It’s Valentine’s Day, so let’s get a little lovey-dovey with the Eagles.
Looking back at the last 20 years, I wanted to put together an Eagles team with the most beloved players of the generation. I went back to the 1999 season, the first under Andy Reid for this list. So when you’re frantically searching for Reggie White or Randall, that’s why they’re not there.
Now, a lot of the time, it’s pretty simple: The best player is the most loved by fans. But that’s not always the case.
Here’s a look at the team I put together. If you have an addition or subtraction, leave it below:
QB: Nick Foles
It’s amazing to think that Foles nearly retired a couple years before he led the Eagles to their first Super Bowl win and took home the MVP trophy. But since he did that, he’s going to be a legend in this town forever. Many still think Donovan McNabb is the greatest QB in team history, but he was never universally loved the way Foles is right now. And I expect Carson Wentz to be a great quarterback, but it’s hard to imagine this love affair between city and player ever being duplicated.
RB: Brian Westbrook
This was a tough one because LeSean McCoy is the best running back in franchise history, but that’s not what this list is. When we talk about the most-beloved players, Westbrook is atop the list. He had a tremendous career as an undersized back out of Villanova, which only helped fans fall in love with him.
WR: Alshon Jeffery
No, Alshon hasn’t been here for long, but he helped the Eagles win a Super Bowl and played all of that season with a torn rotator cuff. He also consistently told everyone they were going to win. It became clear how much fans love him when after Alshon dropped a ball in these last playoffs, many of them rushed to his defense. T.O. is probably the most talented receiver we’ve had in town over the last 20 years, but he was as divisive as he was great.
WR: Rotating cast of training camp guys
This is kind of a cop out, but I wasn’t going to go through this list without a nod to the annual love affair with a relatively unknown wide receiver. From Na Brown to Paul Turner to Rasheed Bailey, these guys become huge stories in August, but never really have much of an impact when the games matter.
TE: Brent Celek
Zach Ertz is the better player, but everyone loves Celek. He missed just one game in 11 seasons and retired a champion. He sort of embodied that blue collar work ethic we all want from our athletes in this city.
FB: Leonard Weaver
Big Weave really only played one season with the Eagles before an ACL injury ended his career, but it was a great year. He was an All-Pro, but more importantly, he immediately connected with fans. Hard to be a fan favorite in one season, but Weaver did that.
LT: Jason Peters
This came down to Tra Thomas or Peters, but I gave the nod to JP. Although plenty of fans were frustrated by Peters’ nagging injuries this past season, the period of time when he became The Bodyguard was pretty cool. How many offensive linemen get fans to wear t-shirts with their nicknames?
LG: Evan Mathis
Things got contentious between Mathis and the organization at the end of his run, but he was a Pro Bowl left guard and was a really affable guy. For fans on Twitter, Mathis became a must follow for his jokes and wit.
C: Jason Kelce
Yeah, he happens to be the best center in the NFL, but even if he wasn’t, he’s on this list. We all saw the speech.
RG: Brandon Brooks
I thought about giving this spot to Todd Herremans, who played a bunch of different positions, but I have to give the edge to Brooks, who is a part of the Super Bowl team and immediately became accepted in Philly. For those of you on Twitter, you’ll remember when Brooks got to town and slowly learned about Broad Street and Wawa.
RT: Jon Runyan
If Runyan played anywhere else, Eagles fans would have probably hated him. And it’s pretty funny he’s in charge of rule enforcement in the NFL because he didn’t have a pristine reputation. But he was a tough dude and played nine seasons with the Eagles and didn’t miss a game.
DE: Hugh Douglas
He didn’t have a particularly long career in Philly, but Hugh was jolly and funny and definitely connected with the fanbase. It should come as no surprise that Douglas has been working in sports media since his career ended in 2005.
DT: Hollis Thomas
Tank spent 10 seasons with the Eagles and parlayed his popularity into a career with WIP in his post-football days.
DT: Fletcher Cox
It actually feels like Cox’s popularity hasn’t quite caught up to his level of play. Because he’s an All-Pro, one of the best defensive players in the league and it still feels like he’s not as beloved as other players. But if he keeps playing like this, fans are gonna love him forever.
DE: Trent Cole
The lasting image of Cole in Philly will be his archery sack celebration that we saw plenty of times during his career with the Eagles.
LB: Jeremiah Trotter
The Axe Man! Trotter became a Pro Bowl linebacker, went to Washington for two years and then came back and became a Pro Bowler again. Then after one year in Tampa Bay, he came back for one more season. That’s three different stints with the Eagles and he was a fan favorite for a decade.
LB: DeMeco Ryans
Mufasa came in before Andy Reid’s last year and then became a favorite during the Chip Kelly seasons. The Eagles released him after the 2015 season, ending his NFL career, but he was a bright spot on a defense without a ton.
LB: Connor Barwin
I’m cheating a little bit because Barwin was an edge rusher in a 3-4 and then played DE in 2016, but he needs to be on this list. Few athletes go to a new town and immediately immerse themselves as quickly as Barwin did. He’s still raising money for parks in the city.
CB: Troy Vincent
Vincent came to the Eagles in 1996, but from 1999-2003 he was a Pro Bowler. He was so good for so long. He’s arguably the best free agent pickup in franchise history.
CB: Sheldon Brown
Lito Sheppard and Asante Samuel were better players, but Brown was known to get a huge hit here or there. His hit on Reggie Bush will always be remembered.
S: Malcolm Jenkins
I didn’t know whether or not to put Jenkins on this list because he was slightly divisive for a while simply because of his anthem protests; some people simply want their football players to play football. But I’m not leaving him off because of that. When we look back at Jenkins in 10 years, he’ll be thought of as one of the greatest players in franchise history and a guy who helped bring a Super Bowl to Philly.
S: Brian Dawkins
I don’t think I need to say much here. We get it.
K: David Akers
Not exactly a ton of competition. Maybe Jake Elliott will eventually overtake him, but he’s got a long way to go.
LS: Jon Dorenbos
Dorenbos has to be the most beloved long snapper in NFL history. He’s already well on his way to an impressive post-NFL gig and has been wowing again on America’s Got Talent. How many fan bases even know the name of their long snapper?
P: Donnie Jones
He’s the best punter in franchise history, but he was also a really likable guy too. Jones never took himself too seriously.
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