No matter which way Super Bowl 50 went, a former Eagle or three were walking away with rings. Former Birds' safety Kurt Coleman was starting for the Panthers, coached by Ron Rivera and Sean McDermott, who both coached under Andy Reid in Philadelphia. On the other side of the field, the Broncos featured Evan Mathis, Jordan Norwood, and Eagle-for-a-month Ryan Harris, signed in August 2011 and released in September 2011.
Mathis, Norwood, and Harris weren’t the first Birds to leave the nest and find glory. While the Eagles themselves have famously never won a Super Bowl, a few of their greatest talents have captured a championship after leaving Philadelphia.
The man needs no introduction, but certainly warrants one.
As an Eagle from 1985 to 1992 White recorded more sacks, 124, than games played, 121, including a then-NFL record 21 sacks in the strike shortened 1987 season. Under Buddy Ryan and successive coaches, the Eagles defense became a terror around the league.
Already, firmly entrenched in discussions of the greatest defensive lineman of all-time, White won Super Bowl XXXI with Green Bay in 1996. He recorded three sacks in the game. The Packers would return to the Super Bowl in 1997, but lose to the Denver Broncos. When he retired in 2000, White was the NFL’s all-time sack leader with 198. He has been inducted into the Hall of Fame, and his number 92 retired by the Eagles and Packers.
White was joined on that fearsome Eagles’ defense by Seth Joyner. Joyner was a three-time All Pro selection as an Eagle, and was named NFL Player of the Year in 1991 by Sports Illustrated. His beginning with the Eagles wasn’t quite as heralded – he was actually cut during Eagles training camp as a rookie, before being re-signed that season.
In 1997, he joined White on the defending Super Bowl Champion Packers. They would return to the Super Bowl, but lose to the Denver Broncos. The next year, Joyner returned to the Super Bowl, this time as a Bronco. Their Super Bowl XXXIII victory was Joyner’s last game.
Mathis’ last offseason was one better left forgotten. To backtrack a bit, he joined the Eagles in 2011, and became a fixture at left guard for the team. He was named to his first Pro Bowl in 2013, while the offense took the league by storm during Chip Kelly’s first season. Mathis, like every other lineman, started all 16 games that season.
With Mathis’ desire for a raise the worst-kept secret in the world, trade rumors began swirling a year ago. Kelly declared the Eagles had not found a willing trade partner. Mathis held out of voluntary off-season workouts, and before he could report to the first mandatory minicamp, Kelly pulled the plug, cutting Mathis.
While many claimed Mathis’ actions had backfired, pointing to the much cheaper contract he received in Denver, he just started for a Super Bowl Champion while Philadelphia had no replacement for him on the offensive line this season.
Thrust into the featured back role when Ricky Watters and Charlie Garner left the team, Staley topped the 1,000 yard mark three times for the Eagles from 1998 to 2002, while struggling to stay on the field and, eventually, competing with Brian Westbrook and Correll Buckhalter for playing time. When Andy Reid brought his West Coast offense to the city, it demanded a running back able to catch the football, and Staley was the answer.
In 2004, with Westbrook increasingly becoming a star, Staley left Philadelphia but not the state, signing with the Steelers as the eventual replacement to Jerome Bettis. Staley was again beset by injuries however, and after managing 830 yards in 10 games his first season, he fell to third string after the emergence of Willie Parker in 2005. Ten years ago, in his second-to-last game (his last would be the 2006 season opener) he won Super Bowl XL with the Steelers.
Sure, Vermeil isn’t technically a player, but he’s as beloved in Philadelphia as almost any of them. He became the Eagles’ Head Coach in 1976 and took over a franchise that was ten years removed from their last winning season, and had just two since their 1960 NFL Championship. By 1978, Vermeil had the Eagles in the playoffs thanks to the likes of Ron Jaworski, Wilbert Montgomery, and Harold Carmichael, and by 1980 they were in the Super Bowl.
They lost, and Vermeil retired after a 3-6 strike shortened 1982 season. He would not return to coaching until 1997 when he took over the St. Louis Rams. His first two seasons were miserable, but after an injury promoted Kurt Warner to starter, the Rams “Greatest Show on Turf” offense dominated teams, and they eventually beat the Titans in Super Bowl XXXIV. Vermeil retired again, following the victory.