We all know the significance of 1960 around here. It has become a haunting number that represents the last year the Eagles won an NFL championship. Most of you reading this were not alive or are at least too young to remember Chuck “Concrete Charlie” Bednarik driving Green Bay’s Jim Taylor into the turf at Franklin Field before colorfully announcing that the game was over.
This might be blasphemy, but in the modern-day NFL, the last Eagles title hardly seems to count because they were not keeping track of championships by Roman numerals in those days. Google NFL champions by year, and the first item to come up is a list of Super Bowl champions. You have to scroll to the second item to find out what teams won the NFL championship from 1920 to 1965.
The year 1960 also should hold significance to Eagles fans for another reason. That was the last and only time a player from Philadelphia won the Associated Press MVP award. It went to quarterback Norm Van Brocklin for leading the Eagles to the NFL championship. He threw a career-high 24 touchdown passes in 12 games for the 10-2 Eagles. Only Baltimore’s Johnny Unitas threw more with 25, but he also threw 24 interceptions compared with 17 by Van Brocklin.
Van Brocklin, who was 34 at the time, threw one more touchdown pass to Tommy McDonald in the title game against the Packers. He led all NFL quarterbacks in 1960 with six come-from-behind victories and he also led the Eagles back from a fourth-quarter deficit in the title game.
This comes up now, of course, because the Eagles not only appear to have a shot to finally win a title with a Roman numeral attached to it, but they also have a player with a legitimate chance to win the MVP award. That, of course, is Carson Wentz. Like Van Brocklin, he wears No. 11. Like Van Brocklin, he was born in the Dakotas. Norm was born in Eagle Butte, S.D., and Wentz was born in Bismarck, N.D. The two cities are separated by 163 miles, and it is almost a straight line north from one town to the other. Oddly, it’s also almost a straight line north from Hutchinson, Kan., to Bismarck. Tommy Thompson, the only other Eagles quarterback to win a title, was born in Hutchinson and also wore No. 11. Thompson won consecutive titles in 1948 and 1949.
Anyway, with the season at least half over for every team in the NFL, Wentz is considered the odds-on favorite in Las Vegas to win the MVP award. His 23 touchdown passes are four more than any other quarterback in the league. He also ranks fourth with a 104.1 passer rating and fourth with 211 rushing yards among quarterbacks.
The Eagles have had MVP candidates before. Randall Cunningham was the Pro Football Writers Association MVP winner after throwing 30 TD passes and rushing for 942 yards and five more scores during the 1990 season, but the AP MVP that year went to the 49ers’ Joe Montana.
Donovan McNabb might have won in 2004 if Peyton Manning had not thrown for a then-NFL-record 49 touchdowns. Ron Jaworski was a fine candidate in 1980, when the award went to Cleveland’s Brian Sipe.
There’s still plenty of work to be done for Wentz and plenty of competition for the award, especially from a couple of old-timers.
New England’s Tom Brady, a two-time winner of the award, is still going strong at 40. He leads the NFL in passing yards and has thrown 16 touchdown passes against just two interceptions for the 6-2 Patriots. New Orleans’ Drew Brees, at 38, leads the league in completion percentage and has thrown 13 touchdown passes and just four interceptions for the 6-2 Saints.
Kansas City’s Alex Smith is in the midst of his best season, having thrown 18 touchdowns and just one interception in posting the league’s best passer rating. Dallas’ Dak Prescott has thrown for 16 touchdowns with four interceptions, and if he keeps winning during Ezekiel Elliott’s suspension, he will certainly join the MVP conversation. Jared Goff, the only player selected ahead of Wentz in last year’s draft, has the Los Angeles Rams at 6-2.
A running back has not won the MVP award since San Diego’s LaDainian Tomlinson rushed for 1,815 yards and 28 touchdowns in 2006, but Kansas City rookie Kareem Hunt has to at least be considered, as do Todd Gurley of the Rams and Le’Veon Bell of the Steelers. The suspension, of course, has eliminated Elliott.
Maybe, just maybe, 11 is the Eagles’ lucky number that can make 1960 seem a lot less haunting.
When coach-of-the-year candidates come up, the Eagles’ Doug Pederson, the Rams’ Sean McVay, and the Vikings’ Mike Zimmer deserve to lead the pack. But kudos should also go to a guy whose team is in last place in its division. Todd Bowles’ New York Jets were expected to be one of the worst teams in the league before the season, but the former Eagles defensive coordinator and Temple safety has led the Jets to a 4-5 record, including wins over Buffalo and Jacksonville, a couple of 5-3 teams. The Jets also played well in close losses to New England and Atlanta, the two teams that played in last year’s Super Bowl. If nothing else, they will be crowned NYC/Meadowlands champs at the end of the year.
Dallas’ Jerry Jones was one of 32 owners who voted in May to extend commissioner Roger Goodell’s contract. Had he opposed the idea then, he probably would have received a lot of public support. The owners, however, unanimously authorized the league’s compensation committee to work out the details of Goodell’s extension. Now, Jones is unhappy with the details of the commissioner’s extension because Goodell suspended Cowboys star running back Ezekiel Elliott for six games over a matter that did not involve criminal charges. Too late, Jerry. You cast your vote, and you must live with it.
This week’s best
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New Orleans at Buffalo
The 6-2 Saints have averaged 30.3 points during their six-game winning streak. More impressive, especially for the Saints, is that they have allowed just 15 points per game in that same stretch. The Bills are coming off a disappointing loss to the Jets, but are 4-0 at home this season.
Dallas at Atlanta
Life without Ezekiel Elliott finally begins for the Cowboys, and they are likely to lean heavily on former Washington star running back Alfred Morris in his absence. Morris has carried just 14 times this season, but he has 8.3 yards per carry, thanks to a 70-yard gain in a Week 2 loss to the Rams. He averaged 3.5 yards per attempt on 69 carries last season and does not offer Dallas the same receiving threat out of the backfield as Elliott.
New England at Denver
The Patriots have won four straight and seem to have fixed the defensive problems that plagued them early in the season. Since allowing 32 points and 456.8 yards per game during a 2-2 start to the season, they have rebounded to allow just 12.8 points and 377.3 yards per game during their four-game winning streak. Broncos coach Vance Joseph will stick with Brock Osweiler as his starting QB for the second straight week.
Miami at Carolina
The Panthers have won two in a row, but quarterback Cam Newton is struggling to connect with his receivers. His completion average over the last four games is just 56.3 percent, and he has thrown just two touchdown passes and six interceptions in that stretch. He also has made it known that he was not happy when the team sent wide receiver Kelvin Benjamin to Buffalo at the trade deadline.