The Detroit Lions may be the worst franchise in NFL history. They’ve existed since 1930, but they never made it to a Super Bowl. Not only that, but they have just one playoff win in the Super Bowl era. That is not a good track record for a team that’s been in the league for so long.
The Lions’ failures are so bad that fans want the owner, Martha Firestone Ford, to sell the franchise. They don’t think she cares about the team.
The Detroit Lions’ futility
The Lions have a history of futility that goes beyond their lack of success in the postseason. They hold the dubious distinction of being the first team in NFL history to have an 0-16 regular season, doing so in 2008.
It was three games into that season that the team fired general manager Matt Millen. He’d spent more than seven seasons in the role, with the team never finishing better than third place in the division.
The Lions had high draft picks during most of Millen’s tenure, which they used on busts like Joey Harrington, passing on future Hall of Famers like Andre Johnson and Ben Roethlisberger. Then there’s the lack of playoff victories. The Lions have gone more than 10,000 days since their last playoff victory — back in 1992.
Lions stars retire in their prime
One possible sign of a poorly run franchise is when star players retire while in their prime, rather than continuing to play for the team. This was the case with Hall of Fame RB Barry Sanders, who abruptly called it quits prior to the 1999 season, at the age of just 31.
At the time, many fans speculated that he chose to leave the game due to then-head coach Bobby Ross, who was known as a disciplinarian. Months before Sanders’ retirement, his father was critical of Ross as well as Sylvester Croom, the Lions’ offensive coordinator.
Sanders isn’t the only Lions star to retire in his prime. More recently, wide receiver Calvin Johnson did the same. He called it a career after the 2015 season when he was just 30 and had played only nine years in the NFL.
Detroit Lions fans have had enough
It appears that supporters have had enough of the Lions’ lack of success. Fans aren’t showing up to the games. Through Week 15, the Lions rank 26th in average attendance, with 61,128 fans per game. That is a drop of more than 1,600 from last year’s attendance, which ranked 24th in the NFL.
It’s an even bigger drop from the 64,137 fans the Lions averaged in 2017. But the fans who are still showing up to games are vocal about their displeasure.
During a recent home game against the Buccaneers — which the Lions lost, 38-17 — several fans were seen wearing paper bags over their faces, something fans traditionally use to express their embarrassment. Some fans directly aimed at Ford.
As Fox broadcasted the game, the network’s cameras caught a shot of fans holding up a large banner saying, “SELL THE TEAM” next to Ford’s face. Fans shouldn’t expect Ford to sell any time soon, though, as the Lions have been in the Ford family since 1963. Martha took over as the primary owner following the 2014 death of her husband William Clay Ford.