Why the 1991 Philadelphia Eagles Are My Favorite Team

Geoff CrawleySenior Analyst IMay 14, 2009


I can count with one finger the number of times I've seen my father cry.

It was Sept. 1, 1991—a warm, late summer day in Northern Virginia where we lived. I had religious services that morning and asked my dad to record the Eagles game for me so I could watch it later.

When I got home, I rang the bell, and he opened the door and looked as if someone was dead. He was welling up with tears. I asked him what happened.

"The game," he said.

I kinda laughed. "That bad?" I asked. "Did they lose?"

He shook his head and said, "No, they won." When I asked him what was wrong, he started to speak, stopped, then pushed past me and said, "Just watch it. I need to go for a long, long drive."

So as I watched, I saw Bryce Paup end our hopes and dreams for a Super Bowl by destroying Randall Cunningham's knee.

Out for the year.

We finally have a coach who won't ignore the offense, and Randall, the ultimate weapon, goes down in game one. Season over, right?

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Enter the best defense ever to take the field.

(This column is not about comparing this defense statistically to any other. For that, see here where a Steelers blog calls the 1991 Eagles the best defense ever. Over the 1985 Bears. Over the 2000 Ravens. Over the 1976 and 2008 Steelers. Ever.)

Led by the Minister of Defense, Reggie White, this Eagles team refused to quit after Randall went down. My personal favorite moment came in Week 14 against the Houston Oilers.

The Oilers were led by Hall of Fame quarterback Warren Moon and a slew of great receivers. They were the Greatest Show on Turf when Kurt Warner was in high school. Unbeaten at home, the thought was that as dominant as the Eagles defense had been, they would not be able to keep up with the high-powered Oilers.

Early in the game, Oilers wide receiver Ernest Givins ran a square in pattern. Just as the ball arrived, Eagles free safety Wes "The Widowmaker" Hopkins launched himself like a missile. Parallel to the ground, he put his forearm through Givins' face mask and broke it.

I'll give you a second to let that sink in.

His nose broken, Givins dropped the ball. The Oilers turned the ball over five times that day. They were held to two field goals, and, typically, the Eagles won only 13-6.

This was an abysmal offensive team. It really highlighted the greatness of Randall Cunningham. They turned the ball over 44 times, 26 in their six losses. In addition to an over the hill (and oft-injured) Jim McMahon, they had Brad Goebel, Jeff Kemp, and then 95-year-old Pat Ryan all see significant playing time at quarterback.

What, Guido Merkins wasn't available?

The leading rusher was James Joseph with 440 yards. No, I didn't leave a "1" off the front of that. The leading wide receiver was Fred Barnett. He had four touchdowns.


To call this offense bad is an insult to bad offenses. They would have had trouble scoring on SMU, whose football program didn't even play that year. But the defense...

Reggie White. Clyde Simmons. Jerome Brown. Mike Golic. Seth Joyner. Byron Evans. William Thomas. Eric Allen. Rich Miano. Wes Hopkins. Andre "Dirty" Waters.

The starting front four had 39.5 sacks. White alone had 15, despite constant double- and triple-teaming. But my favorite player on that team was Seth Joyner.

His intensity, his passion, his desire to win are all why his motor never, ever stopped. All he ever wanted was a title. In the aforementioned game in Houston, he was a monster. He had eight tackles, forced two fumbles, recovered two others, and had two sacks.

Oh, and he had a 102-degree fever.

While I wanted Seth to get a title in Philly, he didn't get one until after he left. He played special teams for the 1999 Broncos and got his ring then.

Well deserved.

This was a team that brutalized Troy Aikman for 11 sacks in one game. They handed the eventual Super Bowl champion Redskins one of only two losses that year. They gave up 300 yards in a game only once all year.

Not 300 yards passing. Three hundred yards total.

I'm not saying they would have won the Super Bowl that year, even with Randall. The Redskins were an absurdly good team that year, especially on offense. But still...

If I ever catch Bryce Paup on the street, we got beef.


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