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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George Wilson, Detroit Lions
George Wilson, Detroit Lions (Photo by Robert Riger/Getty Images) /

2) George Wilson

George Wilson coached the Lions from 1957-1964, finishing his time in Detroit with a 53-45-6 record. His real claim to fame was riding the ’57 team all the way to the Lions’ last championship when they defeated the Cleveland Browns 59-14.

Bobby Layne broke his ankle that season and Tobin Rote came off the bench to be the triggerman for the Lions run. They finished the season at 8-4 and were tied with the San Francisco 49ers for the Western Conference title.

At that time the team with the best record in the Eastern Conference faced the team with the best record in the Western Conference in the championship game. There were no playoffs unless necessary as a tie-breaker. In this case, the Lions headed to San Francisco to battle the 49ers for the chance to advance to the championship game.

The Lions overcame a 20 point second-half deficit to win 31-27.

For Wilson, 1957 was the highlight of his career in Detroit. Age started to affect the team as well as the trade of Bobby Layne to Pittsburgh. The Lions didn’t do a horrible job of rebuilding, but what may have affected their success the most was the beginning of the Lombardi era in Green Bay.

Despite never being able to capture his second title with Detroit, George Wilson does hold one distinction; he is the last Detroit Lions head coach to be given another head coaching opportunity after leaving the Motor City when he was hired by the Miami Dolphins as their inaugural head coach.

Ironically, Wilson would be replaced in Miami by former Lions assistant coach Don Shula.