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#11 (tie) - Norm Van Brocklin
« on: April 22, 2009, 09:16:45 PM »

Norm Van Brocklin

Norm Van Brocklin, who played quarterback for the Eagles from 1958 thru 1960, was a true NFL legend. Tempermental, demanding, and stubborn, he was also an outstanding tactician and instructor who could carry a team with his arm and determination – never more than during the 1960 championship season.

The Dutchman was already an established star when the Eagles traded G Buck Lansford, DB Jimmy Harris, and a 1st round draft pick to the Los Angeles Rams to obtain him prior to the ’58 season. Van Brocklin had been chosen by the Rams in the 4th round of the 1949 draft out of Oregon, and had quickly established himself as one of the best deep passers in the NFL. His record with the Rams was an impressive one: he led the league in passing and yards per attempt on three occasions, in passing yards once, and set a still-standing NFL record for passing yards in a game with 554 against the New York Yanks in 1951. Van Brocklin’s 73-yard TD pass to OE Tom Fears won the 1951 NFL Championship game against the Browns, 24-17. But he alternated at quarterback with another Hall of Famer, Bob Waterfield, for several seasons, a situation the Dutchman deeply disliked. Van Brocklin thrived after Waterfield’s retirement following the ’52 season, but found himself at odds with Sid Gillman, who took over as head coach in 1955.

While the Dutchman led the Rams to the Western Conference title in ’55, he had a dreadful performance, throwing six interceptions, in the 38-14 loss to the Browns in the NFL Championship game. The next season he found himself splitting time with young Bill Wade at QB, a situation that became intolerable. Increasingly at odds with Gillman, Van Brocklin told the front office to either trade him or he would retire. While he specified the Eagles and Steelers as teams he didn’t want to be dealt to, it was to the Eagles he went.

New Eagles Head Coach Buck Shaw gave Van Brocklin charge of the offense, and he was virtually an offensive coordinator on the field during his time in Philadelphia – not just calling plays, but taking on a teaching role as well (particularly with his receiving corps), which he performed very effectively. On the field, it was a difficult first season for the rebuilding Birds, who finished 2-9-1 in 1958. There were highlights, of course: a 91-yard TD pass to WR Tommy McDonald against the Giants in the second game of the season at Franklin Field; three TD passes (two of them to McDonald, a receiver who truly blossomed with the Dutchman throwing to him) in a 38-35 loss at Green Bay; and two TD passes and 318 yards through the air in a 49-21 win over the Cardinals. For the year, the Dutchman led the NFL in both attempts (374) and completions (198), and ranked 3rd in passing yards (2409) and TD passes (15). 

With the team around him continuing to improve, the Eagles jumped to 7-5 in 1959. The Dutchman threw TD passes of 33 and 55 yards to McDonald in a 49-21 thrashing of the Giants at Franklin Field; threw two more TDs to McDonald in a 28-24 win over the Cardinals at Chicago; and hit McDonald for three TDs, the longest a 50-yarder, in a 34-14 win at Washington. Van Brocklin completed a career-high 56.2 percent of his passes and ranked 2nd in the league in passing yards (2617), 3rd with 16 TD passes, and 4th in passer rating (79.5)

The 1960 championship season got off to a less than auspicious start, with a 41-24 loss to the Browns at home, but the team reeled off nine consecutive wins, and 10 of 11, to win the Eastern Conference title with a 10-2 record. Along the way the Dutchman fired off three TD passes in a 31-27 win over the Cardinals; threw three more, including completions of 49 yards to OE Bobby Walston and 57 yards to McDonald, in a key 31-29 win in the rematch with the Browns at Cleveland; tossed another three, all to McDonald, and accumulated 295 yards through the air in beating the Steelers, 34-7; led the Birds to a crucial season sweep over the Giants with three TD passes, two of them to rookie RB Ted Dean, in a 31-23 win at Franklin Field; and wrapped up the regular season with a 38-28 win at Washington in which he threw TD passes of 52 and 64 yards to McDonald.

In the NFL Championship game against Green Bay at Franklin Field, Van Brocklin completed 9 of 20 passes for 204 yards, including a 35-yard TD pass to McDonald and a long completion for the day of 41 yards to OE Pete Retzlaff.

For the season, the Dutchman ranked 2nd in the NFL in passing (86.5 rating), passing yards (2471), yards per attempt (8.70), TD passes (24), and TD percentage (8.5). He was named 1st team All-NFL by all selecting organizations and NFL MVP by UPI, AP, NEA, The Sporting News, and the Maxwell Club (Bert Bell Trophy).

With his fiery personality and outstanding ability, the 6’1”, 190-pound Dutchman was recognized as the vital offensive cog in the Eagles’ success. In addition to his awards in ’60, he was selected to the Pro Bowl after all three of his seasons in Philadelphia (9 overall, including his years with the Rams).

For his career with the Eagles, Van Brocklin completed 542 of 998 passes (54.3 %) for 7497 yards with 55 TDs and 51 interceptions. He averaged 7.51 yards per attempt with a 5.1 INT percentage and a passer rating of 75.7 (5th all-time for an Eagles QB with 500 pass attempts). The Dutchman’s highest single-game passing yardage total with the Eagles (and only 300-yard performance) was 318 vs. the Chicago Cardinals in 1958; his longest completion was the 91-yarder to Tommy McDonald, also in ‘58. He started every game during his three years in Philadelphia, compiling a 19-16-1 record. Van Brocklin is a member of the Eagles Honor Roll and was chosen as quarterback on the Eagles All-Time team that was selected in 1965.

For his NFL career, the Dutchman passed for 23,611 yards (2nd all-time when he retired), completing 1553 of his 2895 passes (53.6) with 173 TDs and 178 INTs, with a passer rating of 75.1. He was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1971.

An opposing coach once said, “He runs like a woman trying to get out of her girdle”.  The Dutchman didn’t run well, preferred not to, and the stats show it – his best one-season rushing total was 13 yards in 11 attempts (1.2 avg.) with 2 TDs in 1959. He scored three rushing touchdowns for the Eagles all told. In spite of his immobility, he had a reputation as a difficult quarterback to sack thanks to his quick release.

Van Brocklin also handled the Eagles’ punting duties, and over the course of his career was a fine punter, twice leading the NFL in that category with the Rams. With Philadelphia, he punted 167 times for a 42.4-yard average, which is tied for third in team history. His longest punt covered 70 yards.

Sadly, his retirement from the Eagles following the championship was not without some bitterness. The Dutchman believed he had a commitment from the front office to succeed Buck Shaw as head coach upon Shaw's retirement. The team balked after the 1960 season, reportedly offering Van Brocklin the opportunity to be a player/coach – an offer the Dutchman spurned (some believe that the Eagles were hoping to convince him to hold off on retirement for another year). Assistant coach Nick Skorich got the job instead, and Van Brocklin became head coach of the expansion Minnesota Vikings for 1961. He stayed with the Vikings thru 1966, and later coached the Falcons with some success.

The deal that brought Norm Van Brocklin to Philadelphia was easily one of the best in the team’s history. The team would not have won the 1960 championship without him, and he set a standard that few quarterbacks in Eagles history have approached.

Norm Van Brocklin’s career record with the Eagles:





« Last Edit: April 24, 2009, 04:19:06 PM by Fan_Since_64 »


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Re: #11 (tie) - Norm Van Brocklin
« Reply #1 on: April 22, 2009, 09:27:17 PM »

Other Eagles who wore #11:

Lee Woodruff (TB/FB/DB/LB, 1933)
Joe Knapper (HB/DB, 1934)
Ed Manske (E, 1936)
John Ferko (G, 1937)
Bernie Lee (HB/DB, 1938)
Fran Murray (HB/DB, 1939-40)
Lou Ghecas (HB/DB, 1941)
Dick Erdlitz (HB/DB, 1942)
John Rauch (QB, 1951)
Bobby Thomason (QB, 1952-57 - runner-up to the two finalists)
Rick Arrington (QB, 1970-73)
John Walton (QB, 1976-77)
Jeff Christensen (QB, 1984-85)
Kyle Mackey (QB, 1986)
Scott Tinsley (QB, 1987 - replacement player)
Casey Weldon (QB, 1992)
Matt Bahr (PK, 1993)
Jay Fiedler (QB, 1994-95)
Mark Rypien (QB, 1996)
Ron Powlus (QB, 2000)
Tim Hasselbeck (QB, 2002)
Jeff Blake (QB, 2004)
Jeremy Bloom (WR/KR, 2006)
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