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Lions 2010; Be Patient and Weather the Storm

2010 is a season of heart breaking losses for the Detroit Lions fans. It started with the season opener against the Bears when by all practical purposes it appeared the Lions had won the game in the last seconds and the NFL turned it into a loss over their own misinterpretation of a rule. It has continued through three other losses where the Lions came so close to beating their rivals and just came too short. Hearts were broken again Sunday when the Lions blew a 10 point lead in the last 4 minutes of the game on bad decisions by the coaches and stupid penalties by players.

The Jets game left a bad taste in the mouths of a lot of fans. Some want new coaches, others want to draft a new quarterback who can stay healthy. Some want Julian Peterson off the team for his ridiculous hitting a player out of bounds and putting the Jets in position to tie the game. But it is not time to be irrational. It is time to be patient and see the truth of the situation.

The Record:
The Lions are now 2-6 when they could easily be 6-2. Yet the fact remains, if anyone expected more than 5 or 6 wins this season to begin with, they were living in a dream world. They have too many young players with too little experience. That lack of experience will cause mistakes in close games. They have a coach who is still very young and inexperienced. The Lions only won 2 games just one season ago and to expect a big winning season just one off-season later was expecting too much. Most realistic expectations were around 5 wins for the season and the Lions could still come up with that.

The Talent:
The Lions proved one thing on Sunday if they haven't already proved it to you in the other 7 games this season. They are a very much improved team. They are not a team that any opponent can face lightly. They have the ability to move the ball against what some believe is the best defense in the NFL and they have the ability to stop good offenses. They can pressure opposing quarterbacks like an elite team and they can make big plays as well. The missing ingredient for them becoming an elite team may simply just be experience.

The Coaches:
Some are upset with Jim Schwartz right now for blowing that game, and make no mistakes, the blame falls squarely on his shoulders. It was his responsibility to protect the lead and he allowed a pass play with a 3rd string quarterback who has not thrown a pass yet in the game, when he should have run the clock down. But we need to remember that under Jim Schwartz, the Lions have made leaps and bounds of improvement and they simply cannot continue to improve without the wins accompanying it. This is only Schwartz second year as a head coach and he will make some mistakes and learn from those mistakes. As he grows with the job, the team will grow with him.

Scott Linehan is the most confusing of the coaches. He has shown he has the ability to open things up and move the ball against good defenses. Yet he tends to keep falling into very conservative play calling for long spurts of every game. If he cannot learn to be more imaginative and stay a little more aggressive, he may need to go. But knowing he has the ability to be a very good coordinator, you tend to want to see it just come out of him.

Gunther Cunningham and his crew have shown they are top notch. They have not made a lot of mistakes as coaches and the Lions defense has continued to get better as the season has gone on. I am not a fan of the prevent defense that lost the game yesterday, but the fact remains that every coach uses it so to want another coordinator over that would be senseless.

Where the Lions go from here:
It is time to face the facts. Any time Stafford falls over there is a chance he will be injured. He is a good and very talented quarterback. He has the abilities to be a great quarterback. But he has had three major injuries in less than a full season of play and his latest injury has now been re-aggravated. Knowing that, the Lions need to hope he can come back and stay healthy, but in case he cannot, they need to find a young quarterback with good tools they can groom for the future.

Other than quarterback, the Lions need to address both outside linebackers and the offensive line in the near future. I am not as down on Backus as others but he is still getting older and needs a replacement to be groomed. Raiola is simply not a big enough center. He is smart and has some athleticism, but he does not have the power to get any real push in short yardage or any running plays. Far too often when the Lions try to run the ball on 3rd and 1, the line is pushed backwards rather than forward. Sims is definitely looking good at left guard and Gosder Cherilus has finally begun to make strides and look like a decent offensive lineman. But a replacement for Raiola and Peterson is immediately important if they want a real running game.

The Lions are much more improved than even I thought they were at the beginning of the season. They are only a few players and experience from being an elite team. I can see that time coming as soon as the 2011 season. But we need to be patient through the close loss this season.

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