Franklin Field played host to the Eagles’ last NFL title

Text by Greg Johnson

In 1960, the Philadelphia Eagles defeated the Green Bay Packers in the NFL Championship Game at Franklin Field.

Eagles 1960 Championship
Eagles rookie running back and returner Ted Dean bursts through Packers defenders during the 1960 NFL Championship Game at Franklin Field. Photo by Philadelphia Eagles

The last time the Philadelphia Eagles won an NFL title, it was right here at Penn’s historic Franklin Field.

On Dec. 26, 1960, in the pre-Super Bowl era, the Eagles defeated the Vince Lombardi-led Green Bay Packers 17-13 in the NFL Championship Game at Franklin Field.

Winners of the NFL’s Eastern Conference, the Eagles finished the 12-game regular season with a 10-2 record. The Packers won the Western Conference with a record of 8-4. (There was not yet an AFC or wild card or divisional rounds.)

A reported 67,325 spectators packed Franklin Field, the largest crowd to witness an NFL Championship Game at the time. Though nationally televised, the game was blacked out on local television, causing many fans to drive to New Jersey or Baltimore to watch the contest.

Norm Van Brocklin
Eagles quarterback and NFL MVP Norm Van Brocklin warms up before the big game. Photo by Philadelphia Eagles

The Eagles, coached by Buck Shaw, were led by NFL MVP Norm Van Brocklin, All-Pro wide receiver Tommy McDonald, rookie running back and returner Ted Dean, Pro Bowl cornerback Tom Brookshier, and 35-year-old All-Pro Chuck “Concrete Charlie” Bednarik, a Penn alumnus who played center, linebacker, and long snapper. McDonald used to rub his hands on the brick walls at Franklin Field to improve his pass catching.

The Packers team included future Hall of Famers Bart Starr, Paul Hornung, Jim Taylor, Willie Davis, Jim Ringo, Henry Jordan, Willie Wood, Forrest Gregg, and Ray Nitschke. Lombardi, for whom the Super Bowl trophy is named, was in his second year coaching the team.

Playing at noon due to the lack of lights at Franklin Field, it was a brisk 40 degrees at game time. The Eagles won the opening coin toss and elected to receive. Timmy Brown returned the opening kickoff to the Eagles’ 22.

Van Brocklin, also known as “The Fabulous Dutchman,” threw an interception on the first play of the game, one of two Eagles turnovers in the first quarter. The Packers scored first on a field goal by Hornung. He added another field goal in the second quarter to give Green Bay a 6-0 lead.

The Eagles responded with two long passes from Van Brocklin to McDonald, a slant across the middle and a 35-yard touchdown down the right sideline. Philadelphia added a field goal before halftime and entered the break up 10-6.

Tommy McDonald
The Philadelphia Police assist Eagles wide receiver Tommy McDonald after his touchdown in the second quarter. Photo by Pro Football Hall of Fame

Following a scoreless third quarter, during which Bednarik knocked Hornung out of the game, Starr led the Packers on an 80-yard touchdown drive to put the Packers up 13-10. Dean fielded the ensuing kickoff around the 2-yard line and returned it 58 yards to the Green Bay 39. He punched it in a few plays later on a 5-yard run to give the Eagles a 17-13 lead.

The Eagles’ defense protected the lead thereafter. With seconds remaining, Bednarik, who played almost the entire game on offense and defense, and a teammate tackled Packers fullback Taylor at the 9-yard line. As Taylor fought to get up, Bednarik sat on him while watching the clock on Weightman Hall count down to zero.

“All right, you can get up,” Bednarik said to Taylor. “This [bleeping] game is over!”

Eagles’ fans went wild after the win, storming the field and tearing down the goal posts. Van Brocklin was named the game’s MVP.

The 1960 championship was the Eagles’ first since 1949, and Lombardi’s only loss in the playoffs. It was also the last game for Coach Shaw and Van Brocklin, who both retired. Van Brocklin, McDonald, and Bednarik would later be inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

According to The New York Times, the city did not throw a parade for the Eagles’ 1960 title.

Chuck Bednarik
Eagles center, linebacker, and long snapper Chuck Bednarik, second from left, celebrates with Coach Buck Shaw, Van Brocklin, and teammates after the game. Bednarik, a Penn alum, played almost the entire game on offense and defense. Photo by Pro Football Hall of Fame

The Eagles called Franklin Field home from 1958-1970, and amassed a record of 41-45-2 at the facility. In 1971, they moved to the newly built Veterans Stadium.

On Oct. 5, 1958, the Eagles collected their first win at Franklin Field, a 27-24 win over the New York Giants. Their final game at the stadium was a 30-20 win over the Pittsburgh Steelers on Dec. 20, 1970.

Former Eagles owner and NFL Commissioner Bert Bell said moving the team’s games to Franklin Field “saved pro football in Philadelphia.”

Prior to playing on Penn’s campus, the Eagles spent 18 seasons at Connie Mack Stadium in North Philadelphia, which could only hold 39,000 people compared to Franklin Field’s 60,000-plus. The University also offered a welcoming environment for families and fans.

“We became socially acceptable,” Brookshier, the former Eagles cornerback, said in a 1997 interview with sportswriter Ray Didinger. “There was just something about walking across the grounds, past the statues and the library on a crisp fall day. People who could never go to Penn now could go to Penn on Sunday to see us. It was a great setting and we [the players] felt it, too.”

“There wasn’t a bad seat in the house,” he added. “The stands went straight up so everyone was close to the field. We could hear the fans. If somebody in the upper deck called you a name, you could look up, point at the guy and say, ‘I’ll see you after the game.’”

Franklin Field
The Eagles called Franklin Field home from 1958-1970. Photo by Philadelphia Eagles

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