Of all the players to represent the Philadelphia Eagles from 1933 until the present day — nearly 1,500 men in various shades of green and white — the finals of our Ultimate Eagles bracket assuredly came down to two: Reggie White and Brian Dawkins.
In some ways, sifting through the list of players to get to a final 32 for our tournament, then narrowing that list to 16, then eight and, eventually, four was something of a waste of time. No matter how we set up the bracket (we opted to split the group into offense and defense of the Midnight Green Era of the last 20 years and the Kelly Green Era of the 60 or so years that preceded the last two decades) it was clear that keeping Dawkins and White on opposite sides of the contest would provide the most obvious and worthy final round of all possible outcomes.
Frankly, we did not expect the finals to go the way they did, but as the voting rolled along this week, it became clear who Philly remembers more. The winner of the Ultimate Philadelphia Eagles bracket is … Brian Dawkins.
B-Dawk. Weapon X. Wolverine.
In the closest vote in our entire tournament, Dawkins earned the mark on more than 56 percent of the ballots, a surprise at first over White, but an understandable tally given the demographics of much of our voter pool.
It was clear in speaking with voters at one of our events inside Liberty Place that those under the age of 30 almost always leaned toward Dawkins, while those over the age of 40 opted for White. It was that middle decade — the Generation Y and early Millennial crowd — that had the hardest time with this decision, and ultimately those voters decided which player came out on top.
“This is easy…” We heard that exact phrase more times than we could count, with younger voters confidently checking the Dawkins box with the same vigor as older voters did for White. Everyone was sure their pick was the right one, which is why it was so fascinating to see those in our middle age range struggle with the decision so much. Hell, I struggled with it.
There is no wrong answer when picking your favorite Eagles player, especially between these two legends, which is why choosing one was so difficult.
What we asked, with both our online voting and those who made their selections in person, was this: Whose jersey do you pull out of your closet first? Which is the guy you picture first when you think back on all your favorite Eagles players?
At that point, it became clear for most voters. Some, bless them, didn’t remember seeing Reggie White play. That’s understandable, given his last season with the Eagles was in 1992 and someone born the year after White left Philadelphia is already voting in his or her second presidential election.
Dawkins didn’t start his Eagles tenure until 1996. The NFL careers of these legends overlapped four seasons, and the Eagles faced White and Green Bay each of Dawkins’ first three years in the league. By around 1999, Dawkins had become the face of the Eagles defense, playing 183 games over his 13 seasons with the team. Dawkins retired after the 2011 season, having played three years with the Denver Broncos, but he will always be known as an Eagles star and a beloved figure in Philadelphia sports history. He was named to the initial list of Hall of Fame candidates for 2017, an honor he will undoubtedly achieve at some point in the next few seasons, if not this year.
Taken with the last pick of the second round in the ’96 NFL draft (pick 61), Dawkins was selected with the Eagles’ third pick that year, behind first rounder Jermane Mayberry and tight end Jason Dunn, who the team took 54th overall.
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, 34 interceptions — including two for scores — forced 32 fumbles and recovered 16, including one for a score. He is tied for the franchise record in interceptions, and holds the record for forced fumbles by more than 10.
In our tournament, Dawkins faced Brian Westbrook for the Midnight Green Era Championship and the right to get to the title contest against White, winning over B-West with a resounding 73.5 percent of the votes.
Dawkins previously defeated Jeremiah Trotter by earning 77.1 percent of the vote, Fletcher Cox with 91.3 percent of the vote and Hollis Thomas in the first round with the highest percentage of votes at 91.6 percent.
As great as Dawkins was on the field, his impact within the franchise continues to this day. The Eagles brought Dawkins back 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. White may be recognized as the best Eagles player ever — perhaps the best defensive player in league history — but the title of Ultimate Eagles player goes, emphatically, to Dawkins.