Back when I was a high school wrestler – when I still had hopes and dreams and a size 28 waist – we had a saying: “Excuses satisfy the people that make them.” While the quote was used to motivate kids to challenge themselves physically while not eating for three months, the lesson is still valuable today.
The Lions already have a golden opportunity to makes excuses for the upcoming season. First round pick Nick Fairly is injured and has barely practiced this year. Mikel Leshoure, their pick in the second round, is out for the year with a torn achilles tendon. The offensive line has been hobbled by injuries and Matthew Stafford is coming off surgery. Problems abound, and Lions fans are getting that sinking feeling again.
Call me crazy, but I don’t see it as a problem – I see it as an opportunity. The Lions have a chance to do what other good teams do – overcome injuries, make no excuses, and win ballgames. The New England Patriots lost Tom Brady for most of the 2008 season, and still managed 11 victories. The Green Bay Packers lost their star tight end last year and several other key players and still managed to win a Superbowl.
So I see it as an opportunity for the Lions to do what they haven’t been able to in the past – win. I think that they are good enough to not only win, but to win by overcoming obstacles and eliminating distractions and proving doubters wrong.
The Lions are in dangerous territory here, given the preseason expectations and hype surrounding this team. For sure the injuries are requiring adjustments and the changing of plans. But there will be other challenges ahead this season besides injuries. It will be important for the coaching staff and Jim Schwartz to lead this team through these challenges. Jim Schwartz has an opportunity – a teaching moment as us parents like to say – to teach his team to ignore not only the distractions caused by injuries, but all the others as well. It is not easy to overcome referees making bad calls and mental mistakes and preseason hype. But the good teams manage it.
Most importantly, I see it as an opportunity for Matt Stafford to step up and lead this team to victory. The injuries have mostly occured on the offensive side of the ball – the side Matthew Stafford lines up on. What a great opportunity for a still-young quarterback to put a team on his back and carry them to the playoffs. What a way to put an end to the culture of losing. What a way to negate the curse of Bobby Layne. Matthew Stafford has an opportunity to finally show us what kind of leader he can be.
For sure the rash of injuries hasn’t made it any easier, but if the Lions have a good season next year despite it all, won’t that make it even sweeter?