10 Most Important Philadelphia Eagles of All Time

Randy JobstSenior Analyst IAugust 13, 2013

10 Most Important Philadelphia Eagles of All Time

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    The Philadelphia Eagles franchise has been blessed with some of the best football players of all time. Guys like Steve Van Buren, Brian Dawkins, Reggie White, Eric Allen, Terrell Owens, Jason Peters and Harold Carmichael were dominant at their position. However, talent is only a small part of the equation. The impact you have on your team and your city goes far beyond talent. This article is about that impact. 

    The Eagles may not have a Super Bowl to their name, but they still have 23 playoff appearances, three NFL titles and a huge impact on Philadelphia.

    These ten Eagles players and coaches stand out to me as having a far greater impact than the rest of the group. 

10. Wilbert Montgomery

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    Wilbert Montgomery is the Eagles' all-time leading rusher and a key cog in the 1980 NFC Championship team. He holds seven Eagles rushing records, including rushing yards (6,538) and most 100-yard rushing games (26). 

    Montgomery was the workhorse for the Eagles teams of the late '70s and early '80s that ended a 17-year playoff drought in 1978. Ron Jaworski will always get more credit, but it was Monty that came up the biggest during the 1980 Super Bowl run. 

9. Reggie White

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    Reggie White is the greatest player to ever put on an Eagles uniform, but he didn't have the greatest impact. White was signed after the collapse of the USFL in 1985. He played with the team until 1992. In that time he racked up 124 sacks, including 21 in 12 games in 1987. 

    No other defensive player had a greater combination of power, speed and ability than White. He was also the emotional leader of some of the greatest Eagles defenses of all time. 

    During his time in Philadelphia, the Eagles went just 1-4 in the playoffs and never won more than 11 games in a season. The coaching staff never seemed to be on the same page and the offense always failed in the playoffs. Still, there is no denying his impact as an Eagle.

8. Brian Dawkins

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    Reggie White might have been the best player to put on the Eagles green, but Brian Dawkins is easily the most popular Eagle. Dawkins could run for mayor in Philadelphia, do zero campaigning whatsoever and win the election in an epic landslide. 

    Dawkins' hard-hitting nature, his ability to cover the entire field and his elite energy level made him a fan favorite for life. He was also a leader on some of the great Philadelphia defenses of the 2000s that went to five NFC Championship Games and one Super Bowl. Sadly, he never got that elusive Super Bowl ring, but he still made a major impact on the city for over a decade. 

7. Donovan McNabb

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    Donovan McNabb is the face of the great Philadelphia teams that went to five NFC title games in the 2000s. He is also the face of a dynasty that could have been. During an era when the NFC appeared to be lacking in truly elite teams, the Eagles could not get over the hump for three straight seasons.

    He did make it to the big game in the following season after toppling future Eagle Michael Vick against Atlanta, but he still came up short against New England in the Super Bowl. 

    McNabb was a model of consistency who worked beautifully with Andy Reid, valued the game and owned the NFC East for a brief stretch in the early 2000s. 

6. Andy Reid/Jim Johnson

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    Andy Reid and Jim Johnson were a tag-team coaching duo to be reckoned with in the 2000s. They turned around a down franchise, won 97 regular-season games in 10 seasons and led the Eagles to five NFC Championship Games. 

    They were a model of consistency and helped develop two of the Eagles' greatest players of all time: Donovan McNabb and Brian Dawkins. Though these two never brought the Lombardi Trophy home, they did spoil Eagles fans for 10 seasons. 

    Johnson passed away prior to the 2009 season. The expectations became win the division and win at least one playoff game. Since that season, the Eagles have just one NFC East title and an 0-2 playoff record. 

5. Tommy McDonald

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    Tommy McDonald was a great versatile offensive threat before we had great versatile threats. He finished his career with just under 10,000 all-purpose yards, which was a lot back in the '50s and '60s. McDonald played for the Eagles from 1957-1963, including on the 1960 championship team when he led the league in receptions and receiving yards. 

    McDonald was the most valuable offensive player on Philadelphia's greatest championship team. He was the league's best receiver that year and was also one of the toughest. You have to be if you are going to be known as the last player in NFL history to wear a helmet without a facemask. 

4. Al Wistert

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    Al Wistert isn't a name that is very familiar to most Eagles fans, but that is because you would have to be at least 63 years old to have been alive during his final season as an Eagle.

    His importance lies with two NFL championship teams in the '40s. Wistert was a dominant tackle that paved the way for Steve Van Buren (more on him later). 

    Wistert was selected to eight All-Pro teams; he was also selected to the NFL All-Decade team of the 1940s and the Eagles Honor Roll. The fact that Wistert is not in the Pro Football Hall of Fame is depressing. He was the most dominant offensive tackle of his time and was a key member of two championship teams. He is in the College Football Hall of Fame from his days at Michigan, where he was also a dominant tackle.

3. Steve Van Buren

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    Speaking of Steve Van Buren, his impact in Eagles lore is without question. He was the best back of his era by a long shot and helped guide the Eagles to two championships. He finished his NFL career—all with the Eagles—with a then-NFL record of 5,860 career rushing yards and 69 touchdowns. 

    Van Buren was an All-Pro in seven of his eight seasons and led the league in rushing four times. In the 1949 championship game against the Rams, Van Buren ran for 196 yards, which was a big deal in the 1940s. 

2. Chuck Bednarik

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    Chuck Bednarik, or "Concrete Charlie," was the toughest player of his era and one of the true "Iron Men" in any sport. He played both linebacker and center and is one of the last of the "60 Minute Men". He was a big part of two dominant championship teams in 1949 and 1960 that were led by their defense. 

    Bednarik isn't just a champion, he is the face of the toughest Eagles defense of all time. Buddy Ryan's defenses of the '80s and '90s get all the hype for "hitting people in the mouth," but Concrete Charlie actually punched Chuck Noll in his mouth in a game (Noll was a player for the Browns at the time).

    Bednarik is probably most famous for the photo above. He stood over Frank Gifford after he knocked him out of that game and football for the next 18 months. 

1. Dick Vermeil

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    Surprised? I'll explain. Dick Vermeil didn't have as successful of a run as Andy Reid did and never won a Super Bowl in Philadelphia, but what he did for the franchise is pretty remarkable. When Vermeil took over as head coach of the Eagles in 1976, he took over a team that hadn't reached the playoffs since 1960. They reached the playoffs in his third season and reached the Super Bowl in 1980. 

    What is remarkable about what Vermeil did in Philly is that the Eagles' playoff drought was already 15 years old, and he didn't get a first-round draft pick until the 1978 season. It would be like taking over a franchise worse off than the Oakland Raiders and Jacksonville Jaguars combined and getting zero first-round picks until the third season. 

    Before Vermeil brought the Eagles back to the postseason, they had a 17-year drought. Since then, their longest drought has been six years, with five of those six years being the first five after Vermeil left. 

Honorable Mentions

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    Jerome Brown, Buddy Ryan, Norm Van Brocklin, Ron Jaworski, Brian Westbrook, Tommy Thompson, Seth Joyner, Williams Thomas, Eric Allen, Andre Waters, Wes Hopkins, Harold Carmichael and Terrell Owens.