Nick Fairley Arrest an Indictment of Detroit Lions' 2011 Draft Class and Culture
This morning, less than two months after his last arrest, the Lions defensive tackle decided an under-the-influence joyride was a great idea and was subsequently arrested for drunk driving and attempting to elude the police—always brilliant. He was also ticketed for reckless driving, no proof of insurance and an open container violation.
Fairley's two arrests showcase not only a complete lack of self-control, but also a tremendous lack of responsibility and zero concern for the safety of others. Apparently, Fairley not only wants to waste his own life away, but is also OK with endangering anyone who dares to drive in the state of Alabama.
With the quality of depth on the Lions defensive line and the win total from last season, this story could simply be about how irresponsible of a human being Fairley is. However, his pattern of bad behavior is a microcosm for the Lions' culture.
This isn't a new phenomenon.
In December—before Fairley's two arrests, before running back, Mikel LeShoure's run-ins with the law, before seventh-round pick Johnny Culbreath lit up and got locked down and before wide receiver Titus Young sucker-punched Louis Delmas, I wrote:
None of these actions in a vacuum would be damning—well, pushing an official and smacking an opponent still would be—but together these actions create a body of evidence that the Lions can't run away from.
These are no longer things the Lions do, this is who the Lions are.
The timing and tenor of that column was more about the Lions' rash of personal fouls and egregious lack of composure at the end of the 2011 season. However, looking back, the words seem almost prophetic, as the Lions have failed to keep any semblance of order this offseason.
Of course (both in the comments and on Twitter), the general sentiment was that it was an overreaction, that the Lions had been targeted by refs and that all of this would be worked out under the watchful eyes of Martin Mayhew and Jim Schwartz.
As far as the 2011 draft class goes, the Lions could've seen this coming:
... Fairley's issues are well-documented. But Young was considered "high-maintenance". And Leshoure had failed drug test on his record. ...— Albert Breer (@AlbertBreer) May 6, 2011
Mayhew and Schwartz have to shoulder a share of the blame for this pattern of behavior from their players. Schwartz assumed he could handle these problem children and now the inmates are running the asylum in Allen Park.
It isn't just the second-year players who are acting sophomoric. Ndamukong Suh can hardly get behind the wheel of a car without attracting unwanted attention. Of course, if one connects the dots back to last season, these are just further examples of the complete lack of composure in the Lions franchise.
The post-Millen era has been one of increasing optimism for Lions fans. "In Mayhew We Trust" has become the battle cry of fans on forums and on Twitter, while the cornbread and Honolulu Blue Kool-Aid of old seems to have more and more substance as the losing streaks and losing records are more of a distant memory.
Still, it's important to take a step back and realize that these issues—both on and off the field—are holding the Lions back from being truly great. Teams don't get to call a mulligan on an entire draft class, and new draftees aren't going to have a lot to look up to when the highest player on defense and the head coach aren't exactly sparkling role models. Moreover, we're not even two years removed from the team president having the exact same issues as Fairley.
This is the Detroit Lions—boneheads on the field and true idiots off of it. In 2011, that identity held the Lions back even if they made the playoffs in spite of it. In 2012 and beyond, the Lions have to either embrace this identity with a "just win, baby" attitude or truly learn from their mistakes.
Simply pretending the problem doesn't exist is no longer an option for either the team or its fans.
Michael Schottey is an NFL Associate Editor for Bleacher Report and an award-winning member of the Pro Football Writers of America. He has professionally covered both the Minnesota Vikings and the Detroit Lions, as well as NFL events like the scouting combine and the Senior Bowl.
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