The Detroit Lions Are An Even Sadder Franchise Than You Thought

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The Detroit Lions expected to be a playoff team this year. Instead, they’re 1-7, and today owner Martha Ford began assessing blame for their failure, firing GM Martin Mayhew and president Tom Lewand. The Lions coaching staff, including head coach Jim Caldwell, is reportedly safe.


The Detroit Lions being terrible isn’t out of the ordinary. They’ve rarely been any good since long before the AFL-NFL merger, making the playoffs just 11 times in the 57 seasons since they won the NFL championship in 1957. But’s Gil Brandt unearthed a statistic that I’ve never seen before, one that drives home how poorly the Lions have been run for half a century.


That is truly incredible. Like all professional sports leagues, the NFL hires its fair share of retreads. There are numerous examples of bad NFL coaches getting second and third chances, but not Lions coaches. Either Detroit hires terrible candidates that wouldn’t have gotten a shot else, or decent coaches have their names so badly tainted by their association with the team that it makes them unhireable. The Lions are career kryptonite.

Here are those 16* head coaches that never got a top job again:

  1. George Wilson, 1957-1964
  2. Harry Gilmer, 1965-1966
  3. Joe Schmidt, 1967-1972
  4. Don McCafferty, 1973
  5. Rick Forzano, 1974-1976
  6. Tommy Hudspeth, 1976-1977
  7. Monte Clark, 1978-1984
  8. Darryl Rogers, 1985-1988
  9. Wayne Fontes, 1988-1996
  10. Bobby Ross, 1997-2000
  11. Gary Moeller, 2000
  12. Marty Mornhinweg, 2001-2002
  13. Steve Mariucci, 2003-2005
  14. Dick Jauron*, 2005
  15. Rod Marinelli, 2006-2008
  16. Jim Schwartz, 2009-2013

It doesn’t look like the streak will be broken any time soon. Gary Moeller has been out of football for a decade, Marty Mornhinweg is the Ravens QB coach, Steve Mariucci has been out of football for a decade, Dick Jauron was fired as the Browns’ defensive coordinator almost three years ago, Rod Marinelli is the 2-5 Cowboys’ defensive coordinator, and Jim Schwartz is working with NFL refs.

Good luck whenever you’re fired, Jim Caldwell.

Correction: Dammit, Kevin. Dick Jauron—who was an interim coach after Steve Mariucci was fired midseason—went on to coach the Bills. Let’s just pretend the statistic is “14 head coaches,” and interims Jauron and Gary Moeller don’t count!


Photo of the last good Lions coach, Buddy Parker, coaching the Steelers, via AP


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