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Philadelphia Eagles History

Philadelphia Eagles First Season

The Philadelphia Eagles were founded by Bert Bell – you often hear his son Upton Bell on The Game Before the Money football history podcast. Bert Bell founded the Philadelphia Eagles in 1933. He founded them by buying the Frankfurt Yellow Jackets out of bankruptcy. Although Bell’s father was wealthy, he wouldn’t give Bert money to invest in pro football. Instead, he was given the money from his wife, Frances Upton. Frances Upton gained her own acclaim as a Broadway actress.

Bert Bell came up with the name Eagles for his new team.

The Eagles first head coach was Lud Wray. Wray played college football at Penn, the same school Bell starred at before serving in World War I. The Eagles struggled both in the win column and in ticket sales in the early years of the team. Philadelphia finished 3-5-1 in their first season of 1933. The Eagles first winning season came in 1943.

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Philadelphia Eagles and the NFL Draft

In the early years, Bell’s Eagles teams had a tough time signing talent as they were usually being outbid by teams with more money. There wasn’t much money in the NFL in the 1930s, but there was enough that there were a few teams like the Bears who were the “haves” and a few teams like the Eagles who were the “have nots.”

Bert Bell knew that he had to sign some talented players to attract more of a crowd, but he didn’t have the funds. So he came up with an idea that is now used by every major sports league – a player draft. The first NFL Draft was in 1936. Ironically, the Eagles never signed their first-round draft choice because back then, pro football didn’t pay much. The player, whose name was Jay Berwanger and was coincidentally the first Heisman Trophy winner, opted for a higher paying job elsewhere.

The Eagles got their first real star in the 1939 NFL Draft when they drafted another Heisman Trophy winner, Davey O’Brien from TCU. But O’Brien only played two seasons before he too opted for another job – as an FBI agent. Today, the Davey O’Brien Award recognizes the nation’s top college quarterback.

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Philadelphia Eagles during World War 2

Before the 1941 season, Alexis Thompson obtained the Eagles from Bert Bell, who became part owner of the Pittsburgh Steelers. Bert Bell later became NFL Commissioner and came up with such things as overtime, the two-minute warning, he even was the first to put the NFL on television. You can hear his son Upton Bell share many great stories about his father in Episode 4 of The Game Before the Money Podcast.

During World War 2, the Philadelphia Eagles and Pittsburgh Steelers merged for one season, to help keep themselves and the National Football League afloat. That team is often referred to as the Steagles, and the merged team played only one season – in 1943.

Philadelphia Eagles NFL Champions

The years after WW2 were the Eagles’ first glory years. Philadelphia made the NFL Championship Game in 1947, back in a time when the only two teams that made the playoffs. The Eagles and Cardinals played in Chicago for the 1947 NFL Championship in freezing weather and the Cardinals won the game by a touchdown. Hall of Famer Charley Trippi returned a punt return for a touchdown for the Cardinals.

The next year, the two teams played again in Philadelphia – the first televised NFL Championship Game. It was played in a blizzard (players even helped move the tarp before the game – see photo below). The Eagles won their first-ever championship, 7-0, fueled by Hall of Famer Steve Van Buren’s touchdown. Former Michigan great Al Wistert helped lead the way with the block.

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The Eagles won their second championship in a row the next year, in 1949. They beat the Rams 14-0. Steve Van Buren rushed for almost 200 yards in that game. Those Eagles are the only team in NFL history to have back-to-back championship game shutouts. Unbreakable records? That could be one. We’re not going to see back-to-back shutouts in the Super Bowl anytime soon, let alone three in a row. The Eagles coach at the time was Greasy Neale, who also played in a World Series and coached a team to the Rose Bowl.

Eagles 1960 Championship

It wasn’t until 1960 when the Eagles were in the NFL Championship Game again. They played the Green Bay Packers on a MONDAY, the day after Christmas. Can you imagine a Super Bowl Monday today? That’s the way it was in 1960 and it’s a rather famous game in NFL history. Eagles Hall of Fame LB Chuck Bednarik tackled Packers Hall of Fame running back Jim Taylor – and wouldn’t let Taylor get up. The final seconds ticked away and the Eagles won the 1960 NFL Championship, 17-13.

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How many championships have the Philadelphia Eagles won?

The Eagles have four championships. The Eagles won NFL championships in 1947, 1948, 1960, and 2017.

Philadelphia Eagles First Super Bowl

The Eagles made their first Super Bowl in 1980 with Dick Vermeil as their head coach. Philadelphia beat the Dallas Cowboys in the NFC Championship Game as running back Wilbert Montgomery scored on a long run in the first quarter that set the tone for the game.

How many Super Bowls have the Philadelphia Eagles been in?

The Eagles have made it to four Super Bowls. The Eagles first Super Bowl was Super Bowl XV. They also appeared in Super Bowl XXXIX, Super Bowl LII, and Super Bowl LVII.

Philadelphia fell to the Raiders in Super Bowl 15, but the Eagles ended up making the playoffs four years in a row – a streak that wouldn’t be matched until the 2000s when their head coach was – yes – Andy Reid!

Who is the winningest coach in Eagles history?

Andy Reid, with 130 wins.

Andy Reid with the Eagles

Reid led the Eagles to five straight NFC Championship Games and a Super Bowl – possibly the greatest stretch in team history. But the franchise’s brightest moment came in Super Bowl 52 under head coach Doug Pederson, when the Eagles won their first-ever Super Bowl. Second-string quarterback Nick Foles led the team to victory. For you trivia buffs, Nick Foles went to the same high school as another Super Bowl winning quarterback, Drew Brees.

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