8 Most Overrated Philadelphia Eagles in Franchise History

Bryn Swartz@eaglescentralSenior Writer IIIMay 10, 2013

8 Most Overrated Philadelphia Eagles in Franchise History

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    It's amazing how quickly an athlete can become a legend in the city of Philadelphia. One big hit or big run and a player is revered forever, regardless of how well he actually performed on the field.

    This in turn has led a number of players in the team's history to become vastly underrated. That's not to say that they weren't great players or didn't play a key role in some crucial victories. 

    But they probably weren't quite as good as their reputation. They'll be remembered forever but it may not be their play on the field that made them a fan favorite.

    The following eight slides will highlight players who were just that. I love all these players and they're all fan favorites, but realistically they're not quite as good as their reputation. 

Ron Jaworski, Quarterback (1977-1986)

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    Ron Jaworski might be the most revered quarterback in franchise history. He's more liked than Randall Cunningham, Donovan McNabb or Norm Van Brocklin, and it's really not even close.

    But the other three are the clear cut best quarterbacks in team history. Jaworski was a significant step below those guys. 

    Yes, he led the Eagles to a Super Bowl appearance following the 1980 season. He earned the Bert Bell Player of the Year award after throwing for 3,529 yards and 27 touchdowns and he led the Eagles past the rival Dallas Cowboys in the NFC Championship Game.

    But he self-destructed in the Super Bowl, throwing three interceptions and completing fewer than half his passes in a blowout loss to the Oakland Raiders.

    It's McNabb who is criticized for his Super Bowl performance, yet he kept the Eagles in the game against a dominant Patriots squad. Jaworski's performance is all but forgotten in Philly, and I have no idea why. 

Duce Staley, Running Back (1997-2003)

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    Duce Staley was one of the more popular players on the Eagles during the beginning of the Andy Reid era. But the former third-round draft pick never developed into anything more than an average starting running back (and I'm not sure he was even that good).

    He averaged exactly 4.0 yards per carry during his seven seasons in Philadelphia, including a 3.8 mark in 2002 on an offensive line that sent three-fifths of its starters to the Pro Bowl. 

    He played just three full seasons, never rushed for more than five touchdowns in a season and fumbled a lot more than Brian Westbrook or LeSean McCoy ever did.

Hank Fraley, Center (2001-2005)

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    Hank Fraley was a decent center, but he was easily the worst offensive lineman on a squad that featured Tra Thomas, Jon Welbourn, Jermane Mayberry and Jon Runyan. 

    He played one of the largest roles in the team's loss to the New England Patriots in Super Bowl XXXIX, as he was abused by the Patriots' defensive tackles all night. Brian Westbrook averaged just 2.8 yards per rush in the game (and 1.4 if the 22-yard run on the final play of the first half is removed from the stat sheet) and Donovan McNabb couldn't add any yardage on the ground either.

    Fraley was still at the top of his game in 2006 when he lost his starting job to an undrafted free agent named Jamaal Jackson. The Eagles promptly sent him to the Cleveland Browns

Jevon Kearse, Defensive End (2004-2007)

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    In retrospect, signing Jevon Kearse to an eight-year, $68 million deal probably wasn't the smartest move in the world. Kearse was 28 and had basically declined ever since a tremendous rookie season in 1999.

    The move was even worse than people remember. 

    Kearse averaged just 5.5 sacks per year with the Eagles. By comparison, Mike Mamula, who is widely regarded one of the biggest busts in franchise history, averaged 6.3 sacks per season in Philly. 

    Kearse missed the final 14 games of 2006 with a knee injury, started just eight games in 2007 and was released after the year. 

    In his one good season, in 2004, he wasn't even the most promising defensive end on his own team, as Derrick Burgess signed a free-agent deal with the Oakland Raiders before 2005. He collected a league-leading 16 sacks in 2005. 

Lito Sheppard, Cornerback (2002-2008)

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    Lito Sheppard was the home run hitter, while teammate Sheldon Brown was the singles hitter. The fans want to see home runs. 

    And Sheppard provided some big moments.

    No one will ever forget his 102-yard interception return touchdown in the final minute to stun the Dallas Cowboys in the famous return of Terrell Owens game in 2006. His last-second interception against the Carolina Panthers on Monday Night Football in 2006 propelled the Eagles to five straight victories and an improbable NFC East division title. He also had a 101-yard interception touchdown against the Cowboys on Monday Night Football in 2004.

    Those are three huge moments, two against the Cowboys and two on Monday Night Football (and the other came in the NFL game of the week).

    Sheppard was a very good corner and deserving of at least one of his two Pro Bowl selections. But he was never as good as Sheldon Brown, who could deliver big hits (just ask Reggie Bush) while also shutting down opposing receivers at a much higher clip than Sheppard ever did. 

Herman Edwards, Cornerback (1977-1985)

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    Herm Edwards is the player who scooped up the fumble that led to the improbable touchdown during the Miracle at the Meadowlands in 1978. 

    Other than that, he was just a solid player for the better part of a decade. He had a fine career, intercepting 33 passes (but strangely not returning any of his last 20 interceptions for double-digit yards).

    But he never earned a Pro Bowl selection or accumulated an approximate value, according to Pro-Football Reference, of more than 10. 

Buddy Ryan, Head Coach (1986-1990)

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    As a defensive coordinator, Buddy Ryan is among the greatest in the history of the NFL. He coached the 1985 Chicago Bears, who allowed just 198 points during the regular season and steamrolled through the postseason to an easy Super Bowl title. 

    That earned him a head coaching job with the Eagles, where he talked the talk but never found a way to walk the walk. 

    Sure, he had his successes against the Cowboys, and we all loved watching Ryan's defense, led by Reggie White. But he completely blew his opportunity to turn one of the most gifted athletes in history, Randall Cunningham, into a dominant quarterback. In fact, he completely ignored the offense, choosing to focus solely on the defense.

    And that's what prevented the Eagles from ever turning into one of the top teams in the league. Following three consecutive Wild Card losses from 1988 to 1990, Ryan was fired. 

    He's unquestionably the most popular coach in team history. But he's far from the best. 

NFC Championship Game Defenses (2001-2008)

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    It's Donovan McNabb and Andy Reid who share the blame for four NFC Championship Game losses in five trips (in an eight-year span) from 2001 to 2008. 

    But it's the defense that played just as big of a role in blowing the games.

    Consider this.

    In the four losses from 2001 to 2008, the defense allowed 23.75 points per game, a mediocre total. But they forced just two turnovers. Two. 

    That's not going to get the job done against dominant offensive teams like the 2001 St. Louis Rams and 2008 Arizona Cardinals

    They also allowed a long touchdown drive to the Cardinals in 2008, erasing McNabb's 18-point comeback (and effectively making McNabb, who threw for 375 yards, three touchdowns and an interception, the game's scapegoat).

    For a defense that was one of the most dominant in the league for close to a decade, more than 0.5 turnovers per game are expected.