Pro Football Talk has been asking fans to vote for each teams Mt. Rushmore, and the Detroit Lions were posted on Friday. My first response was to snicker, because the words “Detroit Lions” and “best of all time” are never in the same sentence. My second thought was, Barry Sanders, Barry Sanders, Barry Sanders and Barry Sanders. There just isn’t going to be much to carve out when you’ve only won one stinking playoff game in over fifty years. The other problem is that the Lions were king of the gridiron before the days of football on TV in the fifties. In total Lions fashion, the sport exploded in the 60’s, leaving the Lions legacy to be all but forgotten.
With that being said, I still had to go back to those days to find two of the kind of winners who deserve to have their faces up in lights for all to see. I would defiantly have Bobby Layne and Joe Schmidt up on that mountain. If Matthew Stafford and Ndumakong Suh can win a few Super Bowls in the next decade, then their mugs will replace the two legends from 60 years ago. Barry Sanders is the greatest runner ever in the sport and the only reason anyone, other than Lion fans, ever tuned in to watch the Lions. The last spot goes to maybe the greatest wide receiver ever to play the game. He’s so good, he has a single name moniker known throughout the land: Megatron. We are so fortunate to be able to watch Calvin Johnson blaze a trail through the NFL like no one ever before him. So that’s my Detroit Lions Mount Rushmore, Layne, Schmidt, Sanders and Johnson.
Bizzaro World Mt. Rushmore
Before I put back on my Honolulu Blue glasses, I want to have some fun and imagine a bizzaro world where losing is the goal, and championships are disdained. In that world, the Detroit Lions are the storied franchise of envy. Their sustained run of never, ever appearing in a Super Bowl is the stuff of legend. Each team’s Mt. Rushmore’s size is indicative of it’s achievement. The Pittsburgh Steelers have a small hill in Pennsylvania, no bigger than a two story building. The Lions, on the other hand, have reserved the state of Colorado. Here are the four most responsible for keeping the Detroit Lions Super Bowl-less all of these years:
William Clay Ford: It all starts with the man who took control of the Lions in the early 60’s, and promptly put an end to those foolish winning ways. Under Ford’s guidance, the Lions have managed only one playoff win since the Super Bowl was invented. His reputation for hiring the worst possible candidate each and every time is personified by one exasperated ex-Head Coach, saying “What’s it take to get fired around here”? Yes, he is also the one responsible for ruining Matt Millen‘s broadcasting career. Which leads us to…
Matt Millen: Even five years after his firing, Matt Millen’s name is still synonymous with “Ultimate Failure”. The trail he blazed through Bizzaro World will never be forgotten. When a front office worker screws something up, he’ll raise his fist in triumph and yell “I definitely Millen’ed it!” and get a hearty round of back slaps. Only a guy of such legend can inspire changes in everyday life. Millen’s effective use of destroying his team’s chances through the draft are the stuff of numerous books. His method of blocking team success by constantly drafting a wide receiver in the top ten is ranked up there with “The Art of War”. It’s a fitting end with Millen touring the country supporting his latest book “The Art of Sucking at What You Do”.
Russ Thomas: He was Matt Millen before Matt Millen. Thomas was the first villain in sports that I can remember. Even as a kid, I understood how Russ Thomas’s ego came before the benefits of the Detroit Lions. He knew he had the leverage, and routinely publicly embarrassed players in the press. Negotiating with Thomas was torture. His negative energy created a losing culture in the locker room that the Lions were never able to escape.
Wayne Fontes: Only in Lions Bizarro World can the Losingest Coach in the team’s history also be the Winningest Coach in history. Nobody had more lives than Wayne Fontes. Some years he’d be close to getting fired, but then he would change a coordinator and go 5-11 and sweet talk Mr. Ford into another contract. Who else would consistently take out Barry Sanders in the goal-line formation?
In Bizzaro World, the Lions’ past is legendary.