To be underrated carries a certain assumption of under appreciation or simply the realization that no one truly understand how good a player was or is.
Those things don’t happen with Eagles fans.
They just understand– when someone is playing well or playing poorly, they let it be known. More often than not, their negative reactions are the talk of the national media, while their undying support of the underrated players goes unnoticed.
The following 10 players are not labeled underrated because Eagles fans failed to realize greatness. The players on this list were both appreciated and admired by Eagles fans.
But for some reason, the rest of the country failed to fully understand how good they were and, in some cases, the organization didn’t realize what it had.
A special thanks to my dad, Bill, who taught me about the history of the Eagles even though it was not always great.
Reggie White played eight incredible seasons with the Eagles. Outside of his rookie campaign, he played all of them with Clyde Simmons.
White traditionally lined up as the left defensive end, while Simmons saw most his action on the opposite side of the line. White used his time in Philadelphia to establish himself as one of the greatest defensive players of all time.
He probably could have achieved such lofty status with any team in the NFL, but in the end some of the credit has to be given to his teammates– Simmons be the biggest factor.
While playing opposite of Simmons, White registered no fewer than 11 sacks in a season and averaged 15.8 sacks per season. When White left Philadelphia and Simmons, he registered double-digit sacks in only four of his final seven seasons and his average dipped to 10.5 sacks.
Simmons was the kind of player that demanded double teams, which in turn left White all alone. And when White demanded a double team, Simmons was able to feast on quarterbacks as he rushed the blindside.
Simmons’ best season came in 1992, which ironically was White’s last as an Eagle. The two-time Pro Bowler and All-Pro registered 19 sacks that season, which led the NFL.
It’s tough to call someone underrated when he holds the all-time team records in receptions with 589, receiving yards with 8,978, and receiving touchdowns with 79, but such is the case with Harold Carmichael.
Despite his numbers, many do not consider him the best receiver in Eagles history. Actually, it is not even close. According to the experts, that distinction clearly goes to Hall of Famer Tommy McDonald.
And when lists are comprised of the greatest receivers in Eagles history Carmichael usually lands behind Pete Retzlaff, Pete Pihos, and Mike Quick.
So why is there no love for the physically imposing, 6’8” receiver who started his career as a tight end?
Probably because during his 13 seasons with the Eagles, Carmichael only caught 60 or more passes twice, recorded double-digit touchdowns once, and racked up 1,000 receiving yards or more only three times.
The fans did not care about his lack of eye-popping statistics in any one given season. They only cared about his consistency and the fact he was instrumental in helping the Eagles reach Super Bowl XV.
In 1982, the Eagles enjoyed the luxury of John Spagnola starting at tight end, who would remain in that role for five of the next six seasons.
Following Spagnola’s departure, the Eagles turned to Keith Jackson, who started the next four seasons at tight end.
When Jackson left the Eagles in 1991, the tight end carousel went 'round and 'round.
Keith Byars, Mark Bavaro, Maurice Johnson, Ed West, Jason Dunn, Jimmie Johnson, and Jed Weaver were the starting tight ends for the Eagles from 1992-99.
In 2000, Chad Lewis received a chance to start. The strange part is that in his previous three seasons with the Eagles and Rams, Lewis started a total of seven games, and he only caught 20 passes.
The year Lewis became the Eagles' starting tight end was historic, it marked the first season Donovan McNabb was the full-time starting quarterback. To make the situation even more pressure-packed was the fact that Andy Reid was only in his second season as head coach, and he was running a West Coast offense.
It may be true that Reid does not run a traditional West Coast offense, but no matter how the offense is run, a reliable tight end is always needed.
Lewis did not disappoint, as he caught a team-high 69 passes for 735 yards.
It was incredible to watch McNabb routinely count on Lewis to come through in the clutch. And when McNabb threw a ball low, Lewis seemingly picked it off the turf with a defender draped all over him.
In defense of McNabb, he threw those passes low because it was the only spot Lewis could catch the ball, but that doesn’t mean they were easy passes to catch.
Lewis was never the go-to guy in the red zone, but whenever McNabb needed to pick up positive yardage and keep a drive going, he looked to the middle of the field, where the sure-handed Lewis patiently waited for McNabb to go through his progressions.
Ultimately, the play of Lewis not only helped the Eagles win games, but it helped McNabb develop into one of the best quarterbacks in the NFL.
The outspoken and emotional Ricky Watters stepped onto the scene in 1995 and immediately felt the wrath of Eagles fans.
In his first game as an Eagle, Watters backed away from contact when going for a pass over the middle against the Tampa Buccaneers. When questioned about the play, he infamously responded, “For who? For what?”
The response did not sit well with Eagles fans, but they quickly forgave him once they saw how hard he played from that point forward.
Watters went on to carry the ball 337, 353, and 285 times during his three-year stint with the Birds. He also rushed for 1,273, 1,411, and 1,110 yards.
Oh, and to show how complete of a back he was, he also caught 62, 51, and 48 passes out of the backfield.
When he left for Seattle to end his career, Eagles fans realized they witnessed the play of a great running back. In fact, if you talk to Eagles fans who saw him play, most will tell you Watters should be in the Hall of Fame.
As it stands, the Eagles’ all-time leader in rushing yards per game sits by the wayside waiting to get a call to the Hall.
Zero, zip, zilch, nada.
That’s how many Pro Bowls Sheldon Brown made in his eight seasons with the Eagles.
Brown respectfully declined an offer to play in the 2010 Pro Bowl—but can you blame him, after he was asked to join the team as a second alternate?
"I've had a lot of good seasons," Brown said in a story run by Philly.com in December of 2009. "The year we had three defensive backs go (Brian Dawkins, Lito Sheppard, and Michael Lewis) and I arguably had the best season, according to (Bill) Belichick. I always felt like the All-Pro honor carries more weight because there is no fan voting there."
Eagles fans certainly can’t take the blame for that one.
They saw Brown not only shut down some of the opposition’s best receivers, but they also saw him play a physical style of football, which goes a long way in Philly.
While players like Asante Samuel and Lito Sheppard racked up accolades, the Philly faithful knew Brown was underrated and, even worse, under-appreciated.
When Brown wanted a restructured deal in 2009, Eagles fans stood in his corner.
In the end, Brown never received a new deal with the Eagles. Instead, he was shipped off to Cleveland with Chris Gocong for Alex Hall and a pair of draft picks in the fourth and fifth round.
Brown never received his due from the fans on the national level, but he ultimately landed on this list based on his own teams underrating and undervaluing his talents.
Before Brian Dawkins donned the No. 20 and delivered bone-crushing hits, there was Andre Waters.
He was not a ball-hawking safety who looked to change a game with a key interception. He was more of a head-hunting safety whose hits changed the way the opposition played and inspired his teammates to play harder.
Waters was infamously dubbed Andre “Dirty” Waters by broadcaster Dan Dierdorf. The remark only made Eagles fans love Waters’ style that much more.
He was seen as a leader on the field for some of the greatest defenses in Eagles' history. He led the Eagles in tackles for four seasons, including 1991, which saw the Eagles' defense rank first against the run and pass, and fifth in points allowed. Waters racked up 156 tackles that season, 41 more than his closest teammate.
His desire to make plays is a major reason he currently holds the Eagles' all-time mark in tackles with 910.
Assuming Jeremiah Trotter is not back with the Eagles in 2010, the next closest active Eagle is Trent Cole with 238 tackles.
The saddest part about Waters is that his violent approach to the game caused brain damage, which led to his battle with depression and ultimately his suicide in 2006 at the age of 44.
Ask someone who the greatest quarterback in Eagles history is and people will fire off names like Donovan McNabb, Ron Jaworski, and Randall Cunningham.
Somehow, Norm Van Brocklin falls off everyone’s radar, and sadly a lot of football fans don’t even know who “The Dutchman” was.
While his tenure only lasted from 1958-61, he was able to bring a championship back to the fans after less-than-stellar football plagued the city.
Following the Eagles’ 1949 championship and before Van Brocklin arrived in 1958, the franchise only experienced three winning seasons.
Things still seemed bleak upon Van Brocklin’s arrival, as the Birds went 2-9-1. Things began to turn around the next season, as the team went 7-5.
Van Brocklin eventually brought the last championship football team to the city in 1960 with a 17-13 win over the Green Bay Packers. The win not only marked a championship, but is also served as the only loss suffered by Vince Lombardi in the playoffs.
Van Brocklin finished the season with 2,471 passing yards and a career-high 24 touchdown passes in only 12 games.
Van Brocklin was enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1971, yet he routinely finds himself behind the names mentioned above when it comes to the greatest quarterbacks in franchise history—thus earning a place on this list.
When you’re done reading this slideshow, go ask someone who leads the Philadelphia Eagles in all-purpose yardage, which includes kickoff and punt returns, and rushing and receiving yardages.
Brian Westbrook will be the logical guess, while others may get creative and think of Brian Mitchell.
The correct answer is Timmy Brown, who racked up 12,046 all-purpose yards.
12,046 yards don’t make you say, “Oh, I know what means,” like other numbers do, so try to put it in perspective for a moment.
If you took the all-purpose yardage of Westbrook (8,698) and combined it with that of Mitchell (5,087), you would only eclipse Brown by 1,739 yards.
Brown helped establish the all-time mark by leading all kick returners in Eagles history with 4,483 yards.
Brown didn’t just pile up the yards. He also found the end zone five times on kick returns, also a franchise record.
As if his ability to return kicks wasn’t enough, Brown led the team in rushing in 1962, ’63, ’65, and ’66.
“The two things that would really make my career complete [are] to be inducted into both the Pro Football Hall of Fame and the Philadelphia Eagles Honor Roll," Al Wistert said in “Where are They Now: Tackle Al Wistert,” written by Gary Kravitz on philadelphiaeagles.com. "It would be an honor for me because I would be with so many former teammates.”
The Eagles finally rose to the occasion in 2009, as they placed Wistert, an offensive tackle, on their Honor Roll. But to finally bestow that honor on him 58 years after his career ended pretty much epitomizes the word "underrated."
Okay, okay. Stop saying, “Who is Al Wistert?”
His name doesn’t exactly roll off the tongues of the casual football fan, but to football historians, and complete football junkies, he is someone who will remain underrated until his name is enshrined in Canton, Ohio.
Wistert was an eight-time All-Pro selection in nine seasons with the Eagles. He played on both sides of the ball and was a captain from 1946-'50.
The dates he served as captain add to his resume.
In 1948, the Eagles won their first championship with a 7-0 blanking of the Chicago Cardinals. Wistert and the Birds followed up that championship with another one in 1949. This time they shut out the Los Angeles Rams 14-0.
No other team in NFL history has ever recorded back-to-back shutouts in championship games.
Beginning in 2000, these two offensive tackles seemingly always lined up across from each other.
It seemed that way because, out of a possible 144 games during the regular season, they were on the field together in 134 of them.
Truth be told, Thomas missed all 10 of those games while Runyan started every game of his nine-year career in Philadelphia.
Thomas and Runyan were regarded as the best bookends in football and among the best offensive linemen in the NFL.
So how can two players who were so highly regarded possibly be considered the most underrated players in Eagles history?
During their nine years spent together, they combined to make four Pro Bowls.
That is a complete and utter disgrace.
Thomas earned the honor three times (2001, '02, and '04) while Runyan was recognized as one of the best tackles in the NFC only once (2002).
Even more shocking is that neither player was named to an All-Pro roster.
The national fans can take part of the responsibility in not naming these two men to more Pro Bowls, while the national media shoulders the blame for
not placing them on the All-Pro team.
Thankfully, when you mention those two players to an Eagles fan, words such as, “tough,” “reliable,” and “great” are tossed around.
But due to the lack of recognition they received from the national fans and media, one more word can be used to describe them: “underrated.”