Remembering the team that preceded the Eagles’ Super Bowl run
It was early November of the Eagles’ 1979 season, and the thoughts of winning an NFC East title began to darken and freeze like the surrounding weather.
Head coach Dick Vermeil changed the course of the franchise, and the 1979 season was a true roller-coaster range of emotions with a plethora of unforgettable characters. It also was a forgotten season that helped propel them to their championship ride the following year.
This latest installment of my look back at YESTERDAY - a trip back in time to the late 1960s and the 1970s - is a recollection of professional sports in late fall of 1979, and other pop culture items along the way. It is meant for us who were preteens and teens during the time, but hopefully will be enjoyed by those who were a bit younger, and also a bit older during that time period.
The Eagles were reeling and in the midst of a three-game losing streak, their latest defeat a bad 24-19 home loss to Cleveland. Wilbert Montgomery continued his banner season, gaining 197 yards on 30 carries. Ron “Jaws” Jaworski threw for 205 yards, but he had two interceptions, part of a four-turnover game for the Birds.
Their playoff hopes were about to burst as a Monday Night matchup with Dallas was on the horizon, and the Eagles were 10.5-point underdogs, leaving more doubt and less faith.
But this Eagles’ team was destined, and they rallied for a much-needed 31-21 victory. Jaworski had touchdown passes to Harold Charmichael and Charley Smith respectively, and Montgomery broke free on a 37-yard touchdown jaunt.
The victory got the Birds back on track as they went on a three-game winning streak before they dropped the rematch against Dallas, 24-17, in an early December Saturday afternoon tilt that began a new trend for the league with a few games a day earlier after the college football regular season had ended (NFL Saturday games are always great!). The loss to the Cowboys knocked the Eagles out of a chance to win the division, but they remained in wildcard contention.
A win in Houston would close the regular season at 11-5. Dallas won the division on a tie-breaker with Washington. But the Eagles still qualified for the playoffs, and would host Chicago in the wildcard game on Dec. 23 - a game that would turn out to be one of the wildest games in their history.
The game was a back-and forth tussle until Billy Campfield gave the Birds the lead late in the game and Tony Franklin - the barefoot kicker - added an insurance field goal that gave them a 27-17 victory.
It was then off to Tampa Bay to face the upstart Bucs. The Eagles loomed as a favorite to get to the championship game.
But Tampa’s defense, led by LeeRoy Selmon, corralled Montgomery (35 yards) and Jaworski (199 yards, two touchdowns) and the late Ricky Bell took over the game, rushing 38 times for 142 yards and scored two touchdowns that gave the Bucs a 24-17 victory.
Along with Montgomery, Carmichael, Jaworski, Campfield and Franklin, the Eagles’ offensive attack included tight end Keith Krepfle and fullback Leroy Harris. Up front, Stan Walters and Jerry Sizemore became household names, along with center Guy Morris and guard Woody Peoples - the longtime former 49er - and Wade Key.
An aging defensive end, Claude Humphrey, still had plenty in the tank from his Atlanta days, and linebacker John Bunting became a vocal leader and a face for the team. Bunting took over a leadership role after Bill Bergey went down for the year with a knee injury in the third game. Safety Randy Logan had some stellar years, and who could forget fellow safety Brenard Wilson?
The defeat left a bitter taste in the Eagles’ mouths, and gave them plenty of incentive for the 1980 campaign.
Walk Like a Man: Be grateful for the earbuds on your I-Phone. In 1979, Sony introduced “The Walkman.”
I didn’t have one the initial year, but I remember how cumbersome it was if you wanted to take it somewhere, or if you tried jogging with it. But it was your “escape” with your music, and you were cool walking around with one.
Hit the Brakes: Ford was in the final production stage of creating Pintos, which were designated as “death traps” for their engine being in the back of the car. Actually, they were very economical. I owned a blue one in 1979 and didn’t have any issues.
Food Front: McDonald’s unveiled its ‘Happy Meal” in 1979, and the initial meal had a circus theme and a burger, fries, cookies, a soft drink and toy options of “McDoodler” stencils, “McWrist” wallets, bracelets, erasers, puzzles and spinning tops. At the end of the year, a Star Trek theme was unveiled, and it began themes of popular shows or iconic figures.
Also, “Honey Nut Cheerios” made their way to store shelves for the first time.
Soft Touch: How many of you had a velour shirt or sweater? The soft-touch fabric was in vogue during the late 1970s and did provide some warmth.
Still have any terry cloth shorts in your attic? Along with velour, terry cloth shirts and dresses dominated the scene for both men and women during the spring and summer.
On the Airwaves: The Eagles’ “Heartache Tonight” was the number one song in the land, and “60 Minutes” and Three’s Company” dominated the airwaves. Scrappy Doo officially joined Scooby Doo on the animated television series.