So spring finally arrived in Michigan this weekend. The flowers are blooming, the Tigers are hitting (and pitching, that Verlander guy is pretty good), even the weather warmed up (two months late, of course). People are pulling out the grills, setting up the pools, and cleaning out their campers and boats to get ready for a summer of activities.
But me, I am ready for fall. I am ready for some football. I am ready to eat buffalo wings and ignore the wife. I am ready to read Monday Morning Quarterback and Tom Kowalski’s breakdown of the Lions’ games. I am ready for sports talk radio, the ridiculousness of pre-season and the inevitable complaints about the ownership of Bill Ford. I am actually ready for a playoff run.
The Lion’s draft is complete. Free agency is…well, not complete, but is typically done by this time of year anyway. The Lions, for the first time in ages, seem to be on the rise. Very few position battles are expected in training camp (see you later Bryant Johnson). Everyone is healthy right now, including Matthew Stafford.
And I want it to start now. I don’t want to wait. I want to see how good Ndamukong Suh can be, whether Nick Fairly can make the defensive line elite, and whether DeAndre Levy and Matthew Stafford can stay healthy for a full year. I am ready to boo Packer fans and mock Jay Cutler and to laugh at Brett Favre’s comebacks (just wait…)
And am I ready for the lockout to end, because everything above is dependent on that. The ironic thing is that in some ways, the lockout, while hurting the league and killing the fans, could in some ways be helping the Lions. They have a returning head coach and offensive and defensive coordinators. They have returning starters in key positions (QB, center, MLB and safety) and a known playbook. Some have even gone so far as to say the Lions have drafted positions (nose tackle, wide out and running back) where it is easy to quickly pick up and learn a playbook and practice time with teammates isn’t quite as important (Coach “Hit the quarterback!” Nick Fairley “Okay!”) The Lions will be facing potentially four rookie quarterbacks and six “rookie” head coaches (Dallas, San Francisco, Carolina, Minnesota, Denver, and Oakland). Now three of those teams replaced their head coaches with either their offensive or defensive coordinator (Minnesota, Dallas and Oakland), but as Jim Schwartz would attest, there is still a learning curve to being a head coach and being responsible for both sides of the ball. And the longer the lockout goes, the less time there will be before the lockout ends and actual games start. The more time the players are locked out, the less time these coaches have to implement their schemes and less time for rookie quarterbacks to adjust to the speed and complexity of the NFL.
Think about that. The Lions will have seven games, against six teams, that might be implementing (at a minimum tweaking) offenses and defenses, and probably with a minimum of practice time – and every new head coach wants to change something. Current players on those teams might be asked to do something different then they have done in the past, and rookies won’t have a lot of time to pick up the playbook and to develop the team chemistry. And if you don’t think this is important, please remember sometimes even good players will see their production drop if they move to a system that doesn’t fit them. This is exactly how the Lions got two players via trade (Corey Williams and Rob Sims) who both came to the Lions because they no longer fit the system their former team was running. I think we can agree that both of those players are decent players in the right system.
Now I am not saying the lockout is good. With no free agency or trades allowed the Lions have glaring holes at linebacker and corner (unless you feel comfortable with Bobby Carpenter as a linebacker). But while the lockout is putting everything on hold, let’s try to see the little bit of silver lining that there is, in that the Lions are in better shape than some teams to quickly get back to work and play ball once it does end.
And I can’t wait.