The Detroit Lions have fallen on hard times — to say the least — over the course of the last several decades as the once heralded NFC franchise is certainly not associated with winning any longer. Among the younger generations of NFL fans, the Lions quite literally couldn't be any more associated with losing as Detroit infamously produced a winless 0-16 regular season back in 2008.
However, prior to the team's most recent struggles alongside the Green Bay Packers, Minnesota Vikings and Chicago Bears in the always dangerous NFC North division, a low point that has obviously lasted a bit longer than anyone in the “Motor City” would have liked, the Lions were once an NFL powerhouse believe it or not. Although yet to win the franchise's first-ever Super Bowl title, the Lions did, in fact, win several NFL Championships between the team's inaugural season in 1934 and the 1970 merger.
Hardly coming as a surprise, all five head coaches on the following list served as part of this organization quite a few years ago with the last batch of leaders employed by the Lions coming and going in a revolving door like fashion. Even though this team hasn't encountered all that much winning lately, the lack of recent success still doesn't erase the past success stemming from Detroit.
1. Buddy Parker
Although Dutch Clark led the Detroit Lions to the team's first championship, it was longtime head coach Buddy Parker that ultimately found the most success in the “Motor City.” Taking over along the sideline in Detroit back in 1951, Parker would go on to coach the Lions for a total of six seasons, with the majority of his success coming almost right off the bat. Parker notably led the Lions to back-to-back NFL Championships in his second and third seasons at the helm with Detroit defeating the Cleveland Browns in both 1952 and 1953.
Unfortunately for Parker and company, though, the Browns would finally get some revenge the following year as Cleveland defeated Detroit by the score of 56-10 in the 1954 NFL Championship Game. After going 3-1 in the postseason alongside two titles in his first four years as the head coach in Detroit, Parker's Lions would then miss out on the postseason in both 1955 and 1956 with George Wilson taking over in 1957.
2. Dutch Clark
Prior to breaking into the NFL as the Detroit Lions in 1934, this organization actually served as the Portsmouth Spartans for four seasons.
With the Spartans coming and going nearly without notice, it was head coach Dutch Clark that helped lead this franchise through a massive changing of the guard. Clark served as the head coach of the Spartans for three seasons then went on to lead the Lions in Detroit for another five seasons.
With Clark's Lions initially producing a 10-3 record as a result of the team's inaugural 1934 campaign, Detroit then promptly captured the team's first-ever NFL title in 1935, following a 7-3-2 season that was capped off with a championship victory over the New York Giants. Although Clark would never lead his team to another postseason or title, the fact that he led the Lions to the franchise's first championship — which was the third NFL Championship ever played — this Detroit legend couldn't fall too far down this list without being mentioned.
3. George Wilson
Even though it would be quite challenging to follow up Buddy Parker and his multiple NFL Championships, it didn't take former Detroit Lions head coach George Wilson very long to make a name for himself in the “Motor City as well. Getting things started off on the highest of notes, Wilson immediately led the Lions to the team's fourth NFL Championship Game with Detroit once again defeating the rival Cleveland Browns.
Winning a pair of playoff games en route to a title in his first go-round as the team's head coach, Wilson notably took home the league's Coach of the Year Award in 1957. However, his run at the top wouldn't last long as the Lions didn't reach the postseason or win another championship in each of the next seven seasons that Wilson remained in Detroit.
4. Wayne Fontes
Wayne Fontes would only win one playoff game as the head coach of the Detroit Lions. However, he would lead the current NFC North franchise to the postseason regularly in addition to providing the organization with some serious stability along the sideline. Going on to serve as the Lions head coach for eight seasons, Fontes would lead Detroit to the postseason four times between 1989 and 1996.
The NFL's Coach of the Year in 1991, Fontes won his lone postseason game with the Lions during this same season — a victory over the heralded Dallas Cowboys,38-6, in the divisional round. It is also worth noting that Pro Football Hall of Fame running back Barry Sanders won both the Offensive Rookie of the Year and Offensive Player of the Year Awards under Fontes' direction. In the season following Fontes' departure, however, Sander would be crowned as the league's Most Valuable Player in 1997.
5. Monte Clark
In 1978, Monte Clark became the head coach of the Detroit Lions while going on to spend a total of seven seasons as the leader of the current NFC North franchise. While it did take some time for Clark to find any ounce of success in Detroit past the regular season, he would go on to lead the Lions to a pair of postseason appearances in 1982 and 1983.
In 1983, Clark's Lions finished the regular season at 9-7 but still won a divisional title before representing the NFC Central in the postseason. Detroit did not win a playoff game under Clark's supervision, though he did manage to produce a Defensive Rookie of the Year in Al Baker in 1978 and an Offensive Rookie of the Year in Billy Sims in 1980. The team's NFC Central title in 1983 would also mark the Lions' only divisional crown since all the way back in 1957.