How far can the Lions go?

Now that the Lions have qualified for the playoffs, it’s an appropriate time to look at what we’ve learned about this team and where they may go in the future.

First a history lesson.

The Lions have been the black sheep of Detroit franchises, to say the least. Within the last decade, the Red Wings have won two Stanley Cup titles and been to the finals once more. They’ve made 20 straight trips to the playoffs. Mr. Ilitch’s hockey club is the envy of their sport and one of the most revered franchises in all the sports world.

The Tigers have made a trip to the World Series and won a division title in 2011 while annually fielding one of the more competitive teams in their league the last five seasons. Restore the roar? Mission accomplished.

The Pistons won the NBA title as recently as 2004, and made a return trip to the Finals the next season. In all, they made a record six consecutive trips to the Eastern Conference Finals in the 2000s, built around a core of exciting players. With Joe Dumars at the helm, few would bet against the Pistons rising again for a third dynastic period.

But the Lions, well, what can we say about the Lions? Their trip to the playoffs this season is their first since 1999, and it comes after a devastatingly pitiful stretch of losing. In the ten seasons from 2001 to 2010, the Detroit football team lost at least 10 games nine times. Nine times, Mrs. Buellar! They lost 13 games twice, 14 games twice, and infamously, in 2008 they went a perfectly awful 0-16. Over a span of four seasons, they lost 47 of 52 games. Yes, really.

It’s not surprising that many Lions fans went into hiding for the better part of a decade. In fact, a slew of fans, including myself, abandoned the team entirely after the sudden retirement of Barry Sanders prior to the 1999 season. Even during the Sanders era when the team made the playoffs six times in nine seasons, the Lions only won a single playoff game.

Unlike with the Pistons, Wings, and Tigers (who won it all in 1984), you have to go back to your grandpa’s generation to locate fans who can attest to seeing the Lions win a championship. That was back in 1957, when Bobby Layne was slinging the pigskin.

Will the current collection of Lions end the drought and bring a Super Bowl title to Motown? Can they even win a playoff game? Time will tell, but the signs are looking good that at the very least, the Lions are poised to be a contender for the years to come.

Quarterback Matthew Stafford, wide receiver Calvin Johnson, and defensive lineman Ndamakong Suh are the core of the team. And while Suh has shown he can throw a temper tantrum, for which he has paid dearly, he’s also a Hall of Fame talent. Ditto Megatron, the unbelievably strong Johnson who seems capable of leaping out of Ford Field.

Whether the Lions will finally get to a Super Bowl will rest mostly on the shoulders of Stafford, a gifted passer who has a penchant for leading comebacks and also getting injured. If he delivers a Super Bowl title to Lions fans, he’ll achieve legend status, but if he continues to miss games due to boo-boos, he’ll be known as “The Glass Man.”

As goes Stafford and Johnson, so goes the Lions, who have the players in place on the defensive side to be a dominant team. But if they can’t sustain offense, they’ll just be another exciting team that disappoints us every year, like the Sanders teams did.


2 replies on “How far can the Lions go?

  • Cecilia

    I tell people that the last time the Lions were in a championship game, Cheverolets had fins. The last time the Lions were in a championship game, the host of one of the top 10 television programs told his viewers, “Friends, see your DeSoto Plymouth dealer tomorrow, and when you do, tell him Groucho sent you.” The last time the Lions were in a championship game, Ford had just introduced the Edsel. Yes, it has been a while.

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