Dominic Raiola came to the Detroit Lions in 2001 as the teams 2nd round draft pick. In 2002 he started all sixteen games for the Lions and has been a mainstay on the offensive line ever since. Raiolas durability while playing one of the most grueling positions in professional football has been nothing less than amazing. In thirteen years as a starter Raiola has missed just 5 games, one of which was due to suspension this season.
Martin Mayhew‘s first year with the Lions was also in 2001 and ironically it was Mayhew who had to make the decision to let Dominic Raiola go to free agency.
In Dominic Raiola’s career he had experienced plenty of losing. Out of 14 seasons the Detroit Lions only posted winning records in two of them 2011 and 2014. The rest of the seasons were all major disappointments for Lions fans including the 0-16 campaign in 2008. But even with all the losing Dominic Raiola chose to stay with the Detroit Lions despite opportunities to leave via free agency.
Raiola never complained or caused any published problem in the locker room. Some isolated incidents aside, Raiola was always a good solider and loyal to the Lions organization.
Dom may feel a special bond with the City of Detroit but Lions fans don’t seem to share the same connection. In a blue-collar town that admires if not worships the virtues of loyalty and hard work. Raiola should be more admired than he is. A “throwback” player with a mean streak who spent his entire career with one team should be just the kind of player that is worshiped by fans in the motor city. But among Lions fans Raiola is perceived as a troublemaker who sometimes embarrasses his team its fans with his antics.
In a town that has been known to look past transgressions away from the game, why is Raiola so under-appreciated?
Despite his durability, hard-nosed play and loyalty Raiola will forever be attached to barren winless wasteland of the Matt Millen Era. Raiola was among the first players chosen under Millen and his connection to all the losing seasons thereafter will forever taint his career.
Dominic Raiola’s chapter as a Detroit Lions has come to a close but instead of celebtrating the end of a great career fans may subconsciously be celebrating the end of losing football. Maybe in a few years and a few more winning seasons we will think differently of Raiola but for fans just seem happy to move on.