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From NFL Films
From 1980-84, Billy Sims was one of the best running backs in the NFL, at least as far as running with the football. And then he breaks his leg in 1984 and his NFL career is over and so is the decade for the Detroit Lions who would go onto 7 straight losing seasons from 1984-90, 6 straight (1985-90) after losing Sims in 1984.
Just to talk about the Lions and the 1980s: what was called the NFC Central back then (the NFC North today) the Bears pretty much dominated the NFC Central from that decade: 5 straight NFC Central championships from 1984-88, they won Super Bowl in 1985 with one of the best NFL teams ever.
And I believe the big part of that is because the Green Bay Packers were stuck in mediocrity in the 1980s with four 8-8 seasons, including 3 straight from 1983-85 and the Minnesota Vikings also stuck in mediocrity for most of that decade, the Bears from 84-88 under Mike Ditka pretty much had 8 divisional games every year that they at the very least would be expected to win and probably should’ve won.
Unlike the NFC West where you consistently had 3 playoff contenders in that division for most of that decade with the San Francisco 49ers, Los Angeles Rams, the New Orleans Saints, and even the Atlanta Falcons in the early 80s.
Or the NFC East where you consistently had 4-5 playoff contenders in that division for the most of that decade , with the Redskins, Cowboys, Giants, Eagles, and even the Cardinals when they were still in St. Louis. In the NFC Central once the Bears emerged in 1984 under Mike Ditka, the Monsters of the Midway were back and they gobbled up that division like Godzilla gobbled up Tokyo.
With a healthy Billy Sims for most of the 1980s and then you have Eric Hipple at QB who was about as talented as any QB in the NFC back then, head coach Monte Clark is probably not fired after the 1984 season and I believe 1980s Detroit Lions are right there with the Chicago Bears in the NFC Central.
Not saying the Lions would’ve been as good as the Bears, but they would’ve been consistently competing with the Bears in the NFC Central during that decade. Because Eric Hipple was a good QB when he was healthy, Leonard Thompson and Jeff Chadwick were good receivers, but after Sims they didn’t have a running game and when Hipple wasn’t playing they didn’t have a QB.