Looking at the other three NFC East teams, it's easy to see why the offensive line has been such a priority to the head coaches of the Eagles. The Washington Redskins had the Hogs throughout the 80's and 90's that led them to three Super Bowl championships. The New York Giants in the late 80's to early 90's won two Super Bowls with a tremendous offensive line led by the likes of Jumbo Elliot, Bart Oates, and William Roberts to name a few. The Dallas Cowboys took over the NFC East reigns from the Giants with three Super Bowls of their own. The Cowboys were led by a large size offensive line as well and all five members bare mention here: Nate Newton, Mark Stepnoski, Kevin Gogan, Mark Tuinei, and last but definitely not least, big Erik Williams. Seeing their NFC East neighbors bring home eight Super Bowl rings in 14 years was enough to convince Rich Kotite, Ray Rhodes, as well as Andy Reid that the blue print for the Super Bowl lies in the construction of a solid offensive line.
The attempted construction of a solid line began with Rich Kotite and unfortunately it didn't end there. From the time Kotite took over the head-coaching job in Philly back in 1991 to his last season in 1994, the Eagles only had three first round picks and all three were used, or shall we say wasted on offensive linemen. Antone Davis, a tackle out of Tennessee was the first blunder. Lester Holmes, a guard out of Jackson State was the second such waste, but he was perhaps the best of the three. Bernard Williams, a tackle out of Georgia could not get over his substance abuse issue and had a very brief career in the NFL. Williams was by far the worst of the three picks. Due to the poor use of the draft, eminent doom was the fate for the next coach to walk into Philadelphia, Ray Rhodes.
Although most of the credit today for the success of the Eagles is given to Andy Reid, Ray Rhodes was the one who began the creation of the formidable and mammoth offensive line we now see during his four years stay as the head coach of the Eagles. His first round pick in 1996 of G/T Jermane Mayberry out of Texas A&M – Kingsville along with his 1998 first round selection of tackle Tra Thomas out of Florida State are both Pro Bowlers from a season ago. Reid devoted his first season in Philly to the continuation of the project left behind by Rhodes by drafting G/T John Welbourn out of California University as well as the free agent signing of tackle Jon Runyan away from the Tennessee Titans during that same off-season. Both Welbourn and Runyan are starters today on the offensive line with Runyan being named to the Pro Bowl last year and Welbourn being only a step away from All-Pro recognition. Center Hank Fraley, signed as an un-drafted rookie out of Robert Morris anchors the line today.
When evaluating the recent success of the Eagles, look no further than to the offensive line you see in front of Donovan McNabb. The Eagles are doing nothing new when it comes to winning. They are merely using the mold provided to them by their NFC East rivals. The formula for success is having a good offensive line and if history is any indication of what the future might bring, Lincoln Financial should be the home of the next Super Bowl champions.