11 October 2009
The Lions took a game they could have had a legitimate chance to win, and botched it terribly. Shooting yourself in the foot...several times over...tends to cost you in the win column.
Despite the bizarre ending to the game, I was encouraged by what I saw. But I was also discouraged as well. I'll explain, in two parts...
1. While thinking about the Lions while making dinner for the GF and boys (cod, thank you very much), I realized why I was so damn disappointed by today's loss to the Steelers.
It's obvious the Lions are a fatally flawed team...in several areas. They'll be lucky to win 4 or 5 games. But it doesn't mean I won't be disappointed/upset/pissed off when they lose. Why?
They're a much better coached team now, and I've come to expect more from them.
Yes, I'm actually expecting something from the Detroit Lions.
You can see the Lions have improved in some areas since 2008, some more so than others, but they aren't there yet. Talent has been, and remains, an issue, and will for the next couple of seasons. There still isn't enough talent on the team to do the things Jim Schwartz, Scott Linehan and Gunther Cunningham would like...or even attempt to do those things, at the very least.
I loved Linehan's play calling against the Steelers. Such as his 3rd and long draw to the fullback, Jerome Felton. They needed 7 yards, Felton busted through for 8, and totally caught the Steelers off guard. It was one of several excellent calls by the Lions' offensive coordinator. I'm convinced Linehan is a born play caller, and could do wonders with the right talent...which the Lions lack.
Meaning the Lions can win with a player like the aforementioned Felton. And for that matter, with the likes of Calvin Johnson, Kevin Smith and Brandon Pettigrew (notice no defensive players were mentioned?). But they can't win with their offensive and defensive lines in such sad shape. The o-line was especially culpable today, giving up 3 consecutive sacks on the Lions' final drive, moving backward from the Steelers 21 to their 46, all but ending the game. What should have been 4 shots at the end zone from reasonable distance became one attempt at a Hail Mary. (add some of the blame on the sack-fest to Daunte Culpepper for not unloading the ball, but come on, the line still has to play better)
But there's nothing the Lions can do with either of the lines this season. They're too far gone. It'll be priority one in the coming off seasons, especially during the draft. Until then, all the Lions coaches can do with the lines is try to hide to the weak players, emphasize the good players and try to keep the damage caused to their skill players (we've seen Stafford go down thanks to a sack...) and win/loss record to a minimum.
This season has always been about preparing for 2010 and 2011. In other words, wait 'til next year. Honestly, wait 'til two years from now.
2. Speaking of players the Lions can win with, I really do think the Lions can win with Matthew Stafford...in a couple of years. But they can't win with Daunte Culpepper, and today we saw why.
Detroit needed veteran leadership from Culpepper. Instead, he made silly, stupid mistakes you might expect from a rookie, not an 11 year veteran. His late in the 3rd quarter interception deep in Pittsburgh territory was a screw up worthy of a benching, in my mind.
After you drop the snap, and have 300 pound linemen all up in your grille, he could have tried to run with the ball, throw the SOB into the turf, or even take a dive to the ground, and give Pittsburgh the damn sack, I really don't care. Do anything but one thing, and that one thing is what Culpepper did...throw the ball up for fucking grabs. He deserved to get picked. It was an idiotic mistake, one you could argue ultimately cost the Lions a shot at winning the game.
As the Lions are playing for 2010 and beyond, if Stafford can't go next Sunday, wouldn't it make more sense to see Drew Stanton rather than more of Culpepper? The Lions need to know if Stanton can be effective as a backup. What better time than the present?
Yes, I know the point of the game is to win. But when you aren't going to win more than a few games, no matter what you do, wouldn't you be better served in preparing to win in '10, '11 and beyond? I realize playing for the future is a fine line to tread as a coach, and the veteran players may have issues. But Schwartz is the one with job security and the backing of the front office. Not the players, many of whom won't even be Lions in a season or two, when it's hoped the team will have been turned around.
Schwartz doesn't need to win much this season. He will by 2011. Which is why he should be coaching in preparation for those seasons, trying to lay the groundwork now.
Meaning we should hope to have seen the last of Daunte Culpepper.
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