The Philadelphia Eagles are one of the longest-tenured NFL franchises. Since 1933, the Eagles have played across the city and brought fans thrills and heartaches. Who would you say are the top 10 greatest Philadelphia Eagles of all time?
We’ve attempted to compile a list of the best Eagles players to ever don the green and white. This list is neither definitive nor comprehensive.
Who are the greatest Philadelphia Eagles of all time?
It wasn’t easy putting together this list of the ten greatest Philadelphia Eagles of all time, so we welcome any and all opposing opinions. Obviously, with a topic like the best Eagles players, it will be debated in dens, down The Shore, and online, keeping all comments within the boundaries of good taste…
#10 – OT Jason Peters
Don’t expect to see a lot of recency bias in this list. However, The Bodyguard has earned his spot as one of the greatest Philadelphia Eagles of all time and he is absolutely one of the best eagles players and candidates currently on the roster for the Hall of Fame.
The Eagles acquired Peters in the 2009 offseason for first and fourth-round picks. He has been on the team now for 12 years with 148 starts. He’s become one of the most recognizable names with the franchise and was the gold standard among quarterback protectors.
Peters has made seven Pro Bowls and been an All-Pro twice. The Hall of Fame named him to the all-2010s team, for good reason. If he calls it a career after 16 total NFL seasons, it’ll be one of the best ever in franchise history.
#9 – WR Tommy McDonald
Yeah, we’ll go old school. Tommy McDonald played in the 50s and 60s so he was known as a “flanker.”
The Eagles’ 1957 pick from Oklahoma became a star at Franklin Field on the Penn campus. He made five straight Pro Bowls after his rookie year. Twice he led the league in receiving TDs (yeah, it was 9 in 1958 but it was a 12-game season and throwing the ball was a lot harder and less prioritized).
In 61 he also led the league in receiving yards with 1,144. He eclipsed that number the following year but it wasn’t league-best. Of course, he also had a touchdown in the 1960 NFL Championship game, the Eagles last title for over half a century. His 66 career TDs is second best in franchise history, remarkable considering he played shorter seasons and in a less pass-happy league.
McDonald left town in 1964 and played five more seasons with four other teams. However, his years in Philadelphia carried him to the Hall of Fame. When he arrived, he had as much fun and joy as anyone we’ve seen inducted into Canton.
#8 – CB Eric Allen
The Birds will have 20 former best Eagles players enshrined in Canton when COVID-19 allows Harold Carmichael to accept the honor. Eric Allen may be the most worthy of becoming the 21st.
Allen joined the team in 1988 and played seven seasons in Philadelphia. Five of those saw him make a Pro Bowl, including All-Pro Honors in 1989. He only missed one game and led an impressive secondary that was part of one of the most feared defenses in the league.
He wasn’t as flashy a playmaker as Reggie White or delivered devastating hits like Andre Waters. He was stealthy at times until the team needed something big. In 1993, he returned four of his six INTs for touchdowns and also forced three fumbles.
Free agency took Allen to New Orleans in 1995, where he made a fifth consecutive Pro Bowl. He finished his career in 2001 with the Raiders. Over 14 seasons, he missed a total of seven games. His 54 career interceptions are tied for 21st all-time in the NFL.
#7 – QB Donovan McNabb
The #2 overall pick in the 1999 draft became one of the best Eagles players of all time.
It was the stroke of luck the Eagles needed to turn around the moribund 90s. With new coach Andy Reid, the team would win four straight division titles and make their first Super Bowl in over 20 years.
For a decade, McNabb was the face of the franchise and, at times, the most scrutinized player in America. It started with the draft in which Eagles fans booed him (they wanted Ricky Williams), continued with conservative talk show host Rush Limbaugh, and even saw citizens of Philadelphia back Terrell Owens during the “break-up” in 2005 and Owens signing with Dallas the following season.
Despite all the condemnation and ridicule, McNabb never really changed himself. He was a loose, fun guy to watch, dancing in the end zones, juking smaller defenders, selling his Chunky soup.
When he was on, McNabb was one of the best quarterbacks in the league. He went to six Pro Bowls, including five in first six pro seasons. He finished 11 seasons in Philly with almost 33,000 passing yards, 216 TDs through the air and 28 on his feet.
He made plays few could. The Cowboys chased him for 14.1 seconds on MNF in 04 before he found Freddie Mitchell for a big play. The flea-flicker he threw to Donte Stallworth in Houston in 06 was a testament to his total body strength.
For all his impact and games won, he could aggravate immensely. Fans remember the low throws, interceptions, and losses in conference championships (four in all). He left town on Easter Sunday 2010, traded to Washington. He came back that year and beat Philly but his career never really did much more.
#6 – WR Harold Carmichael
For 13 seasons, Harold Carmichael stood out on the line of scrimmage for the Eagles. At 6’8”, that wasn’t terribly hard.
Carmichael played 13 seasons for Philadelphia and became one of the franchise’s best skill players. He still holds career records for catches (589), yards (8,978), and TDs (79).
Drafted as a tight end in 1971, Carmichael moved to wide receiver and blossomed. In 1973, his first full season as a starter, he led the league with 67 catches for 1,116 yards in a 14-game season. It would be the first of three 1,000-yard seasons and four Pro Bowl nominations.
Carmichael was a size mismatch against defensive backs and brought explosive capabilities to a run-first Eagles offense. He never averaged below 11.6 yards per catch over his time in Philadelphia.
While he finished his career in 1984 with archrival Dallas, everyone remembers him as one of the best Eagles players of all time. It took a few years but he earned the recognition of a Canton induction as part of the NFL’s centennial celebration.
#5 – DE Pete Pihos
Unless you have someone in your family who remembers the days the Eagles played at the Shibe Park, this name may be unfamiliar. However, in the 40s and early 50s, there was no better receiver in Philadelphia than Pete Pihos.
Pihos was a “right end” in an era not known for aerial assaults. However, he was a staple of the Eagles offense from 1947 to 1955, collecting six Pro Bowl nominations and making first-team all-Pro five times.
Pihos was drafted in 1945 but was allowed to stay in college and finish his final two varsity seasons at Indiana. He joined the Eagles in 1947 and played both ways, blocking punts, intercepting passes as a defensive end, and scoring seven touchdowns on offense.
For the championship teams of 1948 and 1949, Pihos was a key contributor. He caught a touchdown in the driving rain at the LA Coliseum as the Eagles won their second straight title over the Rams in 1949.
However, his best years were after the title run. In 1953, he completed the WR “Triple Crown”, leading the league in receptions (63), yards (1,046) and touchdowns (10). He would lead the NFL twice more in catches and again in yards in 1955. In his last career game, he caught 11 balls for 114 yards, a great day by modern standards.
Pihos made the Hall of Fame in 1970, one year after he was named to the NFL’s All-1940s team. Oh yeah, he took a year off from college football to serve in the US Army, fighting in Europe with General Patton. Pretty bad-ass.
#4 – DT Reggie White
It’s difficult to explain to someone who never saw Reggie White play what it was like to bear witness to the best pass rusher ever to play in Philadelphia. Thank God for YouTube.
Statistics tell one story of his dominance, as his 124.0 sacks in 121 may never be eclipsed by another Eagle. However, to watch him was to be in awe of someone that fast and that strong in one body. White was part of a group of dominant rush ends that revolutionized football and made offensive tackles worth their weight in gold.
White joined Philadelphia in 1985 after a stellar career at Tennessee and a dalliance with the USFL. In 13 games, he collected 100 tackles and 13 sacks. That was BEFORE Buddy Ryan came to town.
Under the defensive-minded Ryan, White was nearly unstoppable. He collected 21 sacks in 1987 (in 12 games) and 133 tackles to go with 18 sacks in 1988. White won Defensive Player of the Year in 87 in a season interrupted by a strike.
After his rookie year, White made six straight All-Pro teams and 13 straight Pro Bowls. The Minister of Defense was the biggest star on a talented Eagles roster and always commanded attention.
For all his dominance, White only reached #4 on this list because of his departure. When free agency truly started in 1993, he went to Green Bay, supposedly under God’s command, which came with a hefty payday. He won a Super Bowl and finished his career with 198.0 sacks, two behind record-holder Bruce Smith.
Despite his early death in 2004 at the age of 43, he remains one of the most enduring names in Eagles history. He made the all-decade teams for the 80s and 90s, along with the NFL All-100 team in 2019, one of the three Eagles on the list.
#3 – RB Steve Van Buren
Anyone who’s woken up and seen the Delaware Valley covered in snow knows the feeling of, screw it, I’m not going to work today. Steve Van Buren did that on December 19, 1948, when the Eagles were supposed to meet the Chicago Cardinals for the NFL title for the second consecutive season. Just one problem: the game wasn’t being postponed for the snow.
Van Buren lived in Drexel Hill and had to get to Shibe Park on North Broad. Instead of trying to drive, he took three trolleys to get to the game. Nowadays, that’d be the 101 trolleys to 69th Street, the El to City Hall, and the Broad Street line. Mind you, there was no SEPTA back then.
Van Buren walked an additional seven blocks in the snow, got to the stadium, had to help pull off the tarp with everyone else, and scored the only touchdown in the game. Afterward, apparently, no one offered to give him a ride back home, and he went back on public transportation.
Van Buren dazzled in his eight seasons in Philadelphia, making five all-Pro teams. He led the league in rushing four times, including from 1947 to 1949, when he took the rushing “Triple Crown” all three seasons.
In addition to offensive prowess, he played defense and collected nine interceptions while recovering 14 career fumbles. He also returned kicks and punts.
Injuries cut his career short but it was enough to make the all-40s team, the Hall of Fame, and the NFL All-100 team. He retired in 1953 with the NFL’s most career rushing yards at 5,860.
#2 – S Brian Dawkins
This was a hard decision at the top. Ranked #2 is a man who was key to the franchise’s resurgence in the 2000s and will live on in the Delaware Valley as the most intense man on the field when he wore the midnight green.
Brian Dawkins joined the Eagles in 1996, drafted out of Clemson. He made his first of nine career Pro Bowls in 1999. At free safety, he became a playmaker and hard hitter, pretty much ending Ike Hilliard’s career on a Monday Night at the Vet against the Giants.
While never really achieving gaudy stats, he was the heart of a terrific defense. In the five seasons, the Eagles won the NFC East from 2001 to 2006, Dawkins was four times in the Pro Bowl and All-Pro team. The only year he missed was 2003 when an injury cut him short.
Dawkins was all over the field, one of a few players to collect 30+ INTs, 20+ sacks, and 20+ forced fumbles. His 34 INTs are tied for the franchise’s most.
He always played with his heart on his sleeve and was always a good sound byte when mic’d up by NFL Films.
Brian Dawkins became a legend in Philadelphia for his hits. He stopped Alge Crumpler dead in his tracks in the 2005 NFC Championship Game that may as well have ended the Falcons’ afternoon in South Philly.
It was heartbreaking when the team let the 35-year-old walk in 2009. Dawkins made two Pro Bowls in three years in Denver. When he was elected to the Hall of Fame the night before the Eagles faced the Patriots in Super Bowl LII, it may have been the emotional high the team needed to pull off the historic upset.
#1 – LB Chuck Bednarik
It was close to deciding #1 in franchise history. My tiebreaker was the questionable omission of Dawkins from the NFL 100 team, while Bednarik made it.
The late great Chuck Bednarik was the last of the NFL’s two-way greats, starring as center and linebacker for the Eagles for over a decade. After being drafted first overall in 1949 out of Penn, he played 169 over 14 seasons, won two world titles, and became immortalized as “Concrete Charlie” for his offseason job.
For his career, Bednarik collected 21 interceptions and 20 recovered fumbles. Most fans know him for ending Frank Gifford’s career with a thundering clothesline at Yankee Stadium in 1960. Gifford weighed 197 and Bednarik was 235 but the collision may be the most violent and memorable in NFL history.
The following set of photographs might best encapsulate the relationship between Philadelphia and New York, beyond the gridiron. The Giants had twice won the East while the Eagles wanted to knock them off the perch. Bednarik stood over the prone hair cream pitchman and future broadcaster, raising a fist and yelling “This f-n game is over!”
Bednarik was a cross between John Wayne and Frank Sinatra to Eagles fans for decades. He was the face and heart of the franchise’s memory well after he retired in 1962. He made the all-50s league team and Canton.
Greatest Philadelphia Eagles of all Time – Honorable Mentions
DT Fletcher Cox
With 408 tackles, 54.5 sacks, 12 forced fumbles, and 11 fumble recoveries in just nine NFL seasons, Fletcher Cox has already established himself as one of the best pass-rushing defensive tackles in Eagles history. In fact, he is the all-time franchise leader in sacks already.
Although Cox did not make our list of the greatest Philadelphia Eagles of all time, the six-time Pro-Bowler will most likely break the top ten by the end of his career.
RB Wilbert Montgomery
The team’s all-time leading rusher, Wilbert Montgomery proved invaluable as a receiver as well, finishing his career in Philadelphia with nearly 2,500 receiving yards.
RB Brian Westbrook
When talking about the greatest Philadelphia Eagles of all time, Brian Westbrook should ALWAYS be mentioned. For most of his career, Brian Westbrook was the workhorse of the Philadelphia Eagles’ offense. He was a gifted runner, but his versatility made him so much more. He was arguably the best pass-catching running back the NFL has ever seen, as well as a legendary punt returner.
LB Bill Bergey
The middle linebacker once recorded 233 tackles in a single season. He also had a knack for interceptions with 18 throughout his career, which was unheard of at the time for a linebacker.
Greatest Eagles of All Time – Top 10 List
- Chuck Bednarik – LB
- Brian Dawkins – FS
- Steve Van Buran – RB
- Reggie White – DT
- Pete Pihos – DE
- Harold Carmichael – WR
- Donovan McNabb – QB
- Eric Allen – CB
- Tommy McDonald – WR
- Jason Peters – OT