In a season that has defied expectation, the Philadelphia Eagles have a huge opportunity to defeat the New England Patriots in Super Bowl LII, and in so doing, exorcise some demons. First, they can win the franchise’s first Super Bowl. Second, they can do it by avenging their loss to the Patriots in Super Bowl XXXIX. Third, they can finally do something the team has tried to do for 26 years…
“Bring it home for Jerome.”
The “Jerome” here is of course Jerome Brown, the Eagles legend whose personality was infectious, whose life was lost too early, whose name became a rallying cry for an Eagles team with Super Bowl aspirations. If he were alive today, he’d be 52 (LII) years old. If he were alive today, he’d celebrate his birthday this Super Bowl Sunday (February 4th).
Re-read that again.
Sometimes when the stars align, you might think it’s coincidence. At other times, you might think it’s too good to be coincidence and be more inclined to open yourself to fate, destiny, magic. I choose to believe in the magic.
Brown was a manchild, as tenacious on the field as he was rambunctious off it. In his five year Eagles’ career, Brown recorded just 29.5 sacks, but sacks were not the story with him. Much like it is with Fletcher Cox, Brown’s calling card was his ability to disrupt the line of scrimmage and wreak havoc. In Buddy Ryan’s 46 defense (and by extension, Bud Carson’s version of it), Brown was just plain nasty.
When drafted by the Eagles in the first round of the 1987 draft, Brown signed a four-year deal worth $1.167 million (!). During the summer of 1991, he held out for six weeks before agreeing to terms on a three year, $3.1 million deal. This was after Brown played the 1990 wildcard game against the Washington Redskins with a separated shoulder. He needed twelve shots of pain killers to get through that game, but he did and played brilliantly.
Brown knew this contract was going to be his last. He knew he wasn’t going to play passed the age of 30. The 6-2, 292 pound Brown said, “I’m going to get up to about 450 pounds. I’m going to buy myself a Kentucky Fried Chicken franchise, a big stogie and a white Caddy. And I’m just going to go down there every day and check on my chickens.”
If you couldn’t tell, Brown was larger than life, untamable by even Reggie White, who could do nothing but laugh at him. Like the time Brown strut into the Eagles’ locker room with a leather brief case and slyly revealed it to be a portable bar. How could anyone tame a man who helped raise money in 1988 for an 11-year-old girl who was in a coma after an automobile accident? How could anyone tame a man who stood in defiance with others in the black community at a Ku Klux Klan rally in his hometown? How could anyone tame a man who pulled a trucker from the cab of an overturned vehicle and then, on a night off from training camp, saved a neighboring family by alerting them to a house fire?
Brown rewarded the Eagles’ generosity by giving the team 150 tackles and 9 sacks in the subsequent season, his last. But it all came abruptly to an end where it started, in his hometown of Brooksville, FL.
According to the police report, Brown’s emerald green Corvette veered onto the shoulder of a highway, hit a grassy rise, and catapulted 22 feet in the air before slamming into a palmetto tree. The impact swung the car around and it collided again, upside down, with a telephone pole. Brown was killed instantly, along with his 12 year-old nephew in the passenger seat. It was 4:45 PM, June 25, 1992.
The tragedy of Jerome Brown is only offset by his incredible legacy and his place in franchise lore. After Brown’s death, his team vowed to win the Super Bowl in his honor, a crusade that ended with a 34-10 loss to the Dallas Cowboys in the divisional round. But, as fate would have it, this Philadelphia Eagles team has an opportunity to pay a debt long overdue. If there is any such thing as poetic justice, then this represents a rare opportunity for football salvation. This team can finally “Bring it home for Jerome.” And, 26 years after his death, they can do it on his birthday.