Top 25 Individual Single-Season Performances in Philadelphia Eagles History

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Top 25 Individual Single-Season Performances in Philadelphia Eagles History
Michael Perez/Associated Press

The Philadelphia Eagles are one of the most storied franchises in the history of the National Football League. They've won more than 500 games in 81 seasons, including three NFL championships, and have appeared in two Super Bowls. They're consistently in the playoff hunt, qualifying for the postseason 20 times in the last 36 seasons. And they're one of the best young teams in the NFL, thanks to head coach Chip Kelly and quarterback Nick Foles.

Think about the history of the Eagles and you can of think of dozens of terrific players who have produced some pretty impressive seasons. You've had greats like Norm Van Brocklin, Steve Van Buren and LeSean McCoy on the offensive side of the ball, while the defense has produced some all-time greats like Reggie White and Chuck Bednarik.

With 81 seasons and 22 starters per year, the Eagles have had 1,782 individual player seasons since the creation of the franchise. The following slides will highlight the best of the best, the top 25 individual seasons in Eagles history.

(Author's note: I would like nothing more than to include seasons by offensive linemen, but there are no statistics to use. It's impossible to know how good Bob Brown was in 1966 or Jon Runyan in 2002. The same applies for most defensive positions. I can see how many interceptions Eric Allen had in a season or how many sacks Clyde Simmons recorded but without sites like Pro Football Focus around that the time these greats were playing, it's impossible to know how each player did other than in one or two key statistical areas. That limits this list to mostly skill position offensive players.)

 

1. Reggie White, DE, 1987

It's only fitting that the best individual season in the history of the Philadelphia Eagles comes from the best player in team history. What Reggie White did in 1987 has never been duplicated by any defensive end since the NFL officially began recording sacks in 1982.

In a strike-shortened season that consisted of just 12 games, White collected an otherworldly 21 sacks. That's an average of 1.75 sacks per game. Project White's totals to a full 16-game season and The Minister of Defense would have put opposing quarterbacks on the ground 28 times.

For all of White's sheer brilliance as a pass-rusher, he was a pretty good run-stopper. He lined up as a 4-3 defensive end, but he was fast and strong enough to play anywhere on the line. He could have been a nose tackle in a 3-4, an end in a 3-4, a tackle in a 4-3, probably even an outside linebacker in a 3-4.

For what it's worth, White also forced four fumbles, scored on a 70-yard fumble return and ranked fourth on the team in tackles in 1987. Quite simply, he was completely unstoppable.

 

 

2. Norm Van Brocklin, QB, 1960

The only quarterback in NFL history to win a championship with two different teams, Norm Van Brocklin simply willed the Eagles to victory over and over again in 1960.

At the age of 34 and in his final season, Van Brocklin led the Eagles to a 10-2 record, including a league-best six fourth-quarter comebacks. In the NFL championship against Vince Lombardi's Green Bay Packers, Van Brocklin threw for 204 yards and a touchdown, while leading the Eagles on a go-ahead touchdown drive midway through the fourth quarter.

He's the only player in league history to win league MVP and lead his team to a championship in his final season. 53 years later, it still stands as the greatest individual season by a quarterback in Eagles history.

 

3. Randall Cunningham, QB, 1990

For a running quarterback, Randall Cunningham was a pretty underrated passer, and he showed it during a breakout 1990 season. He threw for 3,466 yards and 30 touchdowns, including this insane 95-yard strike to Fred Barnett.

Oh, and Cunningham rushed 118 times for 942 yards and five touchdowns. His 8.0 yards per rush led the league. He was again named the Bert Bell Player of the Year.

 

4. Sonny Jurgensen, QB, 1961

You really couldn't have found a more pressure-packed situation for Sonny Jurgensen in 1961. After all, the man he replaced, Norm Van Brocklin, was an absolute legend. Van Brocklin earned NFL MVP honors and led the Eagles to a championship the previous season before retiring.

But against all odds, Jurgensen posted an even better statistical season than Van Brocklin did the year prior. He broke single-season NFL records for passing yards (3,723) and touchdowns (32). Jurgensen's All-Pro season helped the Eagles win 10 games under new head coach Nick Skorich.

 

5. Reggie White, DE, 1986

Dominant from the day he put on an Eagles uniform, Reggie White recorded 18 sacks, the second-highest total of his career, in 1986.

Pro-Football-Reference.com lists him as a defensive tackle in addition to his usual position of defensive end, which just shows White's all-around versatility as a defensive lineman.

 

6. LeSean McCoy, RB, 2013

You could argue for either Nick Foles or LeSean McCoy as the best player on the 2013 Eagles, but I'm going to go with the player who played in all 16 games.

As the centerpiece of Chip Kelly's dominant offense, McCoy carried a league-leading 314 times for an NFL-best 1,607 yards and nine touchdowns. His 5.1 yards per carry was his highest in three years, and his 2,146 total yards from scrimmage broke the single-season franchise record.

McCoy forever etched his name in franchise lore with his brilliant running in the snow against the Detroit Lions in Week 14, when he set the franchise single-game record with 217 rushing yards. McCoy rushed for 148 yards and two touchdowns in the fourth quarter alone, a game the Eagles won 34-20 after scoring four touchdowns in the final 15 minutes.

 

7. Steve Van Buren, RB, 1945

The most explosive offensive player in Eagles history turned in the best year of his career in 1945. Steve Van Buren led the NFL in rushing yards (832), rushing touchdowns (15), yards per game (83.2), kick return touchdowns (one), kick return average (28.7), total touchdowns (17) and all-purpose yards from scrimmage (1,482).

Van Buren was the sole reason why the Eagles finished number one in scoring offense for the first time in team history.

 

8. Steve Van Buren, RB, 1949

Steve Van Buren's 1949 season earned him the rushing Triple Crown for the third straight season, as the league's best combination of power and speed rushed for 1,146 yards and 11 touchdowns on 263 carries.

The Eagles cruised to an 11-1 record and an appearance in the NFL championship game, where Van Buren basically became a one-man show.

Quarterback Tommy Thompson completed just five passes all game. But it was Van Buren's 31 carries for 196 yards that constantly that led the Eagles to a 14-0 victory, their second NFL championship.

 

9. Terrell Owens, WR, 2004

It became apparent during the 2003 NFC Championship Game that the Eagles desperately needed help at wide receiver. James Thrash and Todd Pinkston teamed up to form arguably the worst starting wide receiver duo in the National Football League.

So that offseason, the Eagles went out and traded for one of the league's biggest playmakers, wide receiver Terrell Owens. And Owens instantly became the talk of the city, the player who was destined to lead the team to the Super Bowl after three years of coming up just one game short.

In 2004, Owens caught 77 passes for 1,200 yards and 14 touchdowns. He did that damage in just 14 games, and he even played even better than his numbers indicated. He helped open up the offense for other receivers—Pinkston finish third in the NFL with an average of 18.8 yards per catch—and he turned the Eagles into one of the most explosive passing offenses in the league.

Although Owens' regular season was cut short by a broken leg, he heroically returned just six weeks later for the Super Bowl despite playing at significantly less than 100 percent. All Owens did was catch nine passes for 122 yards.

 

10. Reggie White, DE, 1988

For the third straight season, Reggie White collected at least 18 sacks, leading the NFL for the second straight season. He finished the year with a career-high 133 solo tackles and helped the Eagles capture the NFC East division title for the first time in the Buddy Ryan era.

 

11. Chuck Bednarik, OLB, 1953

Without access to game film, it's impossible to know which season was the best of Bednarik's brilliant Hall of Fame career.

But in 1953, the 28-year-old collected a career-high six interceptions, a tremendous total for any player but simply mind-boggling for an outside linebacker. (Contrary to popular belief, Bednarik did not play his entire career at middle linebacker.)

He also recovered four fumbles, giving him a total of 10 turnovers. Oh, and this came in a 12-game season. All in a day's work for Concrete Charlie, who earned his fourth of eight Pro Bowl selections.

 

12. Donovan McNabb, QB, 2004

You don't think of Donovan McNabb as a quarterback who posted big passing numbers. No, he was the consistent type: a player who would throw for 3,000 yards, 20 touchdowns and fewer than 10 interceptions each season. Add in 400 rushing yards and five scores and you can appreciate McNabb as one of the best all-around weapons in the game.

But for one season, in 2004, McNabb was as statistically dominant as any quarterback in team history to that point. He threw for 31 touchdowns and just eight interceptions, becoming the first quarterback in NFL history to throw for more than 30 scores and fewer than 10 picks. His 104.7 passer rating was easily a career high, and he led the Eagles to 13 wins in their first 14 games that season, plus an eventual appearance in the Super Bowl.

His Super Bowl performance will forever be (unfairly) remembered for supposed vomiting during the game's final minutes, but few remember that, with the Eagles offensive line putting forth a truly dreadful performance, McNabb withstood big hit after big hit. Oh, and that drive in which he reportedly threw up ended in a beautifully thrown 30-yard touchdown to Greg Lewis, cutting the New England lead to 24-21.

McNabb's three interceptions overshadow his 357 passing yards and three touchdowns but in a game in which he received virtually no production from his running game or offensive line, No. 5 really wasn't that bad.

 

13. Donovan McNabb, QB, 2000

Here are some of the players Donovan McNabb got to work with in 2000: Stanley Pritchett, Darnell Autry, Charles Johnson and Torrance Small. Yet, somehow, the 23-year-old finished second in NFL MVP voting during his first full season as a starting quarterback.

His statistics were merely adequate: 3,369 passing yards, 21 touchdowns, 13 interceptions and a 77.8 passer rating. But remember that he was basically the only offensive weapon on his team. When he didn't beat you with his arms, he did so with his legs, as he finished the season with 629 yards and six scores on the ground.

McNabb helped the Eagles win six of their final seven games in the regular season, and led them a postseason win—a pretty impressive season for a player who just one year earlier was booed because he wasn't Ricky Williams.

 

14. Seth Joyner, MLB, 1991

It was Reggie White and then everybody else on the Eagles defense in the late 1980s and early 1990s. Along with All-Pro tackle Jerome Brown, Seth Joyner was probably the best of the rest, and in 1991, he was as good as any linebacker in the NFL.

Joyner recorded 110 solo tackles, 6.5 sacks, six forced fumbles, four fumble recoveries (two for touchdowns) and three interceptions. Joyner was every coach's dream, a player who could rush the passer, stop the run or drop back into coverage.

 

15. Eric Allen, CB, 1993

History doesn't tell us the completions, yards or passer rating Eric Allen allowed in 1993. But what we do know is that a player with a reputation as one of the best shutdown corners in the league turned in the best year ever by an Eagles cornerback.

Allen collected six interceptions, returning four of them for touchdowns. His 93-yard interception return against the New York Jets in Week 4 won the game and was later voted by NFL Films as the single greatest interception return in league history.

Allen also collected three of his six career forced fumbles and two of his three career sacks. The 28-year-old was voted to his fourth straight Pro Bowl following the season.

 

16. Brian Westbrook, RB, 2007

The best year of Brian Westbrook's vastly underrated career in an Eagles uniform came in 2007 when the multi-talented running back set career highs in carries (278), yards (1,333), catches (90), receiving yards (771) and yards from scrimmage (2,104). He scored 12 touchdowns and earned an All-Pro selection as one of the best backs in the league.

Westbrook's signature play from the 2007 season came late in an eventual 10-6 victory over the Dallas Cowboys, when he broke free on a run and kneeled down at the 1-yard line. His sacrifice of a touchdown clinched the team's sixth victory of the season in an otherwise lost year.

 

17. Nick Foles, QB, 2013

Where does Nick Foles' 2013 season rank among the biggest surprise seasons in the history of the NFL?

Consider this. The 2012 third-round pick entered the season as the backup to veteran Michael Vick. He ended it as the holder of the third-highest single-season passer rating in NFL history.

Give a tremendous amount of credit for Foles' season to offensive genius Chip Kelly, but remember, Foles still had to go out there and make plays. And he did, game after game.

Despite making just 10 starts, Foles led the Eagles to eight wins and a surprising division title. He threw for 27 touchdowns and just two interceptions, breaking the all-time record for touchdown-to-interception ratio in a season. His seven-touchdown performance against the Oakland Raiders in Week 9 might be one of the best games any quarterback has ever played, and it came in just 40 minutes of work.

Foles really couldn't do anything wrong in 2013. He was even surprisingly effective as a runner.

Just 25 years old, the sky is the limit for Foles, who enters 2014 as a starter for the first time in his NFL career.

 

18. Brian Dawkins, FS, 2002

Brian Dawkins never had that one all-time dominant season. He was just consistently great each year, and what he did in 2002 should be remembered as the best season he ever had.

The heart and soul of one of the best defenses of the era, Dawkins collected 91 tackles, five forced fumbles, four fumble recoveries, three sacks, two interceptions and one touchdown (which came on a 57-yard reception off of a fake punt).

 

19. Tommy McDonald, WR, 1961

The 5'9'', 180-pound receiver was as tough as nails and will forever be remembered as the last player to play without a facemask. In 1961, McDonald turned in the best year any Eagles receiver has ever had, catching 64 passes for 1,144 yards and 13 touchdowns. His yards and touchdowns both led the league.

Against the New York Giants in Week 13, McDonald caught seven passes for 237 yards and two touchdowns, the most receiving yards an Eagles player had ever collected in a single game.

 

 

20. Mike Quick, WR, 1983

The Eagles' first-round pick in 1982, Mike Quick was a major disappointment as a rookie, catching just 10 passes for 156 yards and a single touchdown.

But Quick exploded in his second season, leading the league with 1,409 receiving yards. He scored 13 touchdowns on 69 catches, and his 20.4 yards per catch established him as one of the best deep threats in the National Football League for the next half decade.

 

21. Randall Cunningham, QB, 1988

I look at Randall Cunningham's career and I think about what he could have been if he had a coach who was at least one-tenth as interested as the offensive side of the ball as he was the defense. Imagine Randall Cunningham in Chip Kelly's offense. He would have been unstoppable.

As it was, he was pretty good in 1988, his first 16-game season as the team's starter. Cunningham threw for 3,808 yards and 24 touchdowns and added 624 rushing yards and six touchdowns on the ground. That's 4,432 total yards of offense and 30 touchdowns for the human highlight film.

Cunningham's great season led the Eagles into the postseason and earned him Bert Bell NFL Player of the Year honors.

 

22. Bill Bergey, MLB, 1975

The best defensive player on the Eagles during the 1970s, Bill Bergey collected an incredible nine turnovers during an All-Pro campaign in 1975: three interceptions and a league-leading six fumble recoveries.

The heart and soul of the Eagles' defense, Bergey's tremendous season in coverage and in forcing turnovers brought him nearly as much attention as his stellar abilities as a run-stopper.

 

23. Timmy Brown, RB, 1963

What could Chip Kelly do with a player like Timmy Brown on his team? Brown was LeSean McCoy as a runner and a receiver and Devin Hester as a returner. Combine his all-around abilities and you had one of the best players in the NFL.

In 1963, Brown posted his finest statistical season, leading the league with 2,425 all-purpose yards, which broke his own record of 2,306 from the previous season. Brown's breakdown includes 841 rushing yards, 487 receiving, 152 on punt returns and 945 on kick returns. He scored 10 total touchdowns, including a 100-yard kick return.

History has forgotten about Timmy Brown and it's a shame because his five peak years (1962-1966) were as good as any running back in franchise history this side of Steve Van Buren.

 

24. Asante Samuel, CB, 2010

Asante Samuel is rightfully remembered as one of the best playmaking cornerbacks of the last decade. But he's not remembered enough for his abilities as a shutdown corner.

Arguably the best free-agent signing in franchise history, Samuel posted three straight jaw-dropping seasons from 2008 to 2010. He collected six picks in 2008, plus two more in the postseason. He grabbed nine picks in 2009. And then came his 2010 season.

In 2010, Samuel collected seven interceptions and allowed a passer rating of 31.7. Only one player, Casey Hayward of the 2012 Green Bay Packers, has allowed a lower single-season passer rating since 2007, per Pro Football Focus (subscription required).

Take a look at the passing numbers against Samuel: 19 of 41 (46.3 percent), 141 yards, 2 TD, 7 INT, 31.7 passer rating. Those are Darrelle Revis or Richard Sherman numbers right there.

Best corner in the game? For that year, he definitely was.

 

25. Wilbert Montgomery, RB, 1979

Still the franchise's all-time rushing yards leader, Wilbert Montgomery posted his finest season as a 25-year-old back in 1979. The former sixth-round draft pick carried 338 times for 1,512 yards and nine touchdowns, while adding 41 catches for 494 yards. Montgomery's 2,006 combined yards from scrimmage led the league and his 14 touchdowns set a career-high.

In fact, Pro-Football-Reference.com's approximate value system rated him as the best player in the NFL. The only blemish on Montgomery's season was his league-high 14 fumbles, which, even for 1979, was a ton.

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