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. 18.
Originally a second-round pick of the Green Bay Packers in 1950, quarterback Tobin Rote was the precursor to Bart Starr and left the Packers right before their dynasty began in the 1960s. In 1957, Rote was traded to the division rival Lions, and in his first season with the team, Rote relieved an injured Bobby Layne to lead an improbable title run for Detroit — the last championship of any kind for the Lions.
Rote started in the most noted Lions comeback in franchise history in the 1957 playoff game between the Lions and the San Francisco 49ers. After San Francisco took a 27-7 lead over Rote’s Lions, Detroit came storming back, scoring 28 consecutive second-half points to advance to the NFL Championship with a 31-27 victory. Rote completed 16-of-30 passes for 214 yards with one touchdown and one interception. The next week, Rote led the Lions to the NFL Championship by defeating the powerful Cleveland Browns 59-14 in one of the most lopsided losses in any NFL Championship game in history. Rote had a dominant game, throwing for 280 yards and four touchdowns while also rushing for 27 yards and another touchdown.
Unfortunately for Rote and the Lions, everything went downhill after that game as Layne would give the Lions a “50-year curse” through which the Lions have not yet won another championship. But for just the 1957 season, Rote was the king of Detroit. If not for the Packers’ rise in the NFC Central, the Lions would have had multiple attempts at another NFL Championship in the 1960s.
Other nominees: Eddie Drummond (2002-2006), Kris Durham (2012-Present)
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