Apropos of nothing, I’ve decided to make this “Top Five Week” at the Cutter Rambles. Each day, I will list five of my favorite things in a given category.
In honor of the Philadelphia Eagles’ win yesterday, today’s list will be my five favorite Eagles players of all-time.
5. Keith Byars
In the late ’80’s/early ’90’s, the Eagles’ offense was a little unorthodox. They had a quarterback – Randall Cunningham – who was more famous for running the ball than passing it. And their primary running back was used more of a receiver than a rusher.
Despite being a star in college, Keith Byars’ lack of game-breaking speed kept him from ever becoming a top rusher in the NFL. However, he made up for that by becoming one of the best pass-catching backs in the NFL. He recorded 819 receiving yards in the 1990, which was almost unheard of for a running back.
4. Donovan McNabb
Every Eagles fan knows the story: The Eagles had the #2 pick in the 1999 draft and the fans desperately wanted them to take Heisman Trophy winning running back Ricky Williams. Head coach Andy Reid had other ideas, and decided that Syracuse quarterback Donovan McNabb would be the new franchise centerpiece. A busload of Eagles fans went to watch the draft in person, and were very vocal about the selection of McNabb.
As it turned out, it was the right pick. McNabb had a very good career. No, he didn’t lead the Eagles to a Super Bowl win, and he probably won’t make the Hall of Fame. But considering how many flawed options the Eagles have run out at the position since, it’s made Eagles fans appreciate him a bit more.
I wonder if McNabb would have had more success under a different coach. While Reid does deserve some credit for his development, his flawed offensive game plans also hurt the team at times. Also, if McNabb had been given better receivers, or the team had leaned on the running game more, he might have been able to get the team that elusive championship. (On a related note, I was always somewhat of a McNabb apologist.)
3. William Thomas
I may have only liked William Thomas because “William Thomas” just sounds like the name of a football player. As it turned out, the William Thomas who played for the Eagles happened to be an excellent football player. He was excellent at covering linebackers, and was a mainstay of the mid-90’s teams.
2. Roger Ruzek
For some reason, I became very enamored of Roger Ruzek when he served as the Eagles’ kicker in the early ’90’s. Before every field goal attempt, I would shot out “Roger!” and more often than not, he would reward my faith by giving the Eagles three points.
I was quite upset when the team replaced him with journeyman Matt Bahr mid-way through the 1993 season. I was very pleased when Bahr proceeded to suck, and the team brought back Ruzek a few games later. That pleasure didn’t last long as the team got rid of Ruzek once again after the season.
Inspired by Ruzek, I once had dreams of becoming an NFL kicker. I got a kicking tee for my birthday one year and would repeatedly attempt to kick the ball. As it turns out, I don’t exactly have a strong kicking leg, so that dream quickly died.
1. Brent Celek
Brent Celek – who went to school at the University of Cincinnati – was drafted before the 2007 season and quickly became my favorite Eagle. There was a lot to like. Not only would Celek make tough catches, but he was also extremely tough to bring down, and always fought for extra yards.
When McNabb was traded after the 2009 season, I needed a new Eagles jersey, and it was a pretty easy call as to which player to get. It’s clear that I made a good choice. Despite the massive amount of turnover with the rest of the roster, Celek remains on the team.
Honestly, I’ve gotten pretty lucky with my last two jersey choices. McNabb and Celek both spent over ten seasons with the team, and that’s an eternity as far as NFL careers go. And because I’ll be over 40 years old when Celek finally leaves, there’s a chance that this will be the last one I ever have.