, White record 11 sacks as a rookie and never looked back. In fact, 11 sacks was the lowest season total he ever posted as an Eagle.
As an ordained minister, White earned the nickname "Minister of Defense". How awesome is that nickname?
But all monikers aside, there is no doubt that White is fully worthy of the title "Greatest Eagle of All Time". He may not have finished his career in Philly (thanks to an inept front office), but White undoubtedly made a mark in the City of Brotherly Love that will never be erased.
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