Column: Time to say goodbye to the ‘same, old Lions’?


Photo courtesy of Forbes

For almost 100 years, the Detroit Lions have consistently been one of the worst franchises in sports.

There’s no debating it. It’s as much a fact as two plus two equals four is. 

It’s been seven years since the Lions made it to the playoffs, 32 years since they won a playoff game and infinite years since they’ve been to or won a Super Bowl, because it’s never happened.

The aforementioned playoff win is the only postseason victory Detroit has boasted in the Super Bowl era, which dates back to 1967.

There are middle-aged Detroiters who are likely married, have kids and are well on their way to saving up for retirement, but have never been alive for a Detroit Lions playoff victory.

It’s been one of the worst 70-year stretches for any sports team.

But is the tribulation on the brink of conclusion?

Does one of the most loyal fan bases in the sport actually have something to get excited about?

Will the Lions be… dare I say… good?

It sure seems that way.

Head Coach Dan Campbell and general manager Brad Holmes have implemented a new culture, which, at first, Lions fans struggled to get excited about. Why should they be excited? The team hasn’t given fans any logical reason for optimism in decades.

The franchise has had 12 coaches coach in at least one game since the turn of the millennium, many of whom have promised to bring in their own culture. Spoiler alert: none of them worked.

But there’s something uniquely different about the Campbell-Holmes culture. I don’t know if it’s the ‘grit’ shirts or the fact that Campbell does conditioning drills with the team, but it seems to be working.

After a 4-19-1 start for Campbell in his first 24 games as the head coach — including a 1-6 start in 2022 — fans once again began to repulsively utter the phrase “same, old Lions.”

But Campbell and the Lions flipped a switch that, perhaps, has never been flipped in the franchise’s history.

Detroit won six of its next seven games and eight of its last 10 to finish off the 2022 season. It was still in serious playoff contention heading into Week 18, which is about all you can hope for as a Lions fan.

The Lions narrowly missed the playoffs, but for fans, beating Aaron Rodgers in, perhaps, his last game at Lambeau Field (will he ever make a decision on what to do next?) was a gleeful consolation prize.

Making the playoffs never seemed like a realistic outcome for the 2022 Detroit Lions (especially after the 1-6 start), but the impressive turnaround is what has Lions fans so giddy for 2023. That, and the masterful signings Holmes has made recently.

One of the biggest weaknesses on the team heading into 2023 has now become an area of strength as Holmes signed defensive backs Cam Sutton and Emmanuel Moseley. Holmes identified an area of weakness and fixed it.

But then, last Sunday night, Holmes struck another deal with one of the top remaining free agents in a deal that probably made you do a double take. 

Stud safety and former Eagle C.J. Gardner-Johnson signed a one-year, $8 million contract with the Lions, and a secondary that was bound to be solid became one that should give opposing offenses headaches.

And don’t forget the four top-55 draft picks that Holmes can play with, too. The Lions can quite literally do whatever they want in this year’s NFL Draft.

Trade up? They can (and should) do it.

Trade down? They can do that, too. 

Stay at pick No. 6 and make your selection? Once again, they can do it.

The Lions are appearing on many lists of the top 10 NFL teams for the upcoming 2023 season, and they’re not just on the list of your season-ticket-holding, Campbell-idolizing buddy at the work office.


These are real, paid analysts who project the Lions to be a top-10 team in the NFL. 

A lot will be unveiled during the NFL Draft weekend in late April, but the Detroit Lions are poised for a run at the NFC North title, which means they would host a playoff game. 

Just imagine the eruption from a desperate fan base after decades of agony.