This Sunday afternoon, the newly-crowned division champion Green Bay Packers will head to Detroit with the hope of securing a first round playoff bye (and potentially the top NFC seed) with a win against the Lions. In case you haven’t been paying attention, things haven’t been going quite as well for the Lions this season.
Following a great start by Matthew Stafford through 2019’s first eight games, the veteran quarterback was put on the IR with a season-ending injury. He was replaced by Jeff Driskel, who promptly got hurt as well, leaving an undrafted rookie by the name of David Blough to serve as the starting quarterback for the remainder of the dreadful season Detroit has experienced. Strangely, turnover in the quarterback department isn’t all that uncommon for the Lions.
Over the course of the past 30 seasons, the Lions have seen an astonishing 23 (!) different players serve as their starting quarterback. Over the same span, the Packers have fielded just 11—with only five of those coming after the start of the Brett Favre era. So as Packers fans prepare to see yet another unfamiliar face duck under center for Detroit this weekend, we thought we’d rank all 23 quarterbacks to start a game for the Detroit Lions since the 1990 season. Enjoy!
23. Stoney Case
Despite having one of the best quarterback names in recent memory, Stoney Case brings up the rear on this list because, frankly, he didn’t play enough to really warrant consideration. During the 2000 season, Case started just one game—which he actually won. During five games played that year (his final season of his brief career), however, Case threw a single touchdown and tossed four interceptions.
22. Ty Detmer
You might recall Ty Detmer as the former Heisman-winning quarterback who backed up Brett Favre for four seasons. After his stint carrying a clipboard for football’s most durable quarterback, he tried to catch on as a consistent starter for other teams. One of those teams was the lowly Lions, who allowed him to start four games at QB during the 2001 season. Detmer went 1-3 in those starts with just three touchdowns and a staggering 10 picks.
21. Daunte Culpepper
With Minnesota, Daunte Culpepper was, at times, frustratingly good. Once he didn’t have Randy Moss to throw to, though, things got a lot tougher for the three-time Pro Bowler. He was a part-time starter in Miami and Oakland in 2006 and 2007 respectively, before finishing his otherwise impressive playing career on a sour note in Detroit. Over a total of 13 games (10 starts) with the Lions in 2008 and 2009, Culpepper went winless. During that span, he threw three touchdowns compared to six interceptions and averaged less than 120 yards through the air per game. To be clear, he’s probably the second best quarterback that will be named on this list, but his Lions career was just plain bad.
20. David Blough
As noted above, Blough is the third Lions starting quarterback to duck under center this year. Following an encouraging debut on Thanksgiving, he’s come back down to earth and embedded himself deep into the ground. Let’s hope his streak of unimpressive outings continues this weekend.
19. Jeff Driskel
Before Blough got the job, the role of quarterback belonged to Jeff Driskel. The second-year pro stepped in to start three games this season after Matthew Stafford went on the IR and before he, too, was placed on the IR. Prior to landing on the injured reserve, Driskel had four touchdowns, four interceptions, and he was sacked 11 times.
18. Drew Stanton
Okemos, Michigan native and Michigan State standout Drew Stanton lived every local kid’s dream when he was drafted by the Lions in the second round of the 2008 draft. The three seasons that followed weren’t as dreamlike. In four starts between 2008 and 2010, Stanton amassed a 2-2 record. During the 12 total games in which he appeared, he threw five touchdowns and nine interceptions. Somewhere along the way, he taught the Bears how to Dougie.
17. Bob Gagliano
In 1990, Bob Gagliano started four games with the Lions. He went 2-2 with 10 touchdowns and 10 interceptions during that span.
16. Frank Reich
Beloved Bills backup quarterback Frank Reich couldn’t replicate the glimmers of success (and the most amazing comeback in NFL history) during his brief stop in Detroit. Over the course of six games (two of those in a starting capacity) in 1997 and 1998, Reich had five touchdowns, six picks, and a dismal 0-2 record as a starter.
15. Dan Orlovsky
Was 0-7 as a starter with nine interceptions. Oh, and he did this.
14. Jeff Garcia
Those who recall Jeff Garcia likely remember him as an above average quarterback who was a good game manager with impressive mobility. For the most part, all of that was true, but his unsavory single-season stint with Detroit definitely hurt his otherwise respectable NFL reputation. In 2005, Garcia went 1-4 as a Lions starter with three touchdowns through the air and six interceptions.
13. Andre Ware
A few months after winning the Heisman Trophy, Andre Ware was drafted by the Lions in the first round of the 1990 NFL Draft. The collegiate standout couldn’t echo the success he had with the run and shoot offense at the University Of Houston during his somewhat limited opportunities with the Lions. He posted a 3-3 record in six starts with Detroit. In 14 total Lions appearances, Ware had five touchdowns compared to eight interceptions.
12. Don Majkowski
After losing his Packers starting job to Brett Favre, Don Majkowski had to wind up somewhere. He made his way to the Colts after his time with Green Bay was through, before landing in Detroit to finish up his career in 1995 and 1996. There, he went 1-1 as a starter. In the 10 total games he played in the Motor City, the Majik Man and his statline of four touchdowns and three interceptions didn’t exactly cast any spells.
11. Mike McMahon
With a 1-6 record as a part-time starter in 2001 and 2002, Mike McMahon doesn’t really deserve too lofty of a spot on this list. However, his longevity in a role known for lots of turnover (and lots of turnovers) bumps him up a few spots. In 20 total games—either starting or in a fill-in capacity—from 2001-04, McMahon had 15 touchdowns and 21 interceptions. Not great, but as you’ve already seen, it could’ve been worse.
10. Gus Frerotte
For a guy who’s probably best known for being a below average QB and injuring himself when he headbutted a wall in the end zone, Gus Frerotte managed a lengthy career. One of his 14 professional seasons found him playing in Detroit. In 1999, Frerotte started six regular season games in the Motor City, in which went 2-4 with nine touchdowns and seven interceptions. Despite his record as a starter, Detroit made the playoffs that season and Frerotte was their quarterback in the Wild Card game they ultimately lost to Washington. Gus had two interceptions in that game against his former team.
9. Rodney Peete
Speaking of longevity in the league, Rodney Peete also played 14 NFL seasons. Of that lengthy span, five of those seasons were spent in Detroit. As the chosen starter for some late ’80s and early ’90s Lions teams, he had a 21-26 record in 47 games. His 38 touchdowns with Detroit help him make the top 10. His 49 interceptions keep him near the back of the top 10.
8. Jon Kitna
Jon Kitna, too, managed a long career as an NFL quarterback. Of his 14 years in the league, three came with Detroit, and they happen to coincide with some of the team’s worst seasons of all time (including the winless 2008 campaign). Kitna posted a 10-26 record as a Lions starter from 2006-08. In the process, he threw 44 touchdowns…and, um, 47 interceptions.
7. Shaun Hill
Journeyman quarterback Shaun Hill’s longest stay anywhere in the pros was his four-season stint in Detroit. the ex-49ers, Vikings (twice), and Rams playcaller started 10 games for Detroit in 2010, going 3-7 in the process. In the entirety of his Lions tenure, Hill tallied 16 touchdowns to just 12 interceptions, with a respectable (and career high) 244.2 passing yard per game average. He also did this.
6. Dave Krieg
You can’t talk about journeyman quarterbacks in semi-recent NFL history without also bringing up Dave Krieg. The Iola, Wisconsin native played for six teams over the course of his 18-year career. Just one of those—the 1994 season—was spent in Detroit. He filled in at starter the second half of the season, going 5-2 with 14 touchdowns and just three interceptions. He led the Lions to the playoffs that year, but they lost in the first round against Krieg’s hometown Green Bay Packers.
5. Joey Harrington
After Detroit’s Charlie Batch experiment was through (more on that soon), they handed the keys of their offense to Joey Harrington, whom they selected third overall in the 2002 NFL Draft. Harrington is widely regarded as a bust, which isn’t altogether untrue. He did win only 18 of his 55 Lions starts, after all! That said, he tossed 60 touchdown passes during the span. Let’s not talk about the 62 interceptions during that same four-year period.
4. Charlie Batch
After an impressive college career at nearby Eastern Michigan University, the Lions drafted Charlie Batch in the second round of the 1998 NFL Draft. He was thrown into the mix right away, starting the majority of the team’s games over the next four seasons. Sure, his 19-27 record isn’t exactly sterling, but when adjusting for the fact he was on the Detroit Lions and factoring his 49 touchdowns (compared to 40 interceptions) and 9,016 passing yards, Batch deserves a top five spot on this brutal list.
3. Erik Kramer
It’s a clear sign things haven’t been going too well for your team when Erik Kramer is one of the three best quarterbacks in your franchise’s last 30 years. Following three years in the Canadian Football League, Kramer returned to the NFL in 1991, where he became the occasional starter for the Lions. Over the course of 15 starts that were split between three seasons in Detroit, Kramer went 10-5 with 23 touchdowns (and 19 interceptions). Kramer also holds the distinction of being the starting quarterback the last time Detroit won a playoff game…way back in the 1991 season. Yikes!
2. Scott Mitchell
The hulking lefty didn’t exactly wow during his tenure (and he surely didn’t earn his then-massive contract), but he offered Lions fans a rare spell of consistency during his five seasons with the team in the ’90s. Over the course of his 57 starts, Mitchell went 27-30 with 79 touchdowns, 57 interceptions, and 12,647 passing yards. He was also under center for two Lions postseason appearances. He’ll probably be remembered more for what he wasn’t, but he was still one of the better quarterbacks of a particularly bad bunch.
1. Matthew Stafford
Nobody can argue against this. Matthew Stafford has been far and away the best Lions quarterback of the past 30 seasons. Hell, he’s probably the best quarterback in Detroit Lions history.