5 Reasons Why the Detroit Lions Will Rebound from Losing Record in 2012
The Christmas season is a time of giving, yet the Detroit Lions have been a bunch of grinches this year. They've given their fans absolutely nothing to cheer for and they've put a damper on everyone's holiday with all their losing.
While that is true, one must remember that the holidays are also a time to be thankful for what we have and to have hope for the future.
Fans of the Lions should have plenty of hope for next season and years to come. That's because they have a number of very talented players in key skill positions and that is something to be thankful for.
Unfortunately, all the talent in the world doesn't necessarily equate to wins in the NFL.
The Lions have a nice base from which to build, though, and that hasn't always been the case with this team.
Here are five more reasons that the Lions will rebound from their disappointing 2012 season.
5. Matthew Stafford and Calvin Johnson
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This one is obvious; that's why it's No. 5.
Most would say both players took a step back this year though. Stafford struggled with his accuracy and Johnson dropped his share of balls.
Yet in a "down" year, Stafford could throw for 5,000 yards again (he needs to average 374 yards passing the last two games) and Johnson is on the verge of breaking Jerry Rice's single-season record.
Any player in the NFL would give his right arm for that kind of down year.
For the Lions' duo, the only difference between this season and last was a serious lack of scoring power. The touchdowns never came.
Not surprisingly neither did the wins.
Defenses certainly had something to do with it, but when you look at the gaudy numbers and the Lions' overall record, one word comes to mind: fluky.
It screams of bad luck, bad bounces and bad karma. That's why a rebound in 2013 is very possible. It won't take much for things to start going their way. When they do, the numbers will be just as impressive.
Especially the numbers in the win column.
4. Mikel Leshoure's Improvement
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With eight touchdowns and nearly 700 yards in 12 games it's hard to call Mikel Leshoure's season a disappointment.
That's becoming the general feeling though.
It might be because Lions fans have a habit of setting their hopes too high, which ultimately results in disappointment.
However, it might also be because Leshoure only averaged 3.8 yards a carry and didn't have a single run over 20 yards (ESPN).
His longest was 16.
He clearly lacked the speed burst that made him so attractive to Detroit in the first place.
Then again coming off an Achilles injury that robbed him of his rookie year, shouldn't this have been expected? The guy stayed healthy and was very productive. Next year there's a chance he'll regain some of that speed and quickness and return to form.
Then again maybe he won't. Maybe he'll give the Lions exactly what he did this year. That's not a bad thing. Combine that with Joique Bell's contributions, and the Lions' rushing attack is the least of their worries.
This was Leshoure's rookie year. Achilles injury or not, he'll show improvements next year and give the Lions the goal-line threat they've always lacked.
3. Titus Young: Addition by Subtraction
No, I don't have the inside scoop on what Jim Schwartz and the Lions have planned for Titus Young Sr. However it doesn't take an insider to read the writing on the wall.
The chances of him returning are slim.
He's done the unthinkable. He's managed to turn Jim Schwartz—the ultimate players' coach—against him, which is more impressive than anything he ever did on the football field.
He was given warnings and second chances but the message was never received. Young clearly thought he was bigger than the team and his diva-like antics were a big distraction whether his teammates admit it or not.
So the Lions will part ways with him and roll with Ryan Broyles and probably a new face or two. That's a little scary—change always is—but consider what the alternative would be.
Another season with Young talking loudly and playing quietly. No thank you. The Lions will be better off without him.
2. Jim Schwartz Will Be a Better Coach
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NFL coaches are not born knowing the intricacies of the wide-nine defense or the NFL rules regarding when to throw a challenge flag and when not too. That knowledge comes with time.
They are expected to know these and many more things the minute they accept a head-coaching job though.
That expectation is unrealistic. The fact is that NFL head coaches make mistakes every game. They experience growing pains just like their players.
Jim Schwartz fits that bill. He's been a coach for many years, but a head coach is a different animal. Even though he's in his fourth year, he's still learning.
Remember, it took Bill Belichik a while to turn into the hoodie-wearing genius he is today. In his first six years leading an NFL team, he only had one winning season and one playoff appearance.
He was evolving as a head coach and Schwartz is doing the same.
Keep in mind that Schwartz took over a miserable franchise. It's one thing to coach a team with zero expectations. The smallest improvements are viewed as momentous and mistakes are minimized. Once that team becomes a winner, the pressure really starts.
That's the position Schwartz finds himself in now.
The Lions are now a good team and he is under a microscope more than he ever was in his first three years. He made mistakes this season and deserves criticism for them, but fans that are crying for him to lose his job are overreacting.
A change like that would be the worst thing the Lions could do. John Gruden and Bill Cowher are not knocking on Bill Ford's door and to hire someone else would simply be starting over. The Lions don't need that.
They need consistency.
It remains to be seen if Schwartz is the man to finally lead the Lions to the Super Bowl, but he's proven he can win games. He'll learn from the failure of this season and ultimately be a better head coach because of it.
1. They Did It Once, They Can Do It Again
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In 2011 the Lions burst onto the scene by winning five straight games to open the season. They rode that wave of momentum the entire year and made the playoffs.
It was a coming-out party of sorts and signified the arrival of the "new" Lions.
The NFL certainly paid attention. This year they didn't sneak up on anyone. None of their opponents were going to take them for granted.
All the close games they won in 2011, they lost in 2012 and they rode a wave of momentum in the opposite direction.
This season was often painful to watch as the Lions seemed to invent new ways to lose. Yet it wasn't that long ago that they were inventing new ways to win games.
The pendulum swung the other way for them this season, but there is no reason to think it won't swing back the other way in 2013. They proved they have the talent to win games. They also proved they can win close games. They just didn't do it this year.
They weren't far off though. Consider that in seven of their nine losses (I didn't include the Arizona game), they only lost by a touchdown or less. Four of those losses were by only four points or less.
The point is besides one ugly loss, the Lions have been in every game until the end. Their losing season comes down to a handful of bad plays, turnovers and one blatant coaching error.
There's no doubt the Lions need to get better, but a rebound next season isn't a pipe dream. This team is still a far cry from the "same old Lions" teams of the '90s and early 2000s.
That's reason enough to have optimism.