Philadelphia Eagles: The All-Reid Team
The man who led the Eagles to five NFC Title games has seen many All-Pro talents come and go during his time as head coach, and the ‘Philly phaithful’, myself included, can go on for hours listing off memorable moments in the time “Big Andy” has held the play-chart.
Just for debate’s sake, I’ve decided to compile a 53-man roster of the best Eagles during the timeframe from 1999 to present day.
The only qualification is that you had to play at least two seasons in Philadelphia under Reid. This leaves out Nnamdi Asomugha, Evan Mathis, and Cullen Jenkins, who are three men that will certainly get consideration if I choose to revise this list a year from now.
And since Philadelphia can be a proud, argumentative town, debate is always welcome.
Quarterback: Donovan McNabb (1999-2009)
In between the shower of catcalls he received on draft day ’99, and the embarrassing 2009 playoff loss to a Wade Phillips-coached Cowboys team, Donovan McNabb put up 11 quality years in Philly. “D-Mac” led the Birds to seven playoff appearances (Jeff Garcia gets credit for the 2006 campaign), five NFC Title games, and one Super Bowl appearance during his tenure.
McNabb also went from 1999 through 2003 without a genuinely good wide receiver, often making do with James Thrash, Todd Pinkston and, yes, Freddie Mitchell.
Greatest moment: McNabb’s guts have been questioned by many, including teammates like Terrell Owens. On November 17, 2002, McNabb broke his fibula against the Arizona Cardinals on the third play of the game. How many quarterbacks have their ankles destroyed, and then go on to throw four touchdown passes in a 38-14 rout? The image of center Hank Fraley piggy-backing McNabb to the line so that the quarterback could further dissect the defense (on 20 of 25 passing) washes away much of the negative gunk splattered upon McNabb’s legacy.
Backups: Michael Vick (2009- ) McNabb won the starting job on successful tenure, but Vick will serve well in Wildcat situations.
Koy Detmer (1997-2006) Yeah, I left out Kevin Kolb. But a) David Akers deserves his favorite holder, b) you have to respect a man who only needs his toothbrush when he travels, and c) his ‘spank-dance’ is better than anything TO ever came up with.
Running Back: Brian Westbrook (2002-2009)
If Reid coaches through the 2018 season, “36 West” may be unseated by a certain would-be backup on this list. Despite having only three seasons of 900 rushing yards or more, Westbrook was the ideal West Coast back.
His nearly 3,800 receiving yards and 29 receiving touchdowns with the Eagles will remind fans of those shovel passes, swing passes, checkdowns, and dump-offs that McNabb would bestow upon Westbrook, who certainly inflated Donovan’s passing yard numbers after his catches. Let’s not forget the nearly 6,000 rushing yards and 41 on-the-ground scores, either.
Greatest moment: Eagles fans can remember where they were whenever Merrill Reese had a near verbal-orgasm on WYSP (or WIP now). On October 19, 2003, with the Eagles needing a desperate win over the Giants to avoid dropping to 2-4, Westbrook fielded a punt inside the two-minute warning with the Eagles down 10-7.
Westbrook made every G-Man miss on his 84-yard sprint to the end zone, which resulted in a shrieking Reese screaming number 36’s name, and proclaiming the Meadowlands’ crowd to be “in a state of shock.” The Eagles held on to win, and Brian Westbrook’s big return would steer the Eagles back to their winning ways.
Backups: LeSean McCoy (2009- ) Two 1,000-yard seasons and a huge 2011 (twenty total TDs) have “Shady” on the fast track to greatness.
Duce Staley (1997-2003) Another multi 1,000-yard rusher who fought for those extra two or three yards each time.
Brian Mitchell (2000-2002) Wouldn’t usually carry four halfbacks, but who can resist having a kick returner of his caliber?
Fullback: Cecil Martin (1999-2002)
Some Eagles fans may be in an uproar, as they’d feel this spot should be reserved for Jon Ritchie or Leonard Weaver. Martin’s the only one of the three whose career wasn’t ended by a catastrophic knee injury in his second season in Philly, but that’s not why he was chosen.
Martin displayed great versatility in his four seasons with the Eagles, as both a short-field receiver, and as the lead blocker for a variety of backs. Among those he protected: Westbrook, Staley, Correll Buckhalter, Dorsey Levens, and even McNabb himself in his scrambling infancy.
Greatest moment: The Eagles were an underdog against the Bears in a 2001 NFC Divisional playoff game, but that didn’t stop Martin from making a timely touchdown when the Eagles needed one. With time ticking in the first half down 7-6, McNabb looked and looked for an open man in the end zone before spotting his fullback uncovered past the goal line. McNabb unleashed a 13-yard laser to Martin, who made the catch on his knees to give Philadelphia the halftime lead, which led to a 33-19 victory.
Wide Receivers: DeSean Jackson (2008- ), Terrell Owens (2004-2005)
The upside is heavenly; the downside is rage-inducing. Jackson may have had a drop-filled 2011, as well as his share of ill-advised decisions, but he’s still put up 900 or more yards in all four seasons he’s played.
As a deep threat, he terrorizes corners with blazing speed, and he’s been surprisingly durable for an undersized, lithe-bodied athlete. More often than not, Jackson has made up for a bone-headed mistake or negative-yard punt return with a big play good for 50-plus yards, as well as a touchdown.
Greatest moment: December 19, 2010 was the worst day of Matt Dodge’s life. After the Giants saw their 31-10 lead over Philly evaporate in the fourth quarter, Jackson executed the lone walk-off punt-return in NFL history, scoring after the clock hit 0:00 to give the Birds a 38-31 victory. Tom Coughlin’s postgame hollering at Dodge, who punted right to a known flight-risk in Jackson, was icing on the cake.
As for Owens, Eagles fans will never forget the sit-up session in the driveway of his Moorestown, NJ home, or the “next question”-filled press conference of his now-former agent Drew Rosenhaus.
But that 2004 season, Owens and McNabb formed one of the deadliest quarterback-receiver combos of the decade. Together in the regular season, the tandem hooked up for 77 completions, 1,200 yards, and 14 touchdowns in 14 games, going 13-1 together.
Greatest moment: Even if we all hate TO these days, we can certainly appreciate his performance on November 15, 2004, when he helped Philly annihilate Dallas in Big D. Owens caught six passes for 134 yards and three scores, each of which featured a unique celebration. The most bruising to the lone-star ego: posing on a blue Cowboys star in the end zone, a clear reference to his disrespectful posturing on the bigger 50-yard-line version in 2000.
Backups: Jeremy Maclin (2009- ) 19 touchdowns in 44 career games, with the potential to put up far more.
Kevin Curtis (2007-2009) “White Lightning” had a brilliant 2007 with 1110 yards, but injuries derailed him afterward.
Reggie Brown (2005-2009) Was on the rise in 2006 and 2007 before groin and knee injuries did him in.
Tight End: Brent Celek (2007- )
Once “Magnum” became the full-time starter in 2009, he has provided stability and dependability, far moreso than the fumble-laden, inconsistent stylings of L.J. Smith before him. Of course, Smith had to follow a Pro Bowler in Chad Lewis, so maybe Celek gets the benefit of the doubt.
Regardless, his 76 catches in 2009 are the second most by a tight end in Eagles history, behind Keith Jackson. With 971 yards and 8 touchdowns that season, Celek proved capable of being a sure-handed target. He and Michael Vick may have needed time to get on the same page, but improved chemistry in 2011 is a sign that the Cincinnati grad hasn’t lost a step.
Greatest moment: Before DeSean Jackson could stun the Giants with that punt return for a touchdown in “The New Miracle”, Celek had to get the ‘lead-off double’. Down 31-10, Celek caught a strike from Vick, and hauled off a 65-yard run for daylights after Kenny Phillips whiffed on a tackle. That brought Philly within two scores with under seven and a half minutes to go. The incredible comeback doesn’t happen without Celek’s first step.
Backup: Chad Lewis (1997-1999, 2000-2005) Didn’t break out until 2000, but without many reliable receivers, McNabb got three 40+ catch seasons out of the durable workhorse.
L.J. Smith (2003-2008) As Chad Lewis slowed down, “Little John” became a frequent McNabb target in the mid-2000s.