The constant revolving door which is the Philadelphia Eagles' starting quarterback situation. It wasn't always this way, there have been quarterbacks come through that offered stability and All-Pro caliber play at the position. From Davey O'Brien in 1939 to Donovan McNabb throughout the 2000's the Eagles were able to showcase elite play behind center. Although no Super Bowl titles to any of the Eagles quarterback's credit, there are two quarterbacks on our list who were able to bring NFL Championships to the franchise. From playoff wins to record breaking seasons to revolutionizing the game, we will take a look at the top eight quarterbacks in the Philadelphia Eagles' history.
The Eagles constantly have been drafting, signing, replacing, and giving second chances to quarterbacks that frankly don't belong under center at all. After a few good games, some were crowned saviors only to flounder out and lose the job only games later. At one point during the article I was having trouble deciding which side of the list some quarterbacks would fall on. Flashes of brilliance followed by inconsistent play can play mind tricks with the fan base. Quarterback is referred to by many as the most important position in professional sports. And without stability and leadership in that role, it is unlikely to ever see your team reach the pinnacle they reach for. To go along with our eight best quarterbacks, let's check out the seven quarterbacks that held the franchise back for a period of time.
Honorable Mention - Carson Wentz: maybe not so much an honorable mention as it is a moment of hope. Philadelphia needs Carson Wentz to pan out. After a solid rookie season that was held back a bit by inconsistent wide receiver play, Wentz seems poised to show the franchise what he has to offer.
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15 Best - Sonny Jurgensen
Now a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame, Jurgensen was drafted by the Eagles in 1957. He served as a back up for his first four years for starting quarterbacks Bobby Thomason and Norm Van Brocklin. It was in 1960, his final year as the backup, that the Philadelphia Eagles won the NFL Championship. Jurgensen's first year taking over was an All-Pro caliber year. He threw for a league high 3723 yards and 32 touchdowns en route to his first of five Pro-Bowls and only one with the Eagles. He would follow up in 1962 again leading the league in passing yards with 3261.
After an injury plagued 1963 season, the Eagles would trade Jurgensen for future starting quarterback Norm Snead and and cornerback Claude Crabbe. He would go onto play 11 more seasons in Washington with more Pro-Bowl and All-Pro appearances. His counterpart, Snead, will end up on the wrong side of this list.
14 Worst - Rodney Peete
Peete came to the Eagles after starting his career with five seasons in Detroit and one season in Dallas. He was never a full time starter elsewhere, and was signed by the Eagles to back up Randall Cunningham. After a 1-3 start in 1995, Ray Rhodes decided that Peete was going to be his starter. On paper it seemed to work. The Eagles finished 10-6 that year even winning a playoff game before being ousted by the Dallas Cowboys. But it's almost that the team made that run spite Rodney Peete. Peete threw for 2326 yards with 9 touchdowns and 14 interceptions in 15 appearances. He finished that year with a 67.3 QB Rating. The next three seasons he appeared in 15 games total. He finished his Eagles career with 17 touchdowns compared to 27 interceptions. He did somehow stay in the NFL for 16 seasons with the Lions, Cowboys, Eagles, Redskins, Raiders and Panthers.
13 Best - Michael Vick
Vick was signed by the Eagles in 2009 fresh off a prison sentence. He was drafted by and last played for the Atlanta Falcons in 2006. Vick was as dynamic a player as the NFL has ever had, and Andy Reid decided it was worth giving Vick a chance at redemption. He backed up Donovan McNabb the first season, playing sparingly in wild cat formations and out of the back field. But in 2010, after McNabb moved on from the organization, Vick would get his chance at being a starter once again.
Vick actually started the season as Kevin Kolb's backup, but after Kolb went down with a concussion, Andy Reid announced Vick as the starter for the remainder of the season. It was a fun ride. The Eagles would go on to finish that year 10-6 and secure a playoff berth. He finished the season with 3018 yards to go with 21 touchdowns and 6 interceptions. The Eagles fell to the Packers in the playoffs, but Vick would go on to play three more seasons in Philly. In all he threw for 57 touchdowns and added 15 rushing.
12 Worst - Kevin Kolb
Kolb was brought into Philadelphia to eventually take the quarterback reign from Donovan McNabb. Due in part to head injuries and Michael Vick's career resurgence, Kolb's Eagles career seemed non-existent. He finished his Eagles career with just seven games started and a QB Rating that never eclipsed 88.9. The head scratcher is why Andy Reid and the Eagles ever thought he could take over the starting quarterback job. In appearances throughout McNabb's tenure, Kolb threw for 4 touchdowns compared to 7 interceptions. After becoming Vick's back up Kolb did get a five more games in 2010 filling in for an injured Vick. In those games Kolb was sacked fifteen times while throwing seven touchdowns and seven interceptions. He and the organization split ways following the season sending Kolb to Arizona where he played two more seasons before retiring due to numerous concussions.
11 Best - Roman Gabriel
After 11 seasons with the Rams, Gabriel came to Philadelphia in 1973. He would put together an All-Time season that year, en route to the NFL Come Back Player of the Year award. Gabriel threw for 3219 yards that season which was good for the NFL passing yards leader title. To go along with the yards he threw 23 passes for touchdowns which was also a league high. Despite powering the offense that had the 2nd most yards in the league the Eagles only managed a 5-8-1 record that year. In that year he would also attend his fourth Pro Bowl. First and only as an Eagle. In all Gabriel played five seasons in for the franchise, tossing 47 touchdowns. His career total for yards is 29,444, including 7,221 as an Eagle.
10 Worst - Doug Pederson
Sorry Coach Doug. Pederson and everyone around him knew what his role was when he came to be the Eagles' quarterback in 1999. Hold the position until rookie Donovan McNabb was ready to take over the job for the foreseeable future. After nine weeks, Pederson's time as Philadelphia's starting quarterback was over. During his lone season in town, Pederson threw for 1,276 yards with a 52.4 completion percentage. He threw for 7 touchdowns compared to 9 interceptions and was sacked 20 times. In all this resulted in a 62.9 Quarterback Rating. We knew he wasn't going to be in town long term, but this was still a touch run of games to be an Eagles fan through.
Oddly enough, Pederson is back in Philadelphia, serving as the Eagles Head Coach. Here's to hoping that goes better than his season in Eagle green.
9 Best - Tommy Thompson
Tommy Thompson brought two championships to Philadelphia in 1948 and 1949, and saw the team to another championship before losing in 1947. Three straight championship appearances was enough to garner Thompson his spot in Eagles history as well as a spot on our list. After one year in Pittsburgh, Thompson spent his last eight seasons playing with Philadelphia. Playing along side Eagles legend Steve Van Buren, during the three year championship run Thompson helped lead the Eagles to a 28-7-1 record. Thompson added a Pro-Bowl to his credit in 1942. In eight years he gathered 10,240 passing yards and 90 touch downs. The game back then wasn't played the way it is today, with any quarterback able to approach the 4,000 yards in a season mark. Thompson belongs in good company as an Eagles quarterback, with the championships he was able to bring to a football town that hasn't had many.
8 Worst - Mark Sanchez
Mark Sanchez played his first five seasons with the New York Jets before signing with the Eagles in 2014. He was brought in to backup Nick Foles, but after injuries played part, Sanchez would find himself starting 8 games and appearing in 9. The team started off 6-2 before Foles went down, and Sanchez even started his string of games with a win pulling the Eagles to 7-2 and atop the division. In his second start however, the Eagles went up against the Packers in a game where Sanchez would have three fumbles, two interceptions, and be sacked three times. The Eagles would ultimately lose 53-20. Somehow the team bounced back and picked up their next two games pulling to 9-3. It was there that Sanchez and the Eagles would drop three straight games and their playoff hopes. In his 8.5 game run as the Eagles starter, Sanchez was sacked 23 times, fumbled 7, and threw 11 interceptions. He would be traded in 2016 to the Denver Broncos, following another lackluster season as the teams backup with Sam Bradford.
7 Best - Ron Jaworski
Jaworski was brought to the Philadelphia Eagles in 1977 form the Rams, and would become the starting quarterback right away for Dick Vermeil's Eagles. After a lackluster 5-9 campaign in '77, Jaworski would go on to go 42-22 from 1978-1981, including four straight playoff appearances. During a 1980 season which the team would finish 12-4, Jaworski would lead the Eagles into the Super Bowl, where they would eventually lose to the Raiders. During that seasons, Jaws threw for a career high 3529 yards, with 27 touchdowns to only 12 interceptions. He added a Pro-Bowl and NFC Offensive Player of the Year during the season also.
Jaworski stayed with the Eagles until 1987 when he finished his career with the Dolphins and the Chiefs. Jaws is still second in Eagles career passing yards and passing touchdowns. Jaworski is still heavily involved in the Eagles organization and community.
6 Worst - Norm Snead
As previously mentioned, Snead was brought to the team in exchange for quarterback Sonny Jurgensen. In his seven run as the Eagles quarterback, the team would never make the playoffs and finished above .500 just once. In those years the team went a combined 35-60-3. Snead was a bit before his time, known as a bit of a gun slinger. His touchdowns to interceptions were always pulling around even. Even during a 1967 season where he threw for 29 touchdowns, only to add 24 interceptions as well. In fact he threw more than 20 interceptions in a season in four of his seven years in town. In all Snead still sits second all time in team history with 124 interceptions and fourth in team history with 111 touchdowns. Snead would go on to finish his career in Minnesota, New York, and San Francisco following his departure from the Eagles after the 1970 season.
5 Best - Randall Cunningham
Randall Cunningham changed the quarterback position long before Michael Vick, Donovan McNabb or Carson Wentz entered the league with the scrambling abilities. Cunningham was drafted in 1985 and backed up Ron Jaworski for the first season and a half before Jaworski went down with an injury and Buddy Ryan made Cunningham the full time starter.
From 1988-1992 Cunningham led the team to the playoffs four out of five years, and bettered 10 wins or more in each of those years. During that span he made four Pro-Bowls which included being the first African-American quarterback to ever start the Pro Bowl. He also added three All-Pro teams and NFC Player of the Year during that five year run. Unfortunately his time in Philly was cut a little short due to disagreements with coaches and inconsistent play, losing his full time starter role by 1995. Cunningham still sits third all time in team history with 150 passing touchdowns and fourth all time with 32 rushing touchdowns.
4 Worst - Ty Detmer
The team actually put together a decent year in which Detmer was thrust into quarterback duty following a Rodney Peete injury. Detmer would help guide the team to a 10-6 record and a playoff berth. It was probably during that playoff game that the people of Philadelphia, like myself, started to view Detmer as a detriment to the team. The Eagles were shut out by the 49ers 14-0. The former Heisman Trophy winner, threw 21 times completing 14 for 148 yards. He threw two interceptions, and was sacked twice, before being knocked out of the game with a hamstring injury. The following season Detmer would split time with Peete and eventual starter Bobby Hoying, before moving on to four more NFL teams until he retired in 2005.
Despite starting less than two seasons worth of games for the team, Detmer still ranks 8th all times on times sacked with 46 in 18 career starts.
3 Best - Norm Van Brocklin
Van Brocklin was traded to the Eagles in 1958 and stayed through the 1960 season. He would make the Pro-Bowl in each of the three seasons, and in 1960 added an All-Pro team to go along with a NFL Most Valuable Player award. After a 10-2 regular season in 1960, Van Brocklin led the team to the NFL Championship vs the Green Bay Packers at Franklin Field. Along with his favorite target Tommy McDonald, Van Brocklin led a fourth quarter comeback to win the game 17-13 and bring the Eagles last championship to date to Philadelphia. This would be the only time the Green Bay Packers lost a playoff game under the coaching of Vince Lombardi.
Van Brocklin retired following the championship 1960 season. He went on to coach from 1961-1974. In 1971, Norm Van Brocklin was enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
2 Worst - Bobby Hoying
Hoying was drafted by the Eagles in the third round of the 1996 NFL Draft. After sitting through the 1996 season, Hoying got his chance to see the field during the 1997 season, and it went well. Hoying started six games throwing for 1573 yards 11 touchdowns and 6 interceptions in six starts. Hoying was announced the starter for the 1998 season and it was all downhill from there.
Hoying didn't win a single game in seven starts before being benched. He threw for a total of ZERO touchdowns and nine interceptions, with a 45.6 Quarterback Rating. Hoying was sacked 64 TIMES in 16 career appearances, which still ranks seventh in team history. Luckily the team moved on from Hoying after the dismall 1997 season which the team went 3-13 and drafted our next player the following year:
1 Best - Donovan McNabb
Love him or hate him, McNabb is the best quarterback the Philadelphia Eagles have ever had. After being drafted with the 2nd pick in the 1999 NFL Draft, McNabb took over full time starting duties less than a season into his career. In his 11 years in Philadelphia the team made eight playoff appearances, five NFC Championships, and one Super Bowl. The team did not manage to bring Philly a Super Bowl under McNabb's lead, despite a career record of 92-49-1 for the birds.
McNabb was a 6 time Pro-Bowl QB and 2004 Offensive Player of the Year. He is still the franchise leader in multiple categories including: Pass Completions, Pass Yards, Pass Touchdowns, and Passer Rating. He is also top 10 in rushing yards and rushing touchdowns. The Eagles honored McNabb by retiring his number 5 jersey and making him a member of the Philadelphia Eagles Hall of Fame.
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