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Why Your Team Sucks

Why Your Team Sucks 2022: Detroit Lions

Dan Campbell
Mike Mulholland/Getty Images

Some people are fans of the Detroit Lions. But many, many more people are NOT fans of the Detroit Lions. This 2022 Defector NFL team preview is for those in the latter group. Read all the previews so far here.

Your team: Detroit Lions.

Your 2021 record: An uplifting 3-13-1, so long as you don’t count the fact that they lost the first eight games of the season, or that they didn’t win their first game until December, or that Justin Tucker booted them back across 8 Mile Road, or that they finished DFL in their division for the fourth straight year (that number seems low, actually), or that their miracle win against Minnesota came only after Minnesota staged a miracle win against them first, or that they successfully executed two fake punts in one game against the Rams and still lost, or that they benched their starting QB, or that they still haven’t had a 1,000-yard rusher since Reggie Bush, or that their final victory of the season came against a Packers team that was resting its starters, or that they lost the No. 1 overall pick because of that win, or that they didn’t win a single road game, or that they tied the Steelers thanks in part to missing an extra point in regulation, or that their brain(word loosely used)trust may not have known that ties still existed, or that their former starting quarterback went to sunny LA and IMMEDIATELY won a Super Bowl without them.

Other than that, I see a lot of promise.

Your coach: Tell you what gentlemen, I’ll say this about a 3-13-1 team: They may not look like much, but they’re always hungry. People see a guy that hungry coming and they start thinking to themselves, My god, this guy’s looking to eat anything he can get his hands on. He’ll eat grass. He’ll eat dirt. He’ll eat my FAMILY. I better get away from this guy before he bites my dick off! A man that hungry is a man that fears nothing. Nobody with a full belly wants to see these spider ants of a football team coming!

Your coach is the very hungry Dan Campbell, who isn’t afraid to cry after a tough loss. That’s a lotta crying.

Not long ago, I watched Rex Ryan squeeze out a few extra years of employment thanks to his ability to give the local press decent copy to work with. Same deal with Dan Campbell. I spent the bulk of last year subjected to way too much breathless praise for beefy Ted Lasso here. He cries! His players love him! He’ll be so fun on Hard Knocks! He’s so loyal! HE ROLLS OVER ANYTIME YOU OFFER HIM A TREAT! Let’s adopt him!

All of that nonsense willfully elided the fact that A) the Lions picked Professor Kneecaps here to run their team instead of someone who would have been far more qualified, and B) Dan Campbell is a fucking terrible coach. He managed his QB situation with all the skill of a strip mall orthopedist. He and his staff lost their first game against Green Bay—the Packers game that counted—because they refused to throw the ball down the field. He went for it on fourth down many times, even deep in his own territory, when his offense sucked. You think I like ragging on a coach for going for it? I don’t. I wish every other coach had Dan Campbell’s iron balls in such moments. But what every other coach DOES have, unlike Campbell, is a working brain. Know who else was a nice guy? Norv Turner. He sucked, too.

Your quarterback: You don’t have one. You have this guy.

Matthew Stockman/Getty Images

That’s Jared Goff, last seen working as Ryan Gosling’s stunt double on the set of the new Barbie movie. You might remember Goff from last season when the Lions benched him, only to realize that all of their other quarterbacks were somehow even worse. You might also remember the time that Goff didn’t realize the ball was about to be snapped. Or you might remember that Goff is a system QB who wasn’t even good when he was in a good system. The Lions don’t seem to remember any of that, because they had all offseason replace Goff and did NOTHING. They could have drafted someone, or traded for a veteran, or even hired your cousin Fred to do the job. They did none of that, hence nothing else about this team matters right now. A headless chicken in Iron Man’s armor is still headless.

Your backups are still Tim Boyle and the immortal David “Mister” Blough. Ten years from now, one of these men will be hired as offensive coordinator of the Falcons and then fired a year later.

What’s new that sucks: Jacksonville’s fuckup at the top of the draft was Detroit’s windfall as they snatched up edge rushing god Aidan Hutchinson with the No. 2 overall pick, then used their other first-rounder in the Stafford deal to hoodwink Minnesota into trading away their No. 12 pick. The Lions promptly used that pick on a wideout who probably won’t be able to play until November.

Because this is the offseason, you can say that the Lions have a plan. I’ve heard that so many times, from credible football people, that I’ve bought into it myself on occasion. Wow man, maybe this Lions team WON’T finish last! They’ve got a foundation now! They’ve got pieces! Ah, but the Lions have had pieces before. Many, in fact. It never mattered in the slightest. One of those pieces retired rather than ever play for them again. Another piece still wants the $1.6 million this team owes him. And another piece just won a Super Bowl for a team that has exactly three fans. Talent amounts to nothing in Detroit, and there’s less of it on this roster than many otherwise sensible people realize. Aidan Hutchinson’s sister won Miss Michigan and she’ll probably win more than he ever will here. The rest of the Lions’ defense is nothing but slobs.

Elsewhere, nose tackle John Penisini retired after just two years on the job, depriving me of easy dick jokes. DJ Chark, no stranger to performing well for horrible teams, signed here in the offseason. The Lions also signed Devin Funchess to play tight end and to eat whatever pizza crusts you’re about to throw away. And Mike Hughes arrives from Kansas City to bolster a secondary that will forever be in need of bolstering. Wow. What a haul. The road to 4-12-1 begins HERE.

What has always sucked: The same shit that always has. You will see Penei Sewell among league leaders in false start penalties again. You will draft TJ Hockenson in your fantasy league thinking you got a bargain, only to watch him miss the five to seven games with a pulled collarbone. The only Lions you’ll be able to name are the ones playing for other teams now. You’ll marvel at Amon-Ra St. Brown’s ability to go for 150 yards and two scores in a 20-point loss. You’ll remember that Campbell is this team’s only marketable employee. And you’ll be reminded that the Michigan accent remains the worst of all Midwestern accents. Michigan people overheard the Wisconsin accent and were like, “Hmm, not quite nasal enough.” I went to Michigan 28 years ago, and I STILL can’t get that aaaaaaaccent out of my head.

And Michigan people aren’t even nice. They’re dicks. They don’t bother with the veneer of niceness that makes so many other Midwesterners at least tolerable. Instead, you end up with a bunch of braying shitheels pretending they’re from the East Coast while sounding like they grew up in a fucking hay loft. No wonder Matthew Stafford left with a wink and a smile:

You know how many times I’ve been subjected to this fucking ad? I have all of its beats memorized, right down to Stafford smirking into the camera after telling the AT&T lady, “Oh, so getting a new phone is like ditching my old shithole of a hometown WHICH I STILL TOTALLY HAVE A THING FOR SERIOUSLY I MEAN IT?”

You listen to me, Michigan. Every night, Matthew Stafford and his wife sit out on their lanai in Manhattan Beach, watch the sun set over the Pacific, and LAUGH at you. They laugh until they throw up. All of you know it. You have lived in Michigan for decades now. You know that your life is just as awful as your football team is. You know that no one ever regrets fleeing your state. You watch, year after year, as your friends and acquaintances move onto greener pastures and discover the joys of living out in a more functional, beautiful world. And yet, look at you. Still in Michigan. Still rooting for this team. Still miserable. An entire life spent waiting to die. No group of fans deserves it such a wasted life more than you do. Get fucked.

And, as always, fuck Bob Seger.

But Drew, Bob Seger is a…

No he isn’t. Fuck Bob Seger.

Ratto says: Having surrendered any pretense of actually becoming good, the Lions have only the Thanksgiving Day game to defend, and despite the complaints of viewers who think they deserve marquee showdowns in every single one of the 272 three-hour entertainment slots the NFL shoves down your thorax, they are right to retain it. For one, they were one of the original Thanksgiving Day games in 1920 when the league was born, and the only one to Lion it up by losing 28-0 to the Dayton Triangles. The Heralds folded at year’s end, as did three more Detroit-based teams before the city stole the Portsmouth Spartans and renamed them. It’s a monument to irrelevo-failure that the Lions have maintained for the last 55 years, and a statement about our future as a culture that should be brought to bear at all holidays. “Sure you want Bucs-Chiefs or Bills-Chargers, but this is your life in a pandemic/recession. Shut up and watch.” And you will because you see logic in Deshaun Watson being suspended for one quarter for every massage therapist he assaulted. Send a greeting card to your soul in hell.

What might not suck: D’Andre Swift is one of those Lions backs where you see him make a good run and you’re like, “Goddamn, they gotta give that guy the ball!” And then they don’t.

HEAR IT FROM LIONS FANS!

Jamie:

Last year was the best season in Lions history.

Alexander:

The Lions have single handedly made me unable to enjoy sports unless my team is up 20 with 10 seconds left.

Ken:

I’m to the point where I can’t figure out if Goff can’t read in general, let alone a defense.

Joseph:

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have won the Lions’ division more recently than the Lions have. 

Ronald:

My hopes always die around Columbus Day.

Andrew:

My wife just gave birth to our second daughter at Henry Ford Hospital. As a gesture that I can only imagine is a cruel joke, they gave us a pink hat with the Detroit Lions logo on it. I threw that fucking hat right in the trash.

Ryan:

Stafford has 400% more playoff wins in his career in one year not in Detroit than Detroit does in the Super Bowl era. I really want that commercial to go away.

Travis:

Nate Burleson broke his arm trying to pick up a pizza. Stephen Tulloch tore his ACL doing the Discount Double Check. John Jett, a punter, suffered a season ending injury playing safety in practice. Mike Utley got paralyzed on the field, Chuck Hughes died on it and Eric Andolsek got killed by a drunk driver while mowing his lawn. I predict that Amon-Ra St. Brown will somehow suffer a career-ending injury from an errant Hard Knocks crew member. 

Margot:

As an adult, I’ve taken my Barry Sanders jersey with me around the world, and everywhere I go it is met with gushing enthusiasm. I’ve grown to resent this. I wish that, just once, someone else would tell me to go fuck myself.

Tony:

If you ever want to see a perfect example of why it’s bad for cities to give sports teams hundreds of millions of dollars to build a new stadium, drive down to Detroit sometime for a game. You’ll see parking lots, parking garages, and cops enforcing parking violations. You’ll see acres upon acres of empty lots fenced off from no one, because no one really lives near Ford Field. The only type of development you’ll see on these lots are fire hydrants: little specks of red dotting either frozen or muddy earth every 200 yards or so, per Wayne County regulations.

Mark:

The Detroit Rams. What a goddamn pathetic thing for fans to rally behind.

(I was rooting for Stafford too though)

John:

The last professional football game I attended was a Thanksgiving Day Lions-Packers matchup in the new-at-the-time Ford Dome. My only memories of the game are (1) watching Brett Favre warm up with all the seriousness of a day-drinker on the beach, and (2) getting an entire beer spilled down my back by some asshole in a Scott Mitchell jersey. We left at halftime to get home in time for the “good games.” (Dad’s quote)

Pat:

One team had us beat in the “longest playoff win drought” category. Now we don’t even have that anymore.

Nathan:

Vegas sports books are taking a large number of bets that the Lions will finish over their predicted win total of six. This is what a young, enthusiastic, leg-gnawing coach will get you: the faith of the masses that your favorite team will have a Jeff Fisher-esque 7-10 season. At least the coach hasn’t proudly announced his belief in forced birth yet.

Vernon:

Watching Barry Sanders rush for 2000 in ‘97 was really fun, but this was during the days of blackouts if the game wasn’t a sellout. Every week was a “Oh my god I hope I get to watch this!” adventure during the week. We couldn’t even sell out with Barry Sanders on the roster.

My dad got season tickets to the Lions in 2008 when they went 0-16. He renewed for several more years after that. I never questioned it and at times supported it. “It’s a fun outing.” “You’ll want to be there when they win.” Why is it fun going to see them get beat every week and they’ll never be good?

The Green Bay Packers once beat us twice in the same season when the official records say the Packers lead for 0:00 of either of those games.

Russ:

Dateline 1979:  I had just gotten a job at Pontiac Airport. It was my first real job. One of my coworkers asked if I wanted to go to a pre-season game with him at the new Silverdome. I’d watched them build the thing from the air but had never been inside it, nor had I ever been to a Detroit Lions game. There was no infrastructure to actually get to the venue and park a car, so we had to take a bus from some mall on Telegraph Road. It was inconvenient, but the Lions played well. At halftime, my friend asked me to join his family tradition and attend the Thanksgiving Day game with them. He bought 10 tickets from the box office at halftime for $10 each.

Gary Danielson proceeds to break his leg. Lions go into Thanksgiving 1-11.  My friend’s own family won’t buy the tickets from him. We show up with two extra tickets to sell, which normally would be no problem, except the Lions have had a city ordinance passed THAT WEEK prohibiting sale of tickets on Silverdome property. The PA system is blaring this news and the fact that there are undercover cops enforcing this. We had to go out on Featherstone Road to sell our extra tickets and were lucky to get $8 for a $10 ticket.

This is how the Lions management treat people Drew. This was the last dime the bastards ever got from me. Fuck Martha Firestone with a Hankook tire.

Jeff:

Today on local sports radio, the hosts were talking about what it would take to have a “good season”. They proceeded to list off half a dozen conditions first; “if [player] takes a step forward”, “if [player] can remain healthy”, and so on. It was like a verbal Rube Goldberg machine. And the definition of a “good season”? Not a playoff victory, or even a playoff appearance. Just a winning record. And fans called in and agreed. THAT is how low the bar is set in Detroit. The Lions are so abjectly terrible, they have conditioned their fans to be people who are satisfied to make back the dollar they spent on a lottery scratcher.

Brian:

I have an actual shred of hope for a somewhat entertaining and improved team this season. This now means that Dan Campbell will be caught on a hot mic saying the N word and that DeAndre Swift will get crushed by a lighting rig.

Sara:

They will inexplicably beat the Packers at home, and then just as inexplicably completely shit the bed against the Giants two weeks later. 

I’m an out-of-market fan, so I purchase Sunday Ticket to watch the Lions every week. Every year, my husband asks me with a slight sliver of hope in his voice if I want to renew it for another season. When I answer in the affirmative, I can always hear the soft sigh he gives. I know he’s thinking about all of the cool photography stuff he could buy with that money, rather than spending it on a service that will inevitably cause his wife to be in a pissy mood every Sunday. Yet, he renews it faithfully, every year. This is how I know he loves me: he lets me make these mistakes for myself, continually, with only the mildest judgment. 

Oscar:

With the way writers and fans of other teams are talking about the Lions this offseason, you would think they actually won something important. Apparently, all you need in order to be a Coach of the Year frontrunner is to not be Matt Patricia. “Hard Knocks” is going to ride that narrative until the wheels fall off, trying to make Dan Campbell look like Bill Parcells when he’s really just Bowflex Rex Ryan.

I moved to rural Thailand two years ago and now teach English to a school full of children who wouldn’t recognize a football if I brought one to class with me. My girlfriend is from the area and we’ve lived together through one full NFL season so far. I imagine my initial explanation of why I continue to watch the Lions sounded to her like a recently released former cult member now struggling to assimilate after being freed.

Tim:

I missed out on attending the last game of the season because of a COVID scare, so I had to watch from home as the Lions beat the Packers by what I could’ve sworn was three TDs, but what the Internet tells me was only one. Anyway, I got so high on the resulting hopium fumes that I’m somehow now convinced we have an outside shot at the third wild card and a summary execution in the first round.

Deidra:

Jim Caldwell got fired and he got replaced by a Wooly Willy for reasons that I still can’t fathom or accept.

Kiah:

The last time these dipshits won a championship, Nancy Pelosi was still in high school.

Ty:

They just came off a 3-13-1 year, have $31M man Jared Goff under center, traded up to draft a WR that won’t play more than eight games this season, and have a new OC. And this is the most hyped Lions season since 2012, the season after their first playoff appearance in 12 years. They ended that year 4-12.

Bradley:

Dan Campbell is still destined to the fate of nearly all Lions coaches that preceded him:

1. His teams will be ass

2. He will get a vote of confidence and/or contract extension

3. He will be fired

4. And just like every Lions head coach since 1964, he will never be a HC in the NFL ever again.

The new Principal Owner, Sheila Ford Hamp, is the latest in the Ford Dynasty to inherit the franchise without ever having a real job.

Todd:

I grew up in Michigan so my Lions fandom was inflicted on me by growing up there, but I live on the East Coast now. While waiting to pick my son up from kindergarten one day I noticed one of the other dads was wearing flip flops with the Lions logo on it. I asked how he came to be a Lions fan: did he or his parents grow up in Michigan? 

“Nope, born and raised here,” he replied.

“So how did you become a Lions fan then, with much better choices out here?”

I did not expect his reply. “I was a kid when they lost all their games and went 0-16. I started following them after that.”

Needless to say, I don’t trust this guy’s judgment and will refrain from having conversations with him at all costs. 

Doug:

The first NFL season I was old enough to remember is the 1991 season. The Lions made the NFC Championship Game. Six-year-old me just assumed that winning a lot of games and almost making the Super Bowl would be a semi-regular thing. Fast forward 31 years and I’m 100% convinced the Lions won’t even win a four-team division before I die.

The late Gary Moeller is the second-best coach we’ve had in the last thirty years.

Enrique:

As recent immigrants to Michigan in the late 80s, we gravitated towards all things USA, like football. Including the Lions. Little did I know that our 1991 playoff run would be our last one in my lifetime. I am 45 now. I should have moved to Windsor.

Josh:

Matt Stafford’s fat smug face on AT&T commercials makes me want to hurl. He can drown in a bucket of vaccines.

Tom:

My first memory of the Detroit Lions is Reggie Rogers killing three teenagers while he was driving intoxicated. One of the kids was the son of my dad’s good friend. He was the first “cool old kid” I knew when I was a little boy. The two other teens in the car with him were his cousins in town for a family funeral.

My most recent memory of the Lions is sitting in my little sister’s hospital room this past fall. It was a few days after she had brain surgery to remove a growth on her frontal lobe. After her surgery, she didn’t recognize anybody, and would only remember her family and friends through asking us questions and slowly piecing things together. She still didn’t recognize anything, it was more that things seemed vaguely familiar. The only reason she would sit and chat with me is that I seemed like a nice enough fellow, I sort of looked like her, I wore my university badge—same as the hospital she was in—and she recognized my last name as her maiden name.

During one of our chats, her neighbor on the other side of the curtain was watching the Lions lose to the Rams. My sister was still out of it, and things like tv were too much to process and she complained to me that the sound was hurting her head. She must have caught a stray bit of the announcers on tv saying the Lions were losing because she said, “Sounds like the Lions are losing. They always lose, right? That’s their thing. I remember that.”

My sister didn’t even recognize pictures of her son and husband and gave me a side eye every time I entered her room until I would show her my work ID with a picture of me and a last name that seemed familiar to her. But she knew deep down in the darkest reaches of her fractured memories that the Detroit Lions stink.

She eventually got her memories back and is currently doing much better! Oh, blah blah blah, Barry Sanders and Calvin Johnson, etc etc….

Chris:

September 12, 2010. The first Sunday of a new NFL season.

My grandfather (“Pa,” as we called him), had been living with Parkinson’s Disease for a decade, and the end was near. So, a dozen members of my family–aunts, uncles, cousins–had traveled from various points across the Midwest to my grandparents’ house in central Michigan to say their goodbyes. But as anyone who has lost a loved one to degenerative illness understands, the family had been saying its goodbyes for a long time. Watching Pa’s slow transformation into a living memory had been an agonizing experience–for his grandkids, definitely for his children, but especially for my grandma (“Na”), who’d spent every day of the last 10 years caring for him as he declined.

My grandparents met while serving in World War II. Pa’s leg had been blown off by a landmine, and Na was his nurse during recovery. They fell in love, got married, and had kids. And now, 65 years later, here she was taking care of him once again, their relationship coming full circle. In a sentimental, writery sort of way, it was a fitting and poignant end to their love story. But Na was not a writer, she was a nurse, and in a real-life, human sort of way, the previous decade had taken an enormous fucking toll on her. For that reason, amidst the sadness of the day, there was also a sense of imminent relief.

And for the Lions, there was hope. Matthew Stafford was entering his second season. His rookie year (particularly the now-infamous mic’d up Browns game) had done enough to convince us he was the Quarterback Who Was Promised. The Lions had just drafted Ndamukong Suh; Calvin Johnson was Calvin Johnson; Jim Schwartz would tweet about listening to Iron Maiden on the way to games. 24-year-old me could not have been more in on a Lions team.

Pa was a Lions fan of the Greatest Generation, and like many men his age, his fandom was anchored in two steadfast principles: an undying love for Bobby Layne and an undying hatred of the Chicago Bears. How appropriate, then, that the family’s final game with Pa could be this one–the birth of a new era of Lions football, announced through the destruction of the franchise he loathed. What a way to go.

And for a while, we actually believed things would work out that way. The Lions came out swinging. After a second early touchdown put them up 14-3, my oldest brother walked across the living room to Pa’s bedside to tell him the good news: not only were the Lions beating the Bears on opening day, they were doing so behind a quarterback from Bobby Layne’s high school! My brother swears to this day that when he delivered the message, Pa’s eyes lit up with the faintest glimmer of recognition–even happiness. I choose to believe him. Here, at the end of this interminable march to death, was a brief moment of joy. 

But Lions fans are rarely afforded that privilege.

The Bears scored a 79-yard touchdown on the next play from scrimmage. Just before the half, Stafford took a hit from Julius Peppers and stayed down on the grass, holding his shoulder. Shaun Hill closed out the first half, and when he started the second, the pit in our stomachs widened into an abyss. Late in the fourth quarter, the Bears scored a touchdown to take the lead.

Lions fans all know what happened next. Calvin Johnson, walking demigod that he was, tried to save us. But as the referees kept debating his game-winning catch, as more time passed without confirmation of the touchdown, we all knew where things were headed.

When the catch was finally overturned, everyone reacted in their own way–the younger generation with rage and profanity, the older generation with chuckling disbelief. But if anyone had taken a moment to look over at Pa in his bed, I like to imagine they would have seen a second glimmer of recognition in his eyes: an exhausted disappointment as this goddamned team let him down one final time.

He died the next day. My brothers and I still watch every Sunday.

Submissions for the Defector NFL previews are closed. Next up: Houston Texans.