Our Ultimate Philadelphia Eagles bracket tournament is down to eight, and the list of players left will have fans wishing for days gone by.
We started with 32 all-time players, broken into Offense and Defense in the Midnight Green Era — the last 20 years, give or take, that Jeffrey Lurie has owned the franchise — and the Kelly Green Era, which consists of every decade that came before.
The eight players left in the competition are bona fide all-time greats, which should make for a few impossibly tough decisions this round. Brian Westbrook, LeSean McCoy, Brian Dawkins, Jeremiah Trotter, Randall Cunningham, Harold Carmichael, Reggie White and Chuck Bednarik make up the elite group that remains.
To be honest, when we set up the bracket regions, there were really only five players we thought had any chance to win, and four of those five are still in it (sorry, Donovan), with two facing off this round.
Are you ready to vote in Ultimate Eagles Bracket, presented by Xfinity? First, remember, what we are looking for in the Ultimate player — the guy you think of when you remember your favorite plays, favorite seasons, pull out your favorite jersey to wear on Sundays. Let’s vote to see who makes the Final Four.
MIDNIGHT GREEN OFFENSE
The final match-up in the Midnight Green Offense region is no surprise, given it’s 1 vs. 2, but it was a little shocking how easily the two best running backs of the last 20 years made it this far.
1. Brian Westbrook vs. 2. LeSean McCoy
Brian Westbrook defeated Donovan McNabb in the Sweet 16 with 61 percent of the vote. Westbrook crushed Terrell Owens in the first round with 80.7 percent of the votes.
B-West played eight seasons in Philly and rushed for just under 6,000 yards, while catching 426 passes for nearly 3,800 yards, including 90 catches in 2007, part of his league-best 2,104 yards from scrimmage that season. The Villanova legend has been a part of the city’s football lore for nearly two decades.
LeSean McCoy defeated Duce Staley in the previous round, earning 58.7 percent of the vote. McCoy beat Brent Celek in the first round with 64.2 percent of the vote.
McCoy left Philly as the franchise’s all-time leading rusher, with 6,792 yards and 44 rushing touchdowns. He also caught 300 passes with the Eagles for 2,282 yards and another 10 scores. Though he is nowhere near as beloved as Westbrook, in part because of his off-the-field antics while a member of the Eagles and after being traded to Buffalo, McCoy’s presence on the field was as dynamic as any back in team history.
MIDNIGHT GREEN DEFENSE
The final match-up in the Midnight Green Defense region is also 1 vs. 2, and it will be the biggest upset in the entire tournament if the top seed doesn’t advance in a landslide here as well.
1. Brian Dawkins vs. 2. Jeremiah Trotter
Brian Dawkins advanced to the Elite Eight with a resounding victory over Fletcher Cox, earning 91.3 percent of the vote last round. B-Dawk beat Hollis Thomas in the first round with the highest percentage of votes at 91.6 percent. It will be no surprise if he wins this round by that much again.
Weapon X played for the Eagles from 1996 to 2008 and is sixth all-time in tackles (and first in assisted tackles), while ranking third in franchise history in Approximate Value, a metric created by Pro Football Reference to compare players of different eras.
As great as Dawkins was on the field, his impact on the team continues to this day. Dawkins was the leader of the Eagles defense in the Andy Reid era, and is in an elite category of most beloved Philly athletes in any sport. The Eagles brought Dawkins back in an official capacity this season, hiring him as a Football Operations Executive this off-season. Since the start of this tournament, he’s the odds-on favorite to get to the finals, and probably win.
Jeremiah Trotter defeated Troy Vincent in the Sweet Sixteen with 66.7 percent of the vote. Trotter cut through his old secondary so far in this tournament, putting the axe to Bobby Taylor in the first round, winning with 84.6 percent of the vote. Safety might prove to be a little tougher for him than cornerback.
Trotter was with the Eagles for eight years, 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.
Last week, the Eagles announced that Trotter will be inducted into the team’s Hall of Fame at a ceremony on November 28th. “Jeremiah Trotter embodies everything we strive for as an organization,” said owner Jeffrey Lurie, via PhiladelphiaEagles.com. “He was an emotional and inspirational player who captured the hearts of our fans. As an anchor of our defense, he led with an immeasurable amount of toughness and a fiery attitude.”
KELLY GREEN OFFENSE
The match-up in the Kelly Green Offense region is a surprise, even though the top two seeds advanced to the final eight. We did not expect chalk here.
1. Randall Cunningham vs. 2. Harold Carmichael
Randall Cunninham beat Wilbert Montgomery in the Sweet Sixteen by earning 73.9 percent of the vote, far higher than expected. Cunningham beat Keith Byars in the first round with just under 82 percent of the vote, advancing two rounds without much of a fight.
It’s fun to imagine how Cunningham’s career would have been covered in the Twitter age. Even back when he played, 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 a way, a player before his time, and someone who helped shape the NFL — specifically the way the quarterback position is played — for this generation of stars.
Cunningham played 11 years in Philly, though just 122 games, passing for nearly 23,000 yards and rushing for another 4,482. Cunningham won just one playoff game with Buddy Ryan’s Eagles, and many fans still seem to blame the offense, and Randall, for not winning a championship in that era. Still, he was fun to watch.
Harold Carmichael was the higher seed in the previous round, but it’s a surprise to some (read: me) that he was able to not only defeat Ron Jaworski, but grab 61.4 percent of the vote. For what Jaworski has done in the region since retiring — he’s a majority owner of the “World Champion” Philadelphia Soul as well as the co-chair of the NFL Draft committee in Philly — Carmichael pulling off this win is significant. It’s good to see people remember the team’s greats, even after they are out of the spotlight week after week.
Carmichael beat Mike Quick in the first 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.
KELLY GREEN DEFENSE
If you’d like, you can call this the finals. Certainly the winner of this match-up should win the next and presumably face Brian Dawkins in the finals. (Huh, it’s almost as if we set the bracket up it that way…)
Who wins this match-up matters.
1. Reggie White vs. 3. Chuck Bednarik
Reggie White was recently ranked the seventh best player in NFL history. In the previous round, White defeated Eric Allen with 97.7 percent of the vote: a near unanimous selection for the Elite Eight. White won in the first round over Herm Edwards, with just 91 percent of the vote. And yet, this might be his toughest match-up in the entire tournament.
White played eight of his 15 years in Philadelphia and while the Minister of Defense left in 1993 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.
Chuck Bednarik defeated Andre Waters in the last round with 71.7 percent of the vote. Bednarik beat up Seth Joyner in Round 1 with 72.4 percent of those cast. If there is one person in the Kelly Green era who could take down Reggie White it’s Concrete Charlie, and if you ever watched tape of him play, you’d know he wouldn’t stop trying until he did.
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. He 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 was as good as advertised. He was not just one of the greatest Eagles of all time, but one of the greatest athletes in the city’s history.
Can Concrete Charlie beat the Minister of Defense? Can anyone? It’s time to decide.