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April 23, 2015

Is Donovan McNabb the greatest living Eagle?

For years, many considered Concrete Charlie -- former Eagles linebacker Chuck Bednarik -- the greatest living Eagles player. But that all changed last month when the hall-of-famer passed away at the age of 89, leaving a void in the hearts of those lucky enough to have watched him play.

In addition to Bednarik, the debate for the franchise's all-time greatest player would undoubtedly include names like Brookshire, Brown, Van Buren, and White. Unfortunately, some of the greatest Eagles players are no longer with us, and in the wake of Bednarik's passing, there is no consensus as to whom should replace him as the franchise top player.

With that in mind, we've decided to take a look at some of the greatest living Eagles, the kind of guys Jeff Lurie would want to trot out before a big playoff game -- if/when that time comes -- to help get the fans fired up.

Here's a closer look at Donovan McNabb, the winningest quarterback in franchise history:

BY THE NUMBERS: 148 G (1999-2009); 6x Pro-Bowler; 92-49-1 record; 2801-of-4746 passing (59 percent) for 32873 yards; 216 TDs; 100 INT; 3249 rushing yards and 28 rushing TDs; Led Eagles to 5 NFC Championship games and one Super Bowl appearance; Inducted into Eagles Hall of Fame; Had No. 5 retired by Eagles in 2013.

HOW HE GOT HERE: The Eagles took McNabb (Syracuse) second overall in the 1999 NFL Draft and things didn't get off to a great start in Philly, as a legion of fans famously booed the selection, hoping the team would pick running back Ricky Williams out of Texas instead.

Unfortunately, I'm willing to bet a few of those fans are still proud of booing McNabb. 

After seeing time here and there during the first half of his rookie year, McNabb took over as the starting QB for good in Week 11, finishing 2-4 that season as a starter. 

In 2000, his first full season under center, the Eagles finished the regular season 11-5, made the playoffs for the first time since 1996 and even won a playoff game over the Bucs. In the three previous seasons before McNabb arrived, the Eagles' combined record was 14-33-1. 

McNabb's arrival also coincided with that of the franchise's winningest coach, Andy Reid. Cleary, their success was tied to one another, as McNabb was never as successful after he left the Eagles and Reid only lasted a few seasons in the post-McNabb era before he was fired. In their 11 seasons together, the Eagles made the playoffs eight times, reaching the conference title game five times and the Super Bowl once.

HOW HE LEFT PHILLY: McNabb was treated nearly as well on his way out of town as he was when he arrived, being traded to the Redskins, a division rival, on Easter Sunday in 2010. In return for the veteran QB, the Eagles received two draft picks, a second-rounder that turned into safety Nate Allen and fourth-rounder that they traded away. Essentially, the Eagles traded their most prolific passer for Nate Allen. Nate-bleeping-Allen. Even the guys in the video above know the Birds got jobbed on that one.

WHAT HE LEFT BEHIND: McNabb was unable to get the Super Bowl title that has been so elusive in Philly, and that will always haunt him. However, there's no doubt that McNabb was the most successful passer in the history of the franchise. Sure, he'll be remembered for some of the bad -- puking during the Super Bowl and playing air guitar as he entered Cowboys Stadium before losing, just to name a few -- but that's not entirely fair to McNabb. 

For the first half of his career, his passing options were slim-to-none, except for one season of Terrell Owens. Still, he was able to put up monster numbers while rarely getting his team in trouble by throwing interceptions. 

SIGNATURE MOMENT: Because of the success the Eagles had during his time here, there is no shortage of memorable moments from Donovan McNabb.

There was the time in 2002 when he willed the Eagles to a victory over the Cardinals on a broken ankle. After sustaining the injury on the team's first drive, McNabb went on to throw four touchdowns in the win.

There was also the five-TD performance against the Packers during their 2004 Super Bowl season. McNabb broke Joe Montana's record of consecutive completions (24), as the Eagles went on to win, 47-17, cementing them as the team to beat in the NFC.

There was another memorable moment against that same team two years earlier. It's known simply as "Fourth and 26" and needs no introduction:

There's also this one, which came in primetime against the rival Cowboys and immediately stirred up memories of Randall Cunningham:

The fact that there wasn't a hold on that play is just ridiculous. Also, shout out to Freddy Mitchell's hands...


  •  •  THE OTHER CANDIDATES    •  •

• Eric Allen, CB

Bill Bergey, LB

• Harold Carmichael, WR

• Brian Dawkins, S

• LeSean McCoy, RB

• Tommy McDonald, WR

• Wilbert Montgomery, RB

• Brian Westbrook, RB

• Al Wistert, OL

  •  •  HONORABLE MENTIONS  •  •  •

• Randall Cunningham, QB
• Ron Jaworski, QB
• Seth Joyner, LB
• Pete Retzlaff, WR
• Clyde Simmons, DE
• Troy Vincent, CB