In 10 days we will be talking about the 2010-11 Detroit Lions hitting the training camp practice field for the first time. 10 doesn’t seem like a large number when the word “days” is behind it but it starts looking a whole lot bigger when followed by the word “years”. Yes, it has been 10 years since the Lions finished the season with a winning record.
Clear your mind of the Matt Millen Era and think back to the 2000 season. Ah yes, a 9-7 record looks like an oasis from the desert we currently find ourselves. The devastation that ensued makes what should have been viewed as a mediocre to tumultuous year desirable.
The season got off to a fine start, the Lions hit the bye week with a 4-2 record including an opening week win at New Orleans with Stoney Case filling in for Charlie Batch. They came out of the bye week with another win, this time beating the Buccaneers behind James Stewart’s three touchdown day. Although their record sat at 5-2, it was really just the beginning of the end. (more after the jump)
Consecutive losses to Indianapolis and the Miami Dolphins lead to the resignation of head coach Bobby Ross due to frustration with the organization and team. Former Michigan Wolverine head coach Gary Moeller stepped in and the team responded with three straight wins to put themselves in playoff contention at 8-4.
Whatever temporary boost the team may have received from the coaching change was short lived. The Lions had their winning streak broken by consecutive road loss at Minnesota and Green Bay. The roller coaster season continued with a third straight road game in which the game winning touchdown was scored by an unlikely player: guard Jeff Hartings. The fumble recovery in the end zone was the Lions only touchdown and enough to secure a 10-7 victory and guarantee a winning record for the season.
The Lions returned home for a game against the Bears with their playoff hopes hanging in the balance. They held a fourth quarter lead until R.W. McQuarters returned an interception 61 yards for a touchdown. Jason Hanson would go on to tie the game with a short field goal but the inability to put the ball in the end zone came back to haunt the Lions when rookie kicker Paul Edinger nailed a 54-yard field goal to win the game.
It can be said the heartbreak has lasted for 10 years. The Lions were inclined to keep Moeller on as coach but Marty Mornhinweg got the job following Matt Millen’s hiring. The rest is history…