In doing my usual round of the NFC North news, I came across a piece at MLive.com by Anwar Richardson which was pretty harsh about the level of leadership—or lack thereof—for the Detroit Lions.
Not being in the locker room, it's hard to debate a lack of leadership. If it's there, it didn't seem to translate to the field this season.
Teams don't win Super Bowls without that.
Yet you can certainly make an argument that there isn't enough skill on the team as well. The fact is that despite having Calvin Johnson and Matt Stafford, this team is in short supply of overall talent in many areas.
Given the huge list of free agents who potentially might be gone for good, that lack could get even worse.
If you're shaky at cornerback, it doesn't help to lose Chris Houston. If the offensive line is OK, losing Jeff Backus (to potential retirement) and Gosder Cherilus to free agency would definitely dip it below that—even if Riley Reiff turns out to be a great left tackle. They could use an upgrade at center as well.
Meanwhile, for all the work the backfield did this season, Mikel Leshoure and Joique Bell might not be enough to get the job done. Aside from Johnson, the receivers are a disaster, with an old Nate Burleson coming off a broken leg, Ryan Broyles dealing with a second torn ACL and now minus Titus Young, though you can debate how much that mattered based on this season.
On the opposite side of the ball, an already shaky secondary could lose Houston and Louis Delmas, though Delmas is never on the field for long because of injury anyway. The defensive ends and portions of the linebacker corps need help as well.
Still, talent is nice, but you can have talent and go nowhere if you lack strong leaders.
Ultimately, I believe that the leadership issue is the bigger one.
We see teams over-perform all the time because of leadership. The Super Bowl champion Baltimore Ravens are the current example—a team which struggled much of the season, but was put on the backs of Ray Lewis and Joe Flacco, who carried the Ravens to the championship game.
While Flacco may have the talent to do that through play alone, Lewis does not anymore. A shadow of his former self, Lewis was actually a detriment on many plays this postseason, including in the Super Bowl.
But his leadership was worth all the stud linebackers in the world.
The Green Bay Packers have Charles Woodson, Aaron Rodgers and Clay Matthews. The Bears have Brian Urlacher, and whether you like his style or not, Jay Cutler. The Patriots have Tom Brady, sure, but they also have Bill Belichick.
Forget the off-the-field nonsense. Consider the high amount of penalties and issues such as the nonsense Young pulled which resulted in his getting cut on Monday.
Among other idiocy, Young sucker punched Delmas and purposely lined up in the wrong spot in a game. Let that sink in, because Lions coach Jim Schwartz at one point left the door open for the guy who did that to come back.
Maybe he was still trying to salvage it or maybe trade the receiver, but what coach puts up with that? Would the Harbaughs? Would Belichick? Would Mike Tomlin or Mike McCarthy?
The simple fact is that none of the coaches above would.
Young clearly had no respect for Schwartz. In the end, Young got cut, but how many chances did he get, only to light every single one on fire while laughing?
If other young players see this, what do they think? How much rope do they get?
Equally amazing to me was the fact that the only person who even spoke out on this was Dominic Raiola.
Which do the Lions need more?
Where were Stafford or Johnson?
It's all well and good that they lead on the field—but someone needs to lead off it as well. They are the two biggest names in the franchise, which makes them the two biggest absences as leaders as well.
If I'm the Lions, I absolutely keep acquiring talent. They need it.
But I look to acquire some character and leadership as well. And soon.
What do you think the team needs: leaders or players? Vote in the poll and respond in the comments.