By: Will Burchfield
Most sports teams hang banners for championships. The Lions hang banners for making the playoffs.
Most sports teams salute players in the record books. The Lions salute players in the footnotes.
Most sports teams celebrate winning. The Lions, only the Lions, celebrate coming close.
(But not that close.)
Twenty-five years removed from their last playoff win, the Lions will honor the 1991 team that lost in the NFC Championship. They will pay tribute to a group of players that were throttled by the Redskins in their most important game of the season, 41-10.
With pomp and splendor and great nostalgia, they will fete a good football team that wasn't good enough. Losing will never be remembered so fondly.
Per the Detroit Free Press, the ceremony will be held during the Lions' Oct. 16 game against the Los Angeles Rams. It is expected that players like Barry Sanders, Brett Perriman and Erik Kramer will be in attendance.
The same Sanders who rushed for 44 yards in that fateful NFC Championship. The same Perriman who gained 43 yards receiving. The same Kramer who committed four turnovers. But hey, 249 yards passing.
What other team would do this? What other organization would drum up the past because…because it's not as bad as the present? What other franchise is so starved for success that they would change the very definition of it?
S.O.L., they say around here.
Same Old Lions.
The Lions' woeful history is well documented. Their last championship came 57 years ago, before the AFL-NFL merger. They're one of only four teams to have never played in the Super Bowl. Their ineptitude crested – if we can say that – in 2008, when they finished 0-16.
Since then, they've struggled to shake this losing reputation. They're sneered at and ridiculed, for both their on-field blunders and front-office misjudgments. Eight years removed from the worst season in NFL history, the Lions are still the butt of jokes around the league.
And now here they are, inviting more of the same. For an organization that's trying to cultivate a winning culture, the decision to honor a team that fell short, well short, defies comprehension. It suggests to players and fans alike that the Lions' standard for success is…what?
Making the playoffs?
Giving it a go?
Having a shot?
The Lions can't possibly want to set the bar that low. Sure, 1991 looks like a triumph through the lens of their past, but winning isn't defined in relative terms. Championships aren't graded on a curve. And the Lions aren't helping themselves by pretending otherwise.
This isn't a knock on that 1991 team. Those Lions were good. They won their division and routed their first playoff opponent.
But how many teams in NFL history could say the same?
Too many to count.
And how many of them are being honored 25 years later?
The Lions, only the Lions, would stoop to this level.
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