Just when you are finally ready to shed the paper bag hat and believe in the Detroit Lions, they remind you why you might need reinforcements. Almost exactly one month ago the Lions were sitting at 6-3 with an incredibly manageable schedule left on the docket.
It looked so reasonable that some fans were talking an 11 or 12-win season from a team that wasn’t expected to do much after a disastrous 2012. Since that inspiring 6-3 start the Lions have dropped 3 of their last 4 games in, well, Lions fashion.
A road game at Pittsburgh against a struggling Steelers team would’ve been a tough win, but was still a win that was on the table for the Lions to gobble up. Instead, they turned the ball over three times and blew a 4th quarter lead. But surely they wouldn’t lose to lowly Tampa in Ford Field said the faithful!
Wrong again. This time the Lions turned it over five times and coughed up yet another 4th quarter lead dropping their record to 6-5 when they easily could’ve been 8-3.
Thanksgiving’s game against a Packers team that isn’t really the Packers team right now gave the Lions a blowout win and a reprieve from the madness, a 7-5 record, and somehow still control of the division.
A month ago the Lions’ final four games of the season looked like a cake walk. But the Eagles got hot, the Ravens got hot, and even the Vikings are fighting everyone tooth and nail to the game’s final minutes. It wasn’t going to be easy.
The final run of games started in blizzard-like conditions in Philadelphia yesterday. Anything goes in a game like that but the Lions came out with poise and a stout defense and took a 14-0 lead. Again, their lead lasted until the 4th quarter when the Eagles finally found their footing and steamrolled the Lions on the ground, finishing off a 34-20 win. The Lions missed tackles and gaps and assignments at an alarming rate in the game’s final 20 minutes.
And once more Lions fans were left scratching their heads after a game their team should’ve won. But why? If nothing else, the Lions are consistent. They will disappoint you without fail. You should know this by now and expect nothing else.
I remember sitting in 6th grade class back in 1987 and outlining how the Lions would win the Super Bowl within the next two years. So I’m familiar with leaps of faith and blind optimism. And for anyone who follows my Detroit Tigers articles, you know I’m not a ‘fire the coach’ kind of a guy.
But Jim Schwartz has got to go. Certainly he’ll be allowed to finish out the season, and that’s the right move. But when his team falls short for the final time this year, which they inevitably will in most likely an embarrassing manner, then it will be time to move on.
Since 2009, Schwartz has had an opportunity to stamp his brand of football upon the Lions franchise. Now, in his 5th season, what’s the identity? Untamed talent is probably most accurate.
Ask yourself this – what NFL team does less with as much talent as the Lions have? Nobody. In fact, valid arguments can be made that the Lions are the most talented team in the NFL, second to no one. I challenge anyone to find another team with a core of young, star players such as what Detroit has.
Calvin Johnson, Matthew Stafford, Reggie Bush, Ndamukong Suh, Nick Fairley, Ziggy Ansah, DeAndre Levy, et al. Detroit also boasts a young and impressive offensive line and tremendous complementary players like Brandon Pettigrew, Nate Burleson, Louis Delmas, Stephen Tulloch, and Glover Quin. Indeed, GM Martin Mayhew has been on a roll in building up the roster in the post-Matt Millen era.
Transplant the talent that Mayhew has compiled onto say the New England Patriots or the New Orleans Saints or the San Francisco 49ers and then wonder how many losses this team would have. But alas, you cannot transplant rosters. You can however fire your head coach and bring in some discipline and a winning culture.
And when the 2013 Detroit Lions meet their final failure this year, whether in week 17 or early on in the playoffs, Schwartz’s rope has to be cut.
The Lions as a franchise are acutely aware of what it’s like to waste one of the most special talents in the history of the NFL. They did it in masterful fashion when Barry Sanders wore the blue and silver. They performed their dark symphony so well that Sanders finally said ‘screw it’ and he left the game altogether.
Will Calvin Johnson meet the same doom? How much longer can the Lions give Jim Schwartz?
The Lions are so talented that it wouldn’t surprise me if they won their final three games and stormed into the postseason striking fear into the opposition. But even so, it would only last for so long, until they meet adversity that they are so obviously ill-equipped to overcome. I love Stafford, but he’s not a winner. Same goes for Suh – amazing talent but not a leader.
As much as I wouldn’t be surprised at a 3-0 finish, I would be equally unfazed if they finished 0-3. And therein lies the problem. Nobody knows what will happen on game day. It’s a complete unknown.
The Lions have their fair share of ra-ra guys but nobody who puts their foot in the ground when the going gets tough and says “not today”. For now, that guy has to be Jim Schwartz. But that just isn’t Jim Schwartz.