Detroit Lions: A Retrospective Of Failure.
Being a Lion fan represents a feeling much like a salmon swimming upstream if one is going to have any fun at all.
So how did it ever get this bad?
Is there really any “hope” in our collective future?
If one consults with Bleacher Report authors, one would be inclined to think that the Super Bowl is just around the next corner. But turning into that slippery and speculative corner can sometimes be met with oncoming traffic speeding directly into one’s headlights and prompting a disjointed and jumbled refrain.
The semi that just crushed the smart car turning the slippery corner is on its way to gridiron glory.
Those riding in the smart car are meanwhile recovering in the hospital, while dreaming of future events. This may represent a typical form of denial, but it does illuminate the mind set of those who take refuge in their dreams and why they landed in the recovery room in the first place.
Most of the overly optimistic essays appearing on Bleacher Report lack something necessary for authentic transformation: a comprehensive view of history.
Maybe it is time for a stroll down memory—lane: and this is the first installment of a series on Bill Ford, Sr. the bringer of doom, obfuscation, and narcissism, to a proud city deserving of something better.
As such, the most important historic qualifier since Ford purchased the Lions is that his team has never appeared in a Super Bowl.
It is also interesting to note that the demise of this once prolific franchise began under Ford’s stewardship.
Ford purchased the Lions outright from a group of partners in November, 1963, making him the sole owner of the franchise; moreover, the single most defining observation of Ford’s gross incompetence since this tragic event, is that the team has only won a single playoff game under his stewardship.
Let me say that one more time: since Ford has owned the team, the Lions have only won a single playoff game. Forty—six years and counting, one playoff victory! If this represented any other industry, the company would have closed its doors long ago.
After Ford became sole owner of the franchise, he promptly promoted Russ Thomas to GM of the front office.
There are stories about the rather eccentric relationship between Ford and Thomas circulating in historical accounts, but mostly the evidence is sketchy at best.
The story is that Ford had an out-of-control drinking problem, and Thomas did an intervention by taking Ford to a cabin somewhere up north to help him overcome his drinking problem. Apparently the effort worked leading to a long lasting friendship with Thomas, thus assuring the man a leadership role in the front office until his forced retirement many years later.
This narrative was advanced by former Detroit News journalist, Jerry Green, back in the seventies; I only mention it, if you are curious about the source of the story.
Moreover, it was never refuted by Ford publicly.
Thomas was to the '60s what Millen was to the '00s.
Both men played pro ball, but neither was particularly gifted or adept at running a NFL franchise; and neither was gifted at evaluating NFL talent as evidenced by their many failures.
Between 1964 and 1969, Thomas demonstrated his fetish for the RB position, in a similar way that Millen had a fetish for the WR position.
Thomas drafted four RBs during that period including Tom Nowatzke, Nick Eddy, Mel Far, and Altie Taylor. The best two RB to play the game during that era were OJ Simpson (taken with the first overall pick in 1969), and Gayle Sayers taken by Chicago (Gayle was taken four slots after the Lions took Nowatzke in the 1965 draft).
The rest—as they say—is history.
A couple of notable Hall of Famers that Thomas passed on was Gene Washington and Gene Upshaw.
To be fair, Thomas did draft Charlie Sanders using a third—round pick, and Lem Barney using a second—round pick; but all of his other picks were mediocre to incompetent at best.
In the 1964 NFL draft, Thomas took QB Pete Beathard out of USC. Beathard more or less laughed off Thomas’ financial offer, and then rode off into the sunset with the AFL Kansas City Chiefs; he never played a down in Detroit. As a consequence, Detroit forfeited its first round pick in 1964.
The sixties slipped into the annals of NFL infamy for the Detroit Lions; Bill Ford’s “broken toy” remained broken into the seventies: the subject of installment number II.
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