After the debacle that was the 2012 Detroit Lions’ season, many fans were calling for heads.
Mostly the head of Jim Schwartz. Ever since the infamous 2011 handshake incident between Schwartz and San Francisco 49ers’ head coach Jim Harbaugh, the perception of Schwartz is that he lets his anger get the best of him and is undisciplined, which is why his players display the same character flaws both on and off the field.
I was willing to give Schwartz another chance, if anyone’s head should be on the chopping block, it should be the general manager. After all Martin Mayhew was the one who did not address secondary concerns leading into 2012, and admitted his mistake in counting on Jahvid Best to be healthy and productive.
One could understand this mistake. When Best was in the games in 2011, the Lions were 5-0. He was injured, coincidentally in that San Francisco handshake game, and the team was 5-7 the rest of the way, including the playoff loss to the New Orleans Saints. Without Best all of 2012, the Lions went 4-12, losing their final eight games.
To his credit, Mayhew has learned from his mistakes and has made rebuilding the secondary his primary concern this offseason. He has even learned from his “biggest mistake,” and has gotten some insurance in place for the constantly ailing Louis Delmas with the inking of former Pro Bowl safety Chris Hope on Monday.
Though they are not getting much love nationally, Detroit resembles the team we saw in the first half of 2011 more than the one who stumbled down the stretch in 2011 and throughout 2012. They have addressed the secondary, and brought in an older, more experienced and, (hopefully) healthy version of Best in Reggie Bush.
One intangible that can push the Lions into contender status is their maturity level. For the first time in a couple off seasons, the police blotter has been largely absent of Lions’ players (with one exception). There also seems to be a new level of leadership emerging through Bush, a fully recovered Nate Burleson, and players that are getting a little more wise with age, such as Ndamukong Suh and Nick Fairley.
Even the organization seemed to grow up a bit while handling the Titus Young saga of last season. Instead of trying to stay with the troubled player because of his talent, the Lions decided they needed to sit him, and ultimately release him, for the betterment of the team, even if it made them worse on the field.
Many high profile names associated with this team over the past couple years from Mayhew and Schwartz on down have made mistakes, but it seems they are learning from them and are committed to not repeating them. That could make all the difference in 2013 and it’s clear that everyone is in this together.
Schwartz is clearly on the hot seat, and should the team stumble out of the gate, it wouldn’t be far fetched to see him fired during the season. Mayhew will likely survive until the end of the season, but another poor season will likely see him shown the door. The ripple effect of that will see players possibly on their way out, or having to learn unfamiliar schemes from the new coach.
Bottom line is this team has all the tools in place to have a good season, but if they don’t succeed, the organization will be overhauled. Think of 2013 as a tiebreaker season. Are the Detroit Lions a rising team in the NFL as we thought one year ago? Or are they the same team we’ve grown to grudgingly love over the past six decades of ineptitude?
It’s up to them.