MIKE O'HARA

O'HARA: If only it could have been in Detroit

Posted Feb 4, 2018

Former Lions Eddie Murray and Lomas Brown look back at their championship experiences with other teams, and how they wish it would have happened in Detroit.

Eddie Murray and Lomas Brown could not be prouder of the Super Bowl rings they won playing for other teams after departing the Detroit Lions, where their performance on the field and standing in the community gave them a permanent place among the most respected players in franchise history.

But despite the glint and sparkle that radiates off the brilliant championship jewels they earned in their post-Detroit careers – the 1993 Dallas Cowboys for Murray, the 2002 Tampa Bay Bucs for Brown – there is something missing that takes a little of the shine off their rings.

Murray and Brown often have said the same thing: If only it could have been in Detroit. Those thoughts surface more distinctly at times like today, when the Patriots and Eagles meet in Super Bowl LII.

So are thoughts of how close the Lions might be to reaching the Super Bowl, especially with the impending hiring of a new head coach.

Nearly a quarter century since he walked off the field at the Georgia Dome after the Cowboys’ win over the Buffalo Bills in Super Bowl XXVIII, the memory of the moment is still vivid for Murray.

So is the part that was missing – the connection of his heart strings to Detroit. He had been released by the Lions after the 1991 season and spent parts of the 1992 season with the Bucs and Chiefs before signing with the Cowboys two games into the ’93 season.

“I remember seeing my family there,” Murray said the other day. “It was my 14th year in the league. There was a lot of water under the bridge for me. Just to realize all the effort and games I played for Detroit to put me in that situation was all worth it.

“It was that ‘a ha’ moment. At the end of the rainbow, this is what it’s like.

“It’s really a satisfying feeling – with the caveat that I wish I could have done that in my years when I was in Detroit.”

Brown has often said the same thing about wishing he’d won his ring in Detroit, and that thought flashed back again in an interview this week.

“I remember saying that exactly,” Brown said. “I remember saying how much more special it would be if it had been in Detroit.”

Murry and Brown both had long careers, with few regrets.

Murray was the Lions’ kicker from 1980-91. He made two Pro Bowls and was the MVP of the 1980 season Pro Bowl as a rookie. He wound up playing for seven teams in 18 seasons over 21 years (1980-2000), with two hitches with Dallas and Washington.

Brown had to wait longer to win his Super Bowl ring. It came in his last season, as a backup lineman with the Bucs after being signed out of semi-retirement early in the 2002 season.

Bucs head coach Jon Gruden said at the time that he brought Brown on board to add veteran leadership and toughness to his offensive line. The Bucs defeated an outclassed Raiders team to send Brown into full-time retirement as a world champion.

Brown also played 18 NFL seasons – from 1985-2002 – with the first 11 as a Lion. He hit the free-agent circuit in 1996 and wound up playing with the Cardinals, Browns, Giants and Bucs.

Brown was a full-time starter for his first 17 seasons, and was a member of the 2000 Giants team that lost to the Ravens in Super Bowl XXXV. He was a reserve with the 2002 Bucs.

Brown was one of the best tackles of his generation. He was named to seven Pro Bowls, was first-team All-Pro once. With 251 career starts, he is tied for ninth all time with Tom Brady, Charles Woodson and Mike Kenn.

If the NFL workforce is anything, it’s fluid in this era of free agency. It’s not uncommon for players to win Super Bowls and move on, or change teams and win a Super Bowl.

Two former Lions, linebacker Kyle Van Noy and offensive tackle LaAdrian Waddle, won Super Bowls last year with the Patriots and are bidding for a second championship today.

On the opposite side of the equation, six players who were with the Lions in 2017 were previously on Super Bowl winners: Dwight Freeney, T.J. Lang, Golden Tate, Jordan Hill, Haloti Ngata and Tavon Wilson.

Looking forward, Murray says the Lions are closer to championship contention than they’ve been in a long time.

“I can see what Bob Quinn and Rod Wood are putting together,” Murray said, referring to the general manager and team president. “Making the right moves in the offseason ... I think it can happen fairly quickly.

"Making the right moves in the offseason right now, and compiling the rookie draft class, I think it can happen pretty quickly.

“Now with the hiring of the coach fairly soon, it’s getting them all on the same page."