Complete List Of Detroit Lions Quarterbacks In Order

Complete List Of Detroit Lions Quarterbacks In Order

Feature Photo: April Visuals / Shutterstock.com

1930s

Dutch Clark (1934-1938)

Dutch Clark, a key figure in the early years of the Detroit Lions, was known for his exceptional skill and versatility. Joining the team in 1934, Clark was not only a quarterback but also played as a running back and kicker. His leadership on the field was instrumental in the Lions’ 1935 NFL Championship victory, the first in the franchise’s history. Clark’s style of play was ahead of its time, blending athleticism with a strategic understanding of the game. He was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1963, a testament to his significant impact on the sport and the Detroit Lions.

Buddy Parker (1935)

While primarily known for his later coaching career, Buddy Parker also played as a quarterback for the Detroit Lions in 1935. His tenure as a player with the Lions was brief and largely overshadowed by his coaching accomplishments in later years. As a quarterback, Parker was a part of the early Lions teams but did not have a significant impact in this role. His true legacy began to unfold when he transitioned to coaching, where he enjoyed considerable success.

Ace Gutowsky (1935-1938)

Ace Gutowsky, primarily a fullback during his career, occasionally stepped in as a quarterback for the Detroit Lions in the mid-1930s. His time at quarterback was limited, as his primary contributions to the team came from his robust running style as a fullback. However, his versatility allowed him to be a valuable asset to the Lions during this era. Gutowsky’s physical style of play was characteristic of the football of that time, and he contributed to the gritty, tough image of the early Detroit Lions teams.

Ernie Caddel (1935)

Ernie Caddel, another multi-position player for the Detroit Lions in the 1930s, briefly played as a quarterback in 1935. Primarily known for his role as a halfback, Caddel’s time at quarterback was not as prominent as his contributions in the running game. Like many players of his era, his ability to play multiple positions was valuable in the early, formative years of the NFL. Caddel’s athleticism and versatility were assets to the Lions, although his legacy with the team is more tied to his primary role as a halfback.

Glenn Presnell (1935-1936)

Glenn Presnell joined the Detroit Lions in 1935 and served as a quarterback for a brief period. His time with the Lions included contributions in various roles, with his stint at quarterback being part of a multifaceted career. Presnell was known for his kicking abilities as well, and his versatility was a common trait among players of that era. While his impact as a quarterback was not as pronounced as his other roles, he still contributed to the team’s early successes, including being a part of the 1935 Championship team.

Frank Christensen (1935-1938)

Frank Christensen was another player who took on the quarterback role for the Detroit Lions in the 1930s. His tenure with the team saw him contributing in various capacities, with quarterback being one of the positions he filled. Christensen’s time as a quarterback was part of a broader role he played on the team, which included responsibilities in other positions as well. Like many of his contemporaries, his adaptability and willingness to play multiple roles were valuable in the nascent years of the NFL and the Detroit Lions franchise.

1940s

Frankie Sinkwich (1943-1945)

Frankie Sinkwich joined the Detroit Lions in 1943 after a stellar college career at the University of Georgia, where he won the Heisman Trophy. As a quarterback for the Lions, Sinkwich was known for his tough, gritty style of play. In 1944, he led the NFL in passing, showcasing his prowess as a quarterback. His tenure with the Lions was marked by his leadership and competitive spirit, though his career was relatively short due to injuries. Sinkwich’s impact on the team was significant during the World War II era, when many players were serving in the military.

Clyde LeForce (1944-1947)

Clyde LeForce stepped in as a quarterback for the Detroit Lions during the mid-1940s. His time with the team coincided with a challenging period for the NFL, as many players were involved in World War II efforts. LeForce, a versatile player, was able to make a mark during this time of scarcity. His contributions as a quarterback were vital for the Lions, especially in maintaining competitiveness during these years. Although not as widely recognized as some other players, LeForce’s role during this transitional period in the NFL was crucial for the team.

Dave Ryan (1946)

Dave Ryan’s stint as a quarterback for the Detroit Lions in 1946 was brief but notable. Ryan’s time with the Lions came during a period of re-adjustment for the league, as many players were returning from military service. While Ryan did not have a long tenure with the team, his contribution during this rebuilding phase was important for the Lions as they worked to re-establish themselves post-World War II. His role as a quarterback, although short-lived, was part of the broader effort to bring the team back to competitive form.

Roy Zimmerman (1947)

Roy Zimmerman, known for his strong arm and passing ability, played as a quarterback for the Detroit Lions in 1947. Zimmerman’s NFL career was notable, and his time with the Lions, though brief, was marked by his ability to lead the offense effectively. His prior experience with other NFL teams brought a level of expertise and skill to the quarterback position, which was beneficial for the Lions. Zimmerman’s passing skills were a highlight during his time with the team, and he contributed to the evolving passing game in the league.

Fred Enke (1948)

Fred Enke joined the Detroit Lions in 1948, bringing with him a new style of quarterback play. His tenure with the Lions was a part of a longer NFL career that saw him playing for several teams. Enke’s time in Detroit was marked by his ability to adapt to different offensive styles. Although his stint with the Lions was not the most notable part of his career, Enke’s presence on the team contributed to the evolution of the quarterback position in the post-war NFL, an era that began to see more emphasis on the passing game.

Y.A. Tittle (1948-1950)

Y.A. Tittle, a future Hall of Famer, began his illustrious NFL career with the Detroit Lions in 1948. Tittle’s time with the Lions laid the foundation for what would become a legendary career in professional football. Known for his exceptional passing ability and football intelligence, Tittle brought a new level of skill to the quarterback position. Even though his tenure with the Lions was the starting point of his career, it was clear that he possessed remarkable talent and leadership qualities. Tittle’s impact on the Lions was significant, and he would go on to achieve greater fame and success in subsequent years with other NFL teams, solidifying his status as one of the great quarterbacks in league history.

1950s

Bobby Layne (1950-1958)

Bobby Layne, one of the most iconic figures in Detroit Lions history, joined the team in 1950 and quickly became the heart and soul of the franchise. His tenure with the Lions is considered the golden era of the team, as he led them to three NFL Championships in 1952, 1953, and 1957. Known for his fiery leadership and never-say-die attitude, Layne was a master of the fourth-quarter comeback. His rough-and-tumble style and penchant for late-game heroics made him a legend in Detroit. Layne’s impact on the Lions and the NFL was so profound that he was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1967.

Tobin Rote (1957-1959)

Tobin Rote arrived in Detroit in 1957 and played a pivotal role in the Lions’ success during his tenure. Rote is especially remembered for stepping in for the injured Bobby Layne during the 1957 season and leading the Lions to the NFL Championship, showcasing his skill and poise under pressure. His style of play was dynamic, and he was known for his ability both as a passer and a runner, a dual-threat quarterback in an era when such versatility was rare. Rote’s contributions were key in maintaining the Lions’ competitiveness during this period.

Earl Morrall (1958-1964)

Earl Morrall joined the Detroit Lions in 1958 and served as a backup quarterback initially, playing behind the legendary Bobby Layne and later Tobin Rote. Morrall’s time in Detroit was the beginning of what would be a long and successful career in the NFL. Known for his reliability and football intelligence, he was a valuable asset to the Lions during his tenure. Morrall’s ability to step in and perform effectively when called upon was a testament to his skills and professionalism. His career after leaving Detroit would see him achieving significant success with other NFL teams.

Jim Ninowski (1958-1959, 1961-1964)

Jim Ninowski, part of the Lions’ roster in the late 1950s and early 1960s, played a role as a backup quarterback. His tenure in Detroit was marked by periods of both starting and serving as a reserve quarterback. Ninowski was known for his strong arm and was a capable player who could step in when needed. While he did not achieve the same level of fame as some of his contemporaries, Ninowski’s time with the Lions was important in maintaining depth and reliability at the quarterback position. His career spanned several teams, but his contributions to the Lions in the 1960s were notable for the team’s depth chart.

1960s

Milt Plum (1962-1967)

Milt Plum joined the Detroit Lions in 1962, bringing with him experience and a steady hand to the quarterback position. Plum, known for his accuracy and decision-making, provided a level of stability to the Lions’ offense during his tenure. In 1962, he achieved a remarkable passer rating, one of the highest in the league at that time. Plum’s style was less flamboyant than some of his contemporaries, but his effectiveness and consistency were vital to the Lions’ offensive efforts in the mid-1960s.

Karl Sweetan (1966-1967)

Karl Sweetan came to the Detroit Lions in 1966, and although his career with the team was brief, he left a mark during his short stint. Sweetan’s time in Detroit was characterized by a strong arm and the ability to make deep throws, a skill that added a new dimension to the Lions’ passing game. Despite the promise shown, his career did not flourish as expected, and his time in Detroit ended after just a couple of seasons. Sweetan’s tenure with the Lions remains a brief but memorable part of the team’s history during the 1960s.

Bill Munson (1968-1975)

Bill Munson was acquired by the Detroit Lions in 1968 and quickly established himself as a competent leader on the field. Munson’s tenure with the Lions spanned much of the late 1960s and early 1970s. He was known for his intelligence and ability to manage the game effectively. While not necessarily a flashy player, Munson’s consistency and resilience were key attributes that helped guide the Lions’ offense. His leadership and steady play were instrumental in keeping the Lions competitive during his time with the team.

Greg Landry (1968-1978)

Greg Landry started his long tenure with the Detroit Lions in 1968, becoming one of the team’s most notable quarterbacks in the post-merger era. Landry was known for his athleticism and became one of the NFL’s early dual-threat quarterbacks, capable of making plays with both his arm and his legs. In 1971, he was selected to the Pro Bowl and was also named the NFC’s Offensive Player of the Year. Landry’s ability to adapt and evolve with the changing dynamics of the NFL made him a significant player for the Lions throughout the 1970s. His contributions to the team were pivotal in keeping the Lions competitive during a period of transition in the NFL.

Joe Reed (1973-1974)

Joe Reed joined the Detroit Lions in 1973, bringing depth to the quarterback position. Although his time as a starter was limited, Reed’s role was important in providing backup and support for the Lions’ primary quarterbacks. His ability to step in when needed demonstrated the depth the Lions had at the quarterback position during this era. Reed’s time with the Lions was a valuable part of his NFL career, and he contributed to the team’s efforts during the mid-1970s.

Gary Danielson (1976-1984)

Gary Danielson became part of the Detroit Lions in 1976, marking the start of a significant tenure with the team that stretched into the mid-1980s. Danielson’s time with the Lions was characterized by his strong arm and his ability to lead the offense effectively. He became the team’s primary starter in the late 1970s and early 1980s, bringing a new energy to the Lions’ quarterback position. Danielson’s best seasons with the Lions included several standout performances, and he was a key figure in the team’s offensive strategy during this period.

Jeff Komlo (1979-1980)

Jeff Komlo was drafted by the Detroit Lions in 1979 and made an immediate impact in his rookie season. Despite being a late-round draft pick,

Komlo quickly demonstrated his potential by earning a starting role. His tenure with the Lions, while brief, was marked by a strong arm and a willingness to take risks on the field. Komlo’s aggressive style of play brought a new dynamic to the Lions’ offense, though it was sometimes accompanied by inconsistency. His time in Detroit set the stage for the rest of his NFL career, highlighting both his potential and the challenges he faced as a young quarterback in the league.

1980s and 1990s

Eric Hipple (1980-1989)

Eric Hipple joined the Detroit Lions in 1980 and quickly became known for his dynamic and fearless style of play. Hipple’s tenure with the Lions was marked by moments of brilliance, including memorable performances that showcased his ability to take control of games. His mobility and willingness to take physical risks added an exciting dimension to the Lions’ offense. Hipple’s career had its ups and downs, but his contributions to the team in the 1980s were significant, making him a memorable figure in Lions history.

Chuck Long (1986-1989)

Drafted by the Lions in 1986, Chuck Long brought high expectations due to his successful college career. While with the Lions, Long showed flashes of the talent that made him a standout in college. His time in Detroit, however, was met with mixed results. Long’s tenure with the Lions was part of a career that didn’t fully live up to the initial expectations, but he did provide the team with depth and an option at quarterback during his time there.

Rodney Peete (1989-1993)

Rodney Peete joined the Detroit Lions in 1989, bringing athleticism and a competitive edge to the quarterback position. Peete’s mobility was a key attribute, allowing him to extend plays and be effective both in the pocket and on the run. His tenure with the Lions included leading the team to playoff appearances, showcasing his ability to perform in high-pressure situations. Peete’s time in Detroit was an important phase in his career, as he developed into a quarterback capable of leading an NFL offense.

Bob Gagliano (1989-1990)

Bob Gagliano, who played for the Lions in the late 1980s and early 1990s, was known for his journeyman career in the NFL. His time with the Lions was characterized by a role as a backup and occasional starter. Gagliano’s experience and knowledge of the game were valuable for the Lions, providing depth and stability at the quarterback position. Though his tenure with the team was relatively short, he contributed to the Lions’ efforts during this transition period.

Andre Ware (1990-1993)

Andre Ware, the 1989 Heisman Trophy winner, joined the Detroit Lions in 1990 with much anticipation. Ware’s time in Detroit, however, did not live up to the high expectations set by his collegiate success. His opportunities to start were limited, and when he did play, the results were mixed. Ware’s tenure with the Lions serves as a reminder of how the transition from college to the pros can be challenging, even for the most talented players.

Erik Kramer (1991-1993)

Erik Kramer signed with the Detroit Lions in 1991, emerging as a solid quarterback during his tenure. Kramer is best remembered for his performance in the 1991 season, where he helped lead the Lions to a playoff victory, their first since the 1957 NFL Championship. His ability to step up in crucial moments was a highlight of his time in Detroit. Kramer’s tenure with the Lions was a stepping stone in a career that saw him becoming a reliable starter in the NFL.

Scott Mitchell (1994-1998)

Scott Mitchell was brought to the Detroit Lions in 1994, seen as a key piece to elevate the team’s offense. Mitchell’s tenure with the Lions was marked by highs and lows, with moments of impressive passing performances mixed with inconsistency. At times, he showcased the ability to be a top-tier quarterback, especially when connecting with star receiver Herman Moore. However, Mitchell’s time in Detroit was also characterized by periods of struggle, reflecting the challenges of maintaining high-level play in the NFL.

Charlie Batch (1998-2001)

Charlie Batch, drafted by the Lions in 1998, brought youth and potential to the quarterback position. His early years in Detroit were promising, showing signs of becoming a long-term solution as the team’s starting quarterback. Batch’s mobility and arm strength were notable, and he had several impressive performances during his tenure. However, injuries and changes within the team’s management and roster impacted his career with the Lions. Batch’s contributions in the late 1990s were crucial for the team, especially during a period of transition and rebuilding.

Gus Frerotte (1999)

Gus Frerotte played a brief but notable role for the Detroit Lions in 1999. Signed as a veteran quarterback, Frerotte provided experience and depth to the position. His time in Detroit was short, primarily serving as a backup, but he was called upon to start several games. In those games, Frerotte demonstrated his capability as a reliable and seasoned quarterback, capable of managing games effectively and providing leadership on and off the field. Though his stint with the Lions was brief, his impact during that season was felt, especially in mentoring younger players and providing stability at the quarterback position.

Stoney Case (1999)

Stoney Case, another quarterback who played for the Lions in 1999, was part of the team’s quarterback rotation during that season. Case’s time in Detroit was limited, and he saw action in a few games. While his impact with the Lions was not significant in terms of long-term contributions, he provided depth at a position that saw several changes throughout the season. Case’s role, though minor in the broader context of the team’s history, was part of the Lions’ efforts to find stability at the quarterback position during a season of transitions.

2000s to present

Mike McMahon (2001-2004)

Mike McMahon was drafted by the Detroit Lions in 2001 and played a backup role, occasionally starting when injuries hit the first-string quarterbacks. McMahon’s tenure with the Lions was marked by his mobility and strong arm, though his time as a starter was limited. He showed flashes of potential during his starts, but inconsistency prevented him from securing a permanent starting role.

Joey Harrington (2002-2005)

Joey Harrington, drafted third overall in 2002, was expected to be the franchise quarterback for the Lions. Harrington’s tenure with the team was filled with high expectations, but he struggled to find consistent success. Despite showing promise and work ethic, Harrington’s performance was often criticized, and he faced a challenging environment in Detroit. His time with the Lions is a reminder of the pressures and challenges that come with being a high draft pick expected to turn around a franchise.

Jeff Garcia (2005)

Jeff Garcia, a seasoned quarterback, joined the Lions in 2005, bringing experience and depth to the position. Garcia’s time in Detroit was brief, but he provided a veteran presence and was called upon to start several games. His performance was solid, offering a temporary solution at quarterback, but it was not enough to make a long-term impact on the team’s fortunes.

Jon Kitna (2006-2008)

Jon Kitna signed with the Detroit Lions in 2006 and quickly assumed the role of starting quarterback. Kitna was known for his leadership and toughness, often playing through injuries. During his tenure, he put up respectable numbers and was a bright spot in an otherwise difficult period for the team. Kitna’s time in Detroit was characterized by his commitment and effort, though team success remained elusive.

Daunte Culpepper (2008-2009)

Daunte Culpepper, once a star quarterback with the Minnesota Vikings, joined the Lions in 2008. Culpepper’s tenure in Detroit came during the latter part of his career, and he was brought in to provide experience and stability. While he showed glimpses of his former prowess, injuries and age had diminished his abilities. Culpepper’s time with the Lions was part of a broader effort to bring veteran leadership to a struggling team.

Matthew Stafford (2009-2021)

Matthew Stafford, drafted first overall by the Lions in 2009, has been the face of the franchise since his arrival. Known for his powerful arm and competitive nature, Stafford has set numerous team records and is considered one of the best quarterbacks in Lions history.

Jared Goff (2021-present)

Jared Goff was acquired by the Lions in 2021 as part of a trade that sent Matthew Stafford to the Los Angeles Rams. Goff, a former number one overall pick and Super Bowl participant with the Rams, brought a new dynamic to the Lions’ quarterback position. His tenure with the team, has been about adapting to a new system and helping to lead a young team through a rebuilding phase. Goff’s experience and skill set are seen as valuable assets as the Lions look to become competitive in the NFC North.

 

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