Philadelphia Eagles History | The Beginning

Philadelphia Eagles History | The Beginning


The Eagles have been a Philadelphia institution since their inception in 1933 when a syndicate headed by Bert Bell and Lud Wray purchased the already formed Frankford Yellowjackets franchise for $2,500. In 1941, a single altercation took place between Philadelphia and Pittsburgh that saw the clubs come to terms with their home cities when Alexis Thompson became the owner of the Eagles.

In 1943, the Philadelphia and Pittsburgh franchises combined for one season due to the labor shortage created by World War II. The team was named Phil-Pitt and the Steagles. Greasy Neale of the Eagles and Walt Kiesling of the Steelers were the co-coaches and the team finished 5-4-1.

Counting the 1943 season, Neale coached the Eagles for 10 seasons and led them to their first significant NFL successes. Paced by future Pro Football Hall of Famers like running back Steve Van Buren, middle linebacker Alex Wojciechowicz, lineman Pete Pihos and beginning in 1949, middle linebacker Chuck Bednarik, the Eagles dominated the league in six seasons. They finished second in the NFL Eastern Division in 1944, 1945 and 1946, winning the division title in 1947 and then scored back-to-back championship game victories in 1948 and 1949.

A spate of injuries ended Philadelphia's era of dominance; during 1958, the Eagles had fallen to last place in their division. That year, however, saw the departure of a new program built by a new coach, Buck Shaw, and the addition of quarterback Norm Van Brocklin following a trade with the Los Angeles Rams. In just three years, Shaw gave Philadelphia another championship. Behind Van Brocklin's on-field experience, the Eagles won the Eastern Division with a 10-2 record and then defeated the Green Bay Packers 17-13 in the NFL championship. Bednarik saved the day for the Eagles with a tackle on Green Bay's Jimmy Taylor on the final play of the game. The Eagles fell in the middle of an NFL Eastern championship game in 1961, but did not reach another Playoff game again for 18 years until 1978, in their third season with Dick Vermeil as the coach. Vermeil's teams played in four straight postseason Playoffs between 1978 and 1981. In 1980, Philadelphia won a club-record 12 games, knocking Dallas away from the Eastern Division title and then defeated the Cowboys 20-7 in the NFC championship game. However, the Eagles lost to the Oakland Raiders 27-10 in Super Bowl XV.

Vermeil's successful streak was followed by a few lean years until Norman Braman took over the club in 1985. His rebuilding program took a big leap in 1988 when the Eagles won the NFL Eastern Division championship. Beginning in the 1988 season, Philadelphia, which was dominating particularly on defense, won 10 or more games for five consecutive years. In four of those years, the Eagles entered a Playoff wild card game, a fact they repeated in 1995.

Since 1971, when the Eagles left the University of Pennsylvania's Franklin Field, they have been playing at the 65,356-seat Veterans Stadium, which is the near-capacity facility that has a sellout crowd every week.