"The Lions will not win for 50 years!" said a scorned quarterback on that fateful day, Oct. 6, 1958.
Perhaps the Lions last truly great quarterback, Bobby Layne, was traded to the Pittsburgh Steelers on that day and get this, he was actually upset about it! Tough to imagine now, but the Lions were in fact a great team once.
Bobby Layne was drafted by the Baltimore Colts in 1948 with the second-overall pick but ended up playing for Chicago, as I guess was fairly common in those days. He made his way to the Detroit Lions in 1950 via a trade with the New York Bulldogs. Former Green Bay GM Ron Wolf called the trade one of the best in NFL history in 2002.
I can't disagree. Bobby Layne is arguably the greatest player ever to wear a Lions uniform. Say what you will about Barry Sanders, he was one of the top running backs in NFL history, but he never brought Detroit a championship.
From 1950-1958, the Detroit Lions were a dynasty. I know it's hard to imagine, but the Detroit Lions were the best team in the NFL, unquestionably. The team won championships in 1952, 1953, and 1957.
Bobby Layne played in five Pro Bowls, and when he retired, he held the NFL record for passes attempted and completed, passing yards, and passing touchdowns. He was the Tom Brady, Dan Marino, Joe Montana, or Peyton Manning of his day, and the Lions had him.
Then they traded him.
Bobby Layne suffered an injury after the Lions' last championship in 1957, and Detroit thought he was through. They traded him to Pittsburgh on Oct. 6, 1958. I've done some research and for the life of me, I can't even find out who Detroit traded him for. Possibly a draft pick?
In any case, Layne was extremely upset about being traded, and that's when he laid the curse down. In a moment of anger, perhaps not even really meaning what he said, Layne shouted, "Detroit will not win for 50 years!" and, "I'd like to win a championship for the Steelers and for myself to shove down Detroit's throat!"
Little did Layne know how true his words would hold. From 1958 until today, the Lions have made the playoffs just nine times. They've only won the division three times in that span, in 1983, 1991, and 1993. Finally, we have the most telling stat of the curse. The Lions have one playoff win since 1958.
The dreaded curse of Bobby Layne expired yesterday. Their 50-year sentence is complete and what a 50 years it's been. The Lions fans that remained are some of the most disillusioned and bitter fans in all of sports, yet they are faithful to the end. Although many of us were not even born during the Lions' glory days, we still hold out hope that a return to those days will come again someday.
Now, I've never really been one to believe in curses or that sort of thing, but there are a few out there that have held freakishly true, and the Bobby Layne curse was one of them. However, for that curse to truly hold true, the Lions will have to win against Minnesota on Sunday and look good doing it.
Hell, if that curse really wants to hold true and really freak me out, the Lions will have to magically, inexplicably make the playoffs this season. Sure, its still mathematically possible, and if it does happen, I will probably become a fanatic and go live in a cave somewhere and rock back and forth, but I'll still be able to point to that curse and say "SEE! It wasn't Ford! It wasn't all those coaches whose names started with an "M!" It wasn't the Lions lack of talent! IT WAS THE CURSE!"
Ahhhh, how good would that feel?
I'm not going to rule anything out. When it comes to the Lions, anything is within the realm of possibility.
So go out there on Sunday Detroit. Show us you're a good team that was held back for so long by the curse of Bobby Layne! You're free now! Play some damn football! PLEASE!