Detroit, MI

The history of the Detroit Lions

Author Ed Anderson
The history of the Detroit Lions is one of losses and sweet victoriesPhoto byDetroit Lions

The NFL draft has created a big hype around football. As fans debate about the picks their favorite teams chose and whether it will send them to the Super Bowl, players nervously wait to find out if they will be picked to play in the next season.

Detroit fans are equally on edge because the Lions have two first-round picks this time around, number 6 and 18. This has been cause for joy for the team as they look to rebuild a franchise that has historically been overlooked and often underestimated.

Part of the reason for the jokes about the Motor City team is that they have never made it to the Super Bowl. They've come close a few times but never made it to the big game itself.

However, The Bleacher Report says that there is no reason for despair about the team always losing. Before there was a Super Bowl, the Lions took home a championship 4 different times. The team won the league's highest honors in 1935, 1952, 1953, and 1957.

It also is pointed out that in the 1990s, the team went to the playoffs six times. They came close to going to the Super Bowl in 1991 but ended up losing to the Washington Redskins,

Former quarterback Matthew Stafford left Detroit in 2020, going to the Los Angeles Rams. In his second season with his new team, he won a Super Bowl ring. He told the press that he left the Lions to join "a championship team."

The team is still rebuilding.
The Lions started the tradition of football on ThanksgivingPhoto byMichael Barera via Wikimedia

From The Start

As hard as it is to believe, the Detroit Lions did not start out in Michigan. The team was originally called the Portsmouth Spartans in 1929. They were stationed in Portsmouth, Ohio but not a very popular team. According to the Detroit Historical Society, the team lasted for about five years there before they were bought and moved to the Motor City.

Radio exec George A. Richards bought the team for $8,000. He moved them to Detroit, where the radio station he owned, WJR, was stationed. Once they were set up in their new city, the new owner began looking for a new name for the team. He wanted something that would coincide with the Detroit Tigers and make the new team seem fierce.

He landed on Lions. The thought was that lions were kings of the jungle and the new football team would be kings of the field.

This in fact played out how Richards expected it to in the first season. The Lions won the first 10 games they played. Even more impressive was that in seven of those games, the other teams did not get a score.

Fans loved the new team. It was everything they wanted.

Richards took note of that and came up with a tradition that has lasted to this day. The Pro Football Hall of Fame reports that he created the idea of having the Lions play a game on Thanksgiving Day. He pitched the idea to NBC, who he worked with via WJR, and they loved it. After an agreement was reached, the game was broadcast on Turkey Day 1934.

It seemed that the team was going to win the championship for the first time in their inaugural season. But they lost their last three games to the Chicago Bears and the Greenbay Packers. They ended their season in second place.
The Lions have never been to the Super Bowl but they hope to change thatPhoto byDetroit Lions

Superstars and A Losing History

Dutch Clark and Ernie Caddel became superstar athletes thanks to the Detroit Lions. Their legends have been passed down from generation to generation. The men helped win the championship for their beloved team in 1935 and took to the playoffs quite a few more times.

But in 1938, after failing to secure another win in the championship games, they decided to retire. The NFL says that the men were friends and likely came to the conclusion together. Richards tried to talk them out of it, even offering raises but they made up their minds and played their last game with the Lions.

The 1939 season was not a good one for the Lions. They went 6-5 for the season and things over the next decade would make it even worse. But it wasn't all doom and gloom for the franchise.

According to the Encyclopedia Britannica, a superstar emerged in the form of Byron R. White. He might also be known as Justice White to some, as he went on to serve on the Supreme Court of the United States.

While Lions fans eagerly hope they make it to the Super Bowl and bring home a win, it would be important for them to remember that there is historical data that suggests the team can rebuild after losing superstar players. In the 1950s, the team brought home the championship three times and made them one of the most enviable in the NFL.

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Ed Anderson is a true crime and gossip writer from Detroit, Michigan. Ed is the author of several true crime books, most recently Financing Doubt.

Rochester, MI

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