There no debate. The Lions have been one of the most reckless, undisciplined teams in the NFL over the last five years. It’s easy to see when looking back why Jim Schwartz’s teams were never quite able to get over the hump. In a game that is often decided by a few plays or a few inches the often gave up too many opportunities to overcome.
During his initial interview with the Lions, Jim Caldwell told the team’s website exactly why he values sound, disciplined football:
You have to be very good in terms of your fundamentals and techniques ruling the day. Those are the things that are going to carry you when times are difficult. Those are the things that are going to put streaks together. Those are the things that certainly will help you win games and get you enough games to get you into the postseason.
When things broke down for the Lions, 9 times out of 10 they would self-destruct. It’s hard enough to win when you’re trying to beat the other team. When you defeat yourself in the process it’s very hard to win consistently.
The Lions were able to remain competitive despite the penalties, but it’s intriguing to think where the talent could get them if they weren’t constantly shooting themselves in the foot. That’s where Jim Caldwell could make a big difference. He’s not the bombastic, boisterous coach Schwartz was, but at this point I’m not sure that’s the type of guy the Lions need leading them.
In 2008 the Lions ranked 16th (middle of the pack) in penalties according to Pro Football Focus. After Schwartz took over the team they were in the bottom five every year he coached the team. Contrast that with Jim Caldwell, whose Indianapolis Colts teams never finished out of the top ten in penalties.
Look back to through player quotes throughout the offseason and you’ll see a common theme. Caldwell treats them like men, and in return demands respect back from the players. When you watch the great teams; Seattle, Denver, New England, etc., you see how they approach game differently than the Lions have over the last decade. That should change now that Caldwell is in charge. Unlike the previous regime, both coordinators and the head coach have experience coaching not only in the playoffs, but in Super Bowls.
That is nothing to take lightly.
Super Bowl teams do things differently–starting with fundamentals.