Bobby Layne, QB, 1950-1958
Bobby Layne was such a great player for Detroit, people blame the Lions’ woes over the last 50+ years simply on his absence.
Layne was the 3rd overall selection in the 1948 NFL Draft and was the 2nd overall selection in the 1948 AAFC Draft by the Baltimore Colts. Layne was offered $77,000 to play for the Colts, but George Halas “sweet talked” him into signing with the Bears.
After one season, Layne was the third-string quarterback, behind both Sid Luckman and Johnny Lujack, and refused to return to the Bears and tried to engineer his own trade to the Green Bay Packers. Halas, preoccupied with fending off a challenge from the AAFC, traded Layne to the New York Bulldogs for their #1 draft pick and $50,000 cash.
The team won only one game and lost 11, but Layne played well and developed quickly. Layne compared one season with the soon-defunct New York Bulldogs as worth five seasons in the NFL.
In 1950, Layne was traded to the Detroit Lions for defensive end Bob Mann. The Lions also picked up the tab and made the final three payments to Halas (Halas would remark later that the Lions should have continued the yearly payments indefinitely to him in view of Layne’s performance).[relared-ctaegory]
From 1950-1955, Layne was re-united with his great friend and Highland Park High School teammate Doak Walker. In 1952, Bobby led the Detroit Lions to their first NFL Championship in 17 years. Layne would repeat this in 1953 for back to back NFL Championships, but fell short of a three-peat when the Detroit Lions lost to the Cleveland Browns in the 1954 NFL Championship Game. In 1957, Layne was leading the Lions toward another Championship when fate stepped in. In a game late in the season Layne broke his leg in three places during a pileup. His replacement, Tobin Rote, finished the season and led the Lions to victory in the 1957 NFL Championship Game.
After retiring from 15 seasons in the NFL, Layne held the career records for both passes attempted (3,700) and completed(1,814), as well as yards gained passing (26,768) and passing touchdowns (196). Layne was not the most gifted or talented person in the NFL at the time, his passes sometimes looked like wounded ducks on the field, but his drive, leadership, and clutch play (he is credited with creating the two-minute offense) made him great.
Layne was a hard-nosed tough guy, to the point that he was one of the last players in the league to refuse to wear a face mask on his helmet (back when that sort of thing was still optional). He also showed up to a number of practices and games drunk or hungover.
Don’t believe me? Just watch the clip.
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