Eagles History

Iggles Blitz is lucky enough to have some great readers/commenters.  A few have been fans for a long time and are generous enough to share some tales of great Eagles players, units, and teams of the past.

Tommy’s take on Gang Green – the 1991 defense

The best Eagles pass rushers of the last 25 years & some Bill Bergey talk

Draft reflections – 1996

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Thoughts on the Eagles Honor Roll

by AC Viking 

Mike Patterson — Is He Headed for the Eagles Honor Roll?

Okay . . . the answer is probably not — but only because during the Andy Reid era, and more briefly during Buddy Ryan’s tenure, we’ve been treated to a stream of talented players.

So, with the recent announcement of Troy Vincent and Leo Carlin’s addition to the EHR, I took a look at the members of the Eagles’ version of Canton.

And what’s readily clear is that, until Reid arrived, the Eagles truly struggled to find — and keep — talented players. And some of these players made the Eagles’ HR because of what they did someplace else — a sign of how consistently thin the talent was.

[The list is here: http://www.philadelphiaeagles…..]

1. Sonny Jurgenen.


He was unloaded in the first of many terrible trades by Joe Kuharich. Jurgy played for the Eagles from 1957 – 63. In those 7 years, Jurgensen started only 41 out of a possible 90 games. YET . . . he’s an Eagle’s HRer.

As a rookie, Jurgensen started just 5 games, going 2-3. Then, from ’58 to ’60, the Ducthman — Norm Van Brocklin — started every game culminating in the Eagles’ last world championship . . . 52 years ago.

In 1961, after NVB retired to coaching (that’s another great story!), Jurgensen took over as the starting QB and led the Eagles to a 10-4 record — finishing 1 game out of the playoffs behind the Cleveland Browns, who finished 10-3-1 but won both games that year over the Birds.

The Eagles’ new head coach, replacing Buck Shaw, was long-time Eagles assistant, Nick Skorich — who, coincidentally, resurfaced as the Browns HC in the early ’70s and led them to a surprising 1972 playoff appearance and near upset of the undefeated Miami Dolphins. But 1961 was Skorich’s lone winning season in Philly. He was jettisoned by new owner Jerry Wolman in favor of Notre Dame head coach Joe Kuharich, who’s last 4 seasons were as HC at Notre Dame where he’d gone 17-23, with 3 seasons at 5-5 and one year at 2-8. Kuharich had been an NFL HC before going his ND stint going 30-40-2 in 6 years with the Cardinals and Redskins. (Not sure what Wolman was thinking, if at all.)

In 1961, Jurgensen DOMINATED the NFL — leading the NFL in Completions, Yards, and TD passes, and finishing second in Yards-per-Attempt at a remarkable 8.9 (49er John Brodie, who attempted 150 less passes led the league at 9.1 YPA). Remarkably, in a run-the-ball era, Jurgensen set the Eagles’ single-season TD record of 32 in 14 games in 1961 . . . a record that STILL stands. His primary receivers were NFL HOFer WR Tommy McDonald, Eagles HOF Pete Retzlaff, still a WR then, and TE/PK Bobby Walston

(A very good case could be made that Walston, who was also the Eagles’ place kicker, also belongs on the Eagles Honor Roll.)

But in 1962, for Jurgensen and the Eagles the bottom fell out. It wasn’t until Dick Vermeil’s 1978 team that the Birds reached the playoffs again.

Jurgensen went 3-9-1 in ’62. And then 2-6-1 in ’63. His record as a starter was just 17-22-2.

In 1964, after taking over as HC and GM, Joe Kuharich made the worst deal in Eagles’ history — or certainly tied with McCormack’s trade in 1973 for 12 year vet QB Roman Gabriel in exchange for 3 No. 1s, All Pro WR Harold Jackson, and FB Tony Baker — by sending Jurgensen to the Redskins for a mediocre 4th-year QB name Norm Snead, who’d garnered All American honors while at Wake Forest . . . oh boy!. Snead was coming off back-to-back pro bowl selections (when that meant something) and did it again in ’65 as an Eagle. Jurgensen played 11 more seasons and reached the NFL HOF. Snead . . . not so much.

BUT on the basis of one truly HOF season (and an NFL HOF-career in Washington), he’s an Eagles’ HOFer. The question is why, given his records and stats save 1 remarkable season.

2. Jim Ringo.

Another NFL HOFer. He joined the Eagles after 11 years in Green Bay.

The man who played center and anchored Vince Lombardi’s great O-line from 1959-’63 — flanked by guards Fuzzy Thurston and Jerry Kramer, and Tackles Bob Skoronski and the man Lombardi called the greated football player he ever saw, SMU’s own Forrest Gregg.

Ringo et al. blocked for NFL-HOF QB Bart Starr, NFL-HOF HB Paul Hornung, and the brusing NFL-HOF FB Jim Taylor (who’s the only RB to beat out the great Jim Brown for the rushing title in Brown’s 9 NFL seasons, doing so just once in 1962 when Brown had an injured arch but still finished second). That O-line obviously had a lot to do with the Packer’s entire backfield being in Canton.

After the 1963 season, Ringo — so the story goes — wanted to move back east. Born in Orange, NJ, Ringo was an All American at Syracuse and perennial All Pro for Lombardi’s Packers. Eagles’ legend Concrete Charlie Bednarik had retired after the ’62 season. And Kuharich saw a chance to make another splash after unloading Jurgensen by adding a HOF center, albeit one on the clear downside of his great career.

Lombardi accommodated Ringo and called Kuharich — who, like baseball’s Frank “Trader” Lane suffered from a compulsion to make deals for the sake of making deals.

(GREAT STORY: Trader Lane, while the Indian’s GM traded 1959 HR champion Rocky Colavito to Detroit for 1959 AL Batting Champ Harvey
Keunn — just 2 days before the start of the 1960 season. Colovito then averaged almost 35 HRs over the next 6 year, while — no surprise here — Keunn lasted just 1 year in Cleveland before Lane shipped him to San Francisco for over-the-hill LHP Johnny Antonelli (who, with Willie Mays, led the Giants to their 1954 WS victory) and a Pat “The Bat” Burrell-type outfielder named Willie Kirkland.

Anyway, Kuharich was only too happy to oblige Lombardi and traded for the 33 year-old, declining HOF center.

Kuharich packaged OLB LeRoy Caffey — the Eagles No. 7th Rd pick in 1963 and rookie starting OLB, who in his lone season in Philadelphia had 1 INT and FIVE fumble recoveries!!! — plus the Eagles’ 1965 No. 1 pick, whom the Packers later used to choose with the 7th choice in Rd 1 one of the “gold dust twins,” HB Donnie Anderson from Texas Tech. (In Rd 2 of the ’65 draft, Kuharich selected OT Ray Rissmiller from Georgia — who lasted just 1 season in Philly.)

SIDE NOTE: In Rd 3, Kuharich chose CB Al Nelson from the University of Cincinnati — who played 10 years for the Birds. Returned a missed FG 102 yards at home against the Cowboys . . . to finish the scoring in a 42-7 Cowboys route. Seriously, the U of C has been good to the Eagles for a long time.

Ringo played four years for the Eagles — making the Pro Bowl each season, though he wasn’t nearly the dominant player he’d been in Green Bay.

Caffey later made All Pro, started on four NFL championship teams and three Super Bowl winners (’66-’67 Packers, the ’71 Cowboys. GB won the ’65 NFL title, 1 year before first Super Bowl.) Donnie Anderson went on replace HOF HB Paul Hornung and win two Super Bowls and make the Pro Bowl, and though he played 9 years, he lost a promising career to a knee injury — as did his “gold dust twin,” and 2-time SB winner, Univ of Illinois FB Jim Grabowski (who replaced HOF FB Jim Taylor).

Ringo, like Jurgensen, was only briefly a star for the Eagles — there as the team began its years of wandering in the NFL’s desert. And, for sticking it out for 4 years in Philly under Joe “Must Go” Kuharich, Ringo made the Eagles’ HOF.

Again, like Jurgensen, I think Ringo’s in the Eagles’ HOF because he’s in Canton and he was the best the Eagles had to offer from ’64-67.

By 1967, after Kuharich had gutted the Eagles and continued to be a sub-.500 coach, owner Jerry Wolman rewarded Kuharich with a 15 year contract — YES, 15 years — as GM and coach.

3. The Duchman.

Norm Van Brocklin played on 3 seasons for the Eagles, going 19-16-1 in the regular season and, like Ringo, playing in the Pro Bowl each of those years.

But in 1960, he led them to the last NFL title in 1960, defeating not only Lombardi’s soon-to-be Dynasty Packers for the title but also taking home the NFL MVP Award, the Bert Bell NFL Player of the Year Award, and every All Pro honor available. He was also averaged 43.1 per punt in that magical season..

Another NFL HOFer. Maybe he reached Canton because the last mile of his career was in a town to which he brought the NFL championship. But he gave up just 3 years.

WHAT ABOUT . . . Wes Hopkins?

A notorious oversight, in my opinion, former Eagles’ Safety Wes Hopkins, who played 10 full seasons for the Eagles — losing all but 4 games in 1986 and the ENTIRE 1987 season after suffering a devastating knee injury just as his career hit its peak. And that injury cost Hawkins essentially all his speed; but not his quickness or his mean streak. (Oddly, despite Hopkins “take no prisoners” style while patrolling center field, he and Buddy Ryan were like oil and water. Ryan liked to “discover” his players — as he did with the late Andre Waters, Seth Joyner, and Clyde Simmons. Ryan, though, inherited Hopkins from the Marion Campbell regime, Ryan seemed to do all could to drive Hopkins out of Philadelphia . . . as I remember things.)

Take a look at Hopkins’ career numbers and compare them to Brian Dawkins — who had an additional 3 seasons as an Eagles and, for the better part of his career, played on much better teams with much better coaches. (NO KOTITE.)

Here’s Hopkins: http://www.pro-football-refere…

Here’s Dawkins: http://www.pro-football-refere…

Hopkins posted 12 sacks. Dawkins had 21 — the beneficiary in good part of a great D-Coordinator.

Hopkins had 30 INTs. Dawkins had 34.

Hopkins had 16 Fumble Recoveries. Dawkins also recovered 16 fumbles.

And Hopkins was every bit the leader that Dawkins was.

I’m not saying Hopkins was better. B-Dawk is among the Top 3 safties to ever play the game. But Hopkins was every bit the leader that Dawkins was.

Wes Hopkins belongs in on the Eagles Honor Roll.

Since CB Troy Vincent’s headed for the Eagles’ Honor Roll, I wanted to touch on a great piece of statistical trivia from the CB position.

The Eagles added 6’4″ CB Joe “The Bird” Lavender in the 12th round of the 1974 draft, out of San Diego State (One thing Mike McCormack could do, when he had picks, was make some pretty good selections. Again — a story for another day.)

Anyway, Lavender played only 3 seasons with the Eagles. Dick Vermeil traded him to the Redskins, after a contract dispute, for 7th-year DT Manny Sistrunk (brother of Otis, who played at the University of Mars).

While with the Eagles — in just 3 years — Lavender had 7 turnovers for 3 TDS. Pretty good scoring percentage. The most memorable was a game-turning 97-yard fumble return for a TD against the Cowboys as a rookie in week 2 of MNF in 1974 (when HB Doug Dennison, playing in place of the injured Yale All American Calvin Hill, took a pitch to the right and within a few feet of the end zone met Bill Bergey.)

Ironically, just one year later, in 1977 Vermeil looked back to San Diego State for a new Cornerback. One Herman Edwards — who has the MOST MEMORABLE fumble return for a TD in Eagles history. (The first Miracle at the Meadowlands for anyone not paying attention.)

Now compare the players on the Eagles’ Honor Roll, based on 60 years of football, to the many great, good, and potentially great players we’ve seen during the Andy Reid era.

There will players from the past 13-plus years who won’t make the Honor Roll. Because there this has been the Golden Era of Eagle football.

Had some of these players — whoever they may be — played in the ’50s, ’60, and ’70s, it could be a different story.

But — as commenter Honey Gratz noted a couple weeks ago — “The fans who complain about the team now have no idea how dismal it was
to have been an Eagles fan between 1962 until a year or two after Dick
Vermeil arrived.”

That’s great for us as fans. And, somewhat unfortunately, not as great for posterity and the players who’ve made this era so great.

That includes Mike Patterson.