Today in sports history, the 2008 Detroit Lions became the first team to go winless in a 16-game season. With a 31-21 loss on the road to the Green Bay Packers, the Lions made sports history. The Lions were the first team to go winless over the course of a full NFL season since the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 1976. For Tampa Bay, however, it was their first season as an expansion team. Unfortunately for the Lions, it was their second winless season, with the other coming back in 1942.
2008 Detroit Lions Finish 0-16
The 2008 NFL season started off poorly for the Lions before it even began. Detroit’s first and second-round picks, Gosder Cherlius and Jordan Dizon, both found themselves in legal trouble before training camp. While they both made the roster, it wasn’t a good look for an organization that was already struggling with its image.
If it were up to Detroit fans, we only would’ve counted the preseason. The Lions went undefeated in four preseason games before the season and were pretty solid defensively. Unfortunately, the results didn’t transfer over into the regular season.
While a winless season is certainly a stain on any franchise, the 2008 Detriot Lions were also quite unlucky on multiple occasions. Five of their 16 losses came by just one possession. In Week 6 against the Minnesota Vikings, Detroit quarterback Dan Orlovsky unintentionally ran out of bounds in the end zone, resulting in a safety. The Vikings went on to win the game 12-10. In Week 9 against the Chicago Bears, the Lions held a 23-13 halftime lead before losing 27-23.
Lions Take Matthew Stafford First Overall in 2009 Draft
The Lions franchise will never be able to live down their 2008 winless season. It’s not something that can ever be erased. That doesn’t necessarily mean it wasn’t worth it, however. Thanks to their record, the Detroit Lions received the first pick in the 2009 NFL Draft and selected quarterback Matthew Stafford out of Georgia.
Currently, Stafford holds franchise records for the Lions in career passing yards, completions, passing touchdowns and game-winning drives. He also holds some impressive NFL records as the fastest quarterback to pass for 15,000, 20,000, 25,000, 30,000 and 40,000 career passing yards. In 2011, Stafford threw for over 5,000 yards. To this day, that has only happened 12 times in NFL history. Stafford also set the record for most game-winning drives in a season, with eight in 2016.
Stafford and receiver Calvin Johnson, who was taken second overall in 2007, became one of the most lethal duos in NFL history. They, packaged with a scary defense, brought forth a new age of Lions football. In 2011, the Lions made the playoffs again for the first time since 1999. The Lions also went on to make it in 2014 and 2016. While Detroit didn’t win a playoff game in any of those three trips, there is little debate that it was still a major landmark for the franchise.
While the 2008 Detroit Lions season was truly an embarrassment, it did result in one of the greatest eras of Detroit football. Seeing what came out of it, I’m sure Lions fans would do it all over again.