Retired defensive end Chris Long spent most of his run in the NFL on some historically bad teams. That is the under-discussed reality for many players once the pageantry of draft day transitions to the realities of the sport.
For Long, his 2008 draft landed him with the St. Louis Rams at the exact wrong time. He made up for that in spectacular fashion. The late-career trades that many aging players experience brought Long to two Super Bowl championship teams in consecutive years.
It was a rare run that only a few players have ever seen the likes of. Here’s how it was so special for Long and the game of football itself.
Eight years in the St. Louis wilderness
Chris Long spent eight long years with the St. Louis Rams. It was a dismal era for the team. Long’s personal performance persisted as a bright spot.
He totaled 54.5 sacks, including a career-high run of 13 sacks in 2011. His 194 total tackles could’ve been even higher had he not been slowed by injuries in 2014 and 2015.
He was a playmaker even in the midst of losing games. His only real black mark was when the frustration boiled over, and Long caused a scuffle with several Carolina Panthers players in 2013.
When he left, he had deep ties with his former team. He kept his public face positive. These days, he’s much more open about what it meant to get a shot to move on to greener pastures.
Chris Long learns the Patriot Way to chase his first ring
Freed from the restraints of being an active NFL player, Long told Patriots Talk host Tom Curran what it really felt like to join the Patriots at the time he did. Long said:
“Every organization is different, and some are more ‘fun’ than others. I also consider having a bunch of awesome teammates in New England a lot of fun, and I thought winning was a lot of fun because, for eight years, I was on crap teams.”
Some players find themselves stifled by head coach Bill Belichick‘s notoriously regimented approach to building winning football teams. But Long was hungry to win a Super Bowl. So hungry that, according to his Hall of Fame father, Howie Long, he took a pay cut for the chance at playing a successful season in the NFL.
Chris got what he wanted. He helped the Patriots sneak past the Atlanta Falcons 34–28 in an overtime nail-biter. It took nine seasons to get there. And then he found himself playing for a completely different team the very next season.
Long’s first year with the Eagles led to another championship
Chris Long’s Super Bowl celebration with the Patriots gave him time to reflect on how he was used with the team. He learned the Patriot Way, helped them win their fifth Super Bowl, and decided that playing out of position so often wasn’t how he wanted to wrap up his career.
So he called up Belichick, told him he was ready to move on, and made his case to join another team in particular. A team that had never won a Super Bowl at all.
But the Philadelphia Eagles were finally looked like they could field a team to overcome that mess. Long was a perfect fit. And then disaster struck when Carson Wentz got knocked out of the season with an ACL injury. Long rallied the team around him with a crazy dog mask routine for the press and leaning into his impact as a defensive end on the field.
The Eagles stayed alive. Long already won a Super Bowl with the best quarterback/head coach combo in the NFL. Now, he had to do it against his old team, led by backup QB Nick Foles. And they pulled it off. With Long in a central role this time around, the Eagles won Super Bowl LII, 41-33.
Long’s incredible cap on a late-career surge
Long played one more year with the Eagles before hanging up his helmet for good after the 2018 season. His transition to post-NFL life began during his final year, when his charity work kicked into high gear. He donated his entire 2017 salary to organizations in St. Louis, Boston, and Philadelphia. All the places he called home throughout his unique career.
That earned Long the 2017 Walter Payton Man of the Year award. His Chris Long Foundation was founded back in 2017 but went into overdrive as Long’s career wound down.
Many great players will never win a Super Bowl. Chris Long took his fate into his own hands, and he pushed to join teams he chose himself. Twice. And he won the Super Bowl both times.