Cavaliers win, why not the Detroit Lions?
By Jeff Risdon
Another epic sports title drought ended Sunday night when the Cleveland Cavaliers won the first NBA Championship in franchise history. They’ve been playing since 1970. It was the first title for the city of Cleveland in any major sports since 1964.
The Detroit Lions, of course, have not won an NFL title since 1957. Few franchises can match that level of prolonged futility. Yet the prevailing sentiment is now, if the Cavaliers can finally do it, why not the Detroit Lions?
If only it were that simple…
The Lions have one playoff win in the Super Bowl era even though they had a transcendent star running back in Barry Sanders and then a transcendent star wide receiver in Calvin Johnson. Now the biggest star on the team is, uh, Ziggy Ansah? Golden Tate? Not exactly a lot of wattage emanating from Allen Park.
The NFL is quite different from the NBA. The star system in the NBA doesn’t really work in the NFL. Most Super Bowl champs of recent vintage had a couple of elite talents, but the biggest unifying factor was having a collection of above-average players spread across the roster…all held together by a strong quarterback and a cohesive, well-regarded coaching staff.
Under that context, the Lions really aren’t that far away. Matthew Stafford hasn’t taken the proverbial next step to being that QB for Detroit, but his foot is in the air going up the staircase. An intriguing collection of offensive weapons can help push Stafford even higher. There are impact players at all three levels of the defense in Ansah, DeAndre Levy, Darius Slay and Glover Quin. The strong finish to last season proves this Lions team has real potential.
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Having said all that, only a fool would predict Detroit to end the run of epic failure at 60 years. Stafford would have to play an entire season the way he played the final 8 games, and he’ll have to do it without Johnson. The offensive line is still a big question, the defensive line only a slightly lesser one.
Then there’s the coaching angle. Jim Caldwell doesn’t exactly inspire confidence as the head coach. He’s more apt to be fired at the bye week than he is to be carried off triumphantly on the shoulders of victorious players in January.
Here’s what Lions fans should take away from the Cavaliers amazing victory: it takes such a confluence of skill, effort, good health and a little luck to overcome decades of ineptitude and repeated failure.