Wayne Fontes

Wayne Fontes (/fɒnts/; born February 2, 1940) is a former American football coach and college and professional football player who was the head coach of the National Football League's Detroit Lions from 1988 to 1996. His 67 wins and 71 losses are each the most for a head coach in team history.

Wayne Fontes
Position:Defensive back
Personal information
Born:February 2, 1940 (age 79)
New Bedford, Massachusetts
Career information
College:Michigan State
Career history
As player:
As coach:
Career highlights and awards
Head coaching record
Regular season:66–67 (.496)
Postseason:1–4 (.200)
Career:67–71 (.486)
Player stats at PFR
Coaching stats at PFR

Background and early career

Fontes was born in the fishing community of New Bedford, Massachusetts. According to the 1930 US Census, his mother, Matilda Fontes, was born in Wareham, Massachusetts. His father, Caetano Fontes, was Portuguese, born in Cape Verde, a Portuguese colony at the time.[1] Fontes grew up in Canton, Ohio where he played football, basketball, and baseball at McKinley High School. He attended Michigan State University and graduated in 1962. After he was taken in the ninth round of the 1961 NFL Draft by the Philadelphia Eagles, Fontes played one year for the New York Titans of the American Football League. Fontes played nine games for the Titans in the 1962 season as a defensive back, recording four interceptions. He returned one interception 83 yards for a touchdown, a franchise record that would stand for 27 years.

After playing one season for the Titans, he injured his posterior cruciate ligament, and returned to MSU to obtain a Master's degree. He became an assistant coach at MSU in 1963. He then coached high school football and basketball at Bay City, Michigan's Visitation HS for two years losing only two games in his first year in 1964, and his team was undefeated in his second year in 1965, winning their league championship. He later left for the University of Dayton to serve under head coach John McVay. He also served as an assistant coach at the University of Iowa and Southern California. He ultimately developed a close relationship with John McKay after working under his wing at USC, and went on to work as the defensive coordinator and defensive backs coach of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers from 1982–1984.

Head coach

After 13 seasons as an assistant in the NFL, Fontes took over the Lions as interim head coach in mid-season of 1988 after head coach Darryl Rogers was fired. Fontes was regarded as somewhat of an up-and-comer in NFL coaching circles during his time in Tampa Bay as defensive backs coach under John McKay, and became a highly regarded ball skill and positioning educator for defensive backs in the "3-4" defense.

A personable "player's coach" and excellent motivator, Fontes was a key hire by Darryl Rogers, and would ultimately go on to coach Detroit for another seven seasons. The Lions were primed for success after William Clay Ford handed the job to Fontes in 1988, and the ownership pulled out all the stops – drafting Pro Bowl-caliber players such as Barry Sanders, Chris Spielman, Robert Porcher, Luther Ellis, Lomas Brown, Bennie Blades, Jason Hanson, Jerry Ball, Herman Moore, Kevin Glover, and Rodney Peete.

Detroit also made aggressive moves in free agency during this time, signing quarterback Scott Mitchell, who had previously been Dan Marino's backup in Miami, and Pat Swilling, who was acquired from the Saints for a first-round draft pick.

The Lions would go on to achieve some success during his tenure. The team made the playoffs in 1991, 1993, 1994, and 1995 under his leadership. Fontes coached the 1991 and 1993 squads that won the NFC Central Division Title. The 1991 team won 12 regular season games (a franchise record), and Fontes earned NFL Coach of the Year honors through the Associated Press and United Press International. The Lions lost in the 1991 NFC Championship game to the Washington Redskins. Detroit was unable to find success in the post-season during his tenure which ultimately resulted in his termination.

Head coaching record

Team Year Regular Season Post Season
Won Lost Ties Win % Finish Won Lost Win % Result
DET 1988 2 3 0 .400 4th in NFC Central - -
DET 1989 7 9 0 .438 3rd in NFC Central - -
DET 1990 6 10 0 .375 3rd in NFC Central - -
DET 1991 12 4 0 .750 1st in NFC Central 1 1 .500 Lost to Washington Redskins in NFC Championship Game.
DET 1992 5 11 0 .313 5th in NFC Central - -
DET 1993 10 6 0 .625 1st in NFC Central 0 1 .000 Lost to Green Bay Packers in NFC Wild Card Game.
DET 1994 9 7 0 .563 3rd in NFC Central 0 1 .000 Lost to Green Bay Packers in NFC Wild Card Game.
DET 1995 10 6 0 .625 2nd in NFC Central 0 1 .000 Lost to Philadelphia Eagles in NFC Wild Card Game.
DET 1996 5 11 0 .313 5th in NFC Central - - -
Total 66 67 0 .496 1 4 .200


Fontes' ability to survive rumors of being fired earned him nicknames like "Big Buck" (stemming from a comparison he made between his job security and a hunted buck deer)[2] and "Rasputin" (coined by Chris Berman due to Fontes' apparent ability to "miraculously" coax a winning streak out of his team every time he was about to be fired). Berman also referred to him as the "Nanook of the North" because of Fontes' desire to bundle up so heavily in the winter cold. He has also been referred to as "Mr. Snuffleupagus", due to his resemblance of the "Sesame Street" character of the same name. Fontes was also the brunt of many media jokes. Jokes like "Mr. Fontes is an expert in primary colors and beige" reflect the lack of respect that haunted his tenure.

Fontes was regarded as very personable, often joking with the media about his precarious job situation. He drew the line for this comedy though after the Detroit Free Press ridiculed him for sporting Mickey Mouse ears at a Disney charity. The Free Press ran a tongue-in-cheek multiple choice quiz as to why he was wearing them the following day. The offbeat answers ranged from "Wearing his thinking cap" to "President of the Mouse Davis fan club". An irate Fontes slammed the media for making such a personal attack against him in such bad taste. He said, "It ain't funny....if you don't like me, tell me. That's bull. Didn't like it at all. I did something for charity and for kids, and I'll keep doing things for charity and for kids." This strong sense of compassion and sacrifice for others is probably what endeared players to him. The players responded to Fontes and always came to his defense when the coach fell into the "firing line".

Fontes popularity was waning in the later years of his career with the Lions. Many local media outlets and fans were openly critical of Fontes, correctly noting he amassed the most losses of any coach in Lions' history and overall record was under .500. The desolate years of mediocrity prior to Fontes seemed to be an afterthought, as was Fontes' role as a long time assistant in that mediocrity. Many felt the Lions were underachieving and that a change in leadership to a firm disciplinarian, such as Bobby Ross, would produce better results. The move backfired as Ross was never able to build a strong relationship with superstar running back Barry Sanders. It's widely speculated that the hiring of Ross accelerated the retirement of Sanders, who was very close with Fontes. In ESPN's SportsCentury video on Barry Sanders, Barry's father confirms that Barry contemplated retiring before the start of the 1997 season, which was to be Ross' first season as Lions coach. In his autobiography, "Now you see him", Barry says of Wayne Fontes: "I thought he deserved another chance." (ISBN 1-57860-139-8 p. 97)

As of 2018, Fontes is the only Lions coach to lead the team to a NFC championship game (versus the Washington Redskins following the 1991 season). He led them to the playoffs in four out of eight seasons while he was head coach, including three consecutive playoff berths (1993, 1994, and 1995). He left the Lions compiling the most wins in franchise history (67), most playoff appearances (5), most losses (71), and is 9th (out of 23 coaches) in total win percentage.

Some rumors indicate that Fontes drafted Barry Sanders in 1989 against the wishes of other members of the Lions staff, and accounts from some contemporaries do indicate that Fontes was definitely focused on acquiring Sanders.[3][4] Barry Sanders made a point to thank Fontes for his guidance in his Pro Football Hall of Fame induction speech.[5] The mutual admiration and respect between Fontes and Sanders was very strong and transcended beyond the football field. Toward the end of his time in Detroit, an anti-Fontes sentiment grew among some Lions team members, but Sanders remained a staunch supporter of the coach. Of Fontes, Sanders said: "He proves that a coach can show affection and appreciation and still win." Sanders, to this day, credits Fontes for making him a superstar running back.

Fontes still supports local Detroit charities on occasion with his former players although those opportunities have been fewer as of late. After serving briefly as a color commentator on the English-language broadcasts of NFL Europe games, Fontes retired to his home in Tarpon Springs, Florida. He is frequently spotted at Tampa Bay Buccaneers games where he maintains a strong friendship with Jim Gruden, father of former Buccaneers Head Coach Jon Gruden.

See also


  1. ^ Distinguished Americans & Canadians of Portuguese Descent Archived November 8, 2006, at the Wayback Machine
  2. ^ Glauber, Bob. " The pain in Wayne is mainly on the wane". The Sporting News, July 15, 1996. [1]
  3. ^ Vainisi, Jerry. "Barry Sanders retire? No Payton record? Not a chance" Archived September 28, 2008, at the Wayback Machine, Pro Football Weekly, July 12, 1999.
  4. ^ Brandt, Gil. "Hall recall: Barry Sanders", NFL.com, July 22, 2004.
  5. ^ "Barry Sanders's Enshrinement Speech Transcript", Pro Football Hall of Fame, August 8, 2004.
1973 USC Trojans football team

The 1973 USC Trojans football team represented the University of Southern California in the 1973 NCAA Division I football season.

1987 Detroit Lions season

The 1987 Detroit Lions season was the 58th season in franchise history. In a strike-affected season, the Lions fell further from their 1986 record of 5–11, winning only four games and missing the postseason for the fourth consecutive season.

1988 Detroit Lions season

The 1988 Detroit Lions season was the 59th season in franchise history. The team fell a step further from their 4–11 record in the strike-affected 1987 season, losing 12 of 16 games and suffering their fifth successive losing record. Head coach Darryl Rogers, who had served since 1985, was fired after 11 games and replaced by defensive coordinator Wayne Fontes.The 1988 Lions’ offense was historically inept; their 3,405 offensive yards gained is the second-lowest all-time in a 16-game season, and the lowest total of the 1980s. Their 220 points scored (13.75 per game) is the fifth-fewest of the 1980s. They scored 20 or more points only three times all season.

1989 Detroit Lions season

The 1989 Detroit Lions season was the franchise’s 60th season in the National Football League, their 56th as the Detroit Lions, and is best known as the beginning of the Barry Sanders era. Sanders, the previous year’s Heisman Trophy winner, was drafted 3rd overall by the Lions in the 1989 NFL Draft and was named to the Pro Bowl in his rookie season.

After starting the season with five straight losses and bottoming out at 2–9, the Lions won five in a row and six out of seven to finish the season with a 7–9 record. Nonetheless, it was their sixth consecutive losing season and their seventh of the decade.

1991 NFL season

The 1991 NFL season was the 72nd regular season of the National Football League. It was the final season for legendary coach Chuck Noll. The season ended with Super Bowl XXVI when the Washington Redskins defeated the Buffalo Bills 37–24 at the Metrodome in Minnesota. This was the second of four consecutive Super Bowl losses for Buffalo.

1992 Pro Bowl

The 1992 Pro Bowl was the NFL's 42nd annual all-star game which featured the outstanding performers from the 1991 season. The game was played on Sunday, February 2, 1992, at Aloha Stadium in Honolulu, Hawaii before a crowd of 50,209. The final score was NFC 21, AFC 15.Dan Reeves of the Denver Broncos led the AFC team against an NFC team coached by Detroit Lions head coach Wayne Fontes. The referee was Gerald Austin.Michael Irvin of the Dallas Cowboys was the game's MVP. Players on the winning NFC team received $10,000 apiece while the AFC participants each took home $5,000.

1996 Detroit Lions season

The 1996 Detroit Lions season was their 67th in the National Football League (NFL). The team declined severely from their previous season's output of 10–6. Following a 4-2 start, the Lions would proceed to lose nine of their final ten games to finish 5-11, missing the playoffs for the first time in four seasons.Following the season, longtime head coach Wayne Fontes was fired and Bobby Ross was hired to be the team's head coach the following season.

1997 Detroit Lions season

The 1997 Detroit Lions season was their 68th in the National Football League (NFL).

The Lions rebounded from a disastrous 1996 season, finishing 9-7 and qualifying for the playoffs for the fifth time in seven seasons -- the best stretch in franchise history.

Bobby Ross replaced Wayne Fontes as head coach. The highlight of the season was Barry Sanders becoming the third player in NFL history to rush for at least 2,000 yards in a season. Sanders shared the 1997 Associated Press MVP Award with Packers quarterback Brett Favre.

As a team, the Lions set an NFL rushing record, gaining 5.51 yards per rushing attempt. The Lions scored 379 points in 1997, the fourth-most of any team in the league.

Andre Ware

Andre Ware (born July 31, 1968) is an American sports analyst and commentator and a former American football player. He was the 1989 Heisman Trophy winner as a quarterback for the University of Houston. He was the first African American quarterback to receive this honor. In the 1990 NFL Draft, Ware was the first round selection (#7 overall) of the Detroit Lions. He was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 2004.

Darryl Rogers

Darryl Dale Rogers (May 28, 1934 – July 10, 2018) was an American football player and coach. He served as the head coach at California State College at Hayward—now known as California State University, East Bay (1965), California State University, Fresno (1966–1972), San Jose State University (1973–1975), Michigan State University (1976–1979), and Arizona State University (1980–1984), compiling a career college football record of 129–84–7. From 1985 to 1988, Rogers was the head coach of Detroit Lions the National Football League (NFL), tallying a mark of 18–40. In 1991, served as head coach of the Winnipeg Blue Bombers of the Canadian Football League (CFL), coaching the Blue Bombers to a 9–9 record and an appearance in the East Final.

Heavy Is the Head (EP)

Heavy Is The Head... is the first solo extended play by American rapper and producer MarvWon, released October 16, 2012, following up from his 2010 album Wayne Fontes Music. Signed under Mr. Porter's My Own Planet imprint, this nine-track record featured Detroit-based artists Royce Da 5'9" (of Slaughterhouse), Fat Killahz and Kon Artis (of D12), whose production is primarily presented, along with Jay Oliver, Young Roc, Pzuvmynd, and Trox.In 2013, Marv dropped a single for "Talk Cash Shit" and a video directed by Mario "Khalif" Butterfield. In 2014, he shot another video for "What Up".A free digital version of the Heavy Is The Head... project is available to download on the Internet.

List of Detroit Lions head coaches

The Detroit Lions are a professional American football team based in Detroit, Michigan. They are currently a member of the North Division of the National Football Conference (NFC) in the National Football League (NFL). The franchise has had a total of 27 head coaches in team history, which includes its existence as the Portsmouth (Ohio) Spartans (1930–1933). In the 1934 NFL season, the franchise moved to Detroit and changed their name to the Lions.

George "Potsy" Clark is the only coach to have more than one tenure. Three different coaches have won NFL championships with the team: Potsy Clark in 1935, Buddy Parker in 1952 and 1953, and George Wilson in 1957. Wayne Fontes is the all-time leader in games coached and wins, and Clark leads all coaches in winning percentage with .679 (with at least one full season coached). John Karcis is statistically the worst coach the Lions have had as he never won a game. Karcis is followed by Marty Mornhinweg with a winning percentage of .156.

Of the 27 Lions coaches, two have been elected into the Pro Football Hall of Fame: Dutch Clark and Joe Schmidt. Gus Dorais was inducted in the College Football Hall of Fame as a coach in 1954. Several former players have been head coach for the Lions, including Dutch Edwards, Buddy Parker, Harry Gilmer, Joe Schmidt, and Dick Jauron. The current head coach of the Lions is Matt Patricia, who was hired on February 5, 2018.

List of Detroit Lions seasons

The Detroit Lions are a professional American football team based in Detroit, Michigan. The Lions compete in the National Football League (NFL) as a member club of the league's National Football Conference (NFC) North division. The team plays its home games at Ford Field in Downtown Detroit. Originally based in Portsmouth, Ohio and called the Portsmouth Spartans, the team began play in 1928 as an independent professional team. The 2015 season was their 88th in the NFL.

The Lions have won four NFL championships, tied for 9th overall in total championships amongst all 32 NFL franchises; although the last was in 1957, which gives the club the second-longest NFL championship drought behind the Arizona Cardinals. The Lions were the first franchise to finish a full (non-strike shortened) regular season with no wins or ties since the move to sixteen season games in 1978, going 0–16 during the 2008 NFL season. They are also one of four current teams, and the only one in the NFC, to have never played in the Super Bowl.

Marv Won

Marvin O'Neal (professionally known as Marv Won) is an American rapper and producer from east side Detroit, Michigan. He is a current member of underground hip hop group the Fat Killahz (with Fatt Father, Bang Belushi and King Gordy) and rap duo Twin Towers (with Fatt Father).

National Football League Coach of the Year Award

The National Football League Coach of the Year Award is presented annually by various news and sports organizations to the National Football League (NFL) head coach who has done the most outstanding job of working with the talent he has at his disposal. Currently, the most widely recognized award is presented by the Associated Press (AP), although in the past several awards received press recognition. First presented in 1957, the AP award did not include American Football League (AFL) teams. The Sporting News has given a pro football coach of the year award since 1947 and in 1949 gave its award to a non-NFL coach, Paul Brown of the All-America Football Conference's Cleveland Browns. Other NFL Coach of the Year awards are presented by Pro Football Weekly/Pro Football Writers of America and the Maxwell Football Club. The United Press International (UPI) NFL Coach of the Year award was first presented in 1955. From 1960 to 1969, before the AFL–NFL merger, an award was also given to the most outstanding coach from the AFL. When the leagues merged in 1970, separate awards were given to the best coaches from the American Football Conference (AFC) and National Football Conference (NFC). The UPI discontinued the awards after 1996.

Ryan McNeil (American football)

Ryan Darrell McNeil (born October 4, 1970) is a former American college and professional football player who was a defensive back in the National Football League (NFL) for eleven seasons. He played college football for the University of Miami, and earned All-American honors. He was drafted by the Detroit Lions in the second round of the 1993 NFL Draft, and also played professionally for the St. Louis Rams, Cleveland Browns, Dallas Cowboys, San Diego Chargers and Denver Broncos of the NFL.

Wayne Fontes Music

Wayne Fontes Music is a studio album by American underground rapper and producer Marv Won, released January 1, 2010, a month after his previous work Way Of The Won. The album was named after Detroit Lions head coach Wayne Fontes the way Marv spits lyrics on it.In 2009, Marv released music video for DJ Houseshoes produced track "Stomp", directed by Mario Butterfield, with cameo appearances by The Fat Killahz, Tre Little, T3 (of Slum Village), Quest MCody, Danny Brown, Mike Luke and Big Proof (by added footage).In 2010, Marv and Rio Data released another video from the album, for Nathaniel Hall and Che Patterson produced "Totally Awesome" (named after the gem of a Tracy Morgan sample from a movie of the same name that kicks off the track), directed by Scrill Gates and Mario "Khalif" Butterfield, features cameos by Fatt Father, Miz Korona, Guilty Simpson, Kat, DJ Bet, Big Tone, Jimi Moto, Mike Luke, Supa Emcee, Lovjoy, Ron Dance, Darren Brown, Chips, Moe Dirdee, Burn Rubber Rick, Ro Spit, Magnetic among others

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