History Again - - Russ Thomas

Good or Bad? I was very young when he was GM. The only two things I remember - my dad bitching about him and having trouble with our best defensive player, Doug English.

So what’s the skinny on Russ Thomas? Did he ever do anything good? My dad said he was a personal friend of WCF. And that Thomas got Willie off the sauce and WCF became eternally grateful to Thomas.

So tell me…?

22 seasons as GM

0 playoff wins.

One double digit winning season.


The entire Birth of the Super Bowl to the year before Barry era was on his watch as GM.

Did nothing with it.

Not surprising, as he had no real qualifications.

22 years. No playoff wins. Imagine that happening now.


Jebus, does this open old wounds.

The only good thing that can be said is that he kept WCF’s cash intact. He was a great, long time “friend” for a reason. Not much more help here other than to suggest Google, or other long time Den occupants opinion. I was young and remember the bitter player contract struggles that left scars. Maybe this was across the board event, I don’t recall, just the crap that happened here.

We truly have been blessed in the GM department. Holmes success ratio has to scale a bar, just a tad higher than a croquet hoop.


Same- Dad hated him. Constant draft pick drama with holdouts, never seemed to know what was going. Never really won. Thank God at least the league fixed the insanity of massive contracts going to first round draft picks who were totally unproven and the resultant holdouts every year. Now it’s all slotted and we can just get down to football.


He hated paying players. I heard that’s why Joe Scmidt retired because he was tired of fighting with Thomas over getting players.

Schmidt resigned as the Lions’ head coach on January 12, 1973. At a press conference announcing his decision, Schmidt said, “I really don’t enjoy coaching anymore. It got to be a burden more than a fun-loving game. I promised my family and myself when I started coaching that I would get out when it stopped being fun. Unfortunately, it’s reached that point.”

So management not only killed the desire to play football for Barry, Megatraon and almost for Stafford, they did for arguably our best modern day head coach too.


Awesome Fun GIF by Tactical Baby Gear


I think Chuck Knox was our Oline coach under Schmidt. When Schmidt quit Knox went to the Rams and won like 5 division titles in a row.
He never went to the Super bowl, but it sucked seeing those guys go and the lions just have that suck meter stuck in the red.

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He wouldn’t pay guys like WR Fred Biletnikoff or QB John Hadle after they were drafted, so they jumped to the AFL. Also, after drafting Barry, to “restore the roar”, he played hard ass and wouldn’t sign him until like game time week 1. Barry missed all of training camp, and didn’t start game one because of it. Thomas was constantly at contract odds with every good play that we had during his tenure. I wasn’t unhappy to see him go…


The saga of Russ Thomas reminds me so much of the old Pittsburgh Steelers. Few can remember that the Steelers used to be what the Lions have been for the past 20 some odd years–the doormat. When Art Rooney got the Steelers, he began hiring coaches that would go drinking with him. They would last about three years before he had to fire them and find a new drinking buddy. The main qualification to be a Steelers coach was that you had to toss back a few with the boss.

This changed when Art, Jr. got old enough to tell his dad what a lousy boss he was, and convinced the old man to hire Chuck Noll as the head coach. I still remember the first game of the 1969 season, when the Lions played their “gimme” game of the season against the Steelers, only to have new coach Chuck Noll win his first NFL game as a head coach. It still rankles me.

WCF was just like old Art Rooney. I don’t think he was looking for a drinking buddy, but he had the same attitude towards hiring Lions personnel. Anybody I like will do (Matt Millen, anyone?). It is no wonder the Lions have wandered in the desert since WCF bought the team. Russ Thomas is just one of a long line of marginally capable people who were put in charge. I always felt WCF was simply satisfied to be a “member of the club.” Being able to hobnob with other NFL owners was enough to allow him to feel good about himself. Thank god Sheila is not like her old man.


Russ Thomas is the reason my father only casually follows the Lions now. I think you can take the entire amount of disdain that this board has for Patricia and Millen collectively and it still wouldn’t match his utter loathing of Russ Thomas.

Objectively, I can see why. He laid the foundation for 60 years of incompetence. Yeah, he wasn’t around to see its zenith in the early 2000’s, but it sure sat upon his bricks.


Sad, he killed my dad’s love of the team also. Luckily, I had many more disappointments to look forward to.

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We’re not the worst!
We’re not the worst!


The worst team on the list has 2 Super Bowl rings. Amazing.

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Very Florida Marlins vibe, them Bucs…

Season 7 Reaction GIF by The Office

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That’s also 100% on wcf. He ran the lions like a business instead of trying to win every year. It was more about the bottom line than it was championships. That was the cardinals problem under bidwell as well. It’s no wonder both franchises never won with owners that were more interested in making money off the team than doing everything they could to win.


I agree with nearly everything you said. And the “running it like a business” part is definitely not like running it like a succesful business. They ran them like failing side businesses where they are just hanging on and doing what they can to stop the bleeding.

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So much this…excellent insight. The very reason so many of us have been clamoring for a new owner since the 70s… sigh

Willie did what Lions fans have been asking for him to do for decades…in March of 2014.

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