Reggie White and Jerome Brown: More Than a Homegrown Tale

A Football Life, Chip Swain, Digger O'Brien, Philadelphia Eagles

Editor’s Note: Click here for our complete collection of posts on the biography series, “A Football Life.”

Media outlets are often accused of having an East Coast bias, and at NFL Films, we have to be careful of avoiding a Philadelphia Eagles bias.  Our headquarters at 1NFL Plaza is about 20 minutes from the Linc, ‘Jaws’ and ‘Baldy’ are two of many ex-Eagles who wander the hallways and do their film work at our facility, and there are dozens of producers, cameramen, and staff who are from the area and root for the Birds.

Buddy Ryan (AP)

Count us in that category. We (Chip and Digger, the two guys who wrote, edited, and directed the Reggie and Jerome show) are Delaware Valley natives who, we confess, have long harbored secret show treatments and segment ideas inspired by the Eagles of our youth.  But a Little Voice kept telling us to keep them buried in the files: “It’s just your local bias. They’re not stories for a national audience. Buddy Ryan’s teams never even won a playoff game. You’re over-remembering how good they were because you lived here and cheered here. Stop the madness. Pitch a Tom Brady piece and move along.”

It turns out, the Little Voice was wrong.  The Jerome Brown-Reggie White defenses from 1987 through 1992 were some of the best and baddest wrecking crews in the 90+ years that the NFL has been in business. Don’t believe us? Fine — call us homers. Call us liars. But see if you have the gumption to call these guys liars:

Phil Simms: “Buddy Ryan let personality mix with talent and it became greatness.”
Brett Favre: “That defense, to me, was by far the most imposing and dominating I’ve ever seen.”
Michael Irvin: “We will never see two defensive players like these on the same field at the same time again. Ever.”

We also interviewed Troy Aikman, Mark Schlereth, and Mike Golic, among others, and they all said the same thing: this was a great defense, and its two best players were on the defensive line: Reggie White and Jerome Brown.

Eagles teammates hold up Jerome Brown's jersey

Our film is a story about two athletes dying young–Jerome at 27 in the prime of his career and Reggie at 43 when he was just five years removed from playing football.  But we didn’t want to make a show that was 99% football highlights then wrap it up in the final minute with a somber narrator lamenting that these two were gone too soon.  These guys were more than sporting icons—they were someone’s husband and father and brother and son, so in this show you’ll hear from Reggie’s wife and Jerome’s sister, both of whom spoke lovingly of their lost loved ones and with affection about the close relationship between the two players.

Reggie and Jerome were men in full who were robbed of full lives, at least as measured by their stay on earth. But if you measure a life based on the love a person leaves behind, then these two guys lived a long, long time. You could even argue they’re still around.

Some odds and ends from the production:

– You will not believe how Reggie White received the news of Jerome’s death.
– Both sides [Eagles management and Reggie’s agent] disagree on whether Reggie was offered a contract by the Eagles before he left as a free agent in 1993.
– Both players were so beloved that everyone said ‘yes’ to interview requests; we tallied 30 sit-downs totaling nearly 40 hours.
– No animals were harmed during the production, but at least 500 Starburst candies gave the last full measure of devotion.

Click here for our complete collection of posts on the biography series, “A Football Life.”

The series will continue next Thursday, September 29th at 10pm/ET with “Reggie White and Jerome Brown: A Football Life” on NFL Network.

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