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) /
7 of 9
Wayne Fontes, Detroit Lions (Photo by Focus on Sport/Getty Images)
Wayne Fontes, Detroit Lions (Photo by Focus on Sport/Getty Images) /

3) Wayne Fontes

Wayne Fontes will not go down in the history books as the best coach ever, but like Caldwell, he was a players coach who motivated his team and got the most out of them. He wasn’t a brilliant tactician or game manager, but he did have some competitive teams.

From 1988-1996 Fontes roamed the sidelines of the Pontiac Silverdome compiling a record of 66-67. In a way, he is still the quintessential coach for this franchise as he holds the record for most victories as the Detroit Lions head coach as well as the most defeats.

In Fontes eight years at the helm, he led the Lions to the playoffs four times including three straight years from 1993-1995. He is also the only coach to lead the Lions to a playoff victory in the last 63 years when they beat the Dallas Cowboys 38-6 on January 5th, 1992.

Wayne Fontes had built his reputation as the defensive coordinator of some good Tampa Buccaneer defenses in the late 1970s and early 80s. His defenses In Detroit were solid with players like defensive end Robert Porcher, middle linebacker Chris Spielman, and safety Bennie Blades leading the charge.

Offensively it was the Barry Sanders show. Not that Herman Moore, Brett Perriman and Johnnie Morton weren’t a good receiving trio, but let’s be honest, Barry was simply amazing.

Under Fontes, the Lions never truly found an answer at quarterback. Scott Mitchell had an outstanding season in 1995, but his four interceptions against the Eagles in the playoffs doomed Detroit to another postseason loss.

Fontes was known as the ‘Big buck’. A title he gave himself in response to continual rumors of his firing. Then on December 26th, 1996, William Clay Ford pulled the plug on the Wayne Fontes era.