Mutual connections: Detroit Lions and Dallas Cowboys

USA Today

In a pivotal game for the NFC playoff picture, the Detroit Lions are set to face the Dallas Cowboys in the primetime of Saturday Night Football.

It’s hard to go into this game as a Lions fan without remembering the picked-up pass interference flag during the Wild Card game in 2014, or the four straight losses to Dallas that have happened since.

With that being said, there are a few connections on both the rosters and coaching staffs for these two teams that will make this game much more special.

A former Lion

Detroit Lions safety Jayron Kearse warms up before an NFL football game against the Tennessee Titans Sunday, Dec. 20, 2020, in Nashville, N.C. (AP Photo/Ben Margot)

There is one former Detroit Lion who is now playing for the Cowboys: defensive back Jayron Kearse.

Kearse signed with the Lions in the spring of 2020, but his tenure in Detroit was not one worth remembering. Kearse was immediately suspended by the league and had to miss the first three games of the regular season. Upon his return, he immediately was put into action on defense.

Kearse appeared in 11 games for Detroit, starting seven of them at strong safety. In that span, he recorded 59 tackles and a forced fumble.

Kearse was benched near the end of the season for violating team rules, and waived one week later. He was subsequently picked up by the Ravens, and signed with Dallas the following season.

He has started at safety for the Cowboys since joining them and is currently having the best stretch of his eight-year career.

The former Cowboys

Dec 22, 2019; Denver, Colorado, USA; Detroit Lions offensive tackle Dan Skipper (70) before the game against the Denver Broncos at Empower Field at Mile High. Mandatory Credit: Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

Offensive lineman Dan Skipper has been an unsung hero for the Lions over the past two seasons, but many don’t know that his career started with the Dallas Cowboys.

Skipper signed with Dallas as an undrafted free agent in 2017 and competed for a reserve lineman role during their training camp. He was waived after the preseason and signed back to their practice squad.

A few weeks later, he was let go once again by the Cowboys and signed to Detroit’s practice squad. Over the years, he would bounce around the league but always managed to find his way back to the Lions. Skipper, in his seventh NFL season, is on his fourth stint with the Detroit Lions.

INGLEWOOD, CALIFORNIA – NOVEMBER 12: Jake McQuaide #43 of the Detroit Lions gives the game ball to Riley Patterson #36 of the Detroit Lions after the game against the Los Angeles Chargers at SoFi Stadium on November 12, 2023 in Inglewood, California. (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)

Long snapper Jake McQuaide had a bit of a more prominent career with Dallas. He served as the Cowboys’ long snapper for most of the 2021 and 2022 seasons but missed some time due to injuries.

McQuaide joined the Lions in 2023 but was waived before the season began. He later re-joined the team after another Cowboy-turned-Lion long snapper got injured.

Dec 11, 2022; Detroit, Michigan, USA; Detroit Lions long snapper Scott Daly (47) walks on the field before the start of the game against the Minnesota Vikings at Ford Field. Mandatory Credit: David Reginek-USA TODAY Sports

That’s right, Detroit has two former Dallas long snappers on the roster. Scott Daly was the incumbent that McQuaide was brought in to compete with. After a season-ending injury, Daly was placed on injured reserve and McQuaide rejoined the team to replace him.

Daly signed with the Bears as an undrafted free agent in 2017 and joined the Cowboys in 2018. He only stayed in Dallas for the preseason of the 2018 season and went to the AAF and XFL before finding a home in Detroit.

Offensive lineman Matt Farniok, who is on Detroit’s practice squad, played for the Cowboys from 2021 to 2022. He started two games for Dallas last season.

Brotherly love

Detroit Lions cornerback Steven Gilmore (24) warms up before the game between Detroit Lions and Atlanta Falcons at Ford Field in Detroit on Sunday, Sept. 24, 2023.

There is one set of brothers who are poised to face off against each other for the first time in their football careers. While they share the same parents, their careers couldn’t be more different.

Stephon Gilmore of the Cowboys  was a first-round draft pick in 2012. He has a Super Bowl ring, was named Defensive Player of the Year, is a two-time All-Pro, and has been voted into five Pro Bowls.

His younger brother Steven, nine years his junior, signed with the Lions as an undrafted free agent in 2023. The younger Gilmore brother had to fight tooth and nail in order to make Detroit’s roster to begin the season. As an undrafted rookie in his first preseason, he shined with six pass breakups, two interceptions, and a touchdown.

Steven Gilmore has only appeared in three games as a Lion and will likely not be active for this game against his older brother.

Coaching connections

Oct 23, 2022; Arlington, Texas, USA; Detroit Lions head coach Dan Campbell reacts during the first half against the Dallas Cowboys at AT&T Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

Detroit’s coaching staff has two former Dallas Cowboys players in head coach Dan Campbell and defensive coordinator Aaron Glenn.

Before Campbell took charge of the Lions, and even before he played for them, he was a starting tight end for the Dallas Cowboys. Campbell played there for three seasons, primarily as a blocking compliment to Jason Witten.

Glenn played two full seasons for Dallas from 2005 to 2006, recording 54 tackles and five interceptions over that span.

Cowboys’ wide receivers coach Robert Prince held the same position in Detroit for a long time. He joined the program in 2014 and worked with players such as  Calvin Johnson, Golden Tate, Marvin Jones, Anquan Bolden, and Danny Amendola. Most notably, Prince had to step in as head coach for one game in 2020 when interim coach Darrell Bevell and several other coaches came down with Covid-19.

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