The Detroit Lions suffered a defeat on national television last night that left a large percentage of the fan-base shaking their heads. It’s after games like we saw last night that provide perfect opportunities to stop and take a look at the bigger picture.
The Lions were not the better team in San Francisco but that does not make them a bad team. Losing a road game few gave them a chance to win in the first place is not the end of the world, even if they proved the doubters right in disappointing fashion.
Matthew Stafford is still a bright, young quarterback. Calvin Johnson is still the game’s toughest matchup for opposing defenses. The Lions are still heading in the right direction and general manager Martin Mayhew deserves a lot of credit for where the Lions are now compared to when he took over for Matt Millen.
Hiring Mayhew was the right decision, even though it was wildly unpopular. Promoting Millen’s assistant general manager was seen as a continuation of the obviously failed regime. Two weeks after the Mayhew’s promotion became official, the Kansas City Chiefs made headlines by hiring the man many Lions fans wanted to come to Detroit. Scott Pioli made a name for himself as the New England Patriots’ vice president of player personnel before being named the Chiefs’ general manager.
Consider these words from the Kansas City Star’s Ken Babb following the Chiefs’ embarassing loss at Buffalo yesterday afternoon:
Pioli is now in his fourth year of trying to justify the hype that earned him accolades in New England, respect within the NFL, and a multi-million-dollar job as a GM. Expectations were unreachable, maybe, but Pioli has done himself no favors by obsessing over trivial details, spending too much time trying to feed his addiction to his own reputation, and engineering a team using the “discount football” philosophy that has made the Hunt family richer but has gotten the Chiefs only marginally closer to a Super Bowl.
Arrowhead Addict, FanSided’s Chiefs blog, is laying blame on Pioli as well. From Patrick Allen:
The team is relatively healthy. Brandon Flowers and Tamba Hali played yesterday. Eric Berry is back. Jamaal Charles too. Scott Pioli’s job is to create a winning organization from top to bottom that is in a position to contend for a championship year in and year out. So far, Pioli has gone through two head coaches, two defensive coordinators and nearly a half-dozen offensive coordinators. Since his arrival in Kansas City, the Chiefs have gone 21-30.
Those are just two examples. Click around the Stars’ Chiefs page and you’ll find criticism more scathing than those. The honeymoon is beyond over and the cries for change are already loud in Kansas City.
The Lions may not be ready to consistently beat the league’s best on the road. But for the first time in a long time the Lions are four years into building plan that isn’t already in need of a tear down. The Chiefs can’t say that and they were in a much better position when both teams hired new general managers following the 2008 season. After returning to the playoffs a year ago, there isn’t any reason why the Lions can’t contend in the NFC this year or for the foreseeable future.