Predicting the chain of events on the NFL schedule is about as easy as identifying when Christmas and Easter will fall on the calendar.
It's the same thing every year.
Football season kicks off in September, the Super Bowl is played in February, and after a very brief break, fan interest picks up again in April for the NFL Draft. But caught in between the height of the NFL offseason and the beginning of training camp is the lonely month of July, when fans, writers and players alike go fishing for stories that simply aren't there.
Packers WR Greg Jennings was recently in-studio to discuss the upcoming season with the NFL Network. Among other issues, Jennings was asked to identify the biggest questions surrounding every team in the NFC North. And despite giving a thoughful, articulate answer for all four teams, Jennings has been criticized by both fans and players for his analysis of the Detroit Lions.
Playing against the Lions twice a year, Jennings clearly sees no shortage of talent on their roster, so instead of pointing at a player or a position that could be upgraded, he answered the question honestly and said what everyone else thinks.
"It's simple to me, because they're in the division, I see them often. Can they maintain their composure both on the field and off the field? They're a very talented team, but they have struggles on the field containing their composure. Can they be a professional ball club, for 16, 17, 18 solid weeks throughout the regular season?"
From Ndamukong Suh's "Thanksgiving Day Stomp" to the team's mental meltdown in New Orleans, the Lions' inability to keep their cool on the field has been trumped only by their poor discipline off the field, as evidenced by the team's six offseason arrests.
Jennings, a Michigan native, correctly pinpointed Detroit's biggest hurdle headed into the upcoming season, and in a league in which dry Belichickian answers are given ad nauseam by both players and coaches, Jennings's candor ought to be appreciated as much as it should be respected.
And that's been the case, for the most part.
Lions linebacker Stephen Tulloch was less than flattered by Jennings's analysis of his team, and he took to Twitter to voice his concern, tweeting: "Who is Greg Jennings to talk about the Lions? The guy should worry about his own team."
Well, Mr. Tulloch, perhaps you should have listened to the actual interview.
As a guest on the NFL Network, Jennings assumed the role of an analyst, and as someone who plays the Lions, Vikings and Bears twice a year, his experience gives him credibility. It should also be noted that Jennings was critical of his team's running game prior to stating his opinion on the rest of the NFC North.
What was Jennings supposed to do when asked about the questions surrounding Detroit this year? Lie, and say the Lions have no issues? Lie, and point to a perceived lack of talent on their roster? Bite his tongue and shake his head?
Don't punish Jennings for giving an honest answer.
Packers beat reporter Jason Wilde summed it up quite simply on Tuesday morning's edition of Green and Gold Today, "Stephen Tulloch, at some level, loses his composure over being told that they have a problem with losing their composure."
Even before Jennings said a word about the Lions, the other analyst on set, Warren Sapp, questioned whether or not Detroit can refocus and enter 2012 with the same "hunger" following the team's off first winning season 2000. Both respected opinions pointed towards Detroit's questionable levelheadedness one way or another, and that sentiment is shared among many analysts around the league.
Athletes are constantly criticized for what they say--or don't say--when answering a question. They walk a very fine line between saying too much or too little, so it's rare for a guy like Jennings, who's clearly a natural in front of a camera, to give a very descriptive and, by all accounts, factual answer.
Take his comments for what they're worth. He questioned the Lions' ability to keep their composure. That seems like a legitimate question after Detroit was charged with the 3rd-most penalty yards in the NFL last season, and the fact that the Lions account for 24 percent of the NFL's arrests in 2012.
Jennings, and the Packers, won the Super Bowl in 2010, and they followed that up with a 15-1 season in 2011. By all accounts, they're one of the best teams in football. The Lions, on the other hand, made the playoffs in 2011 for the first time since the 1999 season. They're young and talented, but they're still the Packers' little brother in the NFC North family.
If Detroit wants to remain a contender in January, they must show an improved ability to keep their composure when the regular season kicks off in September. And in July, when the weather is warm, football news runs cold, and things like this become conversation points, the Lions are better off staying out of the news and focusing on football.
Jennings' critique the Lions is not an issue. Their lack of discipline is.
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