Eagles legend Tommy McDonald dies at 84

Eagles legend Tommy McDonald dies at 84

Tommy McDonald, the flamboyant, record-setting Hall of Fame receiver who starred on the Eagles’ 1960 NFL Championship team, died Monday, the Pro Football Hall of Fame announced. He was 84.

“Tommy McDonald played the game with a passion and energy that was second to none,” Eagles owner Jeffrey Lurie said. “He will be remembered as one of the most exciting players ever to play his position, but what really separated him and made him so unique was the infectious personality and charisma that he brought to his everyday life.

“He had a genuine love for this team, for the Philadelphia community, for the fans, and of course his family. He was a man of character, both on and off the field, who exemplified all the qualities that we hope to represent as an organization.

“He was a champion, a Pro Football Hall of Famer, and one of the most genuine individuals I have ever met. On behalf of the Philadelphia Eagles, I would like to express our deepest condolences to the entire McDonald family.”

McDonald was the Eagles’ third-round draft pick out of Oklahoma in 1957 and in seven seasons with the Eagles, he caught 287 passes for 5,499 yards and 66 touchdowns.

Despite standing just 5-foot-9, 175 pounds, McDonald led the NFL in touchdowns in 1958 and 1961 and in receiving yards in 1961.

In the 1960 Championship Game, which the Eagles won 17-13 over the Packers at Franklin Field, he caught three passes for 90 yards, including a 35-yard touchdown from Norm Van Brocklin in the second quarter.

After the game, legendary Packers coach Vince Lombardi famously said, “If I had 11 Tommy McDonalds, I’d win a championship every year.”

McDonald finished his career with the Cowboys, Rams, Falcons and Browns and retired after the 1968 season with 495 catches for 8,410 yards and 84 touchdowns. He was a four-time All-Pro and six-time Pro Bowler.

When he retired, McDonald ranked sixth in NFL history in catches, fourth in yards and second to long-time Packers great Don Hutson in touchdowns.

Today, 55 years after he last played for the Eagles, he still ranks second in franchise history with those 66 touchdown catches, behind only Harold Carmichael’s 79.

He was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1998.

“I played with a lot of great receivers, including Elroy Hirsch and Tom Fears with the Rams,” Hall of Famer Norm Van Brocklin said in a 2016 article on the Eagles’ website written by long-time NBC Sports Philadelphia contributor Ray Didinger.

“But if I had to pick one guy to throw the ball to with the game on the line, I’d pick McDonald. I know somehow the little bugger would get open and he’d catch the football.”

But McDonald was much more than a terrific player.

Long before Twitter and Instagram, he was a beloved personality who put on a show when he was inducted into the Hall of Fame, dancing on stage to the Bee Gees’ “Staying Alive,” telling jokes about his wife, tossing his Hall of Fame bust in the air and catching it, and chest-bumping the other inductees.

His colorful life was immortalized in the play, “Tommy and Me,” written by Didinger, who first met McDonald as a kid attending Eagles training camp in Hershey in the 1950s.

Asked in a 2012 interview with Bleacher Report what his strengths were as a player, McDonald said: “Good instincts and good hands. I was on the cover of Sports Illustrated in 1962 I think, and the headline was ‘Football's Best Hands.’ B-E-S-T! God also blessed me with S-P-E-E-D! I won 5 gold medals in track in my senior year of high school. Who wins 5 gold medals?”

Didinger wrote in that 2016 piece on the Eagles’ website that McDonald never wore gloves because he wanted to feel the ball into his hands.

“He sandpapered his fingertips before every game,” Didinger wrote. “He said it made his fingers more sensitive and helped him feel the ball. He scraped his fingers on the brick wall at Franklin Field before home games to achieve the same effect.”

Many of the legendary players from the Eagles 1948, 1949 and 1960 NFL Championship teams have died in the past several years.

Hall of Famer Chuck Bednarik died in 2015 at 89, Hall of Famer Steve Van Buren died in 2012 at 91, Hall of Famer Pete Pihos in 2011 at 87 and Al Wistert, a five-time Pro Bowl lineman from the 1940s who should be in the Hall of Fame, died in 2016 at 95.

The only surviving Hall of Famers who spent at least half their NFL career with the Eagles are Bob Brown, who is 76, and 2018 inductee Brian Dawkins.

Jason Kelce egregiously snubbed by NFL's all-decade voters

Jason Kelce egregiously snubbed by NFL's all-decade voters

Jason Kelce was the best center in the NFL over the last decade and no fraud all-decade team is going to change that.

The NFL on Monday announced its team of the decade, and it was good to see LeSean McCoy, Darren Sproles, Fletcher Cox and Jason Peters named. All are deserving.

But the absence of Kelce is egregious. 

Not surprisingly, the same people who haven’t figured out that Eric Allen was one of the greatest cornerbacks to ever play the game — the Pro Football Hall of Fame voters — are the same people who have decided that Kelce wasn’t one of the two best centers in the NFL from 2010 through 2019.

Alex Mack and Maurkice Pouncey were the centers named to the team of the decade, and guess what.

Kelce has made first-team all-pro more than both of them combined.

Kelce three times, Pouncey twice, Mack zip.

Pouncey deserves one of the two slots. He’s made eight Pro Bowls with the Steelers and played on six playoff teams and a Super Bowl loser. Hell of a career.

Mack? Ask any defensive tackle in the NFL if he’d rather face Kelce or Alex Mack. 

Mack’s been a really good player, and he does have more Pro Bowls than Kelce. But he was a 1st-round pick, and those guys tend to make Pro Bowls much earlier than 6th-round picks like Kelce. 

Kelce didn’t make his first Pro Bowl until his fourth season, and he was absurdly snubbed in the Pro Bowl voting in 2017 and 2018, when he was the best center in football, made first-team all-pro both times and didn’t get picked to the Pro Bowl team.

Kelce is the only active player in the NFL that’s had two all-pro seasons in which he didn’t make the Pro Bowl and one of only six in history.

It’s tough making up ground when you’re a 6th-round pick. You come into the league with no hype, and unless you see the guy play every Sunday you can’t imagine he’s really that good.

The rest of the country finally realized in 2017 what we already knew. Kelce guy is a beast. It took way too long. And judging by this NFL all-decade team people still haven’t figured out how good he is.

Kelce has added a dimension of athleticism to the center position that may be unprecedented. What he lacks in size and strength he makes up for in determination, intelligence and leverage. 

Kelce is one of six centers in NFL history to make first-team all-pro three straight years, the only one to do it in the last 20 years. All the others are Hall of Famers.

He’s also one of only seven centers in NFL history to be named all-pro three times AND to win a Super Bowl or NFL Championship. He’s the only one to do it in the last 35 years.

Kelce did make the Pro Football Writers Association all-decade team, so at least somebody got it right.

The thing that’s really disturbing is that Kelce is building a Hall of Fame resume, and the people that snubbed him for this honor could very well do the same when he’s in the Hall of Fame conversation. All-decade teams are one of the leading criteria Hall of Fame voters cite when justifying their picks.

All I know is Kelce is one of the smartest, toughest guys I’ve ever seen. He’s played through injuries that would have ended most guys’ seasons and some guys’ careers.

And he’s done it at a consistently high level since beating out Jamaal Jackson for the starting job in the summer of 2011.

Kelce probably doesn’t give a darn about all this. He’s never been one to take individual honors seriously. That’s not why he plays the game. 

He plays the game for moments like Feb. 4, 2018, and that’s something that none of the so-called experts can ever take away.

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NFL to reverse controversial pass interference rule for 2020 season: report

NFL to reverse controversial pass interference rule for 2020 season: report

After a one-year flirtation with pass interference challenges didn't really solve anything, the NFL is expected to end the experiment.

Pass interference replay "almost certainly will not be extended", according to a report Monday from NFL.com's Judy Battista:

This isn't terribly surprising. The rule was put in place largely because Sean Payton and the New Orleans Saints complained very loudly after an enormous missed call in the 2018-19 postseason.

That crucial uncalled pass interference, you might recall, was committed by new Eagles cornerback Nickell Robey-Coleman:

The 2019 regular season allowed coaches to challenge pass interference calls, either called or uncalled, but the results were a mixture of underwhelming and frustrating.

Eagles fans probably remember this very obvious Avonte Maddox pass interference that wasn't called, was challenged by Packers coach Matt LaFleur, and then still wasn't called:

That was insane.

"The cumulative effect of the misses, plus the replay spotlight on these misses, has really taken its toll," former NFL ref and current NBC rules analyst Terry McAulay told the New York Times last November.

The line for what constitutes pass interference was shown - as football watchers already knew - to be an indistinct and ever-moving line, and the ability to challenge the calls just created one more layer of aggrivation.

If the league does indeed remove the rule, it will be a victory. Fans, players, and coaches will still yell about missed pass interference calls - but at least they won't have to do it twice.

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