I would have given anything to see the 1991 Philadelphia Eagles play defense. This is a team that finished the year ranked first against both the run and the pass, as well as sacks and turnovers.
They were led by five Pro Bowlers on defense: defensive ends Reggie White and Clyde Simmons, defensive tackle Jerome Brown, linebacker Seth Joyner and cornerback Eric Allen. Oh, and safety Andre Waters topped the team with a ridiculous 156 tackles.
Yet current Eagles safety Kurt Coleman thinks that the 2012 team could rank as the greatest defense in franchise history and that’s a comment that Coleman didn’t back down from, given the opportunity to do so a day later.
“When the defense is out there to hold them out, we’re able to do it. We’ve proven that,” said Coleman. “We love getting on the field because we want to become the best defense in Philadelphia history, and in the league.
“Absolutely. I say it with a straight face. I believe it. I believe in the team that we have, the guys that I play next to. We can do it. We need to continue to build on this, and make our legacy.
“It is our clear goal,” said Coleman. “Even [Friday] when we broke as a defense, our mission is to be great. When you’re great you get put among the greatest. It’s not something that you do in one day, one game. It’s an everyday process. This has been a collective mission. We really felt like we had the pieces in place to take this team to the next level. We want to win a championship, and every team that has won a championship has had a top 5 defense. And we don’t want to be top 5 — we want to be the best.”
For this current group to rank as the best in franchise history, they’re going to need to pick up the pace–not that they’re not already having a good, even great, season.
They rank seventh in yards allowed, 11th in points allowed, seventh in passing yards per game and 12th in rushing yards per game. They’ve also come up big on the three most important drives of the season, stopping Brandon Weeden and the Cleveland Browns, Joe Flacco and the Baltimore Ravens and Eli Manning and the New York Giants. Each time, a field goal would have lost the game for the Eagles and each time the Eagles made a team effort to seal the win.
But when you compare the 2012 Eagles to the 1991 Eagles, it’s not even close. I didn’t see the 1991 Eagles, so this is based on my best guess, but let’s say you took the best player from each unit and made him the starter.
On the defensive line, you’d have White, Trent Cole, Brown and Fletcher Cox. At linebackers, you’d use Joyner, DeMeco Ryans and Byron Evans. In the secondary, you would play Allen, Nnamdi Asomugha, Wes Hopkins and Andre Waters.
That’s seven players from the ’91 team and four from the current team, and it’s really not even that close.
Besides that, the ’91 team had actual results. I’m not saying the current team won’t, but they haven’t yet. They’re not first in the league in any category, let alone multiple categories. They haven’t turned in memorable performances like the House of Pain against the Houston Oilers or the Body Bag game against the Washington Redskins (yes, that was in 1990, but it’s the same group of players), or the 11 sacks and shutout of the Dallas Cowboys.
They’re not even the best defense in the Andy Reid era. The 2002 group, led by Brian Dawkins, Jeremiah Trotter, Hugh Douglas, Corey Simon and Bobby Taylor, allowed just 241 points and ranked as one of the most feared in the league.
The 2012 group has a long way to go before they rank as the best in franchise history. As of right now, Coleman’s talk is just that: talk.