Eagles History, Rivalries, and Fun Facts
In the NFL, few teams have a history that’s as long and interesting as the Philadelphia Eagles. After all, the Eagles’ history dates back to 1933, when the team played its inaugural season. A lot has happened since then, but any fan who buys Eagles tickets usually discovers that this is not an ordinary franchise. There have been highs, lows, and no shortage of interesting events. Let’s take a long look back at Eagles’ history and learn more about one of the NFL’s greatest franchises.
Since Philadelphia is a city of great historical significance, it makes sense for the team’s nickname to be something patriotic like an eagle. However, that’s not exactly why the Eagles are named as such. The Eagles played their inaugural season in 1933, which is the same year that President Franklin Roosevelt created the National Recovery Administration as part of the New Deal and the nation’s recovery from the Great Depression. The National Recovery Administration helped promote unions and set minimum wages, and its emblem was an eagle. This is what inspired owners Bert Bell and Lud Wray to call their new team the Eagles.
Turn on the TV
The Eagles were a part of both football and TV history in 1939 when they played in the first televised football game. The Eagles played a game against the Brooklyn Dodgers (not the baseball team but a defunct football team). There were no commercials during a game that lasted two hours and 33 minutes and was aired on an NBC affiliate in New York with roughly 500 viewers. After playing a scoreless tie with Brooklyn earlier that season, the Eagles lost the televised game 23-14 as part of a 1-9-1 season.
Without question, the weirdest season in Eagles history came in 1943. Amid World War II, both the Eagles and their Pennsylvania rivals, the Pittsburgh Steelers, were concerned about having enough players available to play the season with so many fighting overseas. The solution was for the two franchises to combine their rosters to create a 25-man team called the Steagles. That team went 5-4-1 before the Eagles found enough players to fill out their roster the following year. Meanwhile, the Steelers failed to do so and spent the 1944 season combining forces with the Chicago cardinals.
Another Presidential Connection
FDR having a role in giving the Eagles their name isn’t the team’s only connection to an American president. When the Eagles were for sale in 1962, John, Robert, and Ted Kennedy came up with a plan to buy the franchise, splitting the $6 million asking price three ways. Of course, John Kennedy was the president at the time, with Robert serving as the Attorney General. The Massachusetts-based political family came close to owning the Eagles while one of them was in the White House. However, the Kennedy brothers ultimately decided that owning an NFL team while at the head of the American government wasn’t the most sensible idea, especially given how busy JFK’s short-lived time in office was.
The Santa Claus Incident
Perhaps the most infamous incident in Eagles history came in 1968 when fans attending a game at Franklin Field threw snowballs at a Santa Claus impersonator. Ironically, the Santa Claus hired to appear at halftime never showed, forcing 19-year-old Frank Olivo to take his place after he happened to wear a Santa suit while attending the game. Keep in mind the city of Philadelphia had endured a blizzard, and this game was the last one during a 2-12 season, so fans weren’t the least bit jolly to see Old Saint Nick. Of course, that doesn’t necessarily justify throwing snowballs at anyone. Fortunately, Olivo, an Eagles fan himself, never expected anything different and had no ill will toward the fans who threw snowballs. However, the fanbase has never been able to live down such a noteworthy event.
Just the One
During the pre-Super-Bowl era, the Eagles won three NFL championships, with the last one coming in 1960. But after the merger in 1970, Philadelphia fans had to wait a long time to win a championship. There were some dark years in Philadelphia and two disappointing Super Bowl losses, first to the Raiders in Super Bowl XV and then to the Patriots in Super Bowl XXXIX. Fittingly, Philadelphia’s next chance to win a title came against the Patriots in Super Bowl LII. Of course, it came in the most unlikely of ways, as backup quarterback Nick Foles had to take over late in the season for the injured Carson Wentz. Foles would end up throwing for 373 yards and three touchdowns on his way to becoming Super Bowl MVP while the Philadelphia defense overcame Tom Brady throwing for 505 yards in a 41-33 win.
5 Big Rivals
In addition to having a long history and a few championships, the Eagles also have a handful of intense rivalries. For starters, Philadelphia’s three NFC East foes are all bitter rivals. The Eagles rivalry with the Giants dates back to 1933 and is also fueled by other Philadelphia-New York rivalries. The same is true of Philly’s rivalry with Washington. Meanwhile, the Eagles-Cowboys rivalry only dates back to 1960 but is arguably the most intense in the NFL. The Eagles also have an interesting rivalry with the Falcons, thanks to some memorable playoff games between the two teams. Finally, the Pennsylvania rivalry with the Steelers is a heated one, even if regular-season meetings between the two teams only come around every few years.