While 2011's bump in success was certainly not the norm in the Motor City for the better part of the last decade, a 4-10 record for their encore—which came with lofty expectations—has to be just as disappointing as any stretch of futility in the long history of this franchise.
Until Sunday, Detroit's recent losses were at least competitive. Letting one of the worst teams in the league send you back home in embarrassing fashion, however, should signal radical changes within the organization.
The NFL thrives on making the most out of the faces of each franchise: the starting quarterback and head coach.
With so much invested in Matthew Stafford and the rest of their talented stable of young players, the culpability of Detroit's struggles—whether deserved or not—naturally falls on the shoulders of Jim Schwartz.
While Detroit may be the victim of a much tougher schedule in 2012, this team's regression is too alarming to ignore.
Schwartz's inability to capture the momentum of last season indicates a lack of leadership, not to mention the coaching mistakes he has made along the way—for instance, illegally throwing a challenge flag during Week 11's 34-31 overtime loss to the Houston Texans.
Closing the season with home games against the Atlanta Falcons and Chicago Bears doesn't bode well for an upbeat finish to the year. But Detroit must find a way to wash the bad taste out if its mouth heading into 2013.
Parity in the NFL lends itself to shortening the window of sustained success for franchises, so the Lions must do something to ensure theirs doesn't completely close for another decade-plus this time around.
Follow Jeremy on Twitter @KCPopFlyBoy.