DETROIT — There are two numbers Detroiters will always remember: 0 and 16.
They signify the Detroit Lions‘ 2008 season — the one during which they grew to become the primary crew in NFL historical past to play a 16-game schedule with out successful a sport (although the 2017 Cleveland Browns finally joined them).
The crew set a document for many losses in a season, whereas permitting the third-most factors, the fourth-most touchdowns and the second-most speeding touchdowns in league historical past. These Lions had been eradicated from playoff competition in Week 11, which was tied for the earliest a crew’s postseason hopes had been dashed since 1990.
5 totally different quarterbacks threw at the very least one cross for Detroit — Dan Orlovsky, Jon Kitna, Daunte Culpepper, Drew Stanton and Drew Henson — with considered one of them making probably the most emblematic play of that depressing season.
In a Week 6 sport on the Minnesota Vikings, Orlovsky took a shotgun snap from the Lions’ 1-yard line. Feeling stress from Vikings defensive finish Jared Allen, he scrambled to his proper and took about six steps out of the again of the tip zone earlier than realizing he had unwittingly handed Minnesota a security.
It was a play that might reside in infamy, as would the crew. However there was a silver lining, although the Lions did not comprehend it on the time. When the present Lions go to the San Francisco 49ers for Sunday’s NFC Championship Sport (6:30 p.m. ET, Fox), Dan Campbell, a veteran tight finish on that 2008 crew, will lead them out. Over his three years as head coach in Detroit, Campbell has taken the crew from a 3-13-1 document in Yr 1 to a win away from the franchise’s first Tremendous Bowl bid.
A hamstring harm restricted Campbell to at least one sport in 2008, however he has since change into the face of the present Lions turnaround — partly, he says, due to his expertise as a participant on that 0-fer crew.
“I acquired damage early. I wasn’t round for the entire yr, however it’s a kind of the place you possibly can’t get out of your personal means. You simply proceed to search out methods to lose, sadly,” Campbell stated of the 2008 season.
“You are at all times going to study classes over time, regardless of the place you have been, the great and the unhealthy. And a few of the greatest classes you study are when issues do not go proper. And so, I have been lucky to see all of it,” he stated. “I’ve seen all of it. Been on the lowest and I have been on the highest and also you study alongside the best way. And that helps.”
With the Lions on the verge of historical past, members of the 2008 crew are feeling particularly related to this yr’s squad — largely due to Campbell.
Here’s what they instructed ESPN concerning the present Detroit crew.
What do you consider Dan Campbell, and what does it imply that he — a member of the 2008 crew — is now main the turnaround?
Jon Kitna, Lions QB: Whenever you expertise one thing like that, you have acquired considered one of two issues you are able to do: You possibly can tuck tail and run, or you possibly can simply proceed to method life head on, and that is who Dan is. He has a sense for town of Detroit and the group of Detroit and what it has been by. It is one factor to see it from afar, however if you’ve sat in it, went by it, to the place we had been at midway by the season in 2007 [at 6-2] and feeling like we had issues delivering the correct course then to see it crumble, I feel that actually has been one thing that helps him be extra of the correct man for that job.
Calvin Johnson, Lions WR: It is simply going full circle from the 0-16 crew as a participant on that crew to being a head coach and main your crew in the entire other way of the place we went again then. A giant a part of that’s Dan himself, being a participant turned coach and surrounding himself with a bunch of player-coaches on his workers. … You type of dial in slightly extra when you’ve got a player-coach, and also you see that taking place. You noticed it when it occurred final yr and it type of clicked for them midway by the season.
Drew Henson, Lions QB: To have somebody from that group to be on the opposite aspect of the one of many biggest runs in Lions historical past, sports activities generally have a good way of telling tales and having narratives, and I actually suppose that each man from that 2008 crew is entrance and heart, wherever they’re at, cheering for these guys with a giant smile on their face … as a result of it has been a very long time coming and so they deserve it.
Dan Orlovsky, Lions QB: Dan was lunch pail each day. Only a present as much as work, do your absolute perfect at work, work as arduous as you presumably can each single day, and that stood out. I used to be considerably youthful, and as a younger man if you watched a professional, he was a kind of guys that you simply watched and stated “That is what it seems to be like. That is how a professional goes about it on a day-to-day foundation.” He did not let circumstances management him or feelings management him, he was simply there to work.
Rod Marinelli, Lions head coach: I am going to let you know what, there isn’t any doubt in my thoughts that he will succeed or would succeed as a result of the kind of participant he was, he is the identical sort of coach — precisely. Arduous-nosed. The whole lot he had. Every single day. He had a foul elbow and I imply; he was all bandaged up each day and the delight he took, successful a one-on-one in both a cross block or a route and the depth of it. You bought all the things he had each second. And that crew is reflecting Dan’s persona.
Trying again, did you’ve got any thought Campbell would change into a coach and be good at it?
Johnson: I do not even know if Dan knew he can be a coach again then, however he is a frontrunner of males. He led by instance again then. Now, he can lead by instance, he can lead with phrases as a result of he is been there and performed that and he is had some nice examples, whether or not it is some gamers round him or coaches that he is been round, and you’ll see that paying off. He is surrounded himself with good firm.
Mike Furrey, Lions WR: Whenever you performed with him, he was most likely among the best teammates that you may ask for as a result of he was honest. He helped out the youthful guys and he simply had a ardour to do no matter he might to assist the crew win. And he performed like that, he acted like that, and it was each day. So, it isn’t shocking that that locker room has purchased into who he’s as a result of he is very real.
Orlovsky: I used to be by no means stunned that he acquired employed or that he climbed so shortly due to his self-accountability and the private delight that he carried. I wasn’t stunned in that regard. I wasn’t stunned by the press convention [when Campbell famously talked about biting kneecaps]. That is most likely not the correct factor to say, however I am simply being trustworthy: I assume my shock with him is how well-coached they appear and the way clever and detailed they appear.
What is the greatest distinction concerning the group from then to now?
Henson: They drafted rather well. They know what they wish to be. They have virtually all former gamers as coaches and their potential to have guys which have been there and performed it and might relate to the gamers and the gamers can relate and belief them goes a great distance.
Marinelli: I see unimaginable management from the highest of the group, and I see that management come down, and I feel how they decide gamers and I do know that Dan is concerned in that, and so they take heed to him. That factor begins from the highest down, and Dan’s the right man and excellent match for that group and so they’ve performed a terrific job in hiring good coaches and making it a spot the place guys wish to keep.
Kitna: To me, it looks like there’s vertical alignment. From possession, straight on down your roster, your teaching workers, the people who work within the constructing. It simply appears like there’s full alignment there.
Johnson: A variety of it has to do with what [Lions general manager] Brad Holmes and Dan are bringing to the crew. We have seen Brad construct a Tremendous Bowl-caliber crew coming from out west, from [the Los Angeles Rams], and we all know what Dan does as a player-coach. All we would like is a player-coach as a result of he will get us. He understands the wrestle. So when you’ve got any person that understands the wrestle, however on the similar time, understands the place Detroit has been and understands the grit that represents Detroit, that’s nothing however his genuine self. He’s Detroit.
Furrey: It at all times felt like all the things was towards you again then, and now it simply appears like, watching the sport, it appears like all the things is beginning to match the correct means and go the Lions’ means. Ever for the reason that hypothetical Bobby Layne Curse, it feels prefer it’s gone the wrong way.
What does this season imply for Lions followers?
Kitna: It is all the things. We all know what sports activities does. Sports activities is a unifying factor. And when cities and communities and organizations get to expertise a few of the issues that Detroit is experiencing now, coming off the heels of what occurred proper down the highway in Ann Arbor [with the Michigan football team winning the national championship], it is wonderful.”
Johnson: That is virtually up there with faith. This factor is bringing of us to tears. You have acquired of us crying out right here. And I get it. It warmed my coronary heart to see them dudes do it simply because, regardless that we weren’t in a position to do it, we nonetheless bleed blue.
Henson: That is for the folks in Michigan, that is for the followers of generations. They have been ready on this and there isn’t any higher sports activities city within the nation, if you may get on the correct aspect of issues, and I feel all people’s seeing it. … I do not suppose you possibly can assist however pull for the Lions as a result of it stands for all the great in sports activities.
Furrey: Even again within the day in 2008, once we did not win any video games, [the fans] did not give up. That city is legit. That city is filled with a fan base that’s actual and deserving and I simply could not be extra blissful for everyone that is been ready for this to occur, and it has been enjoyable to look at.
What do you most like concerning the 2023 Lions?
Jim Colletto, Lions offensive coordinator: They play so arduous. They have a terrific quarterback. And defensively, they play with nice depth and energy and their offense capabilities nicely. They run the ball nicely and you’ll see that the perspective of the top coach that is watching them on the sideline is [injected] into the crew.
Furrey: You see a crew. You see a bunch of men which are unselfish. They’re working their rear ends off. They’ve a excessive ardour for enjoying the sport. They execute at a excessive degree. They make big performs in massive moments, on either side of the ball, and so they play with that grit that I do know that got here from one individual and Danny has instilled that.
Marinelli: They battle. I feel they play like Dan performed. They’re robust. On protection they fly round. They’ve perspective, hustle, well-coached, all of these issues. On offense, they run the ball with toughness, and he is acquired the QB [Jared Goff] that everyone would love. That man’s a terrific chief and a terrific participant. So, it suits. The whole lot simply type of suits.”
Johnson: What I like most about this squad is that, yeah, you’ve got a pair stars on this crew, however I really feel like truthfully we’d have had extra stars again on the crew after I performed, however you’ve got some guys who’ve been across the league and you’ve got some stable veterans. And what excites me most is that you simply’re beginning to see a few of these gamers that folks won’t have identified about, begin to emerge and make performs.
Is that this the best Lions crew of the Tremendous Bowl period?
Johnson: There have been stars on a few of the different groups, like Barry [Sanders], and we had stars on our groups with Matthew [Stafford], myself and you’ll preserve occurring and on, however so far as only a crew, what we’re seeing, the vitality that we really feel … Hey, I am going to let you know this, the conversations that I be having with all the blokes that come again and that I performed with, we simply be eager about, “Canine, if we had been on this crew, you understand how good we’d be?” Yeah, we had some expertise, however it’s like with this coach, with this workers, with that tradition.
Kitna: They have an opportunity to do one thing that no person’s ever performed. So, yeah.
Furrey: That may be arduous to debate attempting to place any person else in that image with what they’ve put along with that complete offensive line and that line of defense. That entrance, these linebackers, the duo that they’ve within the backfield proper now with David Montgomery and Jahmyr Gibbs and their wideouts and Amon-Ra St. Brown. After which clearly Goff enjoying at a excessive degree. I do not know if Detroit has ever actually seen the end result of all these items put collectively, enjoying the best way they’re enjoying on the similar time. Clearly, there’s been a whole lot of expertise with Barry Sanders and Herman Moore and Calvin Johnson and a whole lot of expertise there, however the collective of all these guys, it will be arduous to match anyone to that.
Colletto: It is acquired to be proper up there. This point in time of the expertise they’ve within the NFL and what they’ve completed and the document they’ve completed, it is acquired to be proper on the high.
Did you ever suppose Detroit can be this good?
Kitna: I did. As a result of I noticed the funding of the possession, and it takes loads to get all people aligned and so they’ve performed that. They acquired the correct man. He was tough-minded sufficient to be 0-10-1 and nonetheless imagine in what he is aware of to be true, and he acquired the correct man to go together with him with [GM] Brad Holmes, so it is improbable.
Furrey: To be trustworthy with you, I did. It is as a result of there’s one thing up there in Detroit that is particular. And it is an enormous sports activities city and so they’ve acquired nice services and what the Ford household represents. You at all times felt such as you had an opportunity to be a crew like this and for some cause, by hook or by crook, the soccer gods, it simply wasn’t meant to be. Now, they’re and it is lengthy overdue. I feel everybody that is performed in that group is aware of what they have been by and what the group has been by and the potential that they’ve had at instances, and now to see all of this occur, I am very proud to be a veteran of the Detroit Lions.
After having suffered by the 0-16 season, do you’ve got any recommendation for this crew?
Marinelli: Do what you do. Simply proceed to do what you do and it is ok. And take heed to your coach. That is what they’ve created in that metropolis.
Kitna: Take heed to your coach, man. Take heed to your coach.
Johnson: Reside within the second. Get pleasure from this second. Do not overlook the second. … I solely acquired to go to the playoffs twice, and also you hear about guys speaking about how they made it to the Tremendous Bowl as a rookie after which they did not contact [it] once more for the remainder of their profession. So simply reside within the second and do not overlook it as a result of that is big.
Furrey: Benefit from the second however do not miss it both. They acquired there due to their execution, their preparation and the objectives that they’ve had. They’ve achieved all the things they’ve got down to, and so they did it the correct means, so I would not change one bit. They’ve performed in massive video games from Week 1. I might not change something. It is one other sport. It is one other massive sport. And simply proceed to do what you are doing.
Henson: You are carrying the torch for each squad that got here earlier than you. We’re within the historical past books for that yr  and so they’ve acquired a possibility to alter the narrative of the entire franchise and I feel they’ve performed that to some extent. And if they’ll end it off, they’d be clearly the best crew in historical past, however one which’s remembered for generations.