Tonight’s Packers opponent is cursed … by the Curse of Bobby Layne, a streak of unbelievable bad luck since the Lions traded away the NFL Hall of Fame quarterback:
Almost immediately the curse took effect when Lion QB Tobin Rote was injured in practice days after the Bobby Layne trade and the defending champion Lions would finish 4-7 that year. …
If someone or something is truly cursed, no matter what they did, no matter how hard they try, something always keeps them from succeeding. Sometimes this bending of fate leaves behind an almost humorous bi-product that lingers long after the event. We decided to call these “humiliations” (rather than stench). Lets take a look at some of the most memorable ones.
Plum Did Dumb
The Lions had been playing second fiddle to the Packers under Vince Lombardi and vowed to prove that they were superior to the Packers. It appeared that the Lions were on their way to defeating the Packers as they led 7-6 and had the ball at midfield with 1:46 to play. Lion Joe Schmidt instructed QB Milt Plum to continue eating time off the clock by running the ball. However Lion QB Milt Plum would snatch defeat from the jaws of victory when he tried passing the ball. The Lion receiver Terry Barr fell down and the pass was intercepted by Packer Herb Adderly who returned the ball to the Lion 22 yard line. As the Lion defense came onto the field, Alex Karras was in a rage screaming obscenities at Plum. Paul Hornung kicked the game winning field goal with 33 seconds left and the Packers would go on to win the NFL Championship, finishing the season with only 1 loss, that being to the Detroit Lions when they had a rematch on Thanksgiving day. The 1962 Green Bay Packers would be remembered as one of the greatest teams of all time, outscoring opponents 415-148, yet had the Lions not passed the ball that fateful day and ran down the clock, it would have been the Lions playing for the Championship in 62. Joe Schmidt would never forget the pass call, calling it “dumbass” and a “blunder that could never be erased” and legend has it that Alex Karras threw his helmet at Plum after the game, calling him a “pipe smoking jerk”. As a further humiliation to the Lions that day, the water did not work in the visitors locker room and the Detroit players had to be ushered into the jubilant Packer locker room to shower down.
The Lions Hall of Famer and eventual coach Joe Schmidt and several Lion players were fined $2000 by Pete Rozelle for betting $50 on the 1962 championship game between the Green Bay Packers and the New York Giants. How powerful can this curse be to allow the NFL find out about a $50 dollar bet?
Lion Pro Bowler Alex Karras and Green Bay Packer halfback Paul Hornung were suspended indefinitely for gambling. Alex Karras was also told to stay away from a bar called the Lindell Athletic Club (AKA Lindell AC) by Pete Rozelle who charged it was a center for illegal sports betting. In outright defiance, Karras bought shares in the bar and became bartender there during his suspension. One day, ex Green Bay tackle Richard Afflis (AKA Dick the Bruiser) wandered into the bar and challenged Karras to a wrestling match. Karras agreed and the two began hamming it up to promote the wrestling match. A patron mistook this as a real fight and broke a pool stick over “The Bruisers” head. A fight broke out seemingly everywhere resulting in one of the largest brawls in Detroit history. “The Bruiser” alledgedly broke some bones in a police officer and got a hefty fine. The fight caused national attention and the wrestling match proceeded with “The Bruiser” defeating Karras after Karras opened up a gash in “The Bruisers” forehead. Karras eventually got out of the bar business, apologized to the NFL, and was reinstated in 1964 after a year suspension.
On the last game of a 4-9-1 season, head coach Harry Gilmer was pummelled by snowballs thrown from irate Detroit fans from the stands at Tiger Stadium. The fans then began chanting “bye bye Harry” as the snowball throwing continued. The Lions would go on to lose the game, 28 – 16 before the homecrowd. After the season, William Clay Ford fired his coach and hired ex Lion linebacker Joe Schmidt as new head coach.
63 Yard Field Goal
The Saints had just replaced their coach and had only one win up to that point in the season. The Saints kicker was an anemic 5-15 up to that point in the season. They were not much more than an expansion team but they had the curse working for them when they lined up for the last play of the game. With the Lions winning by one point, Tom Dempsey kicked a 63 yard field goal, a record that still stands to this day. Tom Dempsey, was handicapped and born with only half a foot but with the help of the curse kicked 4 field goals against the Lions that day.
1st modern playoff game
The first time the Lions returned to the playoffs after the Bobby Layne era was 1970. This ended a 13 year drought! 13 is not a good number especially when you already are cursed so who could have been shocked when the Lions lost to the Cowboys 5-0 in what is still the lowest scoring playoff game of all time.
Is it possible to trade your number 1 draft pick and not know it? The Lions did just that in 1974 when they traded Dave Thompson to the Saints for the Saint number one draft pick. They did not realize the deal was for Dave Thompson and their number one pick till they went to draft 13th overall and found out New Orleans had that position. It does not get much more embarrassing than this.
Bit the Dust
The “Roar was Restored” for the first few games in 1980 when running back Billy Simms joined the club. After winning their first four games the Lions Jimmy “Spiderman” Allen did a musical version of the Queen song “Another one bites the Dust”. As the season progressed, the curse kicked in so strongly that the Lions did not even make the playoffs after their great start. Fans began singing their own lyrics to the song, “Another one beats our Butts” and once again the “Snore was Restored” for the Lions. …
First the Lions let the Bears score late to send the game into overtime, then they lose the toss and allow a 95 yard kick off return on the first play to end what was then the shortest overtime game ever – 21 seconds (now the record is 14 seconds, Jets over Buffalo in 2002) . Naturally the Lions performed this feat in front of their home crowd, something to tell the grandkids about for all who attended.
25 Year Drought
Thanks to a strike shortened season, the Lions made the playoffs with a 4-5 record. They then lost to Washington 31-7 in the first round of the playoffs which marked the first time in a quarter century the Lions scored a point in a playoff game.
Only a few years back the 49ers and Lions had been battling for the first pick in the draft, now several years later these two teams meet in San Francisco in the first round of the playoffs. With the 49ers holding a 1 point lead, the Lions lined up on the last play to kick a field goal that would win the game. Along the sidelines was the Lion coach Monte Clark praying that he succeed. The usually reliable Murray missed the field goal which would send the Lions and 49ers in different directions for the next 20 years.
Defensive Coordinator Wayne Fontes is arrested and eventually arraigned in a Rochester Hills Courtroom on cocaine possession and two drunk driving charges. Wayne pleads not guilty and eventually is promoted to Head Coach.
I am guessing on this date, Coach Demers of the Red Wings was riding high in Detroit and his team was doing well. He did a commercial where a fan asked him for tickets, and he proceeds to give him some, but they are not to the event that fan wanted (such as theatre or ballet tickets). The point of the commercial was you don’t always get what you want or expect (I do not even remember the product he was peddling). Well one of the commercial showed the fan looking at his tickets with a real sour look on his face, exclaiming disappointedly, “The Lions”. After a couple weeks the commercial was pulled at the request of the Lions.
Chuck Long only quarterbacked here for 23 games but perhaps the funniest example of futility in history happened during his reign as quarterback. Lions were leading 14- 12 with the ball on Detroits 12 yard line and 4th down coming up, the punting team came onto the field. However right before the ball was snapped, one of the Saints defensive players yelled “MayDay” which was the Lions receivers code word that the defense was not covering them and to fake the punt and do a pass play. Needless to say the punter (Jim Arnold) did not punt, but instead threw the ball to his receiver (rookie Carl Painter ) who had no idea it was coming and hit him on the back as he ran down field. The Lions lost the game 22- 14 but created one of the all time funniest moments in history.
The lions best post Bobby Layne era season had to be 1992 when they went 12 – 4 and made it to the NFC Championship game. However the season would end as all other seasons during the cursed years, poorly. Washington (who beat them 45-0 in the opening game of the season) defeated the Lions 41-10 in one of their worst playoff performances ever!
Lomas Brown guarantee of victory turned ugly in Philadelphia when the Eagles scored 38 points in the first half (second most points scored in one half during a playoff game) and cruised to a 58-37 victory over the Lions in what many call the worst game of all time. Also, just to rub salt in the wound, discarded Lions quarterback Rodney Peete was the Philly QB that day!
In 1997 Barry Sanders rushed for an all time second best 2,053 yards. He carried the Lions on his back to get them into the playoffs and had 14 straight 100 yard rushing games. However he had to share the MVP with Brett Favre thanks to Curt Sylvester, a sports writer for the Detroit Free Press who decided to vote for Favre then had the nerve to write a column about it. I have not had a Free Press in the house since!
On the brink of eclipsing Walter Payton’s all-time NFL rushing record (currently held by E. Smith), Barry Sanders retired. His representative, David Ware, stated that Barry would sign a check returning his bonus money immediately of the Lions were to trade him. Sources close to Sanders stated several reasons for the retirement including the teams awful 5-11 performance the previous year. Sanders also did not believe the organization was committed to winning and allowed too many key veteran players (such as offensive linemen Lomas Brown, Kevin Glover and Zefross Moss) to depart as free agents. He also grew weary of Coach Bobby Ross and his “tempermental personality” which was in much contrast to Wayne Fontes, his earlier coach. Imagine how proud Lion fans must have been when one of the greatest talent in history is willing to pay millions not to play for you and would rather retire just 1,457 yards shy of Payton’s rushing mark than play another season as a Lion.
The Lions have a history of coaches who never coach again in the NFL after leaving Detroit, however only one, Wayne Fontes actually sued for damages. Wayne set out to prove that due to injuries sustained while he was coaching the Lions that he has been unable to coach anymore. Magistrate John Hurbis was not impressed with Waynes evidence and put forth this statement “Fontes has failed to prove by a preponderance of the evidence that he has a disability, which arose out of, and in the course of, his employment with the Detroit Lions”.
A couple games after taking over for a “dejected” Bobby Ross, Coach Moeller was given a 3 year contract, then fired at the end of the season. Moeller had to be laughing all the way to the bank as he got paid for the next two years while his replacement, Mornhinweg, would only win 5 games and lose 27 during this same stretch. Despite the poor performance of the team during those two years, Mornhinweg was given a guarantee that his job was safe after the season. A month after getting his job guarantee, Mornhinweg was fired. Screwed up coaching deals like these would be the norm rather than the exception as Millen’s hiring practice of only interviewing one person would result in league fines and condemnation by minority leaders such as Jesse Jackson.
The Lions were down by 3 and had the ball with 2:12 to play in the game when the Lions 370lb Aaron Gibson decided to do an ugly late hit by belly flopping on a Bengal player. The late hit created a 3rd and 28 situation in which Quarterback Charlie Batch threw an interception and the game was over. Gibson was pulled from the game immediately after the incident then released later on in the week. People to this day discuss which was the biggest flop for the first round draft pick, his career with the Lions or his belly flop on the field.
The Lions 0-10 start caught the attention of Jay Leno making for some memorable monologues and skits. Each Monday my wife and I would snuggle by the TV and listen for the joke that we knew was certain to come. Sometimes the Lion fans would get in on the fun, displaying banners such as “This Isn’t Funny” on Thanksgiving to a national audience. Finally the Lions beat the Vikings and while leaving the field, Johnnie Morton exclaimed “Jay Leno can kiss my ass”. That Monday Jay brought in a live donkey and kissed the donkey while Johnnie Morton watched on a split screen in Detroit (He also said the Vikings were on suicide watch after losing to Detroit, the last jab at Detroit at least for that season).
Everyone knows the value of winning the toss in a sudden death overtime game. On this November day, Lion coach Marty Mornhinweg won the overtime toss and elected to kick off. Needless to say the Lions never even got a chance to go on offense as the Bears scored on their first possession.
The Lions went 3 entire seasons without winning a road game, shattering the old record and adding another prized piece of tin to their collection. The streak ended at 24 when the Lions beat Chicago at Soldiers Field in 2004. With salary caps creating parity in the league it is very doubtful that another team will ever break this record.
Matt Millen released Johnny Morton after the 2001 season (Morton caught 77 passes for 1,154 yards that year). 2 years later (2003), the two reunited when Morton’s new team, the Kansas City Chiefs, beat the Lions in a “close” 45-17 blowout. After the game Morton told Millen to “kiss his ass” to which Millen replied “You faggot, yeah you heard me, you faggot!” Millen later apologized for his outburst. One year earlier (2002), Millen had insulted his own players by referring to one of them as a “devout coward” during a radio interview.
Thanksgiving day is a tradition in Detroit as the Lions take center stage around the Nation and perform for all to see. The combined scores of the 2004 and 2005 Thanksgiving Day losses by Detroit are 16 -68 (52 point spread) which beats the 1966/67 previous Thanksgiving record also held by the Lions (51 point spread).
A Proud Moment
Lion fans had to be proud of their team when television camera’s captured Lion security chasing an individual with a “fire Millen” sign throughout the stadium. Each time the fan eluded security the crowd would cheer. Occasionally the fan would pass the sign to other fans in a make shift form of keep away that must have really irked Ford Field security. Once the Fan was apprehended, the crowd began chanting “Fire Millen” to the obvious dismay of security. The incident would cause an uproar in the Detroit area and garnish National attention as the chant “Fire Millen” became the fans battle cry. “Fire Millen” chants were heard at Michigan State Basketball Games, Detroit Pistons Games, Detroit Red Wings Games and “Fire Millen Signs” have shown up on ESPN broadcast and Gil Thorp comic strips. Meanwhile “Keep Millen” signs would pop up wherever the Lions played on the road.
Millen Man March
A local radio station organized an “Angry Fan March” at the last Lion home game of the 2005 season. The protesters were well organized and equiped with protest signs and orange shirts (the colors of the opposing team) and peacefully demonstrated and marched outside of Ford Field. One sign read “There are a Millen reasons why the Lions can’t win” and another sign read 20-57 (Millens record with the Lions at that time, in 2007 his record improved to 31 – 81, 50 games under 500).
With the score tied mid fourth quarter, Green Bay was backed up at their 1 foot line. On the first play the ref’s called two penalties in the endzone on Green Bay and awarded Detroit a safety. Despite the fact that penalties are not reviewable, Green Bay threw a review flag. The Ref’s never even looked at the film and reversed their call giving Green Bay back the ball at the 1 foot line. The Lions would lose in overtime marking the 15th consecutive lost at Lambeau Field for them.
A local radio station (WDFN) held a contest where their listeners could send in their design that would be used on a public billboard. The winning entry was “Not This Millenium” with the words “Rebuilding since 1957” below it. The sign was up in time for Super Bowl 40 and became another proud monument to the curse.
Super Bowl XL
Anyone who doubts the validity of the Curse would become a believer when the only Superbowl ever hosted by the city of Detroit was won by the team who Bobby Layne was traded to. Many might write this off to coincidence but those who know the truth of the curse know better. Many claimed they could hear ghostly laughter from the rafters as the Steelers were handed the Vince Lombardi Trophy. Thanks to Steve who reminded us in the Guestbook of this fact.
Americas Most Wanted
Does it get any worse than when one of your past quarterbacks shows up on Americas Most Wanted? Jeff Komlo, ex Lion quarterback, was featured on the popular television show. Apparently the cops have been chasing him since May of 2005. Komlo tells a reporter that he can’t believe he is being lumped in with the criminals but still refuses to turn himself in at this time. Perhaps he feels his time with the Lions is punishment enough.
The Tigers should have known better! After defeating the Yankees and sweeping the Athletics, they were heavy favorites to win the 2006 series against whoever came out of the NL. During a week layoff before the series, the Tigers practiced at the Lions Ford Field where the curse was waiting. The heavily favored Tigers would lose in 5 games to a less than stellar Cardinal team. Can an entire magical season be ended because a team practiced on the Lions home field for a couple days? Many say coincidence but anyone watching that series and all the pitcher thowing errors have to admit that something about the Tigers just wasn’t right.
Which is worse, a Lions assistant coach driving drunk? Or a Lions assistant coach driving naked? How about both! Believe it or not, Coach Joe Cullen pulled into a Wendy’s drive thru naked and ordered a meal. A week later the assistant coach was busted for drunk driving. The last time an active defensive coach got into this much trouble the Lions promoted him to head coach (Wayne Fontes, Cocaine and DUI charges)! Will history repeat?
Just when we thought the Thanksgiving Day humiliations could not get any worse, Joey Harrington returns to Detroit and leads his new team (Miami Dolphins) to a brilliant 27-10 victory over the hapless Lions. After the game Joey was voted MVP of the game and told interviewers it was the most satisfying win in his career. The Lions traded Joey for a conditional draft pick, most likely a fifth rounder. Believe it or not, the Lions actually led in this game 10-0 in the first quarter, but would be shut out and completely bore the holiday audience for the last 3 quarters.
Before the start of the season John Kitna predicted the Lions would win 10 games. Kitna looked like a genius and many thought the curse was ending early as the Lions jumped out to a 6 win and 2 loss start! However the curse would kick in with a fury in the second half of the season where the Lions would win only 1 more game and not only miss the playoffs but end up under 500 and joined another infamous list (teams who started 6-2 and missed the playoffs). Lion Offensive Coordinator Mike Martz, hailed as an offensive genius, was fired as a result of the collapse, another victim of the curse.
Draft Pick Drafted
Lions draft pick Caleb Campbell’s dream was to play for an NFL team. Unfortunately the curse likes nothing better than to shatter dreams so on the eve of Lion training camp, with helmet in hand and everything, the Army came a calling for this Lion draftpick who will have to serve 2 years in the military before being allowed to play pro sports. …
Lions First 08 Lead
It looked like the curse was ending a couple weeks early as the Lions came roaring back from an early 21 – 0 deficit in their home opener and actually took their first lead of the season (25-24) with only 7:41 left to play. As the Detroit stadium erupted with applause, the curse kicked in so brutally that before the 2 minute warning would sound, the Lions would be down 48 to 25 thanks to 3 consecutive interceptions thrown by Detroit QB John Kitna.
Mike Martz Revenge
After being fired as a scapegoat by the Detroit Lions, Mike Martz and ex Lion backup QB JT O’Sullivan soundly defeated the Lions 31-13 giving the Lions an 0-3 start after going undefeated in the pre-season. Detroits defense started each game going down 21-0, 21-0, and 21-3 respectively to 3 quarterbacks who had never started a game prior to this season. The awful start would lead to the firing of Matt Millen leaving him with an NFL record of 31-84 (10 more losses than any other NFL team over the same time frame). To fully appreciate the humiliation of this moment one has to remember that JT O’Sullivan was Lion QB John Kitna’s backup the prior year.
0 – 16
The steady decline of the Lions over the past 50 years would result in the un-thinkable. In the final year of the curse, the Lions would go winless at 0-16, putting them in a category of their own and officially ending the reign of the Curse of Bobby Layne. It was at this time the Lions attempted their own quirk of fate to stop the curse, by drafting with the first pick of the first round a player from Bobby Laynes own High School-Matthew Stafford. Coincidence?
6 Straight Turkeys
The curse seems to be continuing as the Lions continue to break and create new records. The latest is the longest losing streak during the Thanksgiving Day game. The Lions are currently 0-6 in the last six games, being outscored by double digits each time giving the Lions a total of 213-74 point spread. That means the average score on National TV for the last 6 Thanksgiving Day games has been 36-12. Can their be anything more humiliating than being the turkey on Thanksgiving each year?