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April 23, 2015

Is Tommy McDonald 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 wideout Tommy McDonald, a Pro Football Hall of Fame receiver who was among the most prolific scorers in franchise history:

BY THE NUMBERS: 88 G (1957-1963); 5x Pro-Bowler; 287 receptions for 5,499 yards (19.2 yards per catch) and 66 TDs; Inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1998; Member of the Eagles Hall of Fame; Member of the 1960 NFL Championship team. 

HOW HE GOT HERE: McDonald (Oklahoma) was selected by the Eagles in the third round (31st overall) of the 1957 NFL Draft. After just nine receptions in all his rookie season, McDonald broke out the following year in 1958 when he led the NFL with nine touchdowns. That began a four-year stretch where McDonald was first or second in the league in touchdown receptions. He also consistently ranked among the top 10 in yards, receptions, yards per game, yards per reception throughout his seven seasons with the Eagles.

HOW HE LEFT PHILLY: The Eagles almost certainly got the best out of McDonald before they traded him to Dallas in 1964. In seven season in Philadelphia, McDonald made the Pro Bowl five times, something he accomplished just once (1967 with the Rams) in his final five seasons.

WHAT HE LEFT BEHIND: McDonald was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1988, making him one of just nine former Eagles* to be enshrined in Canton. 

*Only counting players who spent a majority (or large portion) of their careers in Philadelphia.

Furthermore, McDonald is second in the Eagles record books with 66 touchdown catches, despite playing in far fewer games (88) and catching fewer passes (287) than anyone else close. In fact, nearly 23 percent of his receptions went for a touchdown. By comparison, DeSean Jackson (87 games) played almost as many games as McDonald, and caught 69 more passes, but has less than half as many touchdowns (32) as McDonald. 

Take a look at how the rest of the top 10 looks when you sort it by total receptions vs. touchdown receptions:

1Harold Carmichael
589Harold Carmichael79
2Pete Retzlaff
452Tommy McDonald 66
3Brian Westbrook
426Pete Pihos 61
4Pete Pihos 373Mike Quick
5Keith Byars371Pete Retzlaff
6Mike Quick363Bobby Walston
7DeSean Jackson356Jeremy Maclin
8Brent Celek344Calvin Williams 34
9Jeremy Maclin343DeSean Jackson 32
10Bobby Walston311Ben Hawkins32
15Tommy McDonald287----- --- 

And in case you're wondering, yes, running backs Brian Westbrook, Keith Byars and LeSean McCoy (not listed) all have more career receptions than McDonald. However, none has more touchdowns. And with the exception of Westbrook (68 total TDs), neither Byars nor McCoy has more total touchdowns than McDonald has receiving touchdowns. 

That being said, take a look at some of McDonald's career highlights:


  •  •  THE OTHER CANDIDATES    •  •

• Eric Allen, CB

Bill Bergey, LB

• Harold Carmichael, WR

• Brian Dawkins, S

• LeSean McCoy, RB

• 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