Hear me out. The Detroit Lions were a good team in 2021. They could be a great team in 2022, even if this faith isn’t shared as strongly across other NFL predictions.
Were they an unlucky team in 2021? The unluckiest…with numerous examples culminating in the league record-setting, 66-yard field goal kick from Justin Tucker bouncing in, cinching a win reversal in Baltimore’s favor.
Bad luck is nothing new for the Lions. Compounding this many fans would claim they are also the most hated team among officials, who spew out questionable-at-best calls routinely during moments pivotal to a Detroit victory. Too many examples abound to list (although Youtube has some good compilations), but if you’re curious, Google the only Lions playoff appearance in two decades against Dallas in 2015.
But watch footage of last season, a majority of games’ play style and execution looked strong, and most losses were squeaked in, many at the last minute, by some turn of events that left long-suffering Lions fans pulling out their hair.
Very Superstitious…Supernatural Setbacks?
Through countless roster turnovers, and dozens of coaching and management evolutions, the Lions have not been able to get their groove back since the 1950s. To be exact 1958. The very year a disgruntled young quarterback named Bobby Layne, peeved at having been traded unceremoniously after helping the Lions to their last championship, vowed on his way out the door that “this team will not win another championship for fifty years”.
While no one has come forward with any first-hand knowledge of the guy wearing pointy hats or flying brooms in the off-season, as the following years unfolded, it did seem that someone, somewhere, must be stomping all over a poor Rory Lion voodoo stuffed animal. The rumor of a curse never died in Motown.
That brings us to the obvious question though, 50 years would have been up in 2008, so what’s the deal?
Shift the Tides
Whether due to a curse or not, after a long string of disappointments, it takes a certain energy to become champions and completely shake the past. The hyper energy of former Detroit Head Coach Jim Schwartz got Detroit stirring. Then the calm presence of Jim Caldwell guided the self-assured and quietly confident talents of Calvin Johnson and Matthew Stafford (among others) deeper into the waters toward ultimate victory.
Next, someone had the brilliant idea to replace him with Matt Patricia.
That was sarcasm.
Breathing the same air as Bill Belichik for years as an assistant in New England, did not make him any type of fit for coaching an NFL team. Locker room energy was so bad under him that many players were requesting trades. After letting him coach 31 games too many, Detroit sent him back to Daddy Bill.
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The Detroit Lions Trifecta
Then in 2021 came Coach Dan Campbell. He’s enthusiastic about Detroit, has faith in the re-build of his team, tears up during press conferences out of passion, and does down-ups with his players during practice. That is the energy a team needs to feel behind them.
The same year, the Lions gained Jamaal Williams, a Green Bay running back who did not seem disappointed to be leaving, despite his prior team having a much better record. During a press conference he announced that while he may have been the Packers’ trash, he was the Lions’ treasure, and happily made some humorous comparisons about Detroit picking him up to a romantic courtship. He was a strong player the whole season.
This year, hometown hero and University of Michigan standout Aidan Hutchinson was drafted first pick by the Lions. On top of being the best defensive end in college football, he actually seems happy to be in Detroit (unlike Goff, who may not have smiled once since he left L.A) as he grew up a Lions’ fan. In behind-the-scenes locker room footage for the series “Hard Knocks” he can be seen getting the whole team excitedly participating in an impromptu performance of “Billie Jean.”
If there was ever a group synergy dynamic enough to drag the long-suffering franchise back from the depths of a “curse,” this is it.