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April 23, 2015

Is Harold Carmichael 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 wide receiver Harold Carmichael, the franchise's all-time leading receiver and, by all accounts, the tallest wideout ever to play in the NFL:

BY THE NUMBERS: 180 G (1971-1983); 4x Pro-Bowler; 589 receptions for 8978 yards (15.2 YPC); 79 TDs; Member of Eagles Hall of Fame and 1980 NFC Championship team.

HOW HE GOT HERE: The Eagles drafted Carmichael (Southern University) in the 7th round (161st overall) in the 1971 NFL Draft. The 6-foot-8 rookie's breakout season came in 1973, when he led the NFL with 1,116 yards.

The most important thing to happen to Carmichael when he arrived in Philly was a position change. Originally a tight end, Carmichael struggled with the physicality inside, but he would go on to thrive as a wideout, where 13 percent of his receptions went for scores.

HOW HE LEFT PHILLY: Carmichael was cut by the Eagles in 1984 before eventually landing with the Dallas Cowboys, where he played in just two games and recorded only one reception. But the thing about Carmichael -- and it applies to several names on this list -- is that he never really left Philly. 

After his playing days were over, he worked in various roles with the Eagles, including player development, over 20 years until his retirement earlier this month.

WHAT HE LEFT BEHIND: Because of the time period in which he played -- prior to the rules being changed in favor of the offense -- Carmichael's numbers are not as inflated as some other wideouts, which likely contributed to him being left out of the Pro Football Hall of Fame. 

Former Inquirer columnist Phil Sheridan, now with, wrote the following earlier this month about Carmichael's worthiness when it comes to the Hall of Fame:

Timing is everything when evaluating a receiver’s career. Carmichael played during the 1970s and early 1980s, just before rules changes caused passing stats to explode. Carmichael led the NFL in receiving yards with 1,116 in 1973. In 1977, the NFL leader, Dallas’ Drew Pearson, had fewer than 1,000 yards (870).

During the initial period for Carmichael to receive Hall of Fame consideration, in the late 1980s, players such as Jerry Rice and Michael Irvin were putting up vastly expanded numbers. Carmichael’s stats didn’t seem as impressive by comparison.
But the website compares players from different eras. The players who compare most closely with Carmichael include Andre Rison, Larry Fitzgerald, John Stallworth, Keyshawn Johnson and Fred Biletnikoff. Stallworth and Biletnikoff are in the Hall of Fame. Fitzgerald seems like a near-lock for enshrinement when his career is over.  []

He is, however, a member of the Hall's 1970's All-Decade Team. He currently ranks 24th in NFL when it comes to receiving touchdowns.

Carmichael is the franchise leader in pass receptions (589), receiving yards (8,978) and receiving touchdowns (79).

SIGNATURE MOMENT: His best overall game came early in his career, during his breakout 1973 season, when he caught 12 passes for 187 yards and two touchdowns.

Carmichael had three touchdowns in a game only once during his prolific career. That occurred in Week 11 of the Eagles 1980 Super Bowl season, when Carmichael caught five passes, three for scores, and tallied 89 yards in a 34-21 win over the Saints.

After that season, Carmichael was awarded the NFL Man of the Year Award:


  •  •  THE OTHER CANDIDATES    •  •

Eric Allen, CB

Bill Bergey, LB

• Brian Dawkins, S

• LeSean McCoy, RB

• Tommy McDonald, WR

• Donovan McNabb, QB

• 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