The Detroit Lions are a professional American football team based in Detroit, Michigan. The Lions compete in the National Football League (NFL) as a member club of the league's National Football Conference (NFC) North division. The team plays its home games at Ford Field in Downtown Detroit.
|Established July 12, 1930|
First season: 1930
Play in Ford Field
Headquartered in Allen Park, Michigan
|Team colors||Honolulu blue, silver|
|Fight song||Gridiron Heroes|
|Mascot||Roary the Lion|
Theo "Gridiron" Spight
|Owner(s)||Martha Firestone Ford|
|Chairman||Martha Firestone Ford|
|General manager||Bob Quinn|
|Head coach||Matt Patricia|
|League championships (4)|
|Conference championships (4)|
|Division championships (8)|
|Playoff appearances (17)|
Originally based in Portsmouth, Ohio and called the Portsmouth Spartans, the team formally joined the NFL on July 12, 1930 and began play in the 1930 season. Despite success within the NFL, they could not survive in Portsmouth, then the NFL's smallest city. The team was purchased and relocated to Detroit for the 1934 season.
The Lions have won four NFL championships, tied for 9th overall in total championships among all 32 NFL franchises; however, their last was in 1957, which gives the club the second-longest NFL championship drought behind the Arizona Cardinals. They are one of four current teams and the only NFC team to have not yet played in the Super Bowl. They are also the only franchise to have been in operation for all 52 seasons of the Super Bowl era without having appeared in one (the Cleveland Browns were not in operation for the 1996 to 1998 seasons).
Logos and uniforms
Aside from a brief change to maroon in 1948 instituted by then head coach Bo McMillin (influenced by his years as coach at Indiana), the Lions uniforms have basically remained the same since the team debuted in 1930. The design consists of silver helmets, silver pants, and either blue or white jerseys.
The shade of blue used for Lions uniforms and logos is officially known as "Honolulu blue", which is supposedly inspired by the color of the waves off the coast of Hawaii. The shade was chosen by Cy Huston in 1935. Houston, the Lions' first vice president and general manager, said of the choice: "They had me looking at so many blues I am blue in the face", Houston said about the selection. "But anyway, it's the kind of blue, I am told, that will match with silver."
There have been minor changes to the uniform design throughout the years, such as changing the silver stripe patterns on the jersey sleeves, and changing the colors of the jersey numbers. "TV numbers", which are auxiliary uniform numbers to help TV broadcasters identify players from the line of scrimmage, were added to the jersey sleeves in 1956. White trim was added to the logo in 1970. In 1998, the team wore blue pants with their white jerseys along with grey socks but dropped that combination after the season. In 1999, the "TV numbers" on the sleeves were moved to the shoulders.
In 1994, every NFL team wore throwback jerseys, and the Lions' were similar to the jerseys used during their 1935 championship season. The helmets and pants were solid silver, the jerseys Honolulu blue with silver numbers and the jersey did not have "TV numbers" on the sleeves. The team wore solid blue socks along with black shoes. The helmets also did not have a logo, as helmets were simple leather back then. The Lions also wore '50s-style jerseys during their traditional Thanksgiving Day games from 2001 to 2004 as the NFL encouraged teams to wear throwback jerseys on Thanksgiving Day.
In 2003, the team added black trim to their logo and the jerseys. The face masks on the helmet changed from blue to black with the introduction of the new color. Additionally, an alternate home field jersey which makes black the dominant color (in place of Honolulu Blue) was introduced in 2005.
For 2008, the team dropped the black alternate jerseys in favor of a throwback uniform to commemorate the franchise's 75th anniversary. The throwback uniform became the team's permanent alternate jersey in 2009, replacing the former black alternate. The Lions officially unveiled new logo designs and uniforms on April 20, 2009. The lion on the helmet now has a flowing mane and fangs, and the typeface of "Lions" is more modern.
On February 1, 2017, the Lions announced a new typeface, logo, and the complete removal of the color black from the team identity. The team "made it a priority to emphasize our classic color combination of Honolulu blue and silver, which has been synonymous with the Detroit Lions since 1934." The new logo is identical to the old, except with a silver border instead of a black one. The Lions then unveiled the club's new uniforms on April 13, 2017. The Lions also added the initials "WCF" to the left sleeve as a permanent tribute to William Clay Ford, who owned the team from 1963 until his death in 2014. The sleeve addition replaces the black "WCF" patch on the left breast that was added after Ford's death.
Players of note
Detroit Lions roster
|Detroit Lions retired numbers|
|22||Bobby Layne||QB, K||1950–1958|
|37||Doak Walker||HB, K, P||1950–1955|
|85||Chuck Hughes 1||WR||1970–1971|
- 1 Posthumous. Hughes died of a heart attack during a game on October 24, 1971, and his No. 85 was withdrawn from circulation. However, WR Kevin Johnson wore No. 85 during his stint in Detroit after asking for and receiving permission from the Hughes family as he had worn that number throughout his professional career.
- The #20 was retired specifically for Sanders, even though the retired number was also worn by RB Billy Sims and DB Lem Barney before him, both of whom are also among the top all-time Lions at their positions.
- The No. 56 was unretired with Schmidt's blessing when the Lions acquired linebacker Pat Swilling from the Saints. No player has worn it since Swilling left.
- The Lions retired #93 for the 2009 season after Corey Smith disappeared, presumed dead, when a boat he was fishing in with friends capsized off the Florida coast. The Lions also wore 93 stickers on their helmets that season. Number 93 was assigned to Kyle Vanden Bosch in 2010.
Pro Football Hall of Famers
|Detroit Lions Hall of Famers|
|20||Lem Barney||DB||1967–1977||1992||22||Bobby Layne||QB||1950–1958||1967|
|24||Jack Christiansen||DB||1951–1958||1970||44||Dick LeBeau||DB||1959–1972||2010|
|76||Lou Creekmur||G/T||1950–1959||1996||39||Hugh McElhenny||HB||1964||1970|
|77||Curley Culp||DT||1980–1981||2013||20||Barry Sanders||RB||1989–1998||2004|
|35||Bill Dudley||HB||1947–1949||1966||88||Charlie Sanders||TE||1968–1977||2007|
|72||Frank Gatski||C||1957||1985||56||Joe Schmidt||LB
|35||John Henry Johnson||FB||1957–1959||1987||63||Dick Stanfel||OG||1952–1955||2016|
|81||Dick "Night Train" Lane||CB||1960–1965||1974||37||Doak Walker||HB||1950–1955||1986|
|28||Yale Lary||DB, P||1952–1953
|1979||50||Alex Wojciechowicz||C, LB||1938–1946||1968|
Michigan Sports Hall of Fame
Detroit Lions staff
Divisions and division rivals
The Lions have been a part of multiple divisions and have had several division rivals in their existence. Their oldest rivals are the Chicago Bears and the Green Bay Packers, whom they have been paired with in a division since 1933. The Minnesota Vikings have been in a division with Detroit ever since their inaugural season in 1961. Other notable longtime division opponents were the Cleveland/Los Angeles Rams (29 seasons from 1937–1966, except for 1943), the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (25 seasons from 1977–2001), the San Francisco 49ers (17 seasons from 1950–1966), the Chicago Cardinals (16 seasons from 1933–1949, except for 1944), and the Baltimore Colts (14 seasons from 1953–1966).
The Lions also have a preseason rivalry with the Cleveland Browns, dubbed the Great Lakes Classic. The two teams have been playing for The Barge Trophy since 2002. The Lions and Browns had a solid rivalry in the 1950s, when they met four times for the NFL championship (Detroit won three of the matchups); they have met much less frequently during the regular season since the 1970 AFL-NFL merger due to the Browns' move to the AFC.
- Chicago Bears (1933–1949)
- Chicago Cardinals (1933–1949, combined with the Pittsburgh Steelers in 1944 as Card-Pitt)
- Cincinnati Reds (1933–1934, suspended the final 3 games of 1934 for failing to pay league dues)
- Cleveland / Los Angeles Rams (1937–1949, suspended play in 1943, moved to Los Angeles in 1946)
- Portsmouth Spartans / Detroit Lions (1933–1949)
- Green Bay Packers (1933–1949)
- St. Louis Gunners (1934, the final 3 games only as a replacement for the suspended Cincinnati Reds)
- Card-Pitt (1944, the combined Chicago Cardinals and Pittsburgh Steelers team)
- Baltimore Colts (1950)
- Chicago Bears (1950–1952)
- Detroit Lions (1950–1952)
- Green Bay Packers (1950–1952)
- Los Angeles Rams (1950–1952)
- New York Yanks (1950–1951) / Dallas Texans (1952) (moved from New York to Dallas before folding, not to be confused with the American Football League team with the same name)
- San Francisco 49ers (1950–1952)
- Baltimore Colts (1953–1966)
- Chicago Bears (1953–1966)
- Detroit Lions (1953–1966)
- Green Bay Packers (1953–1966)
- Los Angeles Rams (1953–1966)
- San Francisco 49ers (1953–1966)
- Dallas Cowboys (1960)
- Minnesota Vikings (1961–1966)
NFL Central Division: 1967–1969
- Chicago Bears (1967–1969)
- Detroit Lions (1967–1969)
- Green Bay Packers (1967–1969)
- Minnesota Vikings (1967–1969)
NFC Central: 1970–2001
- Chicago Bears (1970–2001)
- Detroit Lions (1970–2001)
- Green Bay Packers (1970–2001)
- Minnesota Vikings (1970–2001)
- Tampa Bay Buccaneers (1977–2001)
NFC North: 2002–present
- Chicago Bears (2002–present)
- Detroit Lions (2002–present)
- Green Bay Packers (2002–present)
- Minnesota Vikings (2002–present)
Radio and television
The team moved to WJR for the 2016 NFL season, ending a 20-year relationship with CBS Radio-owned WXYT-FM. The decision to part with WXYT was reportedly instigated by a demand by the team for the station to fire on-air personality Mike Valenti—who has had a history of making comments critical of the Lions during his drive-time show—as a condition of any future renewal. A CBS Radio spokesperson stated that their refusal was meant to maintain the station's integrity.
In 2015, WJBK took over from WXYZ-TV as the flagship station for Lions preseason games. The announcers are Matt Shepard with play-by-play, Rob Rubick and Nate Burleson with color commentary, and FOX2's Jennifer Hammond with sideline reports. Wraparound shows and preseason games are produced by Fox Sports Detroit which also airs replays of the broadcasts.
Regular season games are broadcast regionally on Fox, except when the Lions play an AFC team in Detroit, in which case the game airs regionally on CBS. The Thanksgiving Day game in Detroit is always televised nationally on either Fox (odd-numbered years) or CBS (even-numbered years). The Detroit Lions were the last NFC team to play on NBC's Sunday Night Football since the network got began airing Sunday night games in 2006 (the Lions at Saints game on December 4, 2011 marked their 1st appearance; Sunday night games are aried on WDIV). The Lions' official regular season pregame show is The Ford Lions Report.
The Lions' winless performance in 2008 and 2–14 season in 2009, coupled with the effects of the Great Recession in Michigan, led to several local broadcast blackouts, as local fans did not purchase enough tickets by the 72-hour blackout deadline. In 2008, five of the Lions' final six home games of the season did not sell out, with the Thanksgiving game being the exception. The first blackout in the then seven-year history of Ford Field was on October 26, 2008, against the Washington Redskins. The previous 50 regular season home games had been sellouts. The second home game of the 2009 season in which the Lions broke the losing streak (also against the Washington Redskins) was blacked out locally, as well as the comeback victory over the Cleveland Browns. The Lions had only one blackout in 2010, yet another Washington Redskins game, which the Lions won 37–25. However, in 2015, the NFL suspended its blackout policies, meaning that all Lions games will be shown on local TV, regardless of tickets sold.
Notes and references
- "Detroit Lions Team Facts". Pro Football Hall of Fame. Retrieved October 2, 2017.
- "Detroit Lions Team Capsule" (PDF). 2018 Official National Football League Record and Fact Book. NFL Enterprises, LLC. August 9, 2018. Retrieved August 14, 2018.
- "Detroit Lions statement regarding rebranding". DetroitLions.com. NFL Enterprises, LLC. February 1, 2017. Retrieved August 14, 2018.
- Lewis, Edward (February 5, 2018). "Patriots DC Matt Patricia named head coach of Lions". NFL.com. NFL Enterprises, LLC. Retrieved February 6, 2018.
- "21 Football Facts to Fake Your Super Bowl Street Cred". EventBrite.com. Retrieved January 10, 2019.
- Griffith 2012, p. 144.
- Griffith 2012, p. 139.
- Kowalski, Tom (February 9, 2009). "Tom Lewand: Lions' black uniforms discarded". The Grand Rapids Press. Retrieved April 25, 2016.
- "Lions Unveil New Comprehensive Brand; Team modifies team logo and uniforms and introduces new brand". Detroit Lions. April 20, 2009. Retrieved April 25, 2016.
- "Lions unveil new uniforms" (Press release). Detroit Lions. April 13, 2017. Retrieved August 14, 2018.
- "Why do the Lions have "WCF"' on their jerseys?". SI.com. Retrieved December 28, 2018.
- "2017 NFL Football Attendance - National Football League - ESPN". ESPN.com.
- "Lions to retire Smith's No. 93 in '09". ESPN. Associated Press. March 21, 2009. Retrieved March 21, 2009.
- Baskin, Andy (August 18, 2011). "Baskin: Browns-Lions battle for 'Barge' trophy". WEWS-TV. Retrieved August 10, 2013.
- Schudel, Jeff (November 22, 2009). "Great Lakes Classic has lacked luster since its beginning". The Morning Journal. Retrieved March 21, 2009.
- "Detroit Lions - Radio Affiliates". Detroit Lions.
- "CBS Detroit: Lions censorship demands caused split". The Detroit News. Retrieved November 20, 2015.
- "Want to listen to the Lions in 2016? Tune in to WJR-AM". Detroit Free Press. Retrieved November 20, 2015.
- Kowalski, Tom (October 28, 2010). "Detroit Lions' game on Sunday will be blacked out locally". MLive.com. The Grand Rapids Press. Retrieved October 29, 2010.
- "Why the NFL Finally Lifted Its Blackout Rules". Mensjournal.com. March 26, 2015. Retrieved December 28, 2018.
- Griffith, R. D. (2012). To the NFL: You Sure Started Somethin': A Historical Guide of All 32 NFL Teams and the Cities They've Played In. Dorrance Publishing Co., Inc. ISBN 978-1-4349-1762-1. Retrieved November 25, 2016.