Frank Doyle wonders if the Lions’ time has arrived at last.
Detroit has played football in the National Football League since 1930. In those eighty-one years, who’s their winningest coach?
Wayne Fontes. 67-71-0, from 1988-1996.
There are many ways to measure the misery that Lions fans have had to endure over the years but there’s something about Wayne Fontes being as good as it got over eighty years that frightens a man.
What made Fontes great was his drafting of Barry Sanders with the third overall pick in 1989. It’s pretty easy to coach a team with a 99.8 yard a game running back. Sanders give Detroit its best years in the ‘nineties, and now in 2011 the Lions are looking to the other side of the ball for a man to for the Lions’ defense what Sanders did for the offense. Lead, inspire and deliver.
The hope in Detroit is that Ndamukong Suh will be to the Lions what Joe Greene was to the Steelers forty years ago – a rock upon which to build a church. Suh is a monster of a defensive tackle who already has a reputation as a guy that will smash you up and hurt you – just exactly what you want in a defensive lineman. And the Lions know it – they choose Nick Fairley with their first pick in the draft to ensure that any offense facing the Lions will have to deal with maximum havoc at the line of scrimmage.
On the glamorous side of the ball, the Lions have a worry at quarterback. Matthew Stafford has all the skills but he’s been unlucky with injury. If Stafford stays healthy, he can lead the offense to take advantage of the good field position that Suh and the defense can win them. If not, the Lions are looking at either veteran Shaun Hill or else sophomore Zac Robinson to pull the strings. Neither inspire confidence.
The NFL betting sees Detroit as a +500 shot to win the NFC North, +1600 to make it to the Super Bowl – Detroit is one of four teams to have never appeared in the big game – and +3300 to win it, making the Lions the biggest Cinderella story of all time.
It’s a nice story, but it’s hard to put money on it. The best bet on Detroit this year might be on total wins – the number is set at eight, which is more wins than the Lions have enjoyed in eleven years. It’s possible, and if they did win more than eight games, it really would feel like a Super Bowl for the long suffering fans of the Detroit Lions.