Scott Mitchell had an absolute rifle for an arm. He was imposing on the field, standing 6’6″ and weighing in at 240 pounds. Many of his opponents insisted that he was actually closer to 6’9″, 280. Mitchell cut his teeth learning the ropes at QB from the immortal Dan Marino while both were members of the Dolphins in the early 90’s.
In 1994, Mitchell signed a big-time free agent deal with the habitually mediocre Detroit Lions. The Lions needed a big-time arm to pair with their dynamic receiving duo of Brett Perriman and Herman Moore and their all-world running back, Barry Sanders.
Scott “The Mule” Mitchell came out as a gun-slinger in his first season in Detroit, but struggled with injuries and as a result his performance suffered. Luckily for the Lions, they had wily veteran Dave Krieg who stepped in and led the Lions to a 9 win season.
Refreshed after a long off-season, Mitchell came back like a bat out of hell in 1995 and did his best Marino impression. That season, Mitchell threw for a career high, 4,338 yards and 32 scores. Finally, his performance matched his body size: BIG. Scotty saved his best game of that season for Thanksgiving Day and a nationally televised audience. Against their division rival Minnesota Vikings, Mitchell outdueled Hall of Fame QB, Warren Moon. Mitchell hung 410 yards on the Vikings secondary that day, threw 4 touchdowns, and still found time to scramble for one yard in the Lions 44-38 victory.
Sadly, Mitchell completely imploded in the Lions playoff game in Philadelphia. He threw 4 first half picks and the Lions fell behind 51-7, including a 38-7 halftime deficit.
The wheels fell off the following season as Mitchell guided the Lions to a 4-10 record before losing his job to one-time Pro Bowler, Don Majkowski. He finished the season with 14 TDs and 14 picks.
In 1997, Mitchell and the Lions rebounded. No longer possessing his cannon of an arm, Mitchell became more of a Trent Dilfer-type QB, throwing for fewer yards and scores, but leading the Lions to a 9-7 record. This was just good enough for the Lions to lose yet another first round matchup, this time at the hands of Tampa Bay.
Scott Mitchell is remembered by Detroit fans for being the only QB in the last 20 years to give them at least one better than mediocre season. That 1995 season seemed like a dream, but it was a dream surrounded by mediocrity and fist clenching failures.