The much-anticipated Barry Sanders' documentary "Bye Bye Barry" is now available on Amazon Prime. We have been promised answers as to why the Lions' Hall of Fame running back retired when he did, and that is indeed revealed.
After making it to the NFC Championship Game in 1991, it could have been said the Lions were "a quarterback away" from being a legit Super Bowl contender. The mix of Rodney Peete, Erik Kramer and Andre Ware was not going to cut it on that front, even if the Lions won the NFC Central in 1993.
The Lions would eventually sign Scott Mitchell in 1994 free agency, after he had a solid run filling in for an injured Dan Marino with the Dolphins the previous season. Mitchell had a couple productive seasons in Detroit, but he goes down as one of the worst free agent signings in Lions' history.
The Lions passed on pursuing two Hall of Fame quarterbacks?
On Monday, during an appearance on "The Pat McAfee Show" to preview the documentary, Sanders confirmed McAfee's reveal that Joe Montana wanted to be traded to the Lions.
Montana's last game with the 49ers was against the Lions, to end the 1992 season. He was traded to the Kansas City Chiefs the following offseason, and he led the Chiefs to the AFC Championship Game in 1993.
The Lion's unveiling of the statue honoring Sanders before this year's home opener is part of the documentary (h/t to Mike Payton of AtoZ Sports). Former Lions head coach Wayne Fontes is captured talking to Sanders on the sideline during the game.
Fontes told Sanders he lobbied then-Lions' general manager Chuck Schmidt to pursue another veteran quarterback who was available. "Let's get Warren Moon." Schmidt dismissed Moon as too old.
Moon led the Houston Oilers to the Divisional Round in 1993. He was 37 years old at the end of that season, and he was traded to the Minnesota Vikings (another "a quarterback away" team back then) the following offseason. He was a Pro Bowler in both of his full seasons as the Vikings' quarterback.
So the Lions passed on Montana after the 1992 season, when he apparently wanted to come to the Lions and play with Sanders. Then when Fontes suggested a pursuit of Moon, Schmidt dismissed it and signed Mitchell instead.
There are a lot of frustrating "what might have beens" in Lions' history. But turning down a Hall of Fame quarterback one offseason, and not even pursuing another the next, hits a little differently than most of them.
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