Two years ago, Ndamukong Suh left the Detroit Lions during the prime of what is likely a Hall of Fame career. So why am I not more bummed out?
There was a Miami Herald article from a few days ago, where Dolphins linebacker Lawrence Timmons refers to Ndamukong Suh as the best defensive tackle ever. Part of that I’m sure is typical training camp hyperbole, and part of it is an only-slightly exaggerated nod to a truly dominant defensive specimen.
It definitely got me thinking. About how bad the Detroit Lions defense was in the three seasons before Suh arrived. Or how much improvement the defensive line made as soon as he was drafted. Especially, how the pieces for a great defense and solid (but underachieving) offense were in place right before he left for Miami.
It also got me thinking about all of his questionable and beyond reasonable doubt incidents of dirty play during his time in Detroit. How Suh was the poster child for a brief and puzzling era in team history (2010-2014). During this time, there was a sudden influx of talented players, but with it came the consequences of volatile and undisciplined play on the field, and a series of embarrassing off-field incidents (Suh had involvement in both).
The team improved from clearly the worst in the league into a not-quite-ready contender during this time, with Suh positioning himself as a perennial Pro Bowl pick for pretty much the rest of his career. Then he took his talents to South Beach.
But how much do you miss him?
I’m torn, and here’s why:
From purely a football perspective, a lot! By 2014, it was hardly even worth it to try and run on the Lions. They had the best rush defense in the NFL and a huge piece of the credit has to go to Suh.
He didn’t make a ton of tackles, but mauled everyone he was able to get his hands on. There were countless other times that I remember him shoving the blocker(s) so far back that it completely broke up the designed flow of traffic on run plays.
On top of that, Suh was the very definition of “making your teammates better”. Everyone else had an easier job just by having him on the field with them.
What’s the issue then?
More from SideLion Report
- Top 5 revenge games on the Detroit Lions 2023 schedule
- Lions center Frank Ragnow optimistic about continuing to play through toe injury
- Detroit Lions 2023 preseason schedule: Dates, times and opponents
- A new contract extension projection for Lions quarterback Jared Goff
- 4 wide receivers the Detroit Lions could still look to acquire this offseason
I have a hard time rooting for villain, and over time, that’s definitely what Ndamukong Suh became. Think of how much you would have hated him if he played for the Bears or Packers. As far as polarizing Detroit sports stars go, you probably have to go back to Bill Laimbeer to find someone as controversial as Suh.
The difference with Laimbeer though, is that every one of his fights and ‘incidents’ seemed to benefit the Pistons. The guy got away with everything. Suh made dirty plays at the worst times, causing the league to closely monitor him even before his first regular season game. I hope nearly beheading Jake Delhomme was worth it.
As much as I appreciated Suh bringing some much needed toughness back to the Lions, you can be tough without being dirty. Suh crossed that line too many times to continue explaining it away. If Roger Goodell had suspended him for the infamous playoff game in Dallas (which he should have ), Suh would leave a much different legacy among Lions fans.
Finally, the sad reality is that it’s a lot easier to defend a jerk with two NBA Championships than one with no playoff wins. I never rooted for Laimbeer either, but I can at least understand his cult following in Detroit.
It doesn’t really matter though. Suh made the smart move to take the money and run when he had the chance. One year later, the only player remaining of the Lions brief “Big 3” set of stars was Matthew Stafford. Maybe it’s better this way though.
The defensive line definitely moved backwards by a few years due to Suh’s departure. Paying him what he was worth just wasn’t going to be feasible long term though. Perhaps Bob Quinn’s “Patriot Way” will yield a winning system that doesn’t live and die with superstars. Ziggy Ansah and the shocking emergence of Kerry Hyder have also helped to soften the blow considerably in Suh’s absence.
Is Ndamukong Suh an all-decade type of player?…Yes.
Would Detroit be a much better team if he was still here?… Pretty sure.
Do I “miss” him?… Errh. I have a hard time missing the Laimbeers of the world. I’m glad that the Lions haven’t had to go up against him yet though.