Over the course of franchise history, the Philadelphia Eagles have had a lot of legendary players. Hard-hitting defensive end Reggie White made NFL history has one of the greatest sackers the league has ever seen. Brian Dawkins earned a special place in the hearts of Eagles fans with his dominant approach to defense, as well as the passion he brought to the game.
One player who won’t usually turn up on lists of the greatest Eagles is Freddie Mitchell. Yet Mitchell undoubtedly had one of the greatest catches in Eagles history, in a playoff game against the Green Bay Packers. Here we take a look back at Mitchell’s career, his most famous play, and how he feels about the Eagles today.
Freddie Mitchell’s brief NFL career
The Eagles drafted Mitchell with the 25th pick of the 2001 NFL Draft. Mitchell was coming off a successful — if somewhat injury-prone — stint playing college football at UCLA.
Mitchell started his rookie NFL season as the Eagle’s fourth wide receiver. A nagging injury and his general unfamiliarity with the Eagles’ playbook limited Mitchell’s role in the early part of the season.
By week eight, however, Mitchell had earned a spot as the Eagles’ slot receiver. He finished the year with 21 receptions for a total of 283 yards and one touchdown.
In 2002, Mitchell was bumped back down to the fourth receiver and finished with just 12 receptions for 105 yards. He moved back into the slot receiver role in 2003, thanks to the departure of Antonio Freeman.
2003 was Mitchell’s best year. He caught 35 receptions for 498 yards and two touchdowns. Mitchell’s role diminished somewhat in 2004, largely due to the Eagles’ acquisition of Terrell Owens.
Mitchell’s frustration leaked out both on and off the field. Nonetheless, he still caught 22 receptions for 377 yards and two touchdowns. Little did he know it at the time, but that was to be Mitchell’s final season in the NFL.
One famous catch to remember
Freddie Mitchell’s greatest moment happened during the 2004 NFC Divisional Playoff Game against the Green Bay Packers. It came late in the fourth quarter, with just 1:12 remaining on the clock and the Eagles down by three. The Eagles were down to what might have been their final down of not just the game, but also the season.
But Mitchell caught an improbable 28-yard pass from quarterback Donovan McNabb. That catch allowed the Eagles to get within field goal range and tie the game.
They went on to win in overtime. And even though they ultimately went on to lose the NFC Championship Game to the Carolina Panthers, Mitchell’s heroics had permanently endeared him to the hearts of Philly fans.
Freddie Mitchell’s feelings about the Eagles today
Unfortunately, from there on out, Mitchell’s relationship with the Eagles was a rocky one — and one that was destined to last just one more year. Mitchell’s friction with McNabb was common knowledge, as were his poor relationships with coach Andy Reid and Eagles owner Jeffrey Lurie. That ill will persists to this day.
In a follow up with Mitchell on Bleacher Report, Mitchell openly stated that he thought McNabb “wanted me to fail.” He also seemed to think that McNabb had played a part in his never securing a second NFL contract. He also voiced his opinion that coach Reid neglected him in favor of McNabb.
Mitchell still seems to feel that, if he’d received more support from the Eagles, his career might have developed in a vastly different way. One thing remains true though: Philly fans will always have a place for Mitchell in their hearts, all thanks to his famous “4th-and-26” catch.
All stats courtesy of ProFootball Reference