Fontes' firing ended a tumultuous era in Lions' history - his job had been on the line for at least three years. Fontes, who had one year left on his contract, goes out with more victories than any coach in Lions history. Yet he also lost more games than any other Lions coach, compiling a record of 67-71, including 5-11 this year. He was only 1-4 in the NFL playoffs, and that, as much as anything, led to his downfall.
"Don't feel sorry for me," Fontes said in an unexpected appearance after owner William Clay Ford made the announcement. "It's a chapter in my life that's over." He had kind words for the man who made the final decision, calling Ford "the best owner in the National Football League."
The other NFL coaches to lose their jobs in the past week were Rich Kotite of the New York Jets, Dan Reeves of the New York Giants, Rich Brooks of the St Louis Rams, June Jones of the Atlanta Falcons and Mike White of the Oakland Raiders.
The Lions closed the 1995 season with a seven-game winning streak, then lost 58-37 to the Philadelphia Eagles in an NFC wild-card game. It was downhill after that.
Following that loss, Ford said he expected more. "It's winning play-off games," Ford said. "How far we go, I couldn't tell you. We've got to get beyond the first step of the play-offs."