Which is worse: not making the NFL playoffs, or making the playoffs and losing right away? Consider the plights of the Buffalo Bills and Detroit Lions. The Bills haven’t seen the postseason since 1999, the longest current drought in the four major professional sports. Even the Mariners, who haven’t appeared in a playoff game since 2001, put the Bills to shame – sort of.
Then you have the Lions. They’ve been in the playoffs seven times since 1993 but are 0-7 in those games. Tack on a 41-10 loss to the Washington Redskins in the 1991 NFC title game, and Detroit has dropped its last eight playoff games.
That makes Jan. 5, 1992 an historic day for Lions fans – the last time they won in the postseason, a 38-6 victory in the long-discarded Silverdome over Troy Aikman, Emmitt Smith and the Dallas Cowboys. Star of that banner afternoon in the Motor City: 26-year-old QB Erik Kramer, a Canadian Football League castoff making his 10th career NFL start, who fired three touchdown passes.
Kramer’s career moment occurred 24 years, 11 months and 30 days ago. Parsing it further: 9,131 days, or 1,304 weeks, or 299 months have elapsed since the Lions last doused a head coach — in this case, Wayne Fontes — with a playoff-win Gatorade shower.
Since then, the Lions have employed seven head coaches: Bobby Ross, Marty Mornhinweg, Steve Mariucci, Dick Jauron, Rod Marinelli, Jim Schwartz and Jim Caldwell.
They’ve also used 11 starting quarterbacks, including Kramer, Rodney Peete, Scott Mitchell, Charlie Batch, Gus Frerotte, Joey Harrington, Dan Orlovsky, Shaun Hill and Matthew Stafford. That’s only nine. The other two were former Seahawks, Dave Krieg (1994) and Jon Kitna (2006-07).
Twenty-four years, 11 months and 30 days ago, George H.W. Bush was president, meaning that four presidents have been elected since Detroit’s last playoff win. At the time of it, the Dow Jones Industrial Average stood at 3,201 (it’s now nearly 20,000), and a gallon of gas cost, on average, $1.05. Also:
- No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100: “Black and White” – Michael Jackson
- Top-grossing movie: Hook (Dustin Hoffman, Robin Williams)
- Top TV sitcom: Roseanne
- Seahawks head coach: Tom Flores
- Mariners manager: Bill Plummer
- Sonics head coach: K.C. Jones
- Not yet known: Web browsers, DNA fingerprinting
- Russell Wilson’s age: Not quite four
Seahawks fans shouldn’t gloat too much. Seattle went from Dec. 22, 1984 (13-7 win over the Raiders) to Jan. 14, 2006 (20-10 over the Redskins) without a playoff win, a span of 21 years and 23 days.
Detroit and Kansas City share the NFL record for most consecutive playoff games lost, and the Lions will own the mark outright if they lose to the Seahawks at CenturyLink Field (5:30 p.m. Saturday, NBC).
|Detroit||1992-15||8||4 NFL titles pre-Super Bowl, nothing since|
|Kansas City||1994-15||8||Snapped skid last Jan. with 30-0 win over Texans|
|Cincinnati||2005-15||7||Last playoff win Jan. 6, 1991 over Houston Oilers|
|N.Y. Giants||1939-50||6||Dec. 11, 1938 to Dec. 30, 1956 without playoff win|
|Cleveland||1971-86||6||Browns haven’t reached postseason since 2003|
|Seattle||1984-06||6||Included defeats in the Kingdome and the Clink|
|L.A. Rams||1952-73||5||Four of the five losses in road games|
|Minnesota||1989-96||5||Hasn’t won 2 playoff games in same year since 1987|
|Indianapolis||1995-02||5||Colts twice (1995, 1996) eliminated by Steelers|
|Dallas||1998-07||5||Streak followed SB wins after ’92, ’93, ’95 seasons|
According to the Detroit Free Press, the Lions have an excellent chance to lose to the Seahawks. This is how one of their columnists put it this week: “The Lions don’t have a consistent running game. They don’t have any momentum after losing three straight. Their offensive line is young and beat up. Their defense has given up 53 points over its last two games.
“And Seattle has won nine straight home playoff games. The Lions have one victory over a team this season with a winning record. Oh, one more thing. (Matthew) Stafford has a finger injury. And if he took off the splint, I fear the tip of his finger would fall off.”
Stafford this season led eight game-winning drives in the fourth quarter or overtime, most by a quarterback in a single season since 1970. But on the other side of the ball, the Lions set an NFL record by allowing opposing quarterbacks to complete 72.7 percent of their passes.
Jim Caldwell, the Lions’ head coach, also coached the 2011 Indianapolis Colts, who held the previous record of 71.2 percent.
That would seem to set up nicely Russell Wilson, who is going to join Baltimore’s Joe Flacco as the only quarterbacks in the Super Bowl era to start a playoff game in each of the first five seasons of a career. If Wilson beats the Lions, he will tie Pittsburgh’s Ben Roethlisberger for the third-most postseason wins – eight – by a starting quarterback in the first five seasons of a career (record is nine by Flacco and Tom Brady).
Although the Seahawks are widely expected to beat the Lions, consider this cautionary number: Detroit and Seattle played four common opponents, the Packers, Rams, Saints and Eagles. The Lions went 3-2 in five games (Packers twice) against those teams, the Seahawks 2-3 (Rams twice).
And don’t forget: Detroit once snapped a far longer playoff drought than 24 years, 11 months and 30 days. When the Lions beat Dallas Jan. 5, 1992, it had been an astounding 35 years, 11 months and 24 days since their previous playoff win, a Dec. 29, 1957 victory over the Cleveland Browns in the NFL Championship.
Which means that 50 Super Bowls have come and gone and the Lions have one playoff win in all that time. If the Seahawks lose Saturday, they will never live it down.