At 5 Foot, 7 and 150 pounds, He Rewrote the Record Books and Brought Excitement to a Franchise Almost Completely Devoid of It.

Winter’s chill had descended onto the Griffith Stadium in Washington DC on December 1, 1940, when the Eagles and quarterback Davey O’Brien took the field against the Washington Redskins. On this afternoon, the franchise quarterback would set some lasting NFL records.


He was brilliant, throwing for 313 yards and attempting 60 passes while completing 33 of them. He directed the Eagles offense fluently, gashing the Redskins on the ground and through the air. He completed passes from sideline to sideline and everywhere in between.

All was right with the world for Eagles fans that day, with only two minor exceptions:

  • The Eagles lost the game 13–7.
  • To make things worse, their All-Pro franchise quarterback would never play another down in the NFL.

At the beginning of the Eagles’ existence, they were well….not very good.

In the Eagles’ first game at the New York Polo Club in 1933, Philadelphia was obliterated 56–0. It would take the Eagles a decade to finally obtain a winning season. But future NFL Commissioner Bert Bell would not give up on his Eagles (thankfully, he didn’t.)

Like Jalen Hurts, O’Brien was a star quarterback from Texas.

In 1939, the Eagles drafted Davey O’Brien with the 4th pick overall in the NFL Draft. O’Brien had always been a football star, leading Woodrow Wilson High School to the State Playoffs in Texas. He was also a college star at TCU, where he played as a backup to slingin’ Sammy Baugh.

In 1937, he took over as the starter and led TCU to the 1938 National Championship. O’Brien was a legend for his performance in the Sugar Bowl win over Carnegie Tech, kicking a field goal, throwing for over 225 yards, and recording an interception. He was also the first player to win both the Heisman Trophy and Maxwell Trophy in one year. Including a bonus, the Eagles signed the first-round pick with a salary of $12,000.00.

Take that, Jalen Hurts.

But unable to build around their star, the Eagles won only two games in two seasons. In 1940, the Eagles offered Davey O’Brien a $2,000.00 extension to come back. His mind was made up, however, to pursue his next career as an FBI Field Agent.

He would never return to football.

O’Brien left the Eagles at a time when young men in America were facing the prospect of World War 2. The next Eagles All-Star quarterback (Pryor “Tommy” Thompson) would come out of the war to join the Eagles.

Upon his retirement from football, O’Brien said:

“Football has always been my first love, and it has been mighty nice to me. But for the sake of the future, it’s time to quit. I’m fortunate to get this job, and unless a man expects to stay in football, the longer he plays it, the longer he delays starting whatever work he’s going to do afterward.”

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