NFC East: Chuck Bednarik

Examining the most crucial event in the history of every team in the division.

Sorry, but I've got to wonder: Where's the love for Bill Parcells?

[+] EnlargeLawrence Taylor
Al Messerschmidt/NFL/Getty ImagesLawrence Taylor accumulated 132.5 sacks during his 13 seasons with the New York Giants.
We asked fans to vote for the most important event in their franchise's history. And with all of the history the teams in the NFC East have to offer, the choices were good and plenty. But while fans of the Philadelphia Eagles, Washington Redskins and Dallas Cowboys all chose the hiring of a coach, New York Giants fans overwhelmingly selected the drafting of linebacker Lawrence Taylor in 1981.

Now, don't get me wrong. This is a fine choice. Given the choices that were offered, I would have picked the same, and the large majority of you did. Sixty percent of the more than 34,000 people who voted went with L.T. "Trading for Eli Manning in 2004" finished a distant second at 15 percent, "Tim Mara buys franchise in 1925" was third at 12 percent and "hiring GM George Young in 1979" got 10 percent of the vote.

Taylor was a transcendent player -- a human hurricane who impacted the Giants, their opponents and the history of the league in as direct and lasting a way as any defensive player who has lived. He led the Giants to two Super Bowls and was the face of one of the league's most famous defenses of all time.

But for reasons that escape me, Young's hiring of Parcells was not listed among the choices. The argument has been put to me, in response to my raising this issue, that it was Young who hired Parcells and so his was the more important hire. But it's not as if Parcells was some kind of system guy or front-office yes-man. He put as large and significant a stamp on those Super Bowl teams as did anyone with the possible exception of Taylor. He hired Bill Belichick, Tom Coughlin and a slew of coaches who were critical to the Giants' success and have gone on to do great things on their own. I may well have clicked the box for "other" and written in the hiring of Parcells as the answer.

Some of you agreed, including vinnie 43, who wrote: "Hiring of Parcells wasn't on the list? He's the man who invented Giant football -- run the ball, control the clock and play good defense. Parcells was the best move the Giants ever made."

Robbiemustgo32 voted for the hiring of Young: "LT was the defining image of that era of Giants football, but Young drafted him and he hired Parcells. Without Parcells or Belichick, LT may never have won a Super Bowl."

And speaking for the majority, jwao777: "I cannot emphasize enough how important drafting Lawrence Taylor was to the Giants. He literally changed the course of the franchise. I think of the Giants in terms of before LT and after LT."

COWBOYS: Tom Landry hired as head coach in 1960

The Cowboys became known as "America's Team" for the success they had under Landry, who didn't win a title until 1966 but was the chiseled face of the franchise for 29 years. Of the more than 50,000 who voted in the Cowboys poll, 50 percent picked the hiring of Landry as the franchise's most significant event.

[+] EnlargeTom Landry
Malcolm Emmons/US PresswireTom Landry led the Dallas Cowboys for almost three decades and won the team two Super Bowls.
Landry put together 20 consecutive winning seasons, won five NFC titles and two Super Bowls. He was an innovator, reviving the shotgun formation and establishing flex defenses. Though it has been more than two decades now since he was fired by a flashy young owner named Jerry Jones, Landry's still the most recognizable figure in team history. Fans justifiably give him credit for the lofty place the team holds in their hearts and in NFL lore.

Jones' 1989 purchase of the team (which resulted in the hiring of Jimmy Johnson as head coach and led to three more Super Bowl titles) finished second with 39 percent of the vote, easily besting the team's 1966 conference title (4 percent) and the 2003 hiring of Parcells (3 percent) which, as we've already discussed, should have been in another team's poll.

I can see the case for either of the top two choices, and frankly I believe I voted for Jones, since the change the franchise has made under him has been more all-encompassing dramatic on and off the field. A couple of people wrote in wondering why the Herschel Walker trade wasn't among the choices, and some others wondered why they couldn't vote for the hiring of Johnson.

DomeRanger83 appears to be in the Landry camp: "If you're old school, the defining moment for the Dallas Cowboys was their 1st Super Bowl win against the Miami Dolphins in S.B. VI. Before having the moniker of 'America's Team' in the '70s, they were the team that 'Couldn't win the big one!'"

But theyoman359 thinks everything changed the first time Jones came down from the owner's box and stood on the field with Johnson: "This gesture catapulted Jones' ego into the stratos, and ever since that day, his will and his ego have clouded the reality of the team's efforts. I think he meant to emulate Steinbrenner, but went too far."

EAGLES: Andy Reid hired as head coach in 1999

Dick Vermeil delivered the franchise's first Super Bowl appearance, and Reid has often been criticized for only delivering one so far (and failing to win it). But in 12 years as head coach, Reid has reached double-digit victory totals eight times. He has won more games (118) and more playoff games (10) than any other Eagles coach. He has delivered seven division titles, coached in five NFC Championship Games and of course reached that one Super Bowl in the wild and wacky season of Terrell Owens.

[+] EnlargeAndy Reid
Kevork Djansezian/Getty ImagesAndy Reid has been one of the most successful coaches in the history of the franchise.
Along with Donovan McNabb, Reid launched the Eagles into a cycle of success that represents the longest sustained period of excellence in the franchise's history. His hiring pulled in 56 percent of the more than 34,000 votes cast. Vermeil's hiring in 1976 got 18 percent of the vote. The back-to-back titles in 1948-49 got 12 percent. And the trade that sent McNabb to the Redskins last season got nine percent. I guess because it opened the door for Michael Vick?

DimorphicAU: "Andy Reid has us on the path we are on now, perennial contenders lacking that one final killer blow. Hopefully shoring up the defense in the offseason will put us on track for a SB berth."

(Editor's note: There are worse things, of course, than being perennial contenders...)

Latinferno dissents: "The most DEFINING moment in Eagles history was the 1960 NFL Championship team. The last of the "60-minute men" in HOF Chuck Bednarik making the game-saving tackle to be the ONLY team to defeat the Vince Lombardi-led Packers in the playoffs."

REDSKINS: Joe Gibbs hired as head coach in 1981

Given the choice, the more than 20,000 Redskins fans who voted in our poll justifiably prefer to remember the three Super Bowl titles Gibbs won with three different quarterbacks than to focus on the negative change that was brought about when Daniel Snyder purchased the team in 1999. Gibbs' hiring easily out-polled Snyder's takeover, 63 percent to 26 percent. The hiring of George Allen in 1971 got six percent, and the 1964 trade for Sonny Jurgensen got three percent.

[+] EnlargeJoe Gibbs
AP Photo/Doug MillsJoe Gibbs led Washington to three Super Bowl titles in the 80s and 90s.
There's no doubt that Gibbs will forever be linked to the team's glory years. As much as Landry in Dallas and Parcells in New York, if not even more so, Gibbs is the face of the long-lasting success the Redskins had in the 1980s and early 1990s. The Snyder era has changed things, there is no doubt.

It could be argued that the Redskins' descent into mediocrity under Snyder's stewardship was a more significant (if certainly not more positive) change than the rise to prominence under Gibbs. But I think the fans got this one right. Snyder hasn't wrecked the Redskins beyond repair. The reason expectations are what they are, and the fans are as passionate as they are, is because of what Gibbs built and accomplished.

KurtzJack56 voted for Snyder and isn't happy about it: "The best thing that he could do right now for the team and the franchise is to sell the team."

rakeshmistry1986 was in the Gibbs camp "by a wide margin": "Even in Gibbs' second go-round, he still led us to the playoffs twice in four years despite how flawed of a team Snyder and Cerrato gave him."

NFC East links: Jason Witten is optimistic

March, 24, 2011
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Dallas Cowboys

Tight end Jason Witten is confident that there will be a 2011 season.

Former Cowboys receiver Drew Pearson weighs in on the latest Dez Bryant situation.

New York Giants

Osi Umenyiora is working with a division rival in an effort to improve their respective games.

Philadelphia Eagles

Former Eagles great Chuck Bednarik has been hospitalized after he started experiencing shortness of breath and low blood pressure.

Thanks to the NFL lockout, local trainers are expecting a boost in business.

Washington Redskins

The New York Times looks back on what went right and wrong for the Redskins last season.

Dan Daly of The Washington Times tallies the number of quarterbacks the Redskins have gone through the past 17 seasons. It's a long list.

The Best teams smackdown

July, 9, 2010
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Before I departed for vacation, I spent some time in the mailbag reading your comments about the best NFC East teams of all-time. Here's a sampling of what you guys have been talking about:

Dylan from Newport, R.I., writes: Matt, anyway you could set up a poll of "The Best NFC East Team of All Time"? Let the fans decide whether the '86 Giants could take the '93 Cowboys, etc?

Mosley: I'm not able to set up a poll because I'm currently on vacation, but it's a debate worth having in the "comments" section. I think the Giants had the better defense, but the Triplets gave the Cowboys the upper hand on offense. I'd also like the '60 Eagles and '91 Redskins to throw their hat in the ring. Troy Aikman would've wanted no part of Chuck Bednarik.


Stephen from Pennsylvania sent this via Beast fax: It's hard to pick between the '86 and '90 Giants since they were built from the same blueprint and vary only slightly. I think Hostetler could have won with the '86 Giants, and he could have defeated the Broncos in 21 as he did the Bills in 25. He "grew up" in that system, and the Parcells QB of that era completed high percentage passes which were practiced to a science. I doubt Hostetler would have been 22-of-25 as Simms was, but he could have and would have won the game (SB 21). The 1990 Giants defense more consistently gave up fewer yards than did the 1986 defense, and generally got teams down and sat on them. the '86 team had more explosiveness with the likes of McConkey, so it evens out. Very hard pick!

Mosley: Excellent work, Stephen. Folks within the Giants organization actually tried to convince me to rank the '90 team ahead of the '86 team. I think the fact that a backup such as Hostetler played such a prominent role on a Super Bowl-winning team spoke to how much talent he had around him. And I'm not so sure I agree with you that Hostetler would have gotten the job done for the '86 team.


Steve from East Aurora writes: Best Giants team was the 1956 team. Won championship over Bears, 47-7. Gifford, Webster, Conerly, Brown on offense and the defense may have been one of the best of all time with Huff, Nolan, Grier, Modzlewski, et. al. Defense coached by Tom Landry and offense by Vince Lombardi. Hasn't gotten any better than that! And you don't even give them an honorable mention. Do your homework!

Mosley: Steve, you raise some excellent points. I probably held it against them that the league had about half the teams it does now. It's more of a challenge to win a Super Bowl these days. But did the '56 team deserve honorable mention? You bet it did. Take consolation in the fact that my Giants-fan editor agrees with you.

Best Eagles Team Ever: 1960

June, 22, 2010
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Notable players: LB Chuck Bednarik, WR Tommy McDonald, SE Pete Retzlaff, LB Maxie Baughan, QB Norm Van Brocklin, FB Ted Dean, DE Marion Campbell, CB Tom Brookshier

[+] EnlargeNorm Van Brocklin
David Boss/US PresswireNorm Van Brocklin quarterbacked the Eagles to the 1960 championship.
Analysis: Because we reward championships -- even when there weren’t a lot of other teams. The Eagles beat Vince Lombardi’s Packers in the championship game at Franklin Field, and that’s saying something. Bednarik remains an iconic part of the franchise’s history. In a win over the Giants in 1960, he famously knocked out Frank Gifford with a punishing blow. Gifford didn’t get up that day, and he also missed the following season.

Van Brocklin was at the end of the career, but he made his final season count by delivering bombs to McDonald and Retzlaff. McDonald, a Hall of Famer, averaged more than 20 yards per catch in 1960. He scored a 35-yard touchdown in the Eagles’ classic 17-13 win over the Packers. The Eagles won their other two titles in the late 1940s under coach Greasy Neale, but the ’60 team made more of an impact in the community. It’s only appropriate that the Eagles will break out the kelly green jerseys for the season opener against the Packers. Too bad they can’t play at Franklin Field (they supposedly looked into it).

Most impressive win: Definitely the title game against the Packers. In his second season as head coach of the Packers, Vince Lombardi had Jim Taylor, Bart Starr, Paul Hornung, Max McGee, Jerry Kramer and Forrest Gregg on offense. This was a dynasty in the making, but the Eagles forced the Packers to wait a year before Green Bay won the NFL title in ’61.

Best player: McDonald was a burner, but I’ll go with Bednarik because he gave the team its identity. He played center and linebacker.

Honorable mention

2004: Donovan McNabb and Terrell Owens formed one of the top combinations in the league, and Brian Westbrook was dangerous as a dual threat. This was a superb team -- as evidenced by its playoff run without the injured T.O.

1980: Eagles fans have fond memories of Wilbert Montgomery carving up the Cowboys in the NFC title game for 194 yards and a touchdown. Nose tackle Charlie Johnson helped anchor a dominating defense.

2002: Duce Staley ran for 1,000 yards and had 500 yards receiving. The Eagles were deep enough that they made it to the NFC title game during a season in which A.J. Feeley had to start five games because McNabb was injured. I don’t have to remind you what happened against Tampa Bay in the playoffs. By the way, the Eagles dominated the Bucs in a 20-10 win earlier that season.

Waiting for McNabb

August, 11, 2008
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Posted by ESPN.com's Matt Mosley

BETHLEHEM, Pa. -- After spending an hour and a half staking out Eagles quarterback Donovan McNabb at the back entrance of the Cundey House on the Lehigh University campus, I finally accomplished my goal. McNabb was gracious enough to give me 10 minutes, so the interview that I'll be posting shortly is sort of a scattershooting session in which we covered topics ranging from T.O. to McNabb's steadfast belief that the Eagles are the best team in the NFC.

While waiting for McNabb to emerge, I talked to Jon Runyan, Lito Sheppard and Correll Buckhalter (found out we're neighbors in Dallas). Prepare yourself for an afternoon of Eagles coverage. I'm blogging live from Deja Brew Coffee House in downtown Bethlehem, where you can get a Chuck Bednarik sandwich with roast beef, peppered turkey, American cheese, onions and horseradish on a Kaiser roll. I'm sitting below the classic photo of Bednarik standing over Frank Gifford's motionless body appearing to taunt him.

Bednarik actually stopped by the coffee house two weeks ago and ordered the Bednarik. I'm told his wife had a Bednarik on rye.

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