BEREA (92.3 The Fan) – In 2008 the Detroit Lions did the unimaginable.
They didn’t win a single game.
Three years later they made the playoffs.
Last year the Browns came within a Chargers missed field goal on Christmas eve of threatening to match Detroit’s historically bad season to finish 1-15 but with an 0-8 start this year, the possibility of 0-16 is once again surfacing while hope that the Browns will ever return to contention seems faint.
Cleveland can look to Detroit for a glimmer of hope.
The Browns, who are 1-23 under head coach Hue Jackson, are 4-41 in their last 45 games, matching the Lions (2007-10) for the worst 45-game stretch in league history. Two more losses by the Browns over the next 2 games would surpass the Lions for the worst 47-game stretch in NFL history.
So how have the Lions, who enter Sunday’s game against the Browns at 4-4 following their 30-17 win at Green Bay Monday night, recovered from 0-16 over the last 9 years?
They have combined to go 60-76 with 3 playoff appearances, which have included losses in the wild card round each time, and 5 sub-.500 finishes.
Detroit made the playoffs 3 years after the o-fer season finishing 2-14 in 2009 and 6-10 in 2010 before a 10-6 playoff campaign in 2011. The team went 4-12 and 7-9 the next 2 years before returning to the wild card round with an 11-5 mark in 2014. After a step back in 2015 that saw them go 7-9 they were back in the playoffs last year thanks to a 9-7 finish and a win over the Browns Sunday would push them back above .500 this season.
Drafting quarterback Matthew Stafford No. 1 overall in 2009 has helped the Lions reverse their fortunes and give them hope.
Stafford started 10 games his rookie season that saw him go 2-8 while completing 53 percent of his passes that included 13 touchdowns and 20 interceptions. Over the last 3 seasons Stafford has combined to complete 64.9 percent of his passes on average and he’s thrown for over 4,200 yards over the last 8 seasons while the career TD-to-interception ratio is 201-112.
Of the 53 players on the Lions’ active roster, 28 of of them have come through the draft including Stafford (2009), defensive end Ezekiel Ansah and running back Theo Riddick (2013) and tight end Eric Ebron (2014). In total, 13 of their starters came via the draft since 2009. They also have 15 undrafted free agents/waiver claims on this year’s team, including top receivers Golden Tate (2014) and Marvin Jones (2016).
The Browns are trying to follow a similar path and build their roster through the draft with very select infusions of veteran help. They’ve made 24 selections in the last 2 years alone and have 21 picks on the active-53 entering Sunday’s game.
But it all comes down to finding a quarterback and building the team around him. That’s the way it works in the NFL. Without a quarterback you have no chance to win anything.
Detroit has Stafford. The Browns, who have gone through 17 starting quarterbacks since 2009 and 28 since 1999, don’t know what they have in rookie DeShone Kizer.
After climbing out of the abyss, the next step for the Lions is winning in the post-season while the Browns are just trying to find a way to win a game.