Donovan McNabb during an Eagles vs. Panthers game in 2008

Donovan McNabb during an Eagles vs. Panthers game in 2008 (Photo by Grindstone Media Group on Shutterstock)

The Philadelphia Eagles are one of the oldest teams in the National Football League (NFL) and they’re easily one of the most interesting and captivating teams in the history of sports. The Eagles own one Super Bowl and three NFL Championships, and the team is a perennial contender for a title. Undoubtedly, the team has had some talented players come through the organization, but only a few can be called the best Eagles players of all time. 

Football fans are willing to do whatever it takes to see a winning team, especially Philadelphia sports fans. However, a recent study suggests that over half of sports fans are superstitious. A survey of 2,400 American sports fans found that 62 percent of fans have blamed themselves for their team’s loss. Furthermore, nearly 40 percent of those fans feel like a family member is bad luck and has even asked that person to leave on game days. That’s one way to get over a Super Bowl loss. 

And speaking of fans, a recent study found that sports fans are willing to end friendships over sports. A survey of 2,000 American football fans found that a staggering 52 percent of respondents are willing to call it quits with a friend because that person cheers for a rival football team. Furthermore, the survey sought to discover where fans prefer to watch their favorite team play. Just over 35 percent of fans say they prefer to watch in person at the stadium while 30 percent of respondents prefer to watch their team play from the comfort of their own home. Regardless of where Eagles fans watch the game, we know the passion they have for the team remains. 

So, which players are considered the greatest to ever don the green and silver? StudyFinds did the research, consulting 10 sports and football-oriented websites in an effort to bring you a consensus list of the best Eagles players of all time. Our list comprises the five most frequently listed Eagles players from across these sites. Think your favorite Eagles player was left off? We invite you to share your thoughts with us in the comments section below! 

two Philadelphia Eagles flags
Eagles mascot and fans (Photo by Casey Murphy on Unsplash)

The List: Best Eagles Players, According to Sports Experts

1. Brian Dawkins (1996-2008)

The Eagles have had some epic players come through the organization, but the top spot on the list of the best players in Eagles franchise history belongs to Hall of Fame safety, Brian Dawkins. He was one of the most feared defenders of his era, and he’s undoubtedly one of the top players in the Eagles’ history. 

“Brian Dawkins is the embodiment of an Eagle. His leadership, on and off the field, was unparalleled for the franchise. Philly fans love their defense, and Dawkins was a legend. In most NFL cities the quarterback is the star and leader of the team, but in Philly it was Brian Dawkins. He also redefined the safety position in the NFL. When legendary Eagles defensive coordinator Jim Johnson got Dawkins, he realized just how special Dawkins could be: he could cover like a cornerback, hit like a linebacker, and blitz like a defensive end. In short, there was nothing he couldn’t do on the defensive side of the football,” explains Sports Illustrated

Brian Dawkins was an extraordinarily passionate and emotional football player who could get his teammates to rise to a challenge. Dawkins led by example, and for anyone who watched Eagles football in the early 2000s, he jumped off the TV screen by making big hits and intimidating offenses. 

“Brian Dawkins was the ultimate eagle. He embodied everything Philly fans cherish as one of the fiercest and passionate defenders of all time. His versatility gave the Eagles a huge presence all over the field, as he could dominate in zone, man-to-man, or even blitz like a defensive end. He holds the franchise record for most games played (183) and is one of the few players to ever record 30+ forced fumbles and 20+ interceptions. His grit and passion were just so contagious and he was the face of the franchise for 13 years,” adds BolaVIP

Dawkins played Free Safety for the Clemson Tigers before being drafted in the second round of the 1996 NFL Draft. From there, Dawkins put together one of the best careers for any defensive player in the NFL. 

“Brian Dawkins is one of the most beloved players in Eagles’ history, known for his intensity, leadership, and hard-hitting play. He represented the club from 1996 to 2008 and was named to the Pro Bowl nine times during his career, including seven times as an Eagles member. Dawkins was a versatile player who could play both safety positions, and he was equally effective in run support and pass defense. He finished his career with 34 interceptions, 21 forced fumbles, and 21 sacks, making him one of team history’s most impactful defensive players. Dawkins was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2018, and his number 20 was retired by the team in 2012,” furthers Sports Brief

2. Reggie White (1985-1992)

Clubbing his way into the second spot on the list of the best Eagles players ever is none other than the late, great, Reggie White. He was known as the “Minister of Defense” due to being an ordained minister and his uncanny ability to sack quarterbacks and disrupt offensive gameplans

“Once his USFL playing days were over, White took the league by storm with the Eagles. The NFL had never seen a pass rusher like him before. He won Defensive Player of the Year in 1987 after recording 21 sacks in only 12 games thanks to a strike-shortened season. He was the leader of the 1991 Gang Green defense that is arguably the greatest of all time. He racked up 124 sacks in 121 games with the Eagles. Unfortunately, he left Philly and ended up signing with the Green Bay Packers, where he won his first and only Super Bowl,” writes Yardbarker

White’s career was untraditional, at best. White didn’t go from college to the NFL as most of his contemporaries were able to do. Instead, he played in the United States Football League (USFL) where he was a star for the Memphis Showboats. After the USFL was dissolved, Reggie White was one of the most coveted free agents in the history of the NFL. He landed in Philadelphia and the rest is history. 

“Reggie White isn’t just one of the best Eagles to play the game, he is one of the best players to ever play in the NFL. Simply put, the man was a beast. After being a first-round pick in the 1985 Supplemental Draft by the Eagles, White record 11 sacks as a rookie and never looked back.  In fact, 11 sacks was the lowest season total he ever posted as an Eagle. As an ordained minister, White earned the nickname ‘Minister of Defense.’ How awesome is that nickname? But all monikers aside, there is no doubt that White is fully worthy of the title Greatest Eagle of All Time,” notes Bleacher Report

Reggie White’s patented pass rush move was basically him overpowering an offensive lineman with a thunderous swat, or club, before making his way to the quarterback. It’s unfortunate that White never got to play in a Super Bowl with the Eagles, but even Philly fans rejoiced when the Minister won a Super Bowl with the Green Bay Packers in the 1996 NFL season. Reggie White took that Super Bowl over, and his back-to-back sacks on Drew Bledsoe are a big reason the Packers won that game. 

“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. White was the best Eagles defensive lineman ever. Statistics tell one story of his dominance, as his 124.0 sacks in 121 [games] may never be eclipsed by another Eagle. However, to watch him was to be in awe of someone fast and 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,” adds Iggles

3. Chuck Bednarik (1949-1962)

Up next on the list of the best players in Eagles franchise history is none other than Chuck Bednarik. He is an absolute legend in the city of Philadelphia, and he was truly a tough football player. Bednarik played both sides of the ball – offense and defense! 

“Concrete Charlie was the last of the 60-minute men and what’s truly amazing about Bednarik was that he was an All-Pro at both linebacker and center, a feat we’ll never see again. He was one of the toughest players in the history of the NFL and was instrumental in bringing a World Championship to Philadelphia as Steve Van Buren did in the late 1940s, which has elevated them above the rest of the players listed here,” writes The Grueling Truth

Football players simply don’t play both sides of the ball anymore. It’s even becoming unheard of for players to start on both offense and defense in lower levels of football such as high school or Pop Warner. Bednarik played both sides of the ball in the NFL, and he’s easily one of the best players in the history of the sport. 

“Known as one of the most punishing tacklers ever to play the game, Bednarik routinely made short work of any player foolish enough to run his way. He was the first pick in the 1949 NFL Draft, and he absolutely lived up to expectations.  During his 14-year stint as an Eagle, Bednarik was notorious for making big plays on defense.  But it also worth mentioning that he was a stud on offense as well, where he played center. After finally retiring, it didn’t take long for him to be awarded a spot in the Pro Football Hall of Fame,” furthers Bleacher Report

Playing linebacker on defense and center on offense is an extremely tough task, regardless of how great a player is. Still, Bednarik shined in both roles, and his effort is legendary

“Chuck Bednarik was the greatest Philadelphia Eagles player of all time. He was a linebacker and center from 1949 to 1962. Bednarik was drafted with the first pick in the first round of the 1949 NFL draft by the Eagles out of Penn. He is known as one of the last ‘60 Minute Men’ in NFL history. He was extremely dominant on both sides of the ball, whether he was snapping the ball and blocking as the center or leading the defense at linebacker,” adds Rookie Road

4. Donovan McNabb (1999-2009)

The fourth spot on the list of the best players in Eagles franchise history belongs to one of the winningest quarterbacks in the team’s history – Donovan McNabb. He led the Eagles offense of the early 2000s and made it to four straight NFC Championship games, five overall, and had one Super Bowl appearance. 

“Donovan McNabb effectively shaped the outcome of two franchises, as the Cleveland Browns passed on the future Eagles Hall of Famer to select quarterback Tim Couch… McNabb turned things around quickly, putting Philly football back on the map in his second season. The Chicago native led the Eagles to an 11-5 record, along with his first of five straight Pro Bowl nods. His 3,365 passing and 629 rushing yards, to go along with 27 total touchdowns, not only got him a ticket to Hawaii but a second-place finish in the Associated Press MVP voting. McNabb owns every Eagles all-time quarterback record imaginable, and even though he didn’t bring Philly a championship, he did all he could in 11 seasons as the starter,” writes SportsGrid

McNabb led his Eagles to a staggering five NFC Championship games over the course of his illustrious career. Although McNabb’s Eagles only won one of those championship game appearances, the team was a perennial contender under his leadership

“Donovan McNabb is one of the best quarterbacks in the Eagles’ history and one of the most successful players in franchise history. He represented the team from 1999 to 2009, leading the team to five NFC Championship Games and a Super Bowl appearance in 2004. McNabb was a six-time Pro Bowl selection named to the All-Pro team once during his club’s career. He set numerous franchise records, including career passing yards (32,873) and touchdown passes (216), and he was known for his ability to make plays with his arm and legs. McNabb was inducted into the Eagles Hall of Fame in 2013 and is considered one of the greatest players in team history,” furthers Sports Brief

When the Eagles chose Donovan McNabb with the second pick in the 1999 NFL Draft, Philly fans famously booed the choice as the fanbase wanted running back Ricky Williams instead. As it turns out, that pick was one of the smartest moves in NFL history, and, of course, McNabb went on to have a stellar career for the Eagles.  

“As the years wore on, McNabb won over the tough Philly fans and now holds every major passing record in Eagles’ history. He started out as a dual-threat quarterback who could beat you with his arm and his legs and eventually developed into a solid pocket passer in Andy Reid’s offense. With McNabb and Reid, the Eagles enjoyed the most successful period in franchise history. The Eagles went to five NFC Championship Games and the Super Bowl in 2005 under McNabb. Yes, he never won the Big Game. But he got them close to it every year,” notes Yardbarker

5. Steve Van Buren (1944-1951)

Rounding out the list of the best players in Eagles history is legendary running back, Steve Van Buren. He is one of the most revered and beloved players in the history of Philadelphia pro sports, and he’s easily one of the top players in Eagles franchise history. 

“In eight NFL seasons, Van Buren rushed for 5,860 yards and scored 464 points (69 touchdowns). He scored the game’s only touchdown in the 1948 NFL Championship Game and rushed for 196 yards in the 1949 NFL Championship Game, both Eagles victories. Van Buren was the most clutch player in Eagles history, obviously rising to the occasion based on his championship game performances. Van Buren still holds the Eagles single-game rushing record with 205 yards and holds the franchise record with a rushing touchdown in eight consecutive games,” writes 247 Sports

Similar to Bednarik, Van Buren was a dominant two-way player who starred on both offense and defense. Not only was Van Buren a top running back in the league during his time, but he was a stellar defensive back as well. At the time of his retirement, Van Buren was the best running back in NFL history. 

“Steve Van Buren is one of the most iconic players in the Eagles’ history and one of the greatest running backs in NFL history. He represented the team from 1944 to 1951, helping the team win two NFL Championships in 1948 and 1949. Van Buren was a four-time first-team All-Pro selection and a six-time Pro Bowl selection. He led the league in rushing four times and finished his career with 5,860 running yards and 69 rushing touchdowns, both of which were NFL records at the time of his retirement. Van Buren was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1965, and his number 15 was retired by the club in 1985,” furthers Sports Brief

Steve Van Buren was a truly skilled running back who could run around and run over defenders. Van Buren’s efforts helped bring Philadelphia two NFL Championships (before the Super Bowl era). Still, we can’t overemphasize Van Buren’s toughness as a football player. Steve Van Buren played offense, defense, and even returned punts and kicks over the course of his epic career, making him one of the most complete football players in Eagles franchise history. 

“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. Van Buren was the best Eagles Running Back [ever], even if you weren’t alive to see him play,” exclaims Iggles

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About Matthew Sherdan

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