Few fanbases can match the sheer futility experienced by the Detroit Lions faithful. The team has yet to win a championship since 1957 and from 1963 to 2010 experienced just four 10-win seasons and nine playoff bids. With former classic beatdogs like the Seattle Seahawks, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Arizona Cardinals and New Orleans Saints recently making Super Bowls, the Lions are now just one of four NFL clubs not to have made an appearance in The Big Game – and NFLbets figures the Houston Texans and Jacksonville Jaguars ain’t too far off…
The Detroit Lions origins as a franchise go back to Ohio, breeding ground for semi-pro football in the 20th century’s first half. In 1934, a local radio station announced its purchase of the NFL’s 1932 champion Portsmouth Spartans, which would be relocated to Detroit for the following season. Thus were the Spartans the last small-market team to relocate, and the 11-team NFL of ’34 was comprised of 10 teams set squarely in American metropolises and the 11th in Green Bay.
In their first season in the Motor City, QB/coach Potsy Clark led the newly rechristened Lions to a 10-3 mark in 1934 and to Detroit’s first NFL title in ’35. This championship would unfortunately precede a 16-year drought without a playoff appearance in the days before wild-card bids. However, the Lions regrouped into a force once again in the early 1950s: Teams stocked with legends like Doak Walker, Bobby Layne, Yale Lary, Leon Hart and Jack Christiansen got the Lions to most-feared status with four bids between 1952 and ’57, incldng three title wins.
Who in 1957 would have known what would follow? These once-mighty Lions for any number of reasons would muster just three playoff appearances (one of them coming based on a 4-5 record in the strike-shortened ’82 season) in the next 33 years. Of all the all-time greats the Lions had fielded prior to the 60s, the greatest in the post-NFL/AFL merger era have all mostly wasted years of their careers in Detroit.
Biggest case in point: Barry Sanders. Simply one of the greatest ever to play NFL football, Sanders joined Detroit in ’89, played on Lions teams which went 86-74 (so between 8-8 and 9-7 on average) in a 10-year career cut short by the man himself realizing the futility of playing for a team who wouldn’t pay out to support him with all-star teammates.
In 2001, the team made its most significant personnel decision ever as a franchise, taking on Matt Millen as general manager. By slowly running his team into the ground via draft busts and non-activity during free-agency periods, the Lions went a cumulative 31-97 and recorded the first-ever 0-16 season in NFL history during Millen’s eight years “running” things.
After a couple of years of rebuilding, the Lions got back to competitiveness by 2011 and made three playoff appearances in six years. However, an 0-3 overall record in the playoffs in the 10s hardly justifies blowing Calvin Johnson’s entire career…
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