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Lions’ 0-16 season may all be worth it

Detroit Lions vs Chicago Bears - September 17, 2006 Getty Images

Three years after the Lions experienced the only 0-16 season in NFL history, they’re in the playoffs. And looking back at it, maybe that winless season was just what the franchise needed.

Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press has a rundown of the ways that terrible year laid the foundation for the Lions’ 2011 success, including:

1. The terrible start to that season was what finally convinced Lions owner William Clay Ford to fire team President Matt Millen and replace him with G.M. Martin Mayhew.

2. At the end of the 0-16 season the Lions fired head coach Rod Marinelli and replaced him with Jim Schwartz.

3. The Lions used the first overall pick in the 2009 NFL draft on quarterback Matthew Stafford. (Funny to remember now that a lot of people thought the safest pick for the Lions would have been linebacker Aaron Curry, whom the Seahawks selected fourth overall and who was traded to the Raiders for a seventh-round pick this season.)

So, in hindsight, the worst season in NFL history might have been what the Lions had to experience before they could turn things around. Just don’t expect Detroit fans to thank Millen any time soon.

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62 Responses to “Lions’ 0-16 season may all be worth it”
  1. joetoronto says: Dec 26, 2011 11:40 AM

    Good for Motown, they deserve it.

    Getting Aaron Curry for a 7th round pick was a steal for the Raiders, thanks Pete. :)

  2. rambo08 says: Dec 26, 2011 11:41 AM

    It’s amazing to see just how inept Matt Millen really was. Hope the Lions can make some noise in the playoffs!

  3. gmen1987 says: Dec 26, 2011 11:47 AM

    I remember those fans and those in the sports media who insisted they knew more than the pros and wanted Curry or the Future Hall of Famer OT Jason Smith.

  4. ramofsteel says: Dec 26, 2011 11:51 AM

    They were really lucky that Jerry Jones gave them a 1st and 3rd round draft picks for Roy freakin Williams…lol. Used for Pettigrew and Derrick Williams.

    Also were really lucky that a blind squirrel (Millen) found a nut (Megatron).

  5. paulieorkid says: Dec 26, 2011 11:53 AM

    As perverse as it sounds, I completely agree with this post. Some times you need to go 3 steps back to go 10 steps forward.

    Though the Bolts aren’t my team, the Chargers are currently in a somewhat analogous situation. Norville Turner took over a 14-2 team that was flat out loaded, and has sapped its strength every year with blunder after blunder, but hasn’t “done enough” to get him crapcanned.

    It would have been wayyyy better in San Diego for Turner to have gone 3-13 in his first year on the job and gotten the boot – than to gradually bleed the team to death like he has year after year after year (kind of like how Millen did for the Lions before the 0-16 blessing in disguise).

    So if I’m Charger fan, I’m actually pleased they got destroyed by Detroit in a must game — if for nothing else, to get Norv projectile-vomited out of here, like he was after piloting abysmal stints in Washington and Oakland.

    It’s not all on Norv, and A.J. has been atrocious too for several years — but how many times must Norv fail miserably over protracted periods of time in multiple settings — for it to finally sink in that he’s NOT the man for the job?

    To NFL fan of any NFL team, how would you feel if tomorrow’s headline read “Norv Turner signs 10 year contact to coach ?

    Suicide hotlines would run amok.

  6. trbowman says: Dec 26, 2011 11:55 AM

    No, going down in infamy as one of the worst teams ever is not a good thing.

  7. gmen1987 says: Dec 26, 2011 11:57 AM

    I can see 3 years from now that the Headlines of PFT.com will be “Colts question the wisdom of winning their last three games in 2011.” “Andew Luck made the Pro Bowl two times in his first 3 NFL seasons. Peyton Manning failed to recover suffuciently from his neck surgeries to play another NFL snap and retired. Meanwhile the Colts just win enough games to fail to secure another franchise QB besides Luck. Was it all worth it in 2011? Your team reeks of suckage whether you win 1 or 3 games.”

  8. packersareandwillalwaysbebetterthanthebears says: Dec 26, 2011 11:58 AM

    Matt Millen.. what a great general manager he was. He sure could evaluate receiver talent.

    And now, he makes an even better commentator.

  9. test2402 says: Dec 26, 2011 12:03 PM

    All the lions need is Tim Tebow.

  10. richc111 says: Dec 26, 2011 12:04 PM

    You know how these egomaniacs are I can guarantee you Millen is sitting somewhere taking credit for what is happening to the point where he is saying that the Lions shouldn’t have let him go because his plan was just starting to come together.

  11. richc111 says: Dec 26, 2011 12:05 PM

    oh “Lions’ 0-16 season may all be worth it” I am not sure if going though what Detroit did I would call worth it. They will have to do a lot more than just make the playoffs once.

  12. mantastic54 says: Dec 26, 2011 12:07 PM

    You can’t just isolate the 0-16 season, they had seven sub .500 seasons in a row before the winless season. It shouldn’t take ten years to rebuild a franchise

  13. cornernum23 says: Dec 26, 2011 12:15 PM

    Nope, no time soon…

  14. dolfan2001 says: Dec 26, 2011 12:24 PM

    Good for the Lions they deserve it! In my opinion they shouldnt let Matt Millen anywhere a close a football field ever again!

  15. trucker2020 says: Dec 26, 2011 12:36 PM

    It’s obvious that the fans are sold on the Lions.I think part of that mindset comes from all those losing seasons.Even though they are already one of ‘America’s team, I’m not sold on them.Stafford is about the 7th best QB in the NFL & Johnson has to be considered 1 of the top 5WR’s.They have no running game;Even when Best was playing their running game wasn’t that great.
    Detroit will be eliminated in the first round & spend the offseason blaming each other for it.

  16. mondzy805 says: Dec 26, 2011 12:37 PM

    Matt is getting nothing from Detroit fans. Ever. These people didn’t want Matt to get his TV gig back, since he was so awful at running the team in Detroit. Lmao. Stick to TV, Matt.

  17. 6ball says: Dec 26, 2011 12:41 PM

    .

    Hopefully, Lions fans got gift certificates for xmas. Redeemable at the offensive line store.

    .

  18. darthhitman77 says: Dec 26, 2011 12:41 PM

    You’re right, we do need to make it more than once and that is the goal. Mayhew’s plan involves more than one Super Bowl long term. While one playoff birth doesn’t take away from 0-16 and the Millen years let me ask you, “Did YOU see us with 10 wins and playing in the post season just 3 years after an 0-16 campaign?” DIDN’T THINK SO!!! Fact is, I really don’t want another 0-16 team, no fan base [other than Chicago perhaps] deserves that. At the same time, being the only 0-16 team in history, should we win a Lombardi this year, next year, 5 years from now, that win will mean more to us than almost anybody.

    WHO has gone 0-16 to raise the Lombardi after? Disrespect us all you want richc111, fact is those who hate us always will. truth is, we didn’t back into anything here. We trounced a San Diego team that was hotter coming in than any other team in the league [save NOLA] and man handled them. Denver lost, their playoff hopes were still alive and they had EVERYTHING to play for.

    Stafford is only 23 years old and he is posting ELITE numbers. he’s played every game this season SO, what will be your knock on him next year? He’s done what he has this year without his 1st AND 2nd string RB, we had to pick up a guy that was home sitting on the couch.

    Should we be 1 and done is that horrible? We were 0-16 THREE years ago and now have 10 and are playing in January. Most people were talking we were 2-3 years away from the playoffs and the ONLY people that disagreed were the Lions players/coaches and the Lions fans. We might be 1st round exists, we might not be but one thing that we are for certain is in the top 12 teams of the league and there will be TWENTY teams watching US at home this January.

    To the outside fan bases that have congratulated the Lions and fans I say thank you, and it is nice to be respected among your peers after so long. There is a difference between disrespecting when none is deserved and simply hating to hate

  19. packrulzm says: Dec 26, 2011 12:44 PM

    Oh please! Cripes, the Lions picked in the top ten for what, 10 years? Now, we’re all supposed to amazed at their turnaround? Child please!

  20. laeaglefan says: Dec 26, 2011 12:45 PM

    “All the lions need is Tim Tebow”

    Not so much talk about Tebow now that the Broncos have lost the last two games. I think the novelty of “Tebowmania” is over.

  21. phreakin says: Dec 26, 2011 12:52 PM

    I have a buddy who’s been a life long Lions fan. He’s endured years of us ripping on him for his team’s inept front office. Now he has the last laugh. The Lions have young studs on both sides of the ball and appear to be set for quite a few years and will only get better. If they can get a stud CB they’d have a chance to have the big 3 on both sides of the ball for a LONG time.

  22. 1captain1 says: Dec 26, 2011 12:53 PM

    Matt Millen drafting Megatron was completely bone-headed…

    oh wait a minute…

  23. fearthevikes says: Dec 26, 2011 12:54 PM

    Okay, clowns, time for a little education. The Lions? Ha-ha-ha-ha, what a dirty, classless, overrated bunch of under-achievers, beat the weak teams, lost to the strong ones. For crissakes, the Lions lost to the overrated, pathetic Packers on Thanksgiving day. My grandma could beat the Packers. I can’t believe Pittsburgh lost to them, Pittsburgh was so superior, superior QB superior defense, how did that happen? Lions, Packers, dont make no difference, either one would be crushed by san fran or N.O.

  24. steelersteven says: Dec 26, 2011 12:57 PM

    The fact that the NFL system is designed to make bad teams better confirms that the Lions don’t know much about football. Like the 49ers and other teams it has taken them a long time to improve. Should they be admired for that? Or should you admire teams that are consistently good, such as the Steelers, Patriots, etc? You should be good after ten years of having a top ten or top five pick.

  25. cardmagnet says: Dec 26, 2011 1:05 PM

    They can thank the Cowboys for the turnaround for giving them the world for Roy Williams.

  26. foosballisthedevil says: Dec 26, 2011 1:09 PM

    If and when the coach and key players can keep from committing stupid fouls they may go deep into the playoffs in the future.

    As for Millen, if you google “Ford mistakes worse than the Edsel” he’s number 1. And an even worse analyst/broadcaster

  27. malekmj says: Dec 26, 2011 1:12 PM

    I am going to continue to beat this horse dead but how in the world is MATTHEW STAFFORD not getting major pub. I understand Rodgers, Brady, and Breeze deserve their praise. And I understand Cam Newton is a phenom. But this kid just had the best season of any 23 year old qb in NFL history other than Marino. Seriously. If not for a broken finger he would be going for 5000 yards and 40td’s in the last game. And he is 23. And this is his FIRST full season. Its crazy he isn’t getting his due. I guess it will serve as motivation in the playoffs and hopefully some teams will continue to underestimate him.

    Be honest fans. If you aren’t rooting for the Packers, Patriots, Panters, or Saints you would trade your guy for Stafford in a heartbeat. If you don’t admit that you are just lying to yourself.

  28. calvinsjohnson says: Dec 26, 2011 1:13 PM

    “You can’t just isolate the 0-16 season, they had seven sub .500 seasons in a row before the winless season. It shouldn’t take ten years to rebuild a franchise.”

    ———————-

    It didn’t take 10 years. It only took 3. Also, I wouldnt call it a ‘rebuild’ so much as a ‘build’.

    God bless Mayhew!

  29. tyso4 says: Dec 26, 2011 1:14 PM

    It is amazing to think that the same staff ( minus millian and a few scouts) are still here…. amazing that millian had all that resource available and refused to use it.

  30. bigtganks says: Dec 26, 2011 1:15 PM

    As a Raider fan (a rational one), I’m still disgusted Al Davis went against everyone (namely Coach Kiffin) who told him they wanted Calvin Johnson, but the “great mastermind who was such a sharp football mind” took Jamarcus Russell all because he could throw 70 yards sitting down.

    UGH! Can you imagine if Megatron was on the Raiders?!

  31. ramal1dw says: Dec 26, 2011 1:20 PM

    I’m happy with where we are, but it sure would have been nice to be like every other franchise and not go 0-16 before ownership moved to make serious changes. This season does not abdicate William Clay Ford of decades of awful, inept ownership. It just means we can start to pretend he cares again.

  32. justwinbaby29 says: Dec 26, 2011 1:23 PM

    It’s hard to for any fan, in any sport, on any level to admit it but sometimes you win in the long run by losing in the short term. Don’t be stuck in no man’s land.

  33. backindasaddle says: Dec 26, 2011 1:43 PM

    I just can’t understand how Matt Millen continues to turn total blithering incompetence in to big paychecks.

  34. huskersrock1 says: Dec 26, 2011 1:47 PM

    “Be honest fans. If you aren’t rooting for the Packers, Patriots, Panters, or Saints you would trade your guy for Stafford in a heartbeat. If you don’t admit that you are just lying to yourself”

    You can’t be serious. True Stafford is having a great year, however don’t forget glass joe has been knocked out of the season early the last two years. That is like saying I would trade Ken Obrien for Dan Marino.

  35. wtfpft says: Dec 26, 2011 2:10 PM

    Yeah keep telling yourself that Detroit, but 0-16 will never be forgotten

  36. asublimeday says: Dec 26, 2011 2:14 PM

    Detroit still sucks.

  37. bjbroderick says: Dec 26, 2011 2:17 PM

    To everyone jabberjawing about the Lions picking in the top ten every year, and how it shouldn’t have taken this long to be respectable…

    Picture if your team were in that position. Except instead of a competent GM or head coach turning in the draft slips, it was being run by your 101 year old grandmother from deep in the Ukraine. You’d suck too.

    These people will never understand how badly Millen jacked this franchise up. They are the same people who told us to relax when espn, nfl network and college football were falling all over themselves to give him an analyst job. His analysis put the franchise in the dark ages for 10 years.

    So now with Meyhew running the football operations, we are making smart draft pics, and nice trades. And 3 years later we are in the playoffs. So you can keep those comments about drafting in the top ten in your mouth. They aren’t relevant.

  38. achamarro1 says: Dec 26, 2011 2:25 PM

    People don’t understand matt millennium sucked the life out pf Detroit fans. Only good thing he did was draft Calvin..and that was a blatantly obvious pick…well for most sorry raider nation. And matt glassford has proved he can get pounded and get up…bad luck struck twice with him . Also we will be a better team next year regardless of the draft only because our everydown back will be healthy and hopefully plays like he should.leshoure is who I am talking about not best he is a 3rd down back and a option reciever out of the backfield. The next 10year years should be quite the opposite of the last decade. Hate all you want chitown but Cutler is a b!tech and a baby. You will be third class in the nfc

  39. oimakkamio says: Dec 26, 2011 2:30 PM

    How pathetic was Matt Millen, after drafting Charles Rodgers, Roy Williams, and Mike Williams, Matt was going to pass on Calvin Johnson. It was Mike Martz who begged and pleaded with Millen to take Megatron, otherwise he’d probably be a Raider.

  40. malekmj says: Dec 26, 2011 2:57 PM

    huskersrock1 says: Dec 26, 2011 1:47 PM

    “Be honest fans. If you aren’t rooting for the Packers, Patriots, Panters, or Saints you would trade your guy for Stafford in a heartbeat. If you don’t admit that you are just lying to yourself”

    You can’t be serious. True Stafford is having a great year, however don’t forget glass joe has been knocked out of the season early the last two years. That is like saying I would trade Ken Obrien for Dan Marino.
    ———————————————————-

    Interesting Mr. Husker that you didn’t mention a QB other than the 4 I mentioned that you WOULDN’T trade for Stafford. Very interesting.

    And FYI, Stafford has proven he is durable this year. Have you seen the hits he has taken? His Shoulder injury was clearly a freak accident and his first year he was 21 years old and not physically ready yet. He is good to go now. Would you rather have Matt Shaub or Jay Cutler? They are way more injury prone. Stafford will play unless he simply can’t get on the field. No chance he would have came out of the game like Cutler did last year. Did you see his game against Cleveland as a rookie?

    And I was a skeptic of taking Stafford and very open and honest about my teams flaws. I bet you are the guy that always sees it the way that makes your team look best. Who is your team again?

  41. themackstrong says: Dec 26, 2011 2:58 PM

    joetoronto says: Dec 26, 2011 11:40 AM

    Good for Motown, they deserve it.

    Getting Aaron Curry for a 7th round pick was a steal for the Raiders, thanks Pete. :)
    …………………………………………………………….

    I guess 0 sacks get it cut as a outside linebacker in Oakland. Enjoy him getting touched in the pass game. We have rookie KJ Wright who is twice the player drafted in later rounds. PC ain’t crying about Curry.

  42. nuclearwarfare says: Dec 26, 2011 3:03 PM

    “Be honest fans. If you aren’t rooting for the Packers, Patriots, Panters, or Saints you would trade your guy for Stafford in a heartbeat. If you don’t admit that you are just lying to yourself.”

    Are the Panters an expansion team? Who is their QB? Pam Newman?

  43. chetwynnr says: Dec 26, 2011 3:04 PM

    The last 10 years have been just the last decade of the five decade Ford ownership period. Lions fans have been down this road 4 times already! Out of 17 former Lions head coaches none have gone on to succeed as HC anywhere else in the pros. None!

  44. raider23mike says: Dec 26, 2011 3:21 PM

    Aaron Curry has been playing lights out for the Raiders.. Never saw much of him in Seattle but with Oakland the dude is all over the field making plays and hard hits.. Maybe he just needed a change and talent around him so the pressure wouldn’t all be on him to play like D.Ware..

  45. zenofobe says: Dec 26, 2011 3:21 PM

    asublimeday says:
    Dec 26, 2011 2:14 PM
    Detroit still sucks.

    Hmmm…I detect a Bears fan. Let’s see… Martz, Marinelli, Roy Williams… seems like a lot of Detroit’s suckage ended up employed in Chicago…

    Man, that’s rough. You have my condolences to go with your sour grapes.

  46. musicman495 says: Dec 26, 2011 3:22 PM

    Detroit will be eliminated in the first round & spend the offseason blaming each other for it.
    —————————————-
    You mean to tell me they cannot possibly beat either the Cowboys or the Giants? Baloney. No, once they are eliminated, they will look back on a season of learning about maturity and progress, and prepare to get better in the draft and free agency. Watch out NFC North.

  47. eplions0143 says: Dec 26, 2011 3:35 PM

    Once the Lions put somebody in the front office who actually had a solid plan, things began to change. Any franchise would have been horrible with Millen running it.
    Long time fan, just happy they are moving the right direction.

  48. yevrag3535 says: Dec 26, 2011 3:57 PM

    Aholes, losing is never worth it. Stop trying to make something out of nothing. They are better now. But still are not that good. Next year they will take a big step back. They always do.

  49. yevrag3535 says: Dec 26, 2011 3:59 PM

    Millen is an ass.

  50. dragonfly99 says: Dec 26, 2011 4:09 PM

    Even before the 0-16 season, the Lions had many losing seasons prior to that. 0-16 will live in infamy, and Matt Millen is probably the worst GM ever. I can’t believe the NFL Network was stupid enough to hire him.

  51. commandercornpone says: Dec 26, 2011 4:25 PM

    mayhew hasnt hit on all cylinders but… one thing he needed to do was listen to the lions’ scouts.

    millen never would.

    now , i dont think people can blame millen for all the iffy and bad picks the lions made. fragile pothead charles rogers is a pick that just screams “old man ford chose him”. pretty sure on joey also, altho with just a little more coaching, he wouldnt have ended up out of the league that fast.

    speaking from north of daytwa… just stay tuned. if schwartz gets a lot more wins under his belt, he will be a threat to the org. the lions’ ideal team is one that wins between 7-9 games a year, makes the playoffs occasionally, but never really gets it going all the way. got to remember who is in charge, and it isnt the coach or players. or gm.

  52. Fantasy Football Legend says: Dec 26, 2011 4:27 PM

    I love Stafford and I love that he is doing so much better then Sanchez after everyone said Sanchez was the better QB.

  53. rkolenda says: Dec 26, 2011 4:32 PM

    To all the lions haters out here. No matter what happens, The lions are good and will be even better for years to come. DEAL WITH IT!

  54. rkolenda says: Dec 26, 2011 4:46 PM

    @commandercornpone
    Have some more egg nog.
    Happy holidays

  55. jdog21b says: Dec 26, 2011 6:03 PM

    For all of you geniuses stating “with all those top 10 picks they should be good durrr”

    … How many of those top 10 picks are still with the Lions from the Millen era? One.. Calvin Johnson. Stafford and Suh are the only other Top 10 picks on the team. Fairley was not top 10 and Gosder Cherilus was also not top 10. Harrington, Rogers, Roy Williams, Mike Williams and Ernie Sims are all gone.

    Therefore, your statements are not very thought out and pretty illogical when you actually look at the big picture and stop trying to come up with clever responses that actually make 0 sense..

  56. wardawg42 says: Dec 26, 2011 7:11 PM

    Matt Millen is a bum. It sickens me that I have to watch his stupid face on TV all the time. Who cares what he thinks. Word to the wise do the opposite of what Matt Millen says!

  57. yatista says: Dec 26, 2011 8:30 PM

    Next year in the NFC North, it’s gonna be fun! Packers with still be the Packers, Lions even better than this year, Bears coming back. Once again 2 playoff teams from the NFCN. Sorry, Vikings, you have a ways to go to be competitive again.

  58. gmen1987 says: Dec 26, 2011 9:48 PM

    commandercornpone says: Dec 26, 2011 4:25 PM

    mayhew hasnt hit on all cylinders but… one thing he needed to do was listen to the lions’ scouts.

    millen never would.

    now , i dont think people can blame millen for all the iffy and bad picks the lions made. fragile pothead charles rogers is a pick that just screams “old man ford chose him”. pretty sure on joey also, altho with just a little more coaching, he wouldnt have ended up out of the league that fast.

    speaking from north of daytwa… just stay tuned. if schwartz gets a lot more wins under his belt, he will be a threat to the org. the lions’ ideal team is one that wins between 7-9 games a year, makes the playoffs occasionally, but never really gets it going all the way. got to remember who is in charge, and it isnt the coach or players. or gm.

    ==================================
    Huh, please put down the crackpipe before you type.

  59. gmen1987 says: Dec 26, 2011 9:55 PM

    oimakkamio says: Dec 26, 2011 2:30 PM

    How pathetic was Matt Millen, after drafting Charles Rodgers, Roy Williams, and Mike Williams, Matt was going to pass on Calvin Johnson. It was Mike Martz who begged and pleaded with Millen to take Megatron, otherwise he’d probably be a Raider.
    ======================================
    Goobs,

    The Raidahs could have had Megatron instead of Detroit. The Raidahs picked 1st overall that year and picked JeMarcus (Dinner Plate) Russell over Megatron. If Senile Al wasn’t running the team, then Megatron would have been a Raidah.

  60. dewalt2990 says: Dec 26, 2011 10:30 PM

    Dont Draft Staff-ford…….Dont Draft Staff-ford….remember that?

  61. jimmylions says: Dec 27, 2011 2:24 PM

    Leave it to MDS to use the Lions making the playoffs as an opportunity to take a shot at Lions fans who (reasonably) felt we needed to make fixing the defense a priority after Matt Millen destroyed it.

    Millen got fired by Ford Sr. when Bill Ford Jr. said to the media that if he were in his dad’s position, he’d fire Millen. That’s what really did it.

    The idea that going 0-16 helped the Lions more than having intelligent people running the show is idiotic. The reason we are a playoff team is that Martin Mayhew and Jim Schwartz have done a great job. They took one of the worst defenses in the NFL and made it better through smart drafting and even smarter free agency moves.

    Again – leave it to MDS to refuse to give credit for success to the people who did the work to make the team better, and instead try to give it to the idiot who made the Lions one of the worst teams in NFL history.

  62. tommytd says: Dec 27, 2011 3:35 PM

    Maybe the Bad News Bears could work towards 0 – 16 next year. Wouldn’t matter though because the genius that is Jerry Angelo would end up blowing the first pick anyway.

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