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The History Lesson The Lions Should Have Taught Their Rookies

By: Jeff Riger

You want to hear something hilarious? Like, really, really funny? On Tuesday at the Lions practice facility the new crop of Lions rookies spent some of their time learning about Lions history. You laughing yet? Seriously, can you imagine how horrifying that must have been for new NFL players?

I wonder how it went?

Apparently senior vice president of communications Bill Keenist sat the rookies down and started the educating. I would assume the basics were covered. 1 playoff win since 1957? The only NFL team to go 0-16 in a season? Decades and decades of disappointment? Matt Millen? Parents warning their children early in life never to root for the organization? The 3 letters that best define the club? C'mon you know this one, SOL?

There's more!

How do you think the rookies reacted when they found out they get to hear the late 30's classic "Gridiron Hero's" (Forward down the field) for scoring just a single field goal, even if they happen to be down 30 points?

I'm sure the first timers loved hearing there are no cheerleaders and that expectations are so low that they raise ticket prices for a 6-2 finish despite missing the playoffs. There also must have been mention of the fans at the Silverdome showing more fight than the actual team on a given Sunday and lets not forget how the organization literally drove away a generation of Lions fans because their games were unwatchable from about 2000 to 2011.

I'll give credit to the Lions, what a great idea to educate the rookies on what Lions football really is so the athletes truly understand what the poor fans have been through. Hopefully they even ended the curriculum with saying "things have been so bad that even Cubs fans feel sorry for Lions fans." That would really send the message.

I felt good about it all! Nice job Lions! I'm impressed.

But then I saw the quote in all the local papers from first round tackle Taylor Decker who said "obviously around here its going to be positive things."

Ah, now it all makes sense. The Lions didn't prepare their rookies to be sensitive to the fans by teaching them how bad followers of the team have had it. Oh no! They only taught the good of the organization which must have taken all of, what, 7 minutes? All you have to do is mention Barry Sanders, Calvin Johnson, 1991 and the dominance through the 1950's and there it is; everything that has gone good for the Detroit Lions through the existence of the team. Oh, and they play a game on Thanksgiving every year too.

That's the Lions way, always trying to put the positive spin on things.

But I still like the idea. It's really smart to inform players about the history of an organization, but only if you tell both sides and since the Lions only included the good, I have taken it upon myself to teach my own course in Detroit football disappointment. That's right, other than "Beverly Hills 90210" and "Saved by the Bell" trivia, watching the Lions stink over the course of my lifetime, not only prepares me to teach this course but should also make me a legitimate professor on the topic.

My course, if you decide to take it is composed of 5 chapters dedicated to the heartbreak that the Lions have given their fans over the course of their lives. So grab your text books and lets get started.


This chapter is dedicated to all the times that the Detroit Lions have left you wanting to puke. Hell, you might have even been sober. From that missed Eddie Murray field goal against San Francisco in 1983 to the Aaron Rodger's Hail Mary to Richard Rodgers just last year, fans have been trying to "hold it down" for 9 decades.

This course works best when you list your own examples so here are my top 5 times the Lions have left me wanting to hurl.

5- The last 7 games of the 2013 season. Matthew Stafford was a turnover machine throwing 12 interceptions to just 10 touchdowns and the Lions went 1-6 to ruin a 6-3 start and miss the playoffs.

4- In 1999 the Lions started the season 6-2 and then headed to Arizona for the 9th game of the season. Detroit lost to the Cardinals 23-19. Coach Bobby Ross refused to go for a 2 point conversation late in the game. Detroit finished the season 2-6, backed into the playoffs and lost in the first round to the Redskins.

3- Paul Edinger! If you don't know about Paul Edinger you fail the course immediately.

2- The clock striking zeros in the last game in 2008. Must make sure that Dan Orlovsky running out of the back of the end zone is included in this section.

1- Jim Scwartz getting carried off the field after the Bills beat the Lions at Ford Field. If the Lions won that game like they should have, they would have had a home playoff game for only the 3rd time in my lifetime.


There have been 37 QB's that have started for the Lions since I was born in 1975. Those QB'S have combined for 1 playoff win in my lifetime. Enough said. Please fee free to use the mathematical equation to find out your number of playoff wins experienced. It's easy, take the year you were born then look up every starter to have ever receive a snap under center and then drink; a lot because the results are going to be depressing.


The Lions usually don't make the playoffs but when they do they lose and usually there's a nifty side story that will forever remind the fans how agonizing it was. The following, are examples that generations of Lions fans not only remember but probably still have nightmares about.

5- -1 Yards
In 1994 the Lions lost to the Packers on New Years Eve 16-12. In this close contest, legendary Lions running back Barry Sanders rushed for -1 yards on 18 carries. The game was so close that I remember thinking that if Sanders could have given the Lions anything in that contest that they would have won.

4- Tweeting in the Big Easy
In 2011 the Lions made their triumphant return to the postseason after spending more than a decade missing the playoffs year after year. Quarterback Matthew Stafford was great, throwing for 2 TD's in the first half and the Lions led 14-10 after 30 minutes. In the second half, the Saints offense came alive, the Lions defense was torched and New Orleans won 45-28. The memorable thing about that playoff disaster was Lions cornerback Aaron Berry tweeting afterwards "Y'all can go back to being broke and miserable…now go back to your regular scheduled programming." That's nice isn't it? I'm sure Keenist made sure to mention that tweet to the rookies.

3- The Guarantee
There were few times that I actually got excited about the Lions chances to be successful in the playoffs and 1995 was one of those years. In case you forgot, Detroit won 7 games in a row to end the season and qualified for the playoffs. The Lions had to travel to Philadelphia to take on the Eagles and since Detroit was playing so well, offensive lineman Lomas Brown decided to guarantee victory. Not only did the Lions lose but they lost badly by a 58-37 score. At one point they trailed 51-7. Happy Holidays everybody!

2- The Flag Game
C'mon, you know this one! Lions lost at Dallas in the first round of the playoffs and even though Detroit was screwed by a bad call late in the game, they still had a chance to come back and win it. Fans still are hurting from this one.

1- NFC Title Turd
1991 was a great year for the Lions as they actually won a playoff game. It was amazing as they took down the Dallas Cowboys at the Pontiac Silverdome 38-6. I was young, life was great but then they played the next week in the NFC title game where and lost to the Washington Redskins in D.C. 41-10. I remember hearing a story that the point spread actually went up before the game because the Redskins looked that much better than the Lions warming up. Oh, did I forget to mention that the Redskins won the Super Bowl that season and that Cowboy team that the Lions beat went on to win multiple Super Bowls while the Lions never got that far in the playoffs again.


Any Lions fan can successfully regurgitate Lions one liners that they have heard over the years. Below are some of my favorites…

1-"Whomp Whomp Whomp…abandon ship" -Bobby Ross
2-"Don't say I'm scared because we ain't!" -Jim Schwartz
3-"The Dungeon of Doom when you walk in that room" -Jim Caldwell
4-"Whats it take to get fired around here anyhow" -Darryl Rogers
5-"The bar is high" -Marty Mornhinweg
6-"The bar is high.....Hell it's even higher now! " -Marty Mornhinweg
7-"My shovel is sharp and my pick is sharp and my will is outstanding." -Rod Marinelli
8-"I will be grinding!" -Sheldon White
9-"That pass back and forth kind of thing" -Jim Caldwell
10-"We gave you guys some hope. When we came here, we never had that." -Wayne Fontes


It means Same Ole' Lions and the rookies better get used to it because no matter what happens the Lions and their players will always be SOL. Of course if the Lions were to ever go to a Super Bowl that three letter charming acronym might go away but we all that will never happen. In fact, I barely got through typing that last sentence without laughing so hard that I started to cry.

I almost forgot. We can't have a Lions textbook without mentioning that the best two players Detroit ever had decided to retire way too early because the played on the Lions. Can you blame the team for losing Barry Sanders and Calvin Johnson way too early? The answer is HELL YES!

The above is my teachings of the Lions being losers my entire life. Feel free to add your examples and we'll do our best to get them to these rookies so they know what they're up against.

I'm sure the senior VP of communications will be happy to use these teachings moving forward for his next round of rookie education.

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