Man, the 1980s and ‘90s truly were the glory days for the NFC East.
Think about the incredible rivalries that existed during that time. The Dallas Cowboys truly were “America’s Team,” a franchise that always seemed to be in the Super Bowl hunt, until Buddy Ryan’s Eagles came along and knocked Tom Landry into retirement. But then Jimmy Johnson turned the team around and led them to a couple Super Bowls in a row. Bill Parcells was roaming the sidelines for the New York Giants and winning a couple of Super Bowls along the way, as did Washington, with Joe Gibbs at the head of one of marquee franchises in the NFL.
On those teams were a number of great players, many of whom you all probably hated. Unsurprisingly, most of the names on my list are members of the Dallas Cowboys. That franchise has done an outstanding job of bringing aboard not only totally unlikeable people, but they’ve also employed so many players that have tortured Eagles fans throughout the years that it’s hard to come up with a top-10 list that isn’t all Cowboys.
Washington is woefully underrepresented on this list. Think about it, is there a player from that franchise that you truly hated? I mean, Mark Rypien was annoying in 1991, but other than that, he wasn’t much of a threat. The trio of Gary Clark, Ricky Sanders and Art Monk were devastatingly good, but not hateable. Darrell Green was too nice a guy to hate. And no one since Daniel Snyder took over in 1999 has risen to the level of most hated. New York’s three representatives were all defensive players, which makes sense, although Phil Simms got on my nerves quite a bit.
So, here is my top-10 most hated NFC East foes of all time.
10. Dexter Manley - Washington Football Team
The former defensive end is the only member of Washington on this list, although I considered putting DeSean Jackson here because of how he tortured Eagles fans while wearing the burgundy and gold. Manley had a great nickname “The Secretary of Defense,” and in 1986 tallied a ridiculous 18.5 sacks. In nine years with Washington he piled up 91 sacks and routinely made life awful for Ron Jaworski and Randall Cunningham.
Manley’s actually had some really rough patches in his life. He was forced to retire after four failed drug tests and revealed in his post-playing career that he was functionally illiterate. He was treated for a colloid cyst and had to undergo brain surgery in 2006 and was recently diagnosed with COVID-19, but thankfully he appears to be OK. His inclusion on this list is a hatred of respect, given his 16 career sacks in 19 games against Philadelphia.
9. Jason Sehorn - New York Giants
First of all, he was a pretty boy, way too handsome to be a professional football, let alone a good professional football player. Philly fans don’t like pretty boys. He also asked actress Angie Harmon to marry him on the Tonight Show (they have since divorced), another move that elicited eye rolls from Birds fans. But the reason he was hated is because he was a thorn in the side on the field, and turned in one of the greatest interception returns in NFL history in a 2001 Divisional Round playoff game against the Eagles.
I considered putting Eli Manning on this list, seeing as how he magically won two Super Bowls, but the Eagles had such an easy time handling him most of the time that I went in another direction here.
8. Ezekiel Elliott - Dallas Cowboys
In two of his four seasons, he’s led the league in rushing. He’s averaged 103.5 yards rushing per game against the Eagles in his career. He talks trash and is generally not terribly likable. If you had him higher on your list, I wouldn’t blame you.
7. Lee Roy Jordan - Dallas Cowboys
The Eagles and Cowboys weren’t rivals until Jordan, a star linebacker for Dallas, delivered an elbow and forearm combination to the face of beloved Philadelphia wide receiver Timmy Brown back in 1967.
Brown said after his playing days were over that the hit by Jordan knocked out nine of his teeth. Why did Jordan cheap shot him? The season prior, Brown had returned two kicks for touchdowns in a game the Eagles beat the Cowboys 24-23. The following season, after Brown said he heard reports that Cowboys players had “put a bounty” on him, he was leveled by a clothesline tackle as Brown tried to reach for a swing pass that was overthrown as he came out of the backfield.
After that hit, the Cowboys became the Eagles’ most hated rivals.
6. Lawrence Taylor - New York Giants
I can’t imagine what it must have been like to line up against L.T. His ferocity, speed, and drive made him perhaps the greatest defensive player in NFL history and, for years, he tortured the Eagles.
Prior to a match-up against the Giants in 1986, there were rumors that Eagles head coach Buddy Ryan had put a bounty on Taylor, in response to four-sack, seven-QB hit, 11 tackle outburst four weeks earlier in a Giants 35-3 win over Buddy’s boys. Early in the game, an Eagles offensive lineman laid Taylor out with a vicious, blind-side block. Here’s what happened after that.
The Giants would win that game too, 17-14, and Taylor would get three more sacks. In 24 career games, he piled up 25 sacks against the Birds.
5. Michael Strahan - New York Giants
His feud with Jon Runyan was the stuff pure hatred is made of, and Strahan made a habit of making Donovan McNabb’s life awful.
What made Strahan really annoying was how much he talked. The dude loved to talk, all the way to the point of making sure he is on TV now talking some more. He piled up 21.5 sacks in 28 career games against the Eagles, and was one of the most infuriating opponents in Eagles history.
4. Deion Sanders - Dallas Cowboys/Washington
With Deion Sanders, it was always all about Prime Time. The thing is, he was really an incredible athlete, kick returner and cover corner for the Cowboys during their heyday. His brashness and me-first persona combined with the fact that even the best receivers in the league couldn’t beat him made for an infuriating combination. So much to hate.
3. Emmitt Smith - Dallas Cowboys
2. Michael Irvin - Dallas Cowboys
You could flip these two if you wanted and I’d have no complaints. Smith was more hateable because he absolutely owned the Eagles. He ripped your heart out every single game. Just when it felt like you might be able to come back and beat the Cowboys in a close game, Smith would take over and leave you despondent and frustrated. He didn’t do anything fancy but seemed to rip off 7-yard runs every other play against the Eagles. Below is a game in which he ran for over 200 yards against the Eagles. He was a nightmare.
The Eagles had more success against Irvin, but he was so cocky and arrogant that he made him slightly more hateable for me. When the Eagles drafted Bobby Taylor, it was done with the exclusive idea of giving the Birds a larger corner to match up against Irvin. And most of the time, it worked. But Irvin burned the Eagles enough times that he became a true villain for Philly fans.
But both these players generated rage for Eagles fans, and both should be near the top of everyone’s list.
1. Terrell Owens - Dallas Cowboys
When Terrell Owens left the Eagles in 2005, he was the most hated opponent in team history. Then he signed on with Dallas, of all teams, a scenario that was almost too perfect. Thankfully, Owens never hurt the Birds when he was with the Cowboys and, in fact, one of the greatest moments in team history was Owens’ first game back in Philadelphia after his not-so-celebrated departure.
It was beautiful.
What do you think of this list? Who is your most hated NFC East rival? Leave an answer in the comments below!