Q. In your opinion, is Clyde Simmons a Hall of Famer?
- Eagle Fan
A. I like Simmons a lot but I don’t think he was a Hall of Fame player. I would put him in the “Hall of Very Good” category which means he was a fine player, but not quite at the level of his former linemate, the late Reggie White.
But you raise a good question: Which former Eagles who aren’t already in the Hall of Fame most deserve to be there? I would cite five players from four different eras.
Al Wistert, tackle (1943-51)
Wistert was a two-way tackle and played virtually every snap of every game for nine seasons. He was captain of the 1948 and ’49 teams which won the NFL championship. He earned All-Pro mention every season except his rookie year.
In the book “The Hidden Game of Football,” author Bob Carroll wrote that of all the players who were not yet in the Hall of Fame, the one who was most deserving of that honor was Wistert.
Carroll used a simple formula to arrive at that conclusion. He tallied the consensus All-Pro seasons for each player (five for Wistert), the first-team All-Pro selections (two) and second-team selections (one) and awarded points for each. Wistert had the most points among the two-way tackles, including eight who are already in the Hall of Fame.
In his book “Pro Football’s 100 Greatest Players”, George Allen selected Wistert as one of his top 10 defensive linemen. He wrote: “Wistert seemed to be born with perfect balance. He always played in perfect position and seldom was off his feet. He was a superb pursuit man and seemed somehow to get in on every play.”
Wistert was 6-foot-1 and 215 pounds yet his nickname was “Big Ox.” It shows how much the game has changed. Today, Wistert would be considered small for a running back.
Pete Retzlaff, wide receiver-tight end (1956-66)
Retzlaff is the greatest bargain in Eagles history. He was claimed off waivers from the Detroit Lions for $100 and became one of the best receivers in football. Bill Campbell, the radio voice of the Eagles in those years, described Retzlaff as “a quiet, unassuming guy who possesses the body of a weightlifter and the intense desire of a starving man.”
Retzlaff was 6-foot-1 and 215 pounds (same as Wistert) and played fullback at South Dakota State. The Lions drafted him in the 22nd round, but he could not crack their backfield. The Lions waived him, and the Eagles claimed him and moved him to split end where he developed into a star.
In 1958, Retzlaff tied Baltimore’s Raymond Berry for the league lead with 56 receptions. In 1960, he led the Eagles with 46 catches for 826 yards, an 18.0 yard average, and was a key contributor in their drive to the NFL championship.
In 1964, Retzlaff switched to tight end and helped redefine the position with his receiving skills. He caught 66 passes for 1,190 yards and a career-high 10 touchdowns in 1965. He was named NFL Player of the Year by the Washington Touchdown Club and the Maxwell Football Club.
Retzlaff still ranks second in team history in catches (452) and receiving yardage (7,412) and fifth in touchdown receptions (47). His uniform number 44 was retired by the Eagles.
Bill Bergey, linebacker (1974-80)
Harold Carmichael, wide receiver (1971-83)
I wrote a piece about Bill Bergey a few weeks ago which you can find here. As for Carmichael, he is the most prolific receiver in team history. He caught more passes (589) and scored more touchdowns (79) than any player in Eagles history. He set an NFL mark by catching at least one pass in 127 consecutive games, a streak that spanned eight seasons.
At 6-foot-8 and 220 pounds, Carmichael could beat double coverage simply by reaching above it. He starred at Southern University but he lasted until the seventh round of the 1971 draft because the pro scouts did not feel a receiver with such a lanky frame could survive in the NFL. Carmichael proved them wrong, playing 13 seasons. He set a club record by playing in 162 consecutive games from 1972 through ’83.
In 1973, Carmichael blossomed with the arrival of quarterback Roman Gabriel. He led the NFL with 67 receptions and 1,116 yards that season. In 1998, he rejoined the team as director of player development and alumni relations.
Eric Allen, cornerback (1988-94)
It shocks me that Allen has not received more support for the Hall of Fame. He played 14 seasons in the NFL as a starting cornerback. He was one of the top playmakers at his position for more than a decade. I don’t know what more he could have done, yet he has never made the final 15 in the Hall of Fame balloting.
Allen played seven seasons with the Eagles and appeared in five Pro Bowls. He tied the club record with 34 career interceptions and set the record for most interceptions returned for touchdowns in a career (five), most interceptions returned for touchdowns in a season (four in 1993) and most interceptions returned for touchdowns in a game (two against the Saints on Dec. 26, 1993).
Allen had great physical ability combining 4.4 speed in the 40-yard dash with sure hands and toughness. Unlike some cornerbacks -- including some who still are on the roster -- he was not afraid to come up and make a tackle. He missed only one regular season game in seven seasons with the Eagles.
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Tim Tebow has not played in the NFL since 2012, when he was a backup quarterback for the New York Jets. (USA Today Images)
Q. In your opinion, is Clyde Simmons a Hall of Famer?