Who Should Really Be on the Philadelphia Eagles' Mount Rushmore?

Cody SwartzSenior Writer IJune 25, 2013

Who Should Really Be on the Philadelphia Eagles' Mount Rushmore?

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    It’s been several weeks since ProFootballTalk published its Mount Rushmore for the Philadelphia Eagles, part of an ongoing series for the NBC blog.

    The Rushmore list includes just four players or coaches associated with the team, as voted on by the fans. A collection of Andy Reid, Reggie White, Chuck Bednarik and Randall Cunningham is a pretty solid group. It differed slightly from Mike Florio’s list, which featured Reid, White, Bednarik and Steve Van Buren.

    Names that just missed included Donovan McNabb, Norm Van Brocklin, Brian Westbrook and Harold Carmichael. A case could also be made for a handful of other players (or coaches). The following breaks down the candidates into a yes, no or maybe. The last slide narrows it down to four absolute choices.

Donovan McNabb

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    Let’s address the controversial one first. Simply put, it's probably too early to judge Donovan McNabb. Ask 10 Philadelphia Eagles fans whether he was a good quarterback or not, and you'll get 10 different varieties of an answer. It's like evaluating whether an open wound will heal. Give it some time, and you'll find out.

    But for the sake of Mount Rushmore, here's an attempt.

    The facts that would put McNabb on the team's Mount Rushmore are his legacy as probably the greatest QB in franchise history. He's thrown for over 32,000 yards with the franchise and compiled the fourth-best interception rate in the game’s history, second among retired players. He made six Pro Bowls and did so early on with a limited receiving corps. He was also a remarkable threat to run, gaining over 3,400 yards and 29 touchdowns on the ground.

    And then, there's the glaring mistakes.

    Throws in the dirt led to a low completion percentage. He struggled to keep his weight under control, burning out long before contemporaries. And a 1-4 record in NFC Championship games is simply unacceptable. Three of those were in Philly, and McNabb led the Eagles to an average of just 17.8 points per contest.

    The Verdict: Maybe

Chuck Bednarik

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    Concrete Charlie Bednarik should be a no-brainer for the team’s Mount Rushmore. He’s arguably the greatest player in the history of the franchise, a two-way superstar who etched his name into Philly-lore with his performance at the age of 35 in 1960.

    Bednarik brought a championship to Philadelphia in his rookie campaign, then came out of retirement in ’60 to play a crucial role for the only playoff team to ever beat Vince Lombardi. It was Bednarik’s defining tackle of Jim Taylor that iced a championship win over the Green Bay Packers.

    Bednarik only played for the Eagles, which certainly helps his case. He made eight Pro Bowls, including five straight at one point. He made 10 All-Pro teams, earned a spot on the 1950s All-Decade Team and made the NFL’s 75th Anniversary All-Time Team, as well as the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

    And Bednarik was probably tough enough to have suited up well into his sixties if you’d let him.

    The Verdict: Yes

Reggie White

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    Reggie White is another easy yes for this Mount Rushmore. He was probably the most unblockable defensive lineman in the game’s history. Even though White never led the Philadelphia Eagles to a championship, he’s still an obvious inclusion on this list.

    White was a complete defensive lineman, averaging 16 sacks, two forced fumbles and 99 tackles per season with the Eagles. He made the Pro Bowl seven times in eight years, and he should have made it with 13 sacks as a rookie. He helped his teammates, notably Clyde Simmons and Jerome Brown, perform better.

    It’s one of the great travesties in the team's history that the ownership made little to no attempt to re-sign White when he reached free agency after ’92.

    The Verdict: Yes

Randall Cunningham

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    A Mount Rushmore list should include a quarterback, and the Philadelphia Eagles probably weren’t good enough to have two. A case could certainly be made for Randall Cunningham as the greatest—or at least most talented—quarterback in franchise history. He was essentially a one-man team during his prime, never receiving the proper coaching from Buddy Ryan.

    Cunningham still managed to put up extraordinary numbers during his prime. He averaged 3,365 yards and 24 passing touchdowns from 1987-1990, making three Pro Bowls and leading the Eagles to the playoffs three-straight seasons. He averaged 673 rushing yards and four touchdowns per campaign, including a ridiculous 942 in 1990.

    Cunningham won an MVP with little surrounding talent in ’90, and one can only wonder what would have happened had he been tutored and had elite receiving threats around him.

    The Verdict: Maybe

Steve Van Buren

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    Steve Van Buren was one of the NFL’s great early running backs. He played just eight seasons, but his impact was extraordinary.

    Van Buren made five All-Pro teams, leading the league in rushing yards and touchdowns (in the same season) four times. Compare that to Emmitt Smith and Barry Sanders, who combined to do it twice in their careers. Van Buren was also a superb kick returner, running back three returns of over 95 yards in his career.

    He led the Philadelphia Eagles to a pair of NFL championships, scoring the game’s only touchdown in the first win. The fact that he’s in the Hall of Fame and played on two championship teams should cement his case. It’s surprising that he only received 32 percent of the fan vote, but that’s likely because he’s a throwback to the ‘40s and many people know little about him.

    The Verdict: Yes

Brian Dawkins

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    Keeping Brian Dawkins off the Mount Rushmore list will be tough to do. He’s the epitome of a Philadelphia athlete, someone who loved to hit people and inspired his teammates and the city like no one else could do.

    Dawkins’ credentials speak for themselves. He made seven Pro Bowls and four All-Pro selections in 13 glorious seasons with the Eagles. Dawkins roamed center field like a champion, intercepting 34 passes and recording 21 sacks as a blitzer. That made him the 10th member of the 20/20 club in the NFL.

    Dawkins leaving Philadelphia was one of the more heartbreaking moments in recent years, and the fanbase still hasn’t recovered. Neither has the secondary, for that matter, as the team has shuffled in players like Kurt Coleman, Jaiquawn Jarrett and Macho Harris in an attempt to replace Dawkins.

    The Verdict: Maybe

Andy Reid

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    It’s surprising that Andy Reid got as many votes as he did from the fanbase, accumulating 20 percent of the votes. That wasn’t enough to put him on the Mount Rushmore list, but it’s surprising considering most of the fans were happy to see him go.

    Reid is like Donovan McNabb in that people love him or hate him. Reid took the Eagles to the playoffs nine separate times, winning a postseason game in seven of those campaigns. He is the franchise’s all-time winningest head coach, having won 130 games in the regular season and 10 in the postseason.

    Reid’s legacy will forever be mired by his poor coaching performances in NFC Championship games, and rightfully so. Reid went 1-4 in the five biggest NFC games of his life (1-5 including the Super Bowl), and that’s enough to keep him off this list.

    The Verdict: No

Bill Bergey

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    One of the great defensive players in franchise history, Bill Bergey was the face of the Philadelphia Eagles during the 1970s.

    He made five consecutive Pro Bowls at middle linebacker, totaling 16 interceptions and 13 fumble recoveries during that span. Bergey played mostly for losing teams, although he did play a key role in the 1980 Eagles team that beat the Dallas Cowboys to reach the Super Bowl.

    While he was a fine player, Bergey simply falls short compared to the others on this list.

    The Verdict: No

Brian Westbrook

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    An undersized running back out of Villanova, Brian Westbrook emerged as one of the NFL’s premier all-around backs during his tenure with the Philadelphia Eagles.

    Westbrook made two Pro Bowls and an AP All-Pro team. He rushed for 1,000 yards twice and averaged 1,621 yards from scrimmage from 2004 through 2008. Westbrook turned in some of the more memorable moments in franchise history, like the punt return to beat the New York Giants in ’03.

    What will keep Westbrook off the list is his relatively short career. He lasted just eight seasons with the Eagles, never appearing in all 16 games in a single year.

    The Verdict: No

Greasy Neale

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    ProFootballTalk’s list didn’t even include Greasy Neale as a candidate, which is a mistake. He may have coached years ago, but Neale did lead the Philadelphia Eagles to two NFL championships. That’s a pretty impressive feat, especially since they came in back-to-back seasons.

    Neale was 66-44-5 in his tenure with the Eagles, turning them from one of the league’s worst franchises to one of the finest. Neale was even elected into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1969. It’s tempting to include Neale on the Mount Rushmore list, especially with the two titles.

    The Verdict: Maybe

Harold Carmichael

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    The tallest receiver in NFL history, Harold Carmichael was Ron Jaworski’s primary receiver during the 1970s and 1980s. Carmichael was a four-time Pro Bowler, setting a then-NFL record with a catch in 127 consecutive NFL games.

    Carmichael finished his Philadelphia career with 589 receptions, 8,985 receiving yards and 79 touchdowns, a figure that still ranks 18th best in league history.

    Carmichael doesn’t make the cut because he wasn’t dominant enough, but he’s still one of the better players to ever wear a Philadelphia uniform.

    The Verdict: No

Jeremiah Trotter

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    Jeremiah Trotter is definitely worth a mention. He was a true-fan favorite during his playing days, and he combined with Brian Dawkins to help the Philadelphia Eagles to a slew of NFC Championship games in the 2000s.

    Trotter was one of the better inside linebackers in the NFL. He served three separate stints with the Eagles, first from 1998 through 2001, then 2004 through 2006, and again in 2009. Trotter was a four-time Pro Bowler. He was a ferocious defender, racking up tackles and playing a huge role against the run.

    Trotter won’t make the cut because he was the second, or even third (Troy Vincent), best defensive player on the Eagles in the ‘00s, but he’s worth being a candidate.

    The Verdict: No

Norm Van Brocklin

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    The candidacy selections wouldn’t be complete without Norm Van Brocklin, the last quarterback in Philadelphia history to win a championship. Van Brocklin took the Eagles to a 10-2 record in 1960, throwing for 2,471 yards and 24 touchdowns.

    He passed for over 200 yards and had a touchdown pass in the championship game, doing so on just nine completions and 20 pass attempts. The fact that Van Brocklin spent just three years in Philly means he doesn’t deserve a spot on the Mount Rushmore list. It’s a shame he retired when he did after ’60 because he was still at the peak of his game.

    The Verdict: No

Pete Pihos

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    Few people even remember Pete Pihos when considering the greatest players in franchise history. Pihos was an early great, lining up at right offensive end (wide receiver) for the Philadelphia Eagles in the 1950s.

    Pihos made seven consecutive Pro Bowls and four All-Pro teams, a remarkable feat for any era. Pihos led the league in receptions in his final three seasons before abruptly retiring. He led the Eagles to a pair of NFL championships as well.

    Pihos won’t make the list because he’s largely a forgotten player. If only he had played in the modern era, he would have a strong candidacy for the final four spots.

    The Verdict: No

The Final Four

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    As mentioned, Reggie White, Chuck Bednarik, and Steve Van Buren get the nod for the Mount Rushmore. All are in the Hall of Fame, all are among the greatest to ever play their position and the latter two played for championship teams in Philadelphia.

    The final spot is down to Donovan McNabb, Brian Dawkins or Greasy Neale.

    Neale wouldn’t hold up in the fan vote because he coached over 60 years ago. His accomplishments were extraordinary, but his titles came in an era when there were fewer teams and in the pre-Super Bowl days.

    That means it’s down to McNabb or Dawkins. Because McNabb played a more prominent position, he will get the final vote over Dawkins. They were similar in skill, as neither was the best at their respective position, but each was probably in the top five. Dawkins has the huge edge with the fans and in popularity, but the fact that McNabb played quarterback gives him a slight-nod over B-Dawk.

    If Dawkins ends up making the Pro Football Hall of Fame (it’s doubtful McNabb will), this is a Mount Rushmore that may have to be re-visited.

    Final Four: White, Bednarik, Van Buren, McNabb