The Eagles have one of the largest and most passionate fanbases in the NFL. However, because of that passion, players have had to REALLY earn the respect of the faithful. For the likes of Alex Henery and Casey Matthews, it has been tough to make up ground with fans, while Brian Dawkins and Reggie White were able to earn their universal appreciation with their play, work ethic and personalities on the field.
That said, there are definitely some that are greatly favored over others in every era. From Chuck Bednarik and Tommy McDonald to Harold Carmichael and Wilbert Montgomery to Dawkins and Brian Westbrook, fans have gravitated toward players that have performed well and made the city proud.
In the spirit of favoring players, we asked the BGN staff to compile their top five favorite Eagles players. Below are what they had to say:
The one and only. As hard as the Eagles may try, there will just never be a Next Dawkins.
Great player on the field, but also contributed a lot to the community off the field. The first Eagles player I ever saw in person.
Whenever I'm bored I just Google "LeSean McCoy gif" and the problem is solved. McCoy is one of the most entertaining running backs I've ever seen.
BWest's punt return touchdown against the Giants had me hooked. He played bigger than his size and was so easy to root for.
Talk about a guy who brings it every single play. Cole was a beast in his prime.
He is Brian Dawkins. What needs to be said? He and Scottie Pippen are my two most favorite athletes ever. He is really the embodiment of what it means to be an Eagle.
In the words of Terrell Owens, "He's my quarterback." Seriously, as an Eagles and Syracuse fan, I was probably one of very few excited when his named was called in 1999. Like it or not, McNabb is the best quarterback of the Eagles have had since the merger and it's not even close. He may have had his issues with public relations over the years, but he always brought it.
Is it fair to call LeSean McCoy the best offensive player the Eagles have had since the NFL-AFL merger? I think so. The kid has been a Top 5 running back for four years and is only 26. He is the only offensive player that I literally get goosebumps watching and there are times where he will shake a defender and I will squeak like a little girl in excitement.
I am a big fan of offensive line play and I loved Tra Thomas. I never had to worry about a quarterback with him at left tackle. He was greatly under-appreciated by national media and fans and should have gone to more Pro Bowls. While he isn't a Hall of Fame blindside protector like Walter Jones or Orlando Pace, he is probably just below that tier. Man, 2009's offseason hurt.
This final slot was very hard for me as it came down to Reggie White, Randall Cunningham, Sheldon Brown, Seth Joyner, Eric Allen and Troy Vincent. I made the choice because Vincent was the only player that I genuinely rooted for after he left the team. His leadership and play were fantastic and I still followed him when he left for the Bills. I'd argue that Vincent is the best defensive free agent signing the team has ever made.
First player I truly idolized and first jersey I ever owned. Iconic, changed the position and embodied Philadelphia in a real-life way, not a lame Rocky way. Seek and destroy wolverine (animal not X-Man) on the field, but the nicest person and model citizen off it. So on and so forth complimentary description.
Also, Dawkins' depressing departure prompted Jimmy Kempski (aka ByeDawk) to join BGN and begin his career as a BLOGGER, so some good came out of it I guess. More good: the always fun and never overused #NextDawkins hashtag.
Andy Reid called him the smartest football player he ever coached. A particularly sentimental pick for me because I watched go from small school legend to NFL star. Westbrook's Villanova game highlights were regularly on CSN during the college football season, and he was always putting up video game yardage totals as a runner and receiver, setting new records.
Westbrook was our Marshall Faulk, the most dangerous dual threat back in his prime. He saved multiple seasons and was the perfect predecessor to LeSean McCoy, with jukes on top of jukes, unbelievable lateral agility, short area quickness and burst. I always loved how Westbrook would make himself skinny to sneak through small creases and just explode past flat-footed defenders or shimmy shake them out of their jock straps. Also, like Shady, Westbrook had underrated strength, especially in his lower body, and broke something like 99.9 percent of arm tackles.
Still watch his highlights regularly. Never not fun.
The documented off field stories are unflattering (and he's earned his nickname), but the on field talent is dazzling and special. Whether you think LeSean is the reincarnation of Barry Sanders (like his peers say) or evolutionary Gale Sayers (like noted sports savant @DomoAriGotto says), you understand you're watching greatness and will see few if any talents like him again.
McCoy should -- will -- pass Wilbert Montgomery for first all-time atop the Eagles career rushing list this season, and he'll probably do it on a tough, chain-moving three yard gain because he's awesome at that too. Definition of a franchise running back in a league where they're disappearing. We've been so spoiled at the position the last 20 years and take it for granted.
Arguably the best player in franchise history, regardless of if he makes the Hall of Fame (he won't). I was very lucky that my formative development included getting the chance to watch McNabb make the Eagles relevant for nearly a decade. Even if you dislike him because he didn't play his best in the biggest games, I hope you can enjoy what he gave you as a fan on the whole. Otherwise I have to assume you're just a miserable person. McNabb was never my favorite player on a team, however, and I understood the polarization because I felt it too (I self-loathingly made fun of his worm-killer throws and threw fits when he shit the bed). But damn if I wasn't excited to watch him play every week and happy he was on my team.
Another guy who stole my heart in college, I was so excited when the Eagles drafted Celek because I knew he could play. He had his coming out party in the NFC Championship against Arizona. I believed in him as a valuable offensive weapon and decided his jersey would be my next a month after Dawkins left in 2009. Still haven't bought another jersey since and am thrilled that instead of getting cut -- like so many people, myself included, thought -- he turned into one of Chip Kelly's favorite players, an invaluable veteran leader and a team barometer. The more I think about it nowadays, it wouldn't shock me if Celek finishes out his current deal with the Eagles (through 2016) as a very good number two tight end and intangibles lynchpin in the locker room. Chad Lewis 2.0, but better.
Snot bubbles. Crazy eyes.
Randall was so much fun. From a physical standpoint, he could do anything, and when you're a kid that's all it takes to make you love him. That play where he avoided a sack by Carl Banks? Football players aren't supposed to bend that way. A 90 yard punt? QBs aren't supposed to do that. The team gave him almost no help on offense, so many times he had to be a one man highlight reel for the team to score. He was.
Imagine where this team would have been and would be now if McNabb was off the board on that infamous draft day. Thank you Cleveland for taking him off your board early in the draft process. McNabb gave us a decade of great memories and a foundation of success that remains today.
We joke about Next Dawkins, but how about Next Trotter? A beast in the middle, he made four All-Pro teams just like Chuck Bednarik did. He has perhaps the best claim to the title of Truest Eagle™ -- he went to the Redskins and sucked, then came back to the Birds and was awesome again. Secret Agent Trotter.
Can we get that scene from Silver Linings Playbook changed? Because even if Jackson was still here, Shady is, in the rain, sleet or snow, the man.
In my opinion the greatest Eagles' wide receiver in history... when healthy. He was unmatched on the wing, catching everything thrown his way. But knee injuries derailed his career too soon.
Michael Irvin had a reputation for nasty, physical play, especially against the Eagles. Then Tim Hauck happened.
He played the game with enthusiasm and ferocity, leading the NFL in QB shoulder dislocations. Sadly, along with Pelle Lindbergh, he represents one of the greatest losses in Philadelphia sports. Not many men would make Reggie White cry, but Jerome Brown did.
Because he's Wolverine, Weapon X, Idiot Man, and we'll forever search for the next one.
The Ultimate Weapon was given just one ultimatum from coach Buddy Ryan: make plays. He made a li'l bit.
What's not to like about a guy who worked with concrete during the offseason (hence the nickname "Concrete Charlie"), was the last player to start on both sides of the ball, and knocked a star New York Giants running back unconscious for two days?
The guy was the last Eagle to be considered a truly feared tackler. Not only that, but his presence and leadership in the locker room proved to be indispensable. And if that isn't enough, the way he played in the '08 playoffs should be.
Steve Van Buren
He gave the Eagles their first NFL Title (those still count!) by scoring the only touchdown in the 1948 Championship game. Even though his franchise record of 18 touchdowns in a season was broken by LeSean McCoy, Van Buren only had ten games to accomplish that. I'd like to see any current non-quarterback average almost two touchdowns per game - yeah, that probably won't happen.
This doesn't really need an explanation. 12-time All-Pro, second all-time in sacks (198.5), and the only player ever to get 20 sacks in 12 games. Dude was a beast.
I almost put Donovan McNabb here based on what he was able to do with Andy Reid, but I think McCoy will eventually accomplish more with Chip Kelly. Barring anything unexpected, he could very well go down as one of the greatest running backs of all time when he finally hangs up the cleats.
The dust has barely settled on his career, but he already seems destined to be under-appreciated. At peak, he was one of the most entertaining players in the game. While many "experts" question his legacy, the fact is no other QB in history put up the numbers McNabb did while playing with a supporting cast so poor.
Only wanted to list one RB, and while B-West was great, McCoy is on another level. If you're a relatively young fan, do you best to savor the next couple of McCoy seasons. A player this exciting is very rare and there's no telling how long we'll have to wait for another one. The rest of the team could be garbage and I'd still tune in every week just to see Shady make defenders look foolish.
Though I haven't seen the other submissions, I'm guessing this one is unanimous. There might not be another player in team history that fit the city's personality so well. It might be tough to remember, but not too long ago the Eagles fielded the NFL's best defensive backfield, and Dawkins was its leader.
Not really much to say about Reggie that hasn't been said before. Just can't make a list of great/favorite Eagles players without him on there. No exaggeration: we might live the rest of our lives and not see another Eagles player as good as White was.
He might not have been a truly "great" quarterback, but if football is just meant to entertain us, it's hard to imagine a better player than Cunningham. He was Vick before Vick. A more athletic, less polished McNabb that never really found the coach or cast to bring out his best. We got a glimpse of it in 1998, when he teamed with Randy Moss and Chris Carter to devastate the league, but for Eagles fans, he's an all-time "what if?" player. He only won one playoff game in Philly, but frankly, we often remember the highlight-reel plays better anyway, and Cunningham left us with plenty of those.
James Seltzer (BGN Radio)
Pretty simple, he is the most exciting player, outside of Randall Cunningham, that I have seen play in my lifetime.
Was a force on the field. Everybody loved Jerome Brown. Obviously a tragedy he died so young. Who knows how great he could have been?
The most exciting player I ever saw play. He changed the game. Though he never won anything, he was still the most fun to watch.
I grew up with the Gang Green defense and Reggie was the best player on that defense and one of the best defensive players ever. Hard to beat that.
The heart and soul of the best Eagles run in their history. He epitomized what we as Eagles fans love about football. Has to be #1.
Allen Rodriguez (Newest Staff Member)
I used to refuse to play Madden with the Eagles because no video game could ever do him justice and it drove me crazy. He played through tons of injuries and essentially was the Eagles offense for a decent stretch during the end of his prime. Plus he seems like a great guy.
No explanation needed. Heart and soul of the defense – probably the whole team actually.
I had a great English teacher in high school who used to indulge the class in a little Eagles chat on Mondays after games, and he was one of the fans who felt McNabb was overrated. It was much more entertaining to disagree and assert that McNabb was great, so I became a staunch McNabb apologist and found my love for him grow and grow as I continued to defend him like I would my child.
Evan was actually the very first person to follow me on Twitter. His social media presence has humanized NFL players to me, and he’s easy to root for as a guy who inexplicably was never really given a chance to shine until he got to Philadelphia, but he stayed working hard, got his opportunity, and capitalized.
Oh I went there. I wanted to go with Trent Cole here, but truthfully T.O. was just too entertaining to leave off the list. Opting for Owens over Reggie White-type players may reveal my youth and perhaps my naivety along with it, but 2004 was a magical year and Owens was an enormous part of that, whether we like it or not.
Looking at the lists, everyone included Brian Dawkins on their countdowns (duh!) and only James Keane and Allen Rodriguez left LeSean McCoy off. One might argue that they are the two most popular players of the modern era and likely in the Top 5 of all-time. While we can reflect on the greatness of Dawkins, we are still able to admire the beauty that is Shady's play this season.
Now it's your turn! Who are your five favorite Eagles? Tell us who and why down below.