Detroit Lions: Ranking the top 7 coaches in franchise history

Detroit Lions (Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images)
Detroit Lions (Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images) /
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Bill Belichick, New England Patriots
Bill Belichick, New England Patriots (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images) /

Despite the Detroit Lions’ lack of success since their 1950s dynasty team, let’s look at the top 7 coaches in team history.

The Detroit Lions are a franchise of futility. After a glorious decade of winning and championships in the 1950s, they have settled into a long abysmal 63-year title drought.

Since the Lions last won it all they have been unable to create the right formula to win, much less contend for, another championship. The formula isn’t hard, history has taught us what it is, the problem is how difficult it is to acquire the pieces needed. Especially for a franchise as clueless as the Lions.

The magic formula goes like this; a good to great defense, a franchise quarterback, and a very good to great coach. Any NFL team that fills their shopping bag with those ingredients will challenge for a Super Bowl title.

For the Lions, they haven’t been that close. They have fielded some pretty good defenses. But quarterback has been a big issue over the last 63 years. Greg Landry was named to the Pro Bowl in 1971 and outside of Matthew Stafford, this franchise hasn’t been close to having any other passer named to the Pro Bowl.

Then of course has been the coaching carousel. The irony is that some of the Lions’ former assistant couches have gone on to become some of the truly great coaches in the NFL. Names like Chuck Knox, Don Shula, and Bill Belichick.

But the Lions history of coaches is mainly a lesson in futility. Whether we want to say they have been ‘Lionized’ or just weren’t very good, there are many who committed vocational suicide by trying to right the Detroit Lions franchise.

Yet in the midst of the Lions history there a couple who excelled and some who just didn’t have the right pieces to succeed. Today we examine the top seven coaches in the history of the Lions. First a couple of quick ground rules; player/coaches were excluded which eliminates Earl ‘Dutch’ Clark and no interim coaches were considered either.

The coaches I considered had enough time to succeed or fail without ever having the ability to call upon their own athletic gifts to save the team on the field. From that list, I parred it down to the top seven because quite frankly there aren’t many more than that worth ranking.