We’re down to the Final Four of the Ultimate Eagles tournament and, without question, the four players who remain are the most obvious choices, given the way our bracket was constructed. We sought to find the Ultimate Eagles player — the guy you think of when you remember your favorite Eagles moments, favorite seasons, pull out your favorite jersey to wear on game days — with regions that included players from the Midnight Green Era and Kelly Green Era, on both the offensive and defensive sides of the football.
We define the Midnight Green Era as everything since Jeffery Lurie bought the team, roughly 20 years ago, and the Kelly Green Era as everything that came before that, including more than 60 years of up-and-down history. The voting was not a surprise in the Elite Eight, though the margins of victory were enlightening. Here is a look at who advanced in each round.
Brian Westbrook, Brian Dawkins, Randall Cunningham and Reggie White are all that remain, as each four of our top seeds made the finals in convincing fashion. The decision for who makes the final two seems clear as well — in the long history of Eagles football, with nearly 1,500 players, there are surely two who stand out above the rest.
Alas, we have to get there first, and with four all-time Eagles left to choose, nothing is guaranteed. With that, we invite you to vote in our Ultimate Eagles Final Four, presented by Xfinity. It’s the most important vote you will make this year.
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MIDNIGHT GREEN ERA CHAMPIONSHIP
The final match-up in the Midnight Green Era pits Brian against Brian. (Interesting note, of all the players in NFL history, there are 145 with the name Brian. The Eagles have had eight Brians in their history: Brian Baldinger, Brian Dawkins, Brian Finneran, Brian Mitchell, Brian O’Neal, Brian Rolle, Brian Westbrook and Bill Brian, who played in the 1930s.) Clearly, we’ve got the two best Brians left in our bracket, and without question the two most beloved players of the Midnight Green Era.
1. Brian Westbrook
- Position: Running Back
- Height: 5-8
- Weight: 200
- College: Villanova
- High School: DeMatha (MD)
- Drafted: 3rd round (91st overall) in the 2002 NFL Draft
- Seasons in NFL: 9
- Seasons with Eagles: 8
Brian Westbrook defeated LeSean McCoy in the Elite Eight round, earning 71.7 percent of the vote. B-West beat Donovan McNabb in the Sweet 16 with 61 percent, and crushed Terrell Owens in the first round with 80.7 percent of all votes tallied.
He played eight seasons in Philly and rushed for just under 6,000 yards, caught 426 passes for nearly 3,800 yards, and scored 66 offensive touchdowns. Westbrook also returned kicks early in his career, scoring twice on kickoff returns in 2003. He amassed nearly 600 rushing yards, 925 yards from scrimmage and six touchdowns on 162 touches (5.7 yards per touch) in his 11 career playoff games.
Westbrook’s best season was 2007, when he rushed for 1,333 yards and caught 90 balls as 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.
1. Brian Dawkins
- Position: Safety
- Height: 6-0
- Weight: 210
- College: Clemson
- High School: William M. Raines (FL)
- Drafted: 2nd round (61st overall) in the 1996 NFL Draft
- Seasons in NFL: 13
- Seasons with Eagles: 10
Brian Dawkins defeated Jeremiah Trotter to advance to the Final Four, earning a surprisingly low 77.1 percent of the vote. In the previous round, he moved on with a resounding victory over Fletcher Cox, earning 91.3 percent of that vote, and beat Hollis Thomas in the first round with the highest percentage of votes at 91.6 percent.
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. In addition to his 707 stops and 191 assists, Dawkins had 21 sacks with the Eagles and 34 interceptions, including two for scores. He forced 32 fumbles and recovered 16, including one for a score. Dawkins is tied for the franchise record in interceptions, and holds the record for forced fumbles by more than 10.
As great as Dawkins was on the field, his impact within the franchise continues to this day. The Eagles brought Dawkins in an official capacity this season, hiring him as a Football Operations Executive.
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. Since the start, he’s the odds-on favorite to get to the finals of this competition, and probably win.
KELLY GREEN ERA CHAMPIONSHIP
The match-up in the Kelly Green Era championship is not surprising, but it is kind of amazing. Reggie White was everything to Eagles fans when he was here, but he left to much greater team success elsewhere. And while Randall Cunningham also left, and had better team success elsewhere than he ever had in Philly too, there’s a case to be made that Randall signified their era of Philly football more than Reggie. If anything, our love-hate relationship with quarterbacks stems back to Randall’s time in Philly, something that continues to this day.
1. Randall Cunningham
- Position: Quarterback
- Height: 6-4
- Weight: 212
- College: UNLV
- High School: Santa Barbara (CA)
- Drafted: 2nd round (37th overall) in the 1985 NFL Draft
- Seasons in NFL: 16
- Seasons with Eagles: 11
Randall Cunninham beat Harold Carmichael in the Elite Eight, earning 71.4 percent of the vote. He defeated Wilbert Montgomery in the Sweet Sixteen by earning 73.9 percent of the selections there and took down Keith Byars in the first round with just under 82 percent, advancing to this round without much of a fight.
Cunningham played 11 years in Philly — though just 122 games and 107 starts — passing for nearly 23,000 yards, while rushing for another 4,482. He threw for 150 touchdowns and 105 interceptions as an Eagle, running for another 32 scores, while fumbling 89 times. (Interesting note: for as elusive as he was, Cunningham led the NFL in getting sacked five times while with the Eagles, getting taken down 422 times.)
Cunningham won just one playoff game with the Buddy Ryan 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.
It’s also fun to imagine how Cunningham’s career would have been covered in the Twitter age. Every move Cunningham made, every hat he wore, became front-page headlines back then. 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.
1. Reggie White
- Position: Defensive End
- Height: 6-5
- Weight: 291
- College: Tennessee
- High School: Howard (TN)
- Drafted: 1st round (4 overall) in the 1984 NFL Supplemental Draft
- Seasons in NFL: 15
- Seasons with Eagles: 8
Reggie White took down Concrete Charlie without much of a fight.
White defeated Chuck Bednarik in the Elite Eight, earning a whopping 75 percent of the vote. In the previous round, White defeated Eric Allen with 97.7 percent of the vote; a near unanimous selection. He won in the first round over Herm Edwards, with just 91 percent of the vote. He’s now one vote away from the finals.
White was recently ranked the seventh best player in NFL history, and NFL Media senior analyst Gil Brandt wrote this summer that he considers White the greatest defensive player in NFL history.
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 departing for slightly darker green, bright yellow and probably frozen pastures.
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 of his 1,048 career tackles as a member of the Eagles.
White might be the best player to ever wear Eagle green, and he’s in the conversation for the best athlete to ever play in the city. The question is less about his credentials as one of the greatest players ever, and more about his connection to the city, and if his time in Philly — where his numbers were far better than his six years in Green Bay or one in Carolina — puts him in that category of Ultimate?
Likely, that decision will be made in the next round, as it would come as a huge surprise if Reggie were to lose to Randall. Still, that wouldn’t be the first time people would blame Randall for Reggie losing something big as an Eagle.
Vote now, vote often, tell your friends and Eagles enthusiasts. Come back next week to see who makes it to the finals.