Maybe I was naive. I never really bought into the "Lions are going to spiral out of control because they have no discipline" narrative. I expected growing pains, sure, but nothing to destroy the season.
It appears on some level I was wrong, and head coach Jim Schwartz must take a longer look at both now and this offseason.
While Matt Stafford's struggles, the injuries to the secondary and the poor special teams play have all contributed to the demise of this team's year, discipline has been a much bigger factor than I gave it credit for.
On the plus side, the Lions have improved over 2011, the Lions are still a heavily penalized team both offensively and defensively.
They're ranked 23rd in first downs allowed due to penalty—totaling 24 as of today. Now, that's not enough to derail a season—the 49ers are tied with them and the Packers and New England worse off—but when there are other problems, it makes things far worse.
That's just the surface though—the more serious issues are ones that seem to crop up only occasionally, like the latest Ndamukong Suh incident.
These days Suh can't catch a break—and he has nobody to blame but himself.
As we approach Week 13, we're once again talking about Suh and how he plays the game. The apparent kick to the groin of the Houston Texans' Matt Schaub is a perfect example of how his reputation makes it hard for people to believe him when he says something is an accident.
Now, it doesn't look all that intentional. He's got his face down in the grass, so unless he has eyes in the back of his head, I think him intentionally nailing Schaub in the groin is unlikely.
However, can you trust he didn't mean to do it? This is where reputation comes in, and Suh's isn't good—something even he will acknowledge.
While this falls squarely on Suh's shoulders, something also needs to come Schwartz's way.
Because if it isn't our annual Suh-Turkey Day discussion, it's Titus Young intentionally lining up in the wrong spot, or punching Louis Delmas in practice.
It's all the same mess, and the responsibility for that falls as much on Schwartz as it does the players.
Yes, these are grown men, and yes, they're the one on the playing field. Schwartz isn't psychically controlling them.
However, he's the coach and he is the one who imposes any form of discipline.
How does it get to the point where Titus Young would even dare to line up wrong in a key game against a divisional rival and then mouth off to the receivers coach about it.
How is that OK? How can a player even think that's OK?
You have to wonder what the environment is in that locker room, that it's OK to intentionally do a bad job and then get angry when called on it.
They suspended him, fine, but what brought them to this point? That it even happened is mind-boggling.
Not being in the team meetings and locker room, not being around the players when they are game-planning or the coaches when they are discussing the players, it's impossible to know where things have gone wrong.
They have gone wrong, though, make no mistake.
This offseason Schawrtz needs to figure out what to do to keep his players under control.
Otherwise the Lions could continue to backslide to where they were just a few seasons ago.
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