The Detroit Lions have become known throughout the NFL for their late game comebacks this season. But what do these dramatic comebacks really say about the Lions?
While there is no doubt that the Lions’ games have been thrilling thus far, they are a sign of the club’s bigger issues. When you look at the league’s best teams, the Patriots and the Cowboys this year, those teams do not fool around in the first half. They come in with a clear game plan, and stick with that. What this does is give the team an early lead, rather than them having to make a dramatic, fourth quarter comeback with a low chance of success.
The Lions on the other hand, play every team close. When you look at the Lions’ losses this year, many of them are the result of the team getting off to a slow start and allowing their opponents to stick around. In the Lions’ matchup with the Tennessee Titans, the Lions were outplaying the Titans for almost the entire game. However, a series of penalties and inability to convert on scoring opportunities lead to a 16-15 Lions defeat.
Yes, when you have Matthew Stafford as your quarterback, you will always have a chance for a dramatic comeback. As we have seen he is one of the game’s best fourth quarter quarterbacks. However, there is tons of room for improvement, mainly in first-half game planning, cutting down on penalties and converting on scoring opportunities rather than settling for field goals.
All of these problems have one thing in common, and that is they can be drastically improved in coaching. Lions coach Jim Caldwell has done a very good job in some categories, such as the team’s dominance in the final minutes of the game, something players have said they have focused a lot on. I do not believe that Caldwell is necessarily a bad coach, but I certainly don’t think that he is out coaching many of the league’s best teams.
The situations has a lot of resemblance to the Golden State Warriors. A few years ago, they had Mark Jackson as their coach, and they were a good team. When the Warriors fired Jackson in a season in which they made the playoffs, everyone thought they were crazy. People in the Warriors organization on the other hand knew that they had something special, and to take that next step, they had to fire Jackson and find an elite coach. That off-season, they hired Steve Kerr, and the rest is history. The Warriors won one NBA championship and also set an NBA record for wins in a season.
I believe that in order for the Lions to take that next step, they eventually need to move on from Caldwell.
The Lions have a talented offense, starting with Stafford, who is having one of the best years of his career. If the Lions got the right coach in there, this is a team that should easily be in the playoff conversation every year.
Over his eight year career in Detroit, Stafford has made two playoff appearances, both of which resulted in losses. While many fans in Detroit may have hoped for much greater accomplishments when the Lions drafted Stafford in 2009, one thing that Stafford has without question achieved is bringing stability to the quarterback position, something many teams in the NFL cannot say.
When you have the quarterback position resolved, everything becomes so much easier. Some teams, the Cleveland Browns are the biggest example of this, get their priorities out of whack. This year, when the Browns had the second pick in the NFL draft, they decided to trade away their pick to the Philadelphia Eagles. The Eagles selected Carson Wentz, and now have the quarterback position settled for the next 10 to 15 years if everything goes as planned. The Browns on the other hand, have been playing the quarterback merry-go-round the entire season, with six different quarterbacks completing passes so far this season.
After starting 1-7 last season, many were calling for the Lions to begin looking at other options for quarterbacks. Pundits and fans calling for such moves were missing the fact that Stafford is playing for the Lions, an organization that historically has been horribly run. What poorly run organizations always seem to forget is that it starts up top, and while you can switch quarterbacks as much as you want, until you get an elite coach and general manager, your team will never be able to remain consistent.