The Detroit Lions haven’t won a playoff game since 1991, having gone 31 years prior. Between August 12, 1973, and August 12, 2023, the Detroit Lions had the worst record by a team, with a record of 312-468-4.
They have disappointed fans season after season year after year. They seem to have a knack and a recipe for turning opportunities into bad plays, mishaps, and extraordinarily unfortunate calls.
Yet as the 2023 season begins, the Detroit Lions are the most betted team to win the NFC, in the national spotlight and have sold out Ford Field for the first time. There is an electricity in the city that’s palpable.
Does it add up?
DII tapped into Dan Miller from WJBK Fox2 to share with us his views on all of this as we enter into this highly anticipated season.
Q: This is a team that has not won a playoff game in years and is historically the worst in their division, yet this year people are expecting them to win. What are your thoughts on this?
A: I think it’s fueled by two things.
First, the way they finished last year. They won eight out of ten games and looked like a better team. They had a top-five offense all year and the defense started coming along. They started avoiding turnovers and not committing penalties. I think people liked the way they played and thought that they were playing so well that people thought they could so some damage in the playoffs.
Second, the other teams in the division have more questions to answer than the Lions do. Green Bay lost Aaron Rogers. Chicago has a lot of new faces and a better roster but is it enough to go from three wins to a division title? Minnesota won the division but they’ve lost Dalvin Cook and Adam Thielen.
When you combine these two things, people think the Lions might be best positioned to win the division. However, these other teams can find the answers to their questions and have great years. We haven’t actually seen the Lions win 10 or 11 games so anything can happen. All these projections are on paper. I personally think this will be a battle and it will be fun to watch.
Q: Do you think the hype is good for the Lions and the city?
A: Yes. I think it’s great. I think it’s a little more unchecked nationally. Detroit fans are excited but they’ve been through enough that I think they also want to see it. The team hasn’t been to the playoffs or taken the “next step” yet. They have to deliver. All that being said, the excitement level is higher than I’ve seen in 27 years here.
They won’t put 10 points on the scoreboard in Kansas City because the Lions have a really good roster. The team has to earn it.
Q: How do you think this will impact the city from an economic and just a good energy standpoint?
A: We’ve already seen this. Season tickets are sold out for the first time ever at Ford Field. That’s a byproduct of the excitement. People want to be a part of it. Ford Field is an amazing place when it’s packed and loud.
When you take what they did last year and add some key free agents, a draft people are excited about, and the young players being developed it’s got people buying in and it will be packed. The electricity before and after Lions games in Detroit is fantastic and that means more people coming down, more money being spent at bars and restaurants. It’s a great thing for the city.
Q: Would you say Detroit Lions fans are a different breed of sorts?
A: Yes, but you can’t throw Lions fans into one bucket. Some fans over the years have turned away. They want the team to show them something before they come back. Then there are die-hard fans who have stuck with the team through thick and thin.
People want something to believe in. That’s what being a fan is—believing in something. Having hope. I think people see how this is being done and you’re getting all Lions fans excited about what’s possible.
Q: How is the team different than last year? Why such high expectations?
A: Last year the offense was good. They were scoring even when they were not winning. But they hurt themselves with turnovers early in the year and then as they started winning they took better care of the ball. That’s what good teams do, and the hope is that production and efficiency continue.
Defensively, one of the exciting things to see was they started improving with five rookies on the field at times. Young players are a big part of the future and in the NFL typically the biggest jump in improvement in players is from year one to year two. So, you have Aidan Hutchinson, Houston and Paschal, and Rodriguez and Joseph ready to go and they should be better. Then they got Gibbs, Campbell, LaPorta, and Branch in this year’s draft and they should contribute right away. They added big help in free agency too. So, it’s just a more complete team than they had a year ago.
People take all that and believe the trajectory for this team is very good.
Q: Do you think Hard Knocks fueled this focus on the Lions nationally?
A: 100%. Hard knocks made a difference in a positive way. People got to see who Dan Campbell is, and how players respond to him. It gave people outside of Detroit the chance to see this leadership. Throw in the personalities like Aaron Glen and Ben Johnson and it’s fun to watch.
I think that the five episodes of Hard Knocks dispelled a lot of rumors about Detroit being a place where hope goes to die. There are good things here. Leaders who know what they are doing. Things are being done the right way. It also played well on TV because it’s a likable group.
Q: The Lions play 2023 Superbowl winners Kansas City to open the NFL season. What does this mean for the Lions and the city?
A: It’s an honor to be chosen to play in that game. The NFL would not have put the Lions there if they didn’t think it would be a good football game. It shows the NFL thinks this is going to be a good match-up to open the entire season on National TV.
The Lions would not have gotten this opportunity a few years ago – or really at any point in the recent past. This is a byproduct of people believing in what’s happening here. It’s a tremendous honor.
Q: What do you say about the fans “drinking the Kool-Aid?”
A: Look man, we do this because we want our teams to be good. And that’s something that is built around hope. It’s great to have that. It’s great to have hope that is based on something tangible. Even when a team isn’t good you have hope because you manufacture it. But this is hope that is based on reality this year. Fans should be excited. Good things are happening.
You can look at the roster and see where this team could be very good. And that is what fans want. Something real to believe in and it’s been a very long time since they’ve had that.
Detroit fans are smart and they understand that what we have on paper in August is not a clear indication of where we will be in December and January. Again, the team has to earn it.
But it’s been cool to see. The best part of my job is when fans are happy and to be able to see the electricity in Detroit right now is really great. I want to see how the team delivers on the promise. I love what the franchise is doing. They are checking all the boxes and that’s a reason to be excited.
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