Our Ultimate Philadelphia Eagles bracket has now been cut in half. We started with 32 all-time players and are now down to a pretty sweet 16. Through the first round of voting, there weren’t a ton of upsets and, really, there weren’t too many close decisions. Let’s run through which Eagle greats advanced to the next round, and set up this week’s Sweet 16 vote, which has some unbelievably tough decisions.
Remember, we are looking for the Ultimate Eagles player — the guy you think of when remembering your favorite plays, favorite seasons, favorite jerseys to pull out of the closet. Who is the Ultimate Philadelphia Eagles player? We are one round closer to finding out. Vote now!
MIDNIGHT GREEN OFFENSE
We broke the bracket into four regions: Midnight Green Era Offense and Defense and Kelly Green Era Offense and Defense. While there were no upsets in the first round of either Kelly Green region, the Midnight Green era — roughly the last 20 years under current owner Jeffrey Lurie — had a few.
1. Brian Westbrook vs. 5. Donovan McNabb
Brian Westbrook validated his top seed by trouncing Terrell Owens in the first round, earning 80.7 percent of the vote. B-West played eight seasons in Philly and rushed for just under 6,000 yards. Wesbrook also caught 426 passes for nearly 3,800 yards with the Eagles, including 90 catches in 2007, part of his league-best 2,104 yards from scrimmage that season.
Donovan McNabb beat fourth-seeded DeSean Jackson in a landslide, winning with 77.4 percent of the vote. McNabb is often maligned in town, especially by the loudmouths who call in to sports talk radio, but there is something of a silent majority of support for Five when it comes to remembering his Eagles career.
McNabb is the Eagles’ all-time leading passer with 32,873 yards and 216 touchdowns. He made the Pro Bowl six times, but the Super Bowl just once. McNabb is the poster player for the Andy Reid era, and for Eagles football in the Aughts. He might be the Ultimate Eagles player ever, given his relatively high level of success without quite being able to win it all.
2. LeSean McCoy vs. 6. Duce Staley
Shady McCoy beat current Eagle Brent Celek in the first round, winning with 64.2 percent of the vote. McCoy is interesting, in that he was beloved when he was with the Eagles, but unlike other stars who leave town and are still well liked, the tide has turned on him since being traded to Buffalo. Still, he left Philly as the franchise’s all-time leading rusher, with 6,792 yards to go with 44 touchdowns.
Duce Staley winning over Jason Peters was a surprise. The sixth-seeded Staley won in a close contest, earning 58.2 percent of the vote. Staley played seven years in Philly, and rushed for more than 1,000 yards three times. He was a bruising back, rushing 325 times in 1999, with another 41 receptions, numbers that may have impacted the rest of his career. Staley is currently a coach on the Eagles, working with the running backs for years under, now, three different head coaches.
MIDNIGHT GREEN DEFENSE
1. Brian Dawkins vs. 5. Fletcher Cox
If you ask me who will win this entire competition, it’s Brian Dawkins. Even over Reggie White. Dawk beat Hollis Thomas in the first round, earning the highest percentage of votes with 91.6 percent.
Weapon X played for the Eagles from 1996 to 2008, but his impact on the team continued far after he left. Dawkins was the leader of the Eagles defense in the Andy Reid era, and is in a category of most beloved Philly athletes that very few in this city’s history belong. This season, Dawkins was brought back to the Eagles in an official capacity, hired in the team’s front office during training camp.
Fletcher Cox beat out Trent Cole relatively easily, which was a bit of a surprise in that he earned more than 60 percent of the vote. Perhaps it’s recency bias, or maybe more and more people have started identifying Cox as the current face of the Eagles franchise.
We don’t know how great Fletcher Cox will be, but the fifth-year defensive lineman is already really, really good. He signed a monstrous contract this off-season that will keep him in town for at least the next half decade. He won’t win this vote, but if he helps bring a title to Philly during his career, he’ll win this contest at some point, for sure.
2. Jeremiah Trotter vs. 3. Troy Vincent
Jeremiah Trotter put the axe to Bobby Taylor in the first round, winning with 84.6 percent of the vote. Trotter played eight years for the Eagles, in three stints. He played, in total, 116 games for the Eagles, and had 564 tackles, 128 assisted, and 11 sacks. His fire and hard-nosed play on the field was his calling card, a perfect fit in the middle of a defense in Philly.
Troy Vincent won his first round over Sheldon Brown with nearly 90 percent of the vote. Vincent started his career in Miami, but after four years he signed with the Eagles, playing in 118 games for the Birds. He had 28 interceptions in his career, to go with his 422 tackles, 94 assisted. A local kid, Vincent was as lock-down as a cornerback can get, and was a big part of a new era of Eagles football in the ’90s.
KELLY GREEN OFFENSE
1. Randall Cunningham vs. 4. Wilbert Montgomery
Randall Cunningham beat Keith Byars in the first round with just under 82 percent of the vote. It’s fun to imagine how Cunningham’s career would have been covered in the Twitter age. Even then, every move Cunningham made, every hat he wore, became front-page headlines. He was a star at a time when the NFL did not have a lot of black quarterbacks. He was a mobile QB at a time when most were pocket passers. Cunningham was, in many ways, a man before his time. But that time in the NFL would have never come had it not been for Cunningham.
He played 11 years in Philly, though just 122 games, passing for nearly 23,000 yards and rushing for another 4,482. Cunningham was dynamic, but he won just one playoff game with the Eagles. With how good the defense was at that time, many still blame him, not Buddy Ryan, for not winning a championship during that era.
Wilbert Montgomery defeated Hall of Famer Steve Van Buren in the closest vote of the first round, earning 52.3 percent of the vote in order to advance. Montgomery played eight years for the Eagles and rushed for more than 1,400 yards twice in his career. He also caught 266 passes for 2,447 yards in his 100 regular season games as an Eagle.
In the 1980-81 NFC title game, Montgomery had 26 rushes for 194 yards and a score against Dallas, one of the great performances in league history. He was undoubtedly the best Eagles running back in franchise history at the time of his retirement. Arguably, he still is.
2. Harold Carmichael vs. 3. Ron Jaworski
In a battle of receivers, Harold Carmichael outreached Mike Quick to make the second round, earning 64.5 percent of the vote. Carmichael is the Eagles’ all-time leading receiver, with 589 receptions for 8,978 yards in 180 games from 1971 to 1983. He was a four-time Pro Bowl receiver and, in 1973, he led the NFL in receptions, yards and yards per game. A huge presence on the field at 6-8, 225 pounds, Carmichael scored 79 touchdowns in his career, with another six scores on 29 catches his seven playoff games, including Super Bowl XV.
Ron Jaworski defeated Pete Retzlaff with relative ease in the first round, earning 76 percent of the votes.
Jaws made just one Pro Bowl in his career, the year he helped lead the Eagles to the Super Bowl, but he did play for the Eagles for a decade after beginning his career with the Rams, starting 137 games and throwing for just under 27,000 yards and 175 touchdowns for the Birds.
More than any player in maybe any sport in Philly’s history, Jaws has become part of the fabric Philadelphia. He is a local and national analyst on radio and television, he owns several successful businesses, including a growing number of area golf courses, and he’s the owner of the AFL Champion Philadelphia Soul.
KELLY GREEN DEFENSE
1. Reggie White vs. 4. Eric Allen
It’s not a surprise that Reggie White won in the first round over Herm Edwards, but it is a surprise he only got 91 percent of the votes.
White played eight of his 15-year career in Philadelphia and while the Minister of Defense left to help the Packers win a Super Bowl, fans in Philly never turned on him for leaving.
White had 198 sacks in his career, including 124 with the Eagles in 121 games. He forced 18 fumbles and recovered 11 and had 794 tackles as a member of the Eagles. White might be the best player to ever wear Eagles green, and he’s in the conversation for the best athlete to ever play in the city.
Eric Allen surpassed Clyde Simmons to advance to the Sweet 16, earning just under 63 percent of their first-round votes. Allen was a six-time Pro Bowler who played the first seven of his 14 seasons with the Eagles. He started as a rookie in Philly and never left the lineup, playing in 111 games, 110 starts, and becoming a quintessential lockdown corner on some great defensive teams.
Allen had 34 interceptions in his Eagles career, five returned for scores, with another five fumble recoveries. The only reason Allen didn’t have better numbers was because quarterbacks were so afraid to throw the ball his way. A “student of the game” the great Ray Didinger called him, Allen should be a Hall of Famer. He was that good.
2. Andre Waters vs. 3. Chuck Bednarik
This is truly the match-up most of us were waiting for in this round: Two of the most hard-nosed players in Eagles history facing off in the Sweet 16. Frankly, we’ll admit the seeding may have been off on this one, but that’s more reason for this vote to really matter the most.
Andre Waters beat his battery-mate Wes Hopkins in the first round, earning 71.1 percent of the vote. Waters who was with the Eagles for 10 years from 1984 to 1993, was beloved because of his style of play. He was a baaaaad man. Waters had a crazy 910 tackles in 137 games with the Eagles from the strong safety position. He was ferocious and feared and surely a little (read: a lot) dirty. He probably wouldn’t survive in the NFL today, given all the rules changes. But in his day, he was a menace. And people in Philly loved him for it.
Chuck Bednarik defeated Seth Joyner with 72.4 percent of the vote. Bednarik was an eight-time Pro Bowl selection and Pro Football Hall of Famer, who played his entire career in Philly from 1949 through 1962. Concrete Charlie played both sides of the ball, as a linebacker on defense and as a center on offense.
A local product who was born in Bethlehem, went to Penn and was drafted first overall in 1949, Bednarik lived up to the hype — if there was much hype in the NFL in the 1950s. He was not just one of the greatest Eagles of all time, but one of the greatest athletes in the city’s history. But is he the Ultimate Philadelphia Eagles player? This round can get him one round closer to that title.