Ranking the greatest Detroit Lions of all time is no easy task to accomplish. From No. 1 all the way up to No. 99, I will attempt to rank the greatest Lions players for each jersey number. This list now continues with my selection for the best at No. 17.
A fourth-round pick by the Lions in 1980, Eric Hipple, along with running back Billy Sims (a fellow 1980 draft choice), led the Lions to consecutive postseason appearances in 1982 and 1983, the first for the Lions since 1970. After splitting time with Gary Danielson during the strike-shortened 1982 season, Hipple started the Lions’ first playoff game against what would be the eventual Super Bowl champion Washington Redskins. Hipple went 22-for-38 for 298 yards with one touchdown and two interceptions (one being a pick-six) in a 31-7 loss.
Hipple had his best overall season in 1983 although the statistics don’t back up this assertion. Hipple led the Lions to a 9-7 regular season record, throwing for 2,577 yards with 12 touchdowns and 18 interceptions. Unfortunately, Hipple did not play in the Lions’ playoff game against the San Francisco 49ers. Danielson started instead and although this game was most noted for kicker Eddie Murray (yet another 1980 draft choice) missing a late field goal in a 24-23 loss, Danielson would throw for no touchdowns and five interceptions in the game. While Hipple was not an elite quarterback, things most certainly would have been different if he played in that particular game rather than Danielson.
After 1983, Hipple had a on-again, off-again rest of his career with Detroit. Despite throwing for nearly 3,000 yards in 1985, Hipple was sacked 49 times that year and only played in 11 games from 1986 until 1989. Hipple finished his Lions career with 10,711 passing yards and threw for 55 touchdowns and 70 interceptions during his nine-year career.
Other nominees: Sam Wyche (1974), Dave Krieg (1994)