When the Lions blindsided their star quarterback Bobby Layne with news that he had been traded to the Pittsburgh Steelers in week two of the 1958 season, the star quarterback, newly recovered from a triple leg fracture that prevented him from finishing the previous year’s championship run, was bitter...to say the least.
Perhaps rightfully so—it was Layne that won back-to-back NFL championships in ’52 and ’53 for the Lions and set the ’57 championship stage for alternate QB Tobin Rote, a technically proficient and more even-keel player than the fiery Bobby Layne, who was known better for his piss and vinegar leadership, heavy drinking, and unwillingness to wear a facemask, than for his ability to throw a football.
As Layne got on the plane, he begrudgingly muttered, “the Lions won’t win for fifty years,” and whether he meant it at the time or not, he was right.
It’s truly poetic that the 50th and final season of the Curse of Bobby Layne would end with a faltering unsurpassed in NFL history: a perfect, 0-16 season.
Fans looking for a silver lining reveled in the relief that Matt Millen, whose public failures as a Team President and General Manager warrant no recap, was fired the same year, making room for GM Martin Mayhew and Head Coach Jim Schwartz to take over the job of rebuilding a Lions team that had been rebuilding since 1957.
What did the new guys do? They drafted Georgia Bulldog Matt Stafford, a number-one pick that broke several rookie passing records, won the Lions 200 percent more games than the previous season...with a total of two, and was kind enough to avoid sustaining a career-ending injury before Mayhew and Schwartz could take a shot at building a team around him.
With Mayhew and Schwartz’s follow-up 2010 draft, the Lions have garnered some future stars that may align eerily enough with their 1957 championship counterparts to further suggest the curse of Bobby Layne really is broken for good.
Matt Stafford: Born-Again Bobby Layne?
The most striking coincidence about Stafford and Layne is they both played for the same High School—Highland Park in Dallas, Texas.
Both were amateur baseball stars there, Stafford played alongside current MLB pitcher Clayton Kershaw, while Layne went on to pitch for the University of Texas, throwing two no-hitters.
Though Bobby Layne never had the football arm Stafford has, Layne’s aggressive and clutch play popularized the two-minute offense.
Stafford scrambled with almost no protection all of 2009 to drum up some offensive magic for Detroit, including a game-winning touchdown pass against the Cleveland Browns after separating his shoulder the previous play.
Howard “Hopalong“ Cassidy and Jahvid Best: Different Eras, Same Stats
Cassidy was a star running back who was also used as a receiver, and scored 37 touchdowns in 36 games for Ohio State before being drafted 3rd overall by the Lions in 1956.
He set a school career rushing record of 2,466 yards that would last until 1969. Similarly, Best put up 35 touchdowns in his 30 games played at Cal, six of which came from receptions.
He totaled a similar 2,668 yards in his rushing career before he was drafted 30th overall by the Lions.
Darris McCord and Ndamukong Suh: All-American Monsters
Suh was the top defensive prospect in 2010 and picked second overall in the draft, after putting up 24 sacks and averaging almost four tackles per game in his career with Nebraska.
He was a First Team All American and the first defensive AP Player of the Year in history, in addition to winning a slew of other accolades.
McCord was an All American third rounder in 1955, won a Pro Bowl appearance for his performance on the ’57 Lions championship team, and was an integral part of the Fearsome Foursome, a Detroit defensive unit that put up some of the highest sack totals in Lions history.
George Wilson and Jim Schwartz: Coaches Grown from Defense
Jim Schwartz was born in 1966, the same year George Wilson landed what would be a career-ending Head Coach position in Miami, the first after being ousted by the Lions and presumably Bobby Layne’s curse.
Wilson played in the NFL as a defensive end with several championship teams.
Schwartz played as a linebacker and spent his entire coaching career in defense, most recently as a Defensive Coordinator for the Tennessee Titans.
Coincidence? Perhaps. But with this year’s draft “stars” eerily aligning with those of Lions championship yore, and the Mayan Calendar’s predicted impending doom of humanity rapidly approaching, the Lions seem to be in a better preseason position then ever to turn heads with an even-more-than-two-win season.