The Philadelphia Eagles have played in over 1,000 games, including 39 in the playoffs and six Superbowl and NFL title games. No doubt, the Eagles have a long and rich history. But which seasons were their greatest? What makes a season great? Is it all about what you do in the playoffs, or does it go deeper than that?
Eagles' fans have seen more than their share of ups and downs. From the "Steagles" of 1943, a combination of Eagles and Pittsburgh Steelers teams due to the player shortage during World War II, to their first title in 1948, to the 17-year playoff drought between 1961-77. The Eagles have had 21 head coaches, six home fields, and 18 Hall of Famers, including Chuck Bednarik, Tommy McDonald and Reggie White.
As I look back at the Eagles' 78-year history, I attempt to pick just 10 of the greatest seasons of all-time, considering the entire impact of each season, not just the final record. But before I go into the top 10, I want to give an honorable mention to the 2006 season. That was the year when Donovan McNabb tore his ACL during week 11, leaving Jeff Garcia to take over a 5-5 team that seemed doomed to repeat the failures of its previous 6-10 season.
Garcia would eventually tally six straight victories before they bowed out against the New Orleans Saints in the NFC divisional round. It was an up-and-down season, and most fans lost all hope, before getting it back only to have our hearts shattered to the Saints in a back-and-forth thriller in the rebuilt Superdome.
Without further ado, let the countdown begin.
Surprised? We were an early exit in the playoffs even though we were at home; but it was still a magical season. The 2010 campaign had everything a great and memorable season would have except for a deep playoff run. It had a changing-of-the-guard at quarterback, twice. It had numerous injuries to overcome. And it had a miracle that will not soon be forgotten.
The 2010 season started out unlike many under head coach Andy Reid. It had low expectation by most fans. McNabb and Sheldon Brown had been traded away. Kevin Kolb was now the starting quarterback despite only having two career starts. Most experts looked at 2010 as a rebuidling year. New quarterback, questionable defense and the youngest team in the NFL. The entire year changed courses in the season opener against the Packers, after Clay Matthews tripped up Kolb for a sack.
Kolb was diagnosed with a concussion and sat out the entire second half of Week 1. Michael Vick came in and nearly brought the Eagles back from a double-digit deficit. Vick started the next two games while Kolb was recovering. Before the Eagles' Week 4 matchup versus the Washington Redskins, Reid announced that Vick, not Kolb, would be the full-time starter the rest of the season. Vick broke three ribs in the next game against the Redskins but would return as the starter.
In 2010, there was the return of McNabb in which, despite a pretty lousy game, Donovan's new team beat the Eagles in their own house 17-12. Reid would get the last laugh in front of a national audience, though, as the Eagles beat the 'Skins in the rematch in D.C., 59-28. In that game, Vick became the first quarterback in NFL history to throw for over 300 yards, rush for over 50 yards, throw for four touchdowns and run for two touchdowns in the same game. His jersey from that game in at the NFL Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio.
The highlight of 2010 was definitely the "Miracle at the New Meadowlands." It was the game that would decide the NFC East Division and gave the Giants a chance to avenge their previous five striaght losses to the Eagles. The game was actually pretty lopsided for both teams—just not in the same half.
The Giants took advantage of mistakes and terrible coverage from cornerback Dmitri Patterson on Mario Manningham to take a 24-3 halftime lead. After the Giants scored on a Kevin Boss touchdown midway through the fourth quarter, the Eagles looked dead, as the score was now 31-10. Vick would rally the Eagles behind a legendary performance with three offensive touchdowns in nearly seven minutes. Even after all that, the Giants still had one final possession to set up a game-winning field goal and take the NFC East away from the Eagles, but they were unable to manage a single first down.
With less than 10 seconds left, all Giants punter Matt Dodge had to do was punt the ball out of bounds and force the game into overtime, but a high snap prevented him for doing that. The punt was a line drive right to DeSean Jackson, who bobbled the kick but recovered it and took it to the house for a 65 yard punt return walk off touchdown. As Joe Buck put it, "...GETS A BLOCK, ARE YOU KIDDING ME? NO FLAGS! UNBELIEVABLE! NO TIME LEFT. EAGLES WIN!"
The 2010 season would end in heartbreak, much like the way it started, with a late rally that fell short, at home to the Green Bay Packers in the Wild Card round of the playoffs, 21-16. Vick had a chance to win the game, down just five points and driving, but under-threw wideout Riley Cooper in the end zone, picked off by Trammon Williams. The Packers would eventually win the Super Bowl, and Eagles fans would have an entire off season to wonder what could have been.
The 2008 season was an absolute roller coaster. It had the worst two-game stretch of McNabb's career, and it had the greatest end to an Eagles' regular season, with one play, in game against their hated rivals that turned into a laugher.
That year started out with a great offseason, with the signing of Asante Samuel and drafting of DeSean Jackson in the second round of the NFL draft. The season started out a little rocky, only winning five of their first nine games including losing to each of their three divisional opponents. After that, they hit rock bottom. In Week 11, the Eagles tied the lowly Cincinnati Bengals, something that McNabb didn't know was possible at the time.
The following week against the Ravens was even worse, as McNabb was benched in the second half after turning the ball over three times, giving him six turnovers in his last six quarters.
Philly would have to bounce back quickly with a Thanksgiving game against the high-octane Arizona Cardinals offense four days after the disaster in Baltimore. Reid decided to stick with his veteran quarterback and it paid off big time. McNabb threw for 260 yards and four touchdowns, leading the Eagles to a 48-20 drubbing and saving their season. The Eagles would rattle off two more wins, raising their record to 8-5-1 and the playoffs in sight. Too bad the team didn't show up for their next game.
In Week 16, the Eagles traveled to Landover, Maryland to face the Redskins. The Eagles would be stopped at the 1-yard line in the closing seconds to fall short, 10-3. The playoffs seemed like nothing more than a pipe dream now.
They would need either the Bears or the Vikings to lose and the Oakland Raiders would have to win at Tampa Bay, a team that was also fighting for a playoff spot. Fate was wearing Midnight Green on December 28th, 2008.
With both the Chicago Bears and the Buccaneers losing earlier in the day, the Eagles and the Dallas Cowboys faced off in Week 17 for the final playoff spot in the NFC. The game would go from a low-scoring first quarter to a laugher through the second and third quarters, as the Eagles would rattle off 41 unanswered points and finish off the Cowboys 44-6.
The run of 2008 was not over in the playoffs. The Eagles stout defense, led by Samuel's NFL-record fourth interception return for a touchdown in the playoffs, contained Adrian Peterson and the Vikings en route to a 26-14 Wild Card victory.
The following week was a rematch with hated rival Giants. The Giants' offense looked unstoppable in Week 10 when they beat the Eagles 36-31, but after the Plaxico Burress incident, the offense never looked the same without the scrappy wide receiver. The Eagles would win thanks to another outstanding effort from their defense, 23-11.
The final game of the 2008 season was familiar territory, losing in the NFC Championship game. A poor start seemed to doom the Eagles as they got down 24-6 at halftime. They rallied in the second half and even took the lead midway through the fourth quarter, only to allow the Cardinals to take the lead back thanks to a eight-minute drive that included a fourth-and-one conversion that helped put the Cards up for good, 32-25.
This was also the final season for one of the most beloved Philadelphia sports heroes of all time, Brian Dawkins.
The 2003 season was deja vu all over again. Just like 2002, they had best record in the NFC, and just like 2002, they were upset in the NFC title game thanks to an outstanding defense.
The season started with the worst draft in Reid's tenure, with the first three picks all being eventual busts, Jerome McDougle, L. J. Smith and Billy McMullen.
It also had the opening of Lincoln Financial Field. The Linc started out like Veterans Stadium ended, losing to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Philly started out with two straight losses to the Bucs and the Patriots by a combined 48-10. The Eagles would bounce back thanks in part to a bye in Week 3, which help lead to a 12-2 record the rest of the season.
It will be remembered most for the fourth-and-26 play in the divisional round playoff game against the Packers. The Eagles fell behind early thanks in part to three straight drives without a first down. They would score on a 45-yard touchdown from Todd Pinkston, and despite a sluggish start, they went into the half down 14-7.
The Pack added a field goal after Pinkston caught another touchdown pass to make the game 17-14. The Packers would drain nearly seven minutes off the clock on their final drive of regulation. The Eagles would get the ball back with about two minutes left in the fourth quarter. Philly got close to mid-field, only to squander that field position with two incomplete passes and a sack. Now they faced a fourth-and-26.
McNabb threw an absolute bullet to Freddie Mitchell 28 yards down the field, and the Eagles would drive down for a game-tying field goal. David Akers would hit the game-winning field goal 30 yards out after a Dawkins interception put them into Packer territory.
The following week was less than spectacular. McNabb never had much protection against an incredible defensive line the sacked McNabb five times and created pressure that resulted in four interceptions, including three by Ricky Manning, Jr. The Eagles would fall short 14-3, and McNabb would suffer torn cartilage in his ribs, which greatly affected his passing.
Basically, see 2003. The Eagles finished the regular season with the best record in the NFC. They finished the playoffs being upset at home in the NFC title game.
The things that stand out the most about the 2002 Eagles was their coaching staff. They included six future NFL head coaches, five who are still so today.
Like 2003, they were off to a bit of a rocky start before their bye, going 3-2. They finished the season on fire like they did the previous year, going 9-2 after their bye. The defense was one of the best in team history, holding opponents under 20 points 11 times. The strength of the defense was the secondary, which picked off 13 passes and sent three of the four starters to the Pro Bowl.
This was the season when Eagles fans fell in love with A.J. Feeley, after McNabb missed six games and Koy Detmer went down in Week 12. The Eagles were forced to throw in their third-string quarterback. Feeley finished the season 4-1 as a starter with over 1,000 yards and six touchdowns.
McNabb returned for the Eagles in time for the playoffs in the Divisional Round against the Atlanta Falcons. It was just Vick's second season, and it appeared to be too much for him to handle this early. Vick finished with two interceptions and no touchdowns. The Eagles won the game 20-6, thanks to another great performance from their defense, which scored the first touchdown of the game on a pick-six by cornerback Bobby Taylor.
The very next week would be the final game in one of the most hated stadiums in NFL history, Veterans Stadium. Philadelphia started off on the right foot. Brian Mitchell returned the opening kickoff 70 yards and Duce Staley ran for a 20-yard touchdown, and the Eagles led 7-0 in the first minute of the game.
The Eagles would never find the end zone again as the Bucs' defense was too much. McNabb finished 26-49 with 242 yards and three turnovers. Tampa Bay would go on to the Super Bowl and dominate the Oakland Raiders.
This was supposed to be the year the Eagles finally get over the hump and bring the Lombardi Trophy to Philly. Though it was still a great season, losing at home to a team we had beaten in the regular season by double digits hurt.
The 2001 season was just the third year of both McNabb and Reid, but it was a great one. The Eagles under Reid, went from 5-11, to a playoff team to a Super Bowl contender. It was the start of something great.
If Eagles fans weren't convinced McNabb was the right pick in the 1999 NFL Draft in 2000, they certainly were in 2001. The Eagles reached their first NFC title game since 1980 and nearly upset the unstoppable St. Louis Rams offense.
The Eagles finished the season 11-5, including 9-3 after their Week 5 bye. McNabb finished with over 3,700 total yards passing and 27 total touchdowns with just 12 interceptions. The leading rusher for the Eagles, Duce Staley, only rushed for 604 yards, and the leading receiver, James Thrash, only had 833 yards. The lack of star power on the offense didn't seem to hold them back. They still managed to score at least 20 points in 12 of their games.
Philly would face a familiar foe in the opening round of the playoffs. They had just played the Bucs in the regular season finale in a game in which neither team had anything to gain. The Eagles won that game 17-13, and with a little more on the line six days later, the Eagles again beat them.
The following week, the Eagles faced off against the heavily favored defensive juggernaut Chicago Bears. Apparently, the media was hyping the wrong defense. The Eagles stout D held the Bears to just 184 total yards, forced four turnovers and knocked out Bears quarterback Jim Miller. The game wasn't even as close as the score might indicate, 33-19.
Once again, the young 2001 Eagles faced off against a heavily favored team, "The Greatest Show on Turf". The Eagles started off great taking a lead into the second half. The Rams would score 16 in the second half and take the lead 29-24 late in the fourth quarter. The Eagles had a chance to take the lead and advance to the Super Bowl, but they failed to take advantage of good field position with a drive that started at their own 45-yard line with over two minutes left in the game.
The 2001 season was great because it was a statement for both Reid and McNabb. They proved the 2000 season was no fluke and this team would be a contender for years to come.
This was the FINALLY season. Well, sort of. After suffering through three straight NFC title game disappointments, they finally got over the hump. They finally got to the Super Bowl.
The off-season is what started it all. The Eagles signed free agents Terrell Owens and Jevon Kearse. Owens finished the season with 77 catches for 1,200 yards and 14 touchdowns, while Jevon Kearse racked up 7.5 sacks, six passes defensed, two forced fumbles and one recovered.
The regular season was a pretty dominant one. The Eagles had something to play for in their first 14 games and clinched the NFC and rested its starters the final two games. In those first 14 games, the Eagles won 13, the only loss coming on the road to a stout Steelers' defense.
The low point of the season came in Week 15 against the Cowboys. On the Eagles' opening drive of the third quarter, Roy Williams horse-collar tackled Owens, breaking his ankle. It appeared as if Owens would be out for the rest of the season.
The playoffs started out well, as the Eagles easily handled the ice cold Vikings 27-14. The Vikings had lost four of their last five going into the playoffs, but somehow managed to upset the Packers in the Wild Card round. Minnesota turnovers and big plays by McNabb and running back Brian Westbrook put this game out of reach early as the Eagles went up 21-7 at the half and never looked back.
The 2005 NFC title game was where the Eagles set the tone early and often against the outmatched Falcons. Vick was held to just 136 passing yards and 26 rushing yards. Chad Lewis hauled in two touchdown including the score that put the game away at 27-10. It was later found out that he broke his ankle on the catch, but the adrenaline kept him from feeling the effects of that injury until later that night.
The Super Bowl was a tougher matchup against the New England Patriots. It was a back-and-forth game until the Patriots scored 10 straight points in the fourth quarter to take a 24-14 lead. The Eagles failed to answer until McNabb found Greg Lewis on a 30-yard touchdown with less than two minutes to play.
The Eagles failed to recover the onside kick but would get the ball back after burning all of their timeouts with less than a minute to play at their own four-yard line. However, three plays later, Rodney Harrison would pick off his second pass and McNabb's third of the game, and the dream was over. Owens finished the game with 9 catches for 122 yards despite being told by doctors he couldn't play. McNabb finished with 356 passing yards and three touchdowns, but his three interceptions seemed to doom the Eagles.
It was the first time that the Eagles truly had an elite offense, but they failed on many opportunities in Super Bowl XXXIX. The season was still one of the best, but like so many before it failed to end on a high note despite being given numerous opportunities.
The 1980 season saw the first Super Bowl appearance in Eagles history. It had been a tough stretch for the Eagles for the majority of the 1960s and '70s. But 1980 was a reward for all the loyal Eagles fans who toughed out a rough stretch of losing. The Eagles failed to make the playoffs from 1961-77.
Unlike the previous two playoff seasons under head coach Dick Vermeil, the Eagles didn't have to earn a Wild Card birth as they had finally won the NFC East. They finished the regular season at 12-4 and split with hated rival Dallas but won the tiebreaker based on points scored.
Quarterback Ron Jaworski was clearly the MVP of this team. He finished the season with over 3,500 passing yards and 27 touchdowns. The defense was the backbone of this team as they held opponents to fewest points in the league in the second fewest yards. The defense forced 42 total turnovers including 25 interceptions.
Philadelphia hosted the Minnesota Vikings in the Divisional Round of the playoffs. It did not start off well. The Vikings would get off to an 14-0 start after a second quarter Ted Brown touchdown. The Eagles would answer back with improved defense, they didn't give up any points to the Vikings offense the rest of the game. The Eagles would score 24 points in the second half while their opponent would only manage a safety. Final score Eagles 31, Vikings 16.
The NFC Championship game was a special one for the city of Philadelphia. A lot of demons were chased away on January 11th, 1981. The Eagles knocked out the Cowboys, a team that had dominated the Eagles for an entire decade. The Eagles turned a close first half into a dominant second half thanks to the defense shutting out the Cowboys in the final 30 minutes. The Eagles were on their way to their first Super Bowl and first title game since 1960.
Superbowl XV would not be a pleasant memory for Eagles fans. The Eagles would not get into the end zone until the fourth quarter and that wasn't until the Raiders had already mustered up 24 points.
It was a special year no doubt. Like the high majority of Eagles seasons, the year ended on a sour note. The thing that made 1980 special was all the lousy seasons the fans had to deal with made this season special. Vermeil was hired in 1976 and in four seasons had his team in the Super Bowl and they knocked out their hated rivals in the process.
The 1949 season for the Philadelphia Eagles was another triumph. It was their second straight NFL title. They finished the regular season with an 11-1 record.
The only loss of the 1949 season came at the hands of the Bears at Wrigley field. The Bears were lead by then 22-year-old George Blanda who would go on to play for 26 years. The Bears were the lone team to score more than 17 points against the Eagles as they blew out Philly, 38-21.
The '49 Eagles would face the Rams in L.A., but their defense would be too much. They shutout the Rams 14-0 en route for their second NFL Championship.
This probably wasn't the most exciting team in Eagles history, but they were certainly one of the most dominating. They were also loaded with talent, including four future Hall of Famers including Eagles legends Steve Van Buren and Chuck Bednarik.
The Philadelphia Eagles won their first championship in 1948. They finished the season at 9-2-1, losing to Chicago Cardinals in Week 1 and the Boston Yanks in Week 11. They also tied with the Los Angeles Rams in the second game of the year.
Despite being winless through their first two games of the 1948 season, the Eagles somehow managed to finish as champions. They followed their first two failures with two straight 45-0 beat downs at the hands of the Giants and the Redskins.
Their 9-2-1 finish would put them in the 1948 NFL title game against a Chicago Cardinals team that previously beat them 21-14 in the season opener. This game would be played in typical Philadelphia weather in mid-December. There was a blizzard.
The blizzard was so bad, star player Steve Van Buren stayed at home in Philly, as he believed the game wouldn't be played. Head coach Earle Neale called him and told him the game was still on. He had to catch several trolleys walk 12 blocks to get to the stadium. As Ray Didinger put it, "That was pro football in the 1940s".
Good thing he was able to brave the conditions, as Van Buren scored the lone touchdown in the final minute as the Eagles beat the Cardinals 7-0. The Cardinals disputed the touchdown and there are even talk that a curse started because of this game. The Cardinals franchise failed to reach another championship game until the 2008 season.
The 1960 Philadelphia Eagles will go down as one of the greatest team in the pre merger NFL. They didn't dominate defensively like the '48 and '49 teams did, but the NFL was a lot more advanced at that time. The Eagles team of 1960 had eight Pro Bowlers that year and including three future Hall of Famers in Chuck Bednarik, Tommy McDonald and Sonny Jurgensen.
Chuck was the last of the 60 Minute Men. He played both center and linebacker and played both extremely well. It was also the year where Bednarik knocked New York Giant Frank Gifford out of football for 18 months.
The 1960 Eagles finished 10-2 and another NFL Eastern title. The Eastern title earned the Eagles their third trip to the NFL title game where they would face off with six-time champion Green Bay Packers.
The game was back and forth, with the Packers hitting two early field goals only to be answered by a 35-yard touchdown pass to Tommy McDonald to put the Eagles up 7-6. A Bobby Walston 15-yard field goal made it 10-6 at the half.
The Pack answered back in the fourth on a 7-yard pass from Bart Starr to Max McGee, but the resilent Eagles answered the call and responded with a Ted Dean touchdown run with 5:21 left in the game. The Packers would have a shot in the closing seconds to win the game but Chuck Bednarik tackled Jim Taylor at the 10-yard line and Green Bay was unable to stop the clock as they were out of timeouts.
Bednarik stayed on top of Taylor until the final seconds ticked off and he then uttered one of the most famous quotes in NFL history "You can get up now Taylor, this game's over."
The '60 Eagles didn't have the dominant stats the teams of 1948 and '49 did, and they didn't have the glamour of any of the 2000s Eagles did, but they had a ton of heart. They were actually outgained by the Packers in the title game by 105 yards and had 9 fewer first downs. This team just found a way to get it done. It was the lone playoff loss for legendary head coach Vince Lombardi.