We haven’t seen the Detroit Lions win a playoff game since most readers have been alive. We know all the great things going on for the Lions this playoff-winning season—Dan Campbell, Jared Goff’s revenge tour, Sam La Porta, Aidan Hutchinson, the sun god Aman-Ra St. Brown, etc.—but what about 1991? What was going on the last time they won a playoff game?
Get In The Time Machine
It’s time to go back to the future and check out 1991. If you wear male clothes, you’re probably rocking a flannel shirt, a bomber jacket, and alarmingly baggy pants. If you’re wearing female clothes, you likely have on huge overalls, possibly with a flannel, or a plaid skirt with a crop top.
Look around you: George Bush’s dad is president, the first website ever was created, and the best cartoons ever are playing on Nickelodeon (do not miss them!).
Female serial killer, Aileen Wuornos, confessed to her murders this year. The Gulf War also ended. The video of Rodney King being beaten by the police was released, and the police officers were indicted (side note: they would not be held accountable in 1992). Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall retires, Jaycee Lee Dugard is kidnapped (for 18 years), serial killer Jeffrey Dahmer is arrested, and the Soviet Union fell.
The world is on fire, in other words.
The team is just about to enter the post-season (where they will win the divisional round and enter the NFC Championship where they lose). How are things going on in the Detroit Lions locker room?
The grandson of Henry Ford, William Clay Ford Sr., owns the Lions, and Chuck Schmidt is GM. Head coach Wayne Fontes is about halfway through his career as head coach for the Detroit Lions. This was the only team he was a head coach for. Fontes has both the most wins (67) and losses (71) in team franchise history. Coach Fontes was known for nicknames like “Big Buck” and “Rasputin” due to being able to narrowly avoid being fired basically every season.
In Pontiac, Michigan, the Detroit Lions play at the now-demolished Pontiac Silverdome; they’ve been there since 1975. It was the largest stadium in the NFL until the FedEx Field in 2000 (one year before the Lions moved on from the Silverdome). The Pontiac Dome was the first major athletic facility that utilized the new, at the time, terrifying 1970 infrastructure technology. The fiberglass fabric roof was held up by air pressure. Terrifying.
The team’s record was 12-4 in 1991. There were five pro-bowlers and five All-Pros on the Detroit Lions roster (of which many overlap), which include: Barry Sanders, Lomas Brown, Chris Spielman, Bennie Blades, Mel Gray, and Jerry Ball.
1991 didn’t have a true starting quarterback. Erik Kramer and Andre Ware started, with Chuck Long occasionally playing. With the exception of Long, who had a disappointing career for mostly just the Lions, the other QBs were mostly travelers who spent time on many different teams and in the CFL as well.
The season was described as “odd” by some and “inconsistent'” by others. The Detroit Lions were plagued by injuries (Mike Utley was paralyzed on the field this season). Ultimately, it seemed as though the Kramer and Sanders relationship allowed them to create magic together. Herman Moore was drafted in 1991, but he was a rookie, so his career hadn’t had a chance to take off yet.
Some fascinating records of the time? The Detroit Lions wouldn’t sweep the Green Bay Packers after 1991 until 2017, and they wouldn’t win in Lambeau Field until 2015. This was the first year the team won a playoff game since 1957, and it would be the last time until 2023.
Booyah! We are building a critical franchise legacy in 2023. And the Detroit Lions are da bomb this year, appearing to be better off than in 1991 as a whole. Don’t agree with me? Talk to the hand! (The ancient slang from back in my day in this paragraph can be seen or explained here). Eat my shorts, home skillet—y’all going down San Francisco 49ers.
Want to catch other semi-historical articles? (I’m not that old!) Catch more here.