The Detroit Lions are the NFL’s most irrelevant franchise over the last seven decades.
We’re talking about a franchise that has won double-digit games just 10 times since they were founded in 1935 — and they’ve never done it in consecutive seasons. The Lions have won just three division titles — 1983, 1991, and 1993 — since 1960. They haven’t been to the NFC Championship game since 1992. No NFC team has a longer drought.
Maybe, though, things are about to change for the Lions.
Coach Dan Campbell has invigorated the team and the city with his effervescent personality and the culture he’s developed.
General manager Brad Holmes has upgraded the roster and infused it with talent. Now, the Lions enter the season favored to win the NFC North for the first time in forever.
Detroit Lions facing big first test
Detroit will get an opportunity to show the entire league what it’s all about on Thursday when it plays at Kansas City in the first game of the NFL season.
Kansas City will try to become the first team in history to play in three consecutive Super Bowls.
The defending champs have the league’s best player in quarterback Pat Mahomes, but they might be without tight end Travis Kelce, who hyperextended his knee during practice.
Win the game, and the Lions can serve notice to the rest of the league that they’re ready to meet expectations. Get blown out, and they’ll have to deal with “Same old Lions” for the foreseeable future.
“I think we took our medicine in the past couple years. Me and [Lions coach] Dan [Campbell] talk about it all the time,” Holmes told ESPN. “We’ve coached the Senior Bowl; we had to do ‘Hard Knocks.’ We’ve done all that.
“We’ve gone through a lot of darkness to get to this point, but that’s where the grit comes in place in terms of just not really wavering and put your head down or get discouraged, and we just kind of put the focus in building the best roster that we can and really getting the best football player.”
Campbell played 11 seasons in the NFL. He spent four with Hall of Fame coach Bill Parcells and one with Sean Payton.
He understands how to make football the only priority for a franchise. He knows how to lead men.
“Honestly, my wife will send me something, or (Lions director of football communications) Eamonn (Reynolds) will send me something that somebody wrote, or this or that,” Campbell told WXYZ-TV. “And ya know, there’s the kneecap joke come out.
“Honestly, none of it bothers me. The positive, the negative — I don’t really care because I know who I am. I’m very comfortable in my skin.”
‘They’re still hungry to prove that we belong in the conversation’
The Lions once ruled the NFL. They won championships in 1952-54 and 1957.
Quarterback Jared Goff has reinvented himself in Detroit. He has a group of talented skill-position players. The defense has pass-rushers and cornerbacks.
These don’t have to be the same-old Lions.
“As a player, you want expectations. You want people to think you’re gonna be good,” said Lions assistant general manager Ray Agnew told ESPN. “And the reason why we can be comfortable is because of the guys we have on this team. These guys are still hungry.
“They’re still hungry to prove that they’re great in this league; they’re still hungry to prove that we belong in the conversation, so I don’t worry about that. We’ve got a hungry group of guys.”