On this date 51 years ago Tobin Rote threw for four touchdowns and ran for another as the Detroit Lions defeated the Cleveland Browns, 59-14, in the NFL championship game. It was the Lions’ third title of the Fifties, all over the Browns.
Since then the Lions have missed 42 out of 51 post seasons (counting this year) and are 1-9 in games when they did make it. Only the Cardinals have done worse.
For nearly all of that time the Lions have been owned by William Clay Ford, grandson of Henry and son of Edsel Ford. The Lions aren’t exactly built Ford tough.
From Pro Football Weekly (June 29, 2000)
Tobin Rote, the quarterback who guided the Lions to their last NFL championship in 1957 while filling in for injured Hall of Famer Bobby Layne, has died. He was 72….
The Lions platooned Rote and Layne at quarterback before Rote finished off the ’57 season after Layne broke his leg in the regular season’s second-to-last game.
In the divisional playoff, the Lions trailed the 49ers 24-7 at halftime. Through the dressing room walls at San Francisco’s old Kezar Stadium, they could hear the 49ers already beginning their celebration.
“We could hear them laughing,” Rote said in ’91. “The walls were paper thin. They were going on about how they were going to spend their championship game money. It made us angry.”
In the second half, the Lions scored three touchdowns in four minutes, 29 seconds and went on to win 31-27.
The next Sunday at home in Briggs Stadium, the Lions won their third championship in six years with a 59-14 rout of the Browns. Rote threw four TD passes and ran for another.