♦ The More Things Change…♦
“The Detroit Lions are that family member that makes you blindly angry, and even embarrasses you in public, but you support them because they are still your family.”
—Jay Scott, aka ME, in the Sept. 8, 2010 edition of Real Detroit Weekly.
DETROIT — In my 21 years of being an avid watcher of the Detroit Lions (prior to age 10, I was primarily a baseball and basketball fan), I have seen and heard some ridiculously brutal losses and even a few epic wins. There was the 1990 game against the Washington Redskins at the Pontiac Silverdome where the Lions blew a 31-14 lead and lost in Overtime. There was the 1991 NFC Championship Game against those same Redskins. There’s the 1993 NFC Wildcard game at the Silverdome against the Packers where the Lions led w/less than two minutes to play when a young QB named Brett Favre found a wide-ass open Sterling Sharpe for the game winning TD. There was the 1995 58-37 Playoff curb-stomping in Philly. The worst of them all: Christmas Eve, 2000. Losing to the then-4-11 Chicago Bears when you are staring at a potential playoff berth. If they made it, they might have actually done work. That “L” ushered in Matt Millen and the single most disastrous decade in NFL History. Regular readers of this blog have seen how at the end of it I’ve taken to doing a Walter Cronkite/Keith Olbermann-style countdown of the number of days since the last Detroit Lions victory. The Lions lost 114 games from 2001-2009. Included in that are two different 24-game road losing streaks, two 13-loss seasons, two 14-loss seasons, and one winless season! After all that, you’d think I’d seen it all. Then came yesterday at Ford Field. Let’s Go.
In that piece from RDW, I neglected to mention anything about Matthew Stafford’s propensity to get injured at the drop of a hat. In hindsight, I should’ve seen it coming. Dude played in just 10 of the Lions’ 16 games last year (winning just two…barely). He missed time with a knee injury and a shoulder injury. In just 3 games played this year, Stafford has been injured TWICE. That’s four injuries in 13 games played. He’s played in 13, finished nine, missed 11. And even worse, the Lions are 3-10 in the 13 games he has played in. This is compounded by the fact that the Lions invested $42 MILLION into this cat. FORTY-TWO MILLION DOLLARS! That’s $14 Million per win! He has been solid in the games he’s played in, but nothing spectacular. His growth as a QB has been stunted by his injury-prone body. That’s why the hype surrounding him in Detroit is so maddening to me. People in Detroit don’t just think this dude could be a great quarterback, people are convinced that he already is one. From the tall tales of him throwing 70 yard passes in practice (when fans and media cameras are not allowed in), to his one shining moment against a sorry Cleveland Browns team last year, Stafford is Football Jesus in Detroit. Even after Jeff Backus got spun around like a top by Julius Peppers as he was on his way to crush Stafford like a grape, people were still in denial of it. The wives tales are that if he doesn’t get hurt, the Lions would be undefeated, all thanks to the greatness of Jesus H. Stafford. It was just a coincidence that he keeps getting hurt. Then came yesterday at Ford Field.
The problems that plague this team are as much mental as they are physical. They lost the first four games, yet people insisted that this team was “better”. Mind you, while one of them (Chicago) was a complete and unmitigated screwjob, the other three were typical Lions fuckery. Stupid penalties. Poor tackling on defense. The offense being too conservative at some stretches, too loose with the juice in others. Suspect (to put it mildly) coaching decisions regarding play calling and clock management by Jim Schwartz who continues to think he’s smarter than everyone else. Invariably, he ends up looking like Wile E. Coyote, Super Genius.
They had two losses (Philly, Green Bay) that were inside of a TD. They get a blowout win over a legitimately improved St. Louis Rams team, then go to the Meadowlands and piss away another potential win against the Giants (and lose backup QB Shaun Hill in the process). They come home last week and get the Savior and his spaghetti shoulder back. Thanks to some late game shenanigans involving Donovan McNabb, Mike Shanahan, and the human fumble machine Rex Grossman, the Lions get a win over Washington and the whole city was in a tizzy over the Lions. Proclamations that they had “turned the corner” and that the Lions were “back” were flowing like water. Stafford is suddenly one of the “top quarterbacks in the league”, and the Lions defense looks “legit”. The opponent, the New York Jets, would cower in fear of Stafford The Great and the Lions would storm to victory. Then came yesterday at Ford Field.
Was a playoff spot on the line? No. Was a chance at them getting to .500 on the line? No. What was on the line was something the Lions have largely been without since Matt Millen spread his toxic feces all over this franchise: Credibility. Since the Detroit Lions went into the tank in 2001, every NFL franchise has had at least one winning season. All of them. Cleveland? Yep. Jacksonville? Yessir. Buffalo? Right On. Houston!? Yes, Dammit! All of them. All but Buffalo and Houston have made the playoffs in that stretch. The three other teams (Green Bay, Minnesota, Chicago) in the NFC North have each made at least one trip to the NFC Championship game since 2001, with Chicago getting to a Super Bowl in 2006. CHICAGO!!!! Teams have won, fallen off, and come back in the amount of time Detroit has been at the bottom. Yesterday was supposed to be proof that while they aren’t a good team by any stretch of the imagination, they are finally a team to be taken seriously. The aforementioned Browns have bagged themselves two of the biggest fish in the ocean this year: New Orleans and New England. The Kansas City Chiefs and Oakland Raiders are back in the business of smoking fools. Hell, even Tampa Bay and St. Louis (1-15 last year) are eating at the grown up table these days.
So when the Lions got the Jets, who next to Baltimore have the biggest and loudest mouths in the NFL, down 20-10, the city could feel it. That stadium could feel it. And most of all, the Lions themselves could feel it. That game was their’s. IT WAS THEIR’S, DAMMIT! Stafford played like a man for the first time since he came to Detroit. The defense was feisty, angry, almost cocky. It was reminiscent of the Lions teams in the mid 1990s that would have the Silverdome on SMASH! Then it happened. Stafford gets hurt falling down after being tripped up on a scramble. The Lions Defense fails to hold the lead. They give up the quick TD and Schwartz, who apparently thinks that timeouts are like cell phone minutes and they roll over, refuses to call a timeout to slow the game down. Then the blunder of all blunders: 3rd & 6 with 2:00 left and the Jets being out of timeouts.
You come out of the two-minute warning in need of six yards for the first down to end it, or at least a way to get the clock rolling. You have a QB (Drew Stanton) who is better with his feet than with his arm. You have a running back (Kevin Smith) and a fullback (Jerome Felton). Every bit of conventional football wisdom tells your ass to call a RUN play. Not Jim Schwartz, Super Genius! He thinks that’s the perfect time to catch everyone slipping and run a bootleg option play. Compounding matters, you give your running quarterback the “option” to throw or run. Throwing in that instance means that if the pass is incomplete, it stops the clock. Guess which option they chose!? So instead of punting to the Jets with say 1:10-1:15 on the clock, they gave them 30 extra seconds to play with. You know the rest. The Jets drive into FG range (with a BIG assist by former Spartan Julian Peterson’s late hit on LaDainian Tomlinson), tie it with time expiring, win the coin toss in OT, then march down the field and win it on a FG. 23-20 NYJ. And, Boom Goes The Dynamite!
One of the most brutal losses by the Lions in 10 years. Lions Center Dominic Raiola (who committed two unthinkable false start penalties himself) called that game “The worst loss in his 10 years” as a Lion. And that MFer has lost a lot of games in Detroit. That is without me even mentioning the insanity of seeing a 300lb Rookie Defensive End, Ndamukong Suh, running out to kick an extra point (that the Lions desperately needed later) cold with no time to warm up. Schwartz at least owned that fact that he was guilty of several counts of coaching FAIL. But that gives little solace to the fact that the Lions may have just kicked their one shot at being considered legit for a full year. This team officially has problems. Big, Expensive Problems. Schwartz is often in WAY over his head and makes nonsensical decisions at the worst possible time. If he handles his money, like he handles clock management, he’ll be broke like Antoine Walker in three years. The other, more glaring issue is Stafford.
The Lions have invested the aforementioned $42 Milli into a guy who, according to our hilarious #StaffordIsMadeOf thread on Twitter, is apparently made of everything from Cotton Candy, to Baby Wipes, to used bubble wrap, to cheap BBQ sauce, to XL Chalupa Meat. Matthew Stafford, his fault or not, is a liability on the field. Not because of his play, but because of his health. I’m not saying he has to be as durable as Favre or Peyton Manning, who each have NEVER missed a start. But is it too much to ask that EVERY time this guy gets hit, or falls down, or sits down, or puts on a shirt, we shouldn’t have to see the trademark Stafford Wince of Doom? The Lions could be staring at the distinct possibility of needing yet another franchise saving QB in two years or less if this cat can’t stay together physically. WTF Dude!?
You have to understand that to be a Detroit Lions fan is no different than being a fan of the Chicago Cubs. You support this team because they are your team. All respect due to the Tigers, Pistons, and Red Wings, but the Lions OWN Detroit the way the Cubs own Chicago. The Lions can get this entire city behind them in a way that no other team in this city can. The Lions fan base stretches across the city, suburbs, and entire state. It has no boundary of age, race, gender, or socioeconomic status. Anyone who grew up in this city watching this team would slit their mother’s throat to see the Lions in a Super Bowl just like 85% of the city of Chicago would do the same to see the Cubs win a World Series. All of these phonies who run around claiming to be “Lions-free” are full of shit like your toilet is backed up. At some point it has to break right for this team. It has to…right? For God’s Sake, the Saints sucked for 40 years and they are now the defending champs! To get rolling in the right direction, you have to make forward movement. It appeared that the Lions were on the verge of finally getting up from the kid’s table and playing with the big boys.
Then Came Yesterday at Ford Field.
Until Next Time, That’s The Way It Is. Monday, November 8, 2010.
The 8th day since the Detroit Lions’ Last Victory
Take Care, God Bless, Always Dare to Be Different, and G.O.M.A.B. Σ
P.S.: Last Week, Detroit lost an icon when former Detroit Tigers Manager Sparky Anderson passed away at the age of 76. Thank You Sparky for making those Tigers of my childhood, the 1980s, the best team in baseball and the reason why I will ALWAYS be a Tigers fan. RIP.