Last Sunday, the Detroit Lions pulled off a remarkable win against a 4-3 Washington Redskins team that improved their record to 2-5. Matthew Stafford came back and threw for four touchdowns, Calvin Johnson caught three of them, Ndamukong Suh had 1.5 sacks and a fumble return for a touchdown. Overall, everyone, other than special teams, played well. Most of the national media, and even a lot of the local media, is crediting the Lions success to the great talent that they now have on both sides of the ball. They are crediting player like Suh, Stafford, Kyle Vanden Bosch and Cliff Avril’s physical talents as the reason that they Lions have played as well as they have. I am not one of them.
I don’t think this team is playing well, or even winning because of the talent. The way I see it: the Lions have had “talent” before. There was a time when the Lions offense looked quite identical to the one that takes the field today in terms of draft picks. Back in 2004, the Lions spend the 7th pick in the draft to acquire Roy Williams, the 30th pick to draft Kevin Jones, and the 3rd pick of the 2002 NFL draft on Joey Harrington. All of those guys coming out of college were highly touted by the national media to be “talented” players, and most of them proved that they were fast, strong, and agile athletes at the Draft Combine, so why then did they fail, and what is it about this team that is so different from the ones of the past? Why is it that the Lions fans feel so much better about this team than say the one in 2004 or 2005?
I can’t answer that question for everyone as each individual who believes in this team has his/her own reasons, but I will give you mine. As I mentioned above, I don’t believe that the Lions are winning because of how athletic our player are, but rather how tough and hard working they are. To me, these aren’t the “same ‘ol Lions”. This roster no longer consists of high draft picks like Roy Williams, Mike Williams, and Charles Rogers, who believed that they were entitled to NFL greatness just because they were great athletes or just because thousands of analysts proclaimed them to be the next coming of whoever. Players like Matthew Stafford, Calvin Johnson, Louis Delmas and Ndamukong Suh are far different, far more special than most NFL draft picks. You don’t have to look at their 40 time or scouting report to figure that out, you just have to look at their demeanor.
A person’s demeanor has to do with their background as people, rather than their success as football players. Out of what I like to call the “Core Four”: Staffrod, Megatron, Suh and Delmas, only two were highly touted: Matthew Stafford and Calvin Johnson. Coming out of high school, Mel Kiper said “Matthew Stafford eventually will be the No. 1 pick in the NFL draft. Write that down”. Stafford has of course lived up to that billing, but he has always been sort of that blue-collar guy. For those of you who don’t know, Matthew Stafford doesn’t live in the rich suburbs of Bloomfield Hills or Farmington Hills. Instead, he chose to buy a condo in Royal Oak. When wide receiver Mike Moore didn’t have a car to get to practice, Stafford lent him one of his own. You wouldn’t expect player like Shaun Rogers to do things like that.
Like Stafford, Johnson was also a highly touted player coming of high school, but he made a surprising choice of attending his native Georgia Tech, which was 6-6 the season before, instead of big time schools like Auburn or Florida. Like other football players destined for the NFL, he didn’t choose a bird major that would allow him to focus his time on football, instead he enrolled in Georgia Tech’s school of management and even spent a summer building solar latrines to improve sanitation. Ndamukong Suh chose an upstart program in Nebraska, Louis Delmas, who was abandoned by his parents at in high school, went to Western Michigan.
You see, none of the Core Four are mentally weak, and that makes a huge difference. Moreover, all of them have faced some of sort of difficulty in their personal lives, so they are far better prepped to handle adversity on the football field. This season, the character of this team is finally coming out on the field. Forget about quitting, this team doesn’t even panic when they are down. They just go back, follow their game plan and do the best that they can do. With this attitude, and a little more talent, this team can be special, very special.
Now for this month 22 Questions:
- Ndamukong Suh: Does the NFL have to wait till the end of the season to name the Defensive Rookie of the Year?
- Matthew Stafford: Will Stafford throw more touchdowns in 10 games than Mark Sanchez in a full season?
- Louis Delmas: Who ends up with more sacks, KVB or Delmas?
- Calvin Johnson: Soo…why were fans asking to trade this guy again?
- Alphonso Smith: Number of receptions: Gronk 6, Phonz 4.
- Rob Sims: Did anyone else know that a left guard could make this much of a difference in protection?
- Kyle Vanden Bosch: Is he slowly running out of gas or are teams just better prepping for him?
- Brandon Pettigrew: Will he ever be considered to be a good pick by Lions fans?
- Jeff Backus: Anyone else notice that Backus is quietly having a Pro Bowl year?
- Jahvid Best: Isn’t it about time for another breakout game?
- Dominic Raiola: Is he having his worst season as a Lion?
- Corey Williams: Did you know? The Lions D-line and the entire Indianapolis Colts defense have the same number of picks?
- Gosder Cherilus: What happened to bash Cherilus?
- Cliff Avril: Is he the biggest teaser on this team?
- Stephen Peterman: Is he the next piece to go on the offensive line?
- DeAndre Levy: Do we need to draft another middle linebacker?
- C.C. Brown: Can anyone tell me why he is starting?
- Julian Peterson: Why are the Lions dropping their best pass rushing linebacker into coverage all the time?
- Nate Burleson: Instead of calling him Recepticon, should we start calling him Fumbles?
- Chris Houston: I thought he was suppose to be a bad cornerback, what gives?
- Bobby Carpenter: Is he another diamond in the rough for the Lions
- Jerome Felton: Will he ever be ranked higher than 22nd?