Sometimes it’s not about the destination point but the journey to get there. For the Detroit Lions, the journey has been filled with potholes the size of the Grand Canyon!
The Lions had to begin this journey at rock bottom. The 2008 season was the most disastrous season any team could ever had. The Lions finished 0-16, which led to some major changes within the organization. Gone was president and GM Matt Millen, who had absolutely no success with the Lions. Millen is generally regarded as the worst GM in the history of the NFL. Also gone was head coach Rod Marinelli, who brought a tough man’s approach, but supplied little brainpower. Finally gone was WR Roy Williams, who started out with such promise, but like most of Millen’s draft picks, was considered a bust.
In came new GM Martin Mayhew, Coach Jim Schwartz, and first overall pick, QB Matthew Stafford to try to turn the ship around. Everyone in the Motor City knew the Lions had a long way to go. Baby steps were required. in 2009 the Lions did manage a couple of wins, but were still languishing at the bottom of the NFC North. But after drafting hulking DT Ndamokung Suh from the University of Nebraska, along with the emergence of WR Calvin Johnson, the Lions had a foundation to build on. A strong finish to the 2010 season saw the Lions end up with a 6-10 record and moved them above the Minnesota Vikings in the division. They even defeated the eventual Super Bowl Champions Green Bay Packers in December.
So what does this bode for 2011? Well for starters, Stafford has to stay healthy. Knee and shoulder injuries kept Stafford on the sidelines for most of last season. If the Lions want to continue their climb in the standings, Stafford must stay healthy. The Offensive Line must do a better job protecting Stafford. Easier said than done but nothing is ever easy in the NFL.
The defence must continue to improve. While the Defensive Line, led by Suh is one of the best in the NFL, the Linebackers and secondary need shoring up. Signing Stephen Tulloch is a step in the right direction, but there is still a lack of depth at those positions.
While some prognosticators are picking the Lions to make the playoffs, I believe they are a year away. Stafford needs more seasoning, and there needs to be improvement in other areas. But for the first time since Barry Sanders was electrifying the masses, the Lions are headed in the right direction. 2008 won’t be forgotten, but it won’t happen again either.