Sporting a name inspired by FDR’s New Deal National Recovery Administration, the Philadelphia Eagles landed in the City of Brotherly Love in 1933 after having spent the preceding years as the Frankford Yellow Jackets. The franchise’s early years saw venue changes, ownership changes, and even a brief wartime merger with the cross-state Pittsburgh Steelers. However, despite these off-field challenges, the Eagles always managed to soar upwards. Under the guidance of head coach Earl “Greasy” Neale and stellar play from future Hall of Famers such as Steve Van Buren and Chuck Bednarik, the Eagles won three straight Eastern Division titles and captured NFL Championship crowns in 1948 and ‘49.
“Wham Bam” Van Buren was the war horse in both of Philadelphia’s title crusades and the league’s top rusher on four separate occasions. Bednarik, affectionately known as “Concrete Charlie,” reached football immortality in 1960 when he played all sixty minutes against the Green Bay Packers to lead the Eagles to their third league championship.
In 1971, the team moved to Veterans Stadium and began to lay the groundwork for a new era of Philadelphia football. Headlined by perennial all-star wideout Harold Carmichael, the Eagles began to fly high with the hiring of head coach Dick Vermeil and arrival of quarterback Ron Jaworski. Trips to the playoffs in 1978 and ‘79 followed, as well as a Super Bowl appearance in 1980. However, championship glory continued to elude the franchise.
Stars such as quarterback Randall Cunningham and defensive end Reggie White powered the team through the ‘80s, but the postseason drought continued. It wasn’t until 2000 that hope and optimism returned to the city. Just like Vermeil and Jaworski before them, the duo of new head coach Andy Reid and rookie quarterback Donovan McNabb captured the imagination of millions and brought playoff football back to Philly.
Starting with the 2000 campaign, Reid and the Eagles appeared in the postseason nine times and won six NFC East Divisional titles. McNabb blossomed into one of the game’s most prominent faces, and players such as Brian Dawkins, Brian Westbrook, and Troy Vincent emerged as fan favorites. In 2004, buoyed by the addition of wide receiver Terrell Owens, the Eagles returned to the Super Bowl for the first time since 1980. But despite a valiant effort, they met defeat on the big stage once again.
Through it all, Eagles fans have remained vigilant. After all, Philadelphia loves a good underdog story. Perhaps you’ve seen the movie about a no-name boxer from Philly who gets a shot at the world champ and then defies the odds to win the big fight? That film came out in 1977, just when Carmichael and company were beginning to take flight. An entire city believed then, and they continue to believe in the seemingly impossible to this day. Ask any of them, and they’ll tell you the same thing every season: “This could be our year.”