The Reality of the State of the Detroit Lions

I hear what people are saying about the Lions and I get it. I feel the frustration. I understand that they have only won 2 games this year and currently have lost 26 straight games on the road. As a big fan of the Detroit Lions it is hard to see them lose week in and week out but I must confess to something. For the first time in quite some time I see some very encouraging signs in all three phases of the game.

As incredibly frustrating as it is to see the Lions fall apart late in games after playing so well for so long, let’s not forget who it was that they were playing. They have lost to the 9 win 2 loss New England Patriots and the 9 win 2 loss New York Jets. Let’s also remember that the Lions were beating these teams through three quarters. That says a few things. First is that the Lions can’t finish games well right now, something all teams must learn to do before taking that big next step. Second, it says that the Lions are more talented right now than they have been at any point in the last ten years. The Buffalo game was a disaster and the only time this year that I felt anything like a winless season.

We all can see that there are problems that need to be addressed. Calling out teammates through the media is not a good sign, but it’s also an opportunity for the Lions to overcome some adversity together and if Jim Schwartz is what we all hope he is then he has to lead them through this. Failing to get off the field on defense in big situations and the mental mistakes are big problems.

There are encouraging signs also. While everyone is busy bashing the Lions for the failure Thursday let’s look at some numbers. Coming into the Thanksgiving game the Lions defense is showing some stunning statistical improvements. The Lions finished dead last in total defense in 2008 and 2009. Coming into Thursday’s game the Lions were 21st in total defense year to date. That is a massive improvement that has not translated to wins, but you can see it on the field. There is also the return game. Stefan Logan makes a difference and it’s been some time since we could say that. The Lions rank 17th in total offense and that’s with Stafford only playing 3 games. It’s not just us fans either as you can hear everyone talking about how this is not the same old Lions.

That doesn’t give them a free pass though. They can’t continue to false start and jump off-sides. They can’t continue to lead the NFL in penalties. They can’t continue to blow up late in games and lose games they could and should be winning. They need to get Matt Stafford back and they need him to stay healthy. They need to get more talent in their group of linebackers and secondary players.

I know that you are thinking right now that it’s all about wins and losses and nothing else matters. In most cases that’s true but right now that’s not fair for this team. We have to take these incremental improvements as big positive signs. Right now that is all we have. When Matt Millen was fired the Lions roster was completely devoid of NFL talent.

Martin Mayhew, Tom Lewand and Jim Schwartz inherited a disaster. Coming into 2010 there were 10 new starters on defense from 2008. There has been a total roster turnover and that is a project that is going to take some time and two years is not enough time. Another good draft and another good year of free agent signings will be critical. In the mean time, all we can do is look at these incremental improvements as very good signs that this team is improving. As sad as that is for us Lions fans, that is Matt Millen’s legacy.

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Tags: Detroit Lions Jim Schwartz Matt Millen Matthew Stafford New England Patriots New York Jets Stefan Logan Tom Lewand

  • josh

    I started losing interest when you said they were leading against both the Jets and Pats after three. We were tied after three with the pats.

    I stopped reading when you said this
    “something all teams must learn to do before taking that big next step”

    These are professional players, if they need to learn to win a regular season game. They need to be replaced. Learning to win in the playoffs is one thing. Learning to win a regular season game? Ridiculous. Are you so beat down from years of crappy football that you are forced to believe this?

  • Scott Bischoff

    I’ll take it as a positive that I held your interest for a paragraph. That’s a good thing.

    For the record I said beating, not leading and there is a difference.

    I agree with you about them being professionals, but there is noone on the roster pushing any of these guys for a starting job.

    That’s the whole point of the article.

    • Zac Snyder

      I am a big proponent of the “lack of talent” explanation. Yes, the Lions have a base of talent on which to build but that doesn’t change the fact that a number of their starters are players that superior teams were willing to deal for low-round draft picks. Those players are still upgrades from what the Lions have had but they are near the bottom in terms of roster talent from top to bottom.

      • Scott Bischoff

        Well said Zac, a player like Rob Sims was a throw-away for Seattle and he steps in and starts and is their best guard.

  • Mark

    This was a better article to explain Millen.

    Matt Millen

    Matt Millen was the General Manager of the Detroit Lions from 2000-2008. He was hired to be General Manager without any organizational experience at all. As it turns out, the Lions would have been better off, as these numbers will show, if he had been signed to play linebacker.
    In Millen’s eight years, the Lions were 31-97, the worst eight-year span in modern league history. Those horrific numbers can be tied directly to Millen’s drafting prowess, or lack thereof in this case. In all, Millen selected 62 players and here is the breakdown.
    1st Round – 9
    2nd Round – 11
    3rd Round – 8
    4th Round – 4
    5th Round – 11
    6th Round – 7
    7th Round – 12

    Of those 62 picks that were made, 26 are still in the NFL in some capacity (as of April 2010). Of the 26 players still in the NFL, only 14 are still in Detroit. Of the 14 players that are still in Detroit 11 were drafted in 2007 or 2008. This means that only 3 players that Matt Millen drafted from 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005 and 2006 are still on the Detroit Lions roster.
    This is not a recipe for success. Matt Millen drafted 28 players in rounds 1, 2and 3. Of those 28 players drafted 19 are still in the NFL and 11 are still in Detroit. This takes us to where I think Matt Millen’s record in just awful. Of the 34 selections he made in rounds 4, 5, 6 and 7 there are only 7 players still in the NFL and only 3 still in Detroit (Adam Everett thinks that’s an embarrassing batting average).
    So, when you start to get a little anxious at why new General Manager Martin Mayhew isn’t getting things turned around more quickly, remember the mess he had to clean up to begin with.


    • Mark

      Scott wrote this article earlier, I thought readers should know.

      • Scott Bischoff

        Thanks Mark, We are all aware of Millen’s tenure as GM. Worst GM in history of professional sports.

  • Kevin

    I like Josh’s passion, but don’t let your passion blind you. Scott is right, this team is improving. Yes, there are still a few starters on both sides of the ball that would be backups on almost every other team in the league, thank you Matt Millen. But this team has some talent, some young talent. If being a fan of a team was only about them winning, then the Lions wouldn’t have any fans left after 08 and 09. You’re on this website Josh, you’re still a fan. I’ll be honest, I didn’t watch the Lions much the last 2 years because it just wasn’t enjoyable, but I’ve enjoyed watching them this year. Sure, the losses are tough, but most of them have been entertaining. I’ll be watching them this Sunday when they beat the Bears (for the 2nd time this year)