(Roger Brown photo courtesy of the Detroit Lions)
Talk of Fame Network
Former defensive tackle Roger Brown isn’t in the Pro Football Hall of Fame, but it’s easy to make a case that he should be.
He was named to six Pro Bowls and two All-Pro teams in his 10-year career, was named the 1962 Defensive Lineman of the Year and sacked Green Bay’s Bart Starr six times in the 1962 “Thanksgiving Day Massacre” – the Packers’ only loss that season.
He and former Lion Alex Karras comprised what some consider one of the best pairs of defensive tackles in NFL history, yet neither is the Hall. Considering how accomplished that Detroit defense was (it had four Hall of Famers), that’s as perplexing as it is surprising.
And Brown, who appeared on the latest Talk of Fame Network broadcast, confessed he doesn’t get it.
“It’s a hard thing,” said Brown, who now runs a restaurant in Virginia. “I think everybody who’s out there today that are members of the Hall of Fame had a group of people supporting them.
“The worst thing that happened to me is when (former Lions’ great and coach) Joe Schmidt traded me to the L. A. Rams (in 1967). I was thinking it was going to be a help. But I think for the fact that Roger Brown didn’t start his career and finish his career with the Lions was a downside.
“As to why I’m not there … I look at it another way: I helped other people get there. I look at Detroit, and we had a great defensive line. Four of our defensive backs are in the National Football League Hall of Fame. That’s because we pressured the quarterback, and we did things that made them shine.”
No kidding. The Lions of the 1960s were one of the best defensive units anywhere. They had 235 sacks from 1962-66, the most by the franchise in a five-year span since that time, and the ’62 Lions ranked first in overall defense and first against the run. Yet they’re never included in lists of memorable units – and there’s a reason: Championships. They didn’t win them. The Green Bay Packers did.
But it was Thanksgiving Day, 1962, when Brown … and the Lions’ defense … overcame the Packers in an unforgettable game. They not only won, 26-14, avenging an earlier 9-7 defeat and sending the Packers to their only loss of the season; they sacked quarterback Bart Starr 11 times on national television.
Brown had six of those sacks. But he also had a safety, forced a fumble that was returned for a touchdown and blocked a Jerry Kramer field-goal attempt in what was an extraordinary performance.
Except if you listen to Brown.
“Back then,” he said, “there were only 12 teams in the NFL. I had many games as great as that one, but the only thing you’ve got to remember (is) that was the only game played on Thanksgiving Day in the whole U.S. of A. No college. No pro ball. It was just that game.
“Other games I had to share the audience. I had a lot of games that good against the Bears, against all of them. But that one got the notoriety.”
He would get that notoriety, however, as part of “The Fearsome Foursome.” That’s the nickname of the Rams’ front four in the late 1960s. But it was also the name coined by a Detroit-area sportswriter for the Lions’ front that was so active with Karras, Brown, Darris McCord and Sam Williams that it deserved to be recognized.
It’s no coincidence that when Brown moved to L.A., so did the nickname.
“When I played with Detroit, and we would go out to play the Rams,” Brown said, “we would call those guys the ‘Hollywood Beach Boys’ because (defensive lineman) Rosey Grier was a singer at the time and he was pretty big with the music side of it.
“But then when I went out, I said, ‘OK, now we have the ‘Fearsome Foursome West Coast.’ So I’d like to think that they were named that because of my acquisition. But they say, ‘No, they deserved it.’ So I said, ‘Well, I’m here. There you go.’ ”