On Wednesday, the Pro Football Hall of Fame announced its initial list of 94 players nominated for induction in 2017. Among candidates nominated for the first time were Brian Dawkins and Donovan McNabb. They join a host of former Eagles waiting for their chance at enshrinement, and some have been at it a lot longer than others.
Both Dawkins and McNabb may have a tough time making the final cut this year. The list will be trimmed from 94 players to 25, then to 15 finalists, before no more than eight players are selected for enshrinement. They’ll face stiff competition from other first time nominations like Ladainian Tomlinson, Hines Ward, and Jason Taylor, as well as finalists from last year, including Kurt Warner, Terrell Davis, and another former Eagle: Terrell Owens.
Dawkins has the superior claim and, even if denied in 2017, should certainly find his way to the Hall eventually. Dawkins, Troy Polamalu, and Ed Reed were the dominant safeties of the 2000s. He was selected to the Pro Bowl nine times, seven as an Eagle. He had 37 career interceptions, 26 sacks, 36 forced fumbles, and created at least one turnover in each of his 16 years in the league.
In 2002 Dawkins had one of the most memorable individual performances in team history against the Texans. He caught the only pass of his career, a shovel pass from Brian Mitchell (also a Hall of Fame nominee) on a fake punt, and took it 57 yards for a touchdown. He wasn’t finished. By the end of the game, Dawkins was the only player in NFL history to have a touchdown reception, sack, interception, and fumble recovery in the same game.
McNabb had a much more tempestuous relationship with Philadelphia fans than Dawkins, despite leading the Eagles through the most prolonged period of success in team history. Taken in Andy Reid’s first draft with the second overall pick, McNabb went on to throw for 234 touchdowns, 37,276 yards, and was named to six Pro Bowls, including five straight from 2000 through 2004.
During the last four of those seasons, the Eagles would win four straight division titles, and make four straight NFC championship games and one Super Bowl. The relationship between McNabb and Owens dissolved during 2005, and the team’s success dipped as McNabb missed 13 games over the next three seasons.
While McNabb is undoubtedly the most successful Eagles quarterback since Norm Van Brocklin, his stature against league peers is less certain. His career extended into the era when passing numbers exploded across the NFL, yet he never threw for 4,000 yards and notched 30 touchdowns just once. His career completion percentage is below 60.
For comparison, Warner hit those marks in each of the three seasons he started 16 games, and had a completion mark of 65.5 percent. Even Randall Cunningham, an Eagles quarterback from another era and one for whom passes often took a backseat to highlight reel runs, reached the 30 touchdown mark twice in his career. Cunningham is also among the 94 nominees.
Other former Eagles on the list include Seth Joyner, Eric Allen, Sean Landeta, Ricky Watters, and Dick Vermeil. Joyner and Allen were stars on the much vaunted defense of the late Buddy Ryan, and are both candidates extremely deserving of selection. If selected, Landeta would be the second punter to enter the Hall. Brian Westbrook, nominated for the first time last year, was not among the 2017 nominees.