Detroit Lions Need to Improve, Not Win, in Chicago

Ross MaghielseCorrespondent ISeptember 30, 2009

CLEVELAND - AUGUST 22:  Head coach Jim Schwartz of the Detroit Lions wtches his team against the Cleveland Browns during the third quarter of their NFL game in Cleveland Browns Stadium on August 22, 2009 in Cleveland, Ohio.  (Photo by Matt Sullivan/Getty Images)

I hate to take the junior football Punt, Pass, and Kick competition approach to the Lions season. This is the NFL after all. But, simply said, winning is not what matters for Detroit this season.

Yes, the Lions needed a win to relieve the pressures of a potential record setting losing streak. But expectations for the win-loss column are still low, as they should be. This team does not need to win—it needs to improve.

The Lions are in a rebuilding process. Fans will be quick to point out that the team has been “rebuilding” since the 1999 NFC Wild Card loss to the Washington Redskins. True, but this particular rebuilding process has just begun.

Detroit has a rookie quarterback, again, a new head coach, again, a new general manager, again, and is in the process of rebuilding the organization from the bottom up…again. It will take time.

This Sunday’s game at Chicago is about progress. All that matters for the Lions is that they do not take a step back.

A loss on the road to the Bears is not a bad thing. Not now, not for this Detroit team. The Lions simply do not get enough actual victories to proclaim that moral victories don’t matter. They do matter. Right now, for this Detroit team.

If Detroit is competitive against the Bears in the Windy City, it will be a moral victory. If the Lions are able to stay healthy, and Matthew Stafford continues to develop, that too will be a moral victory.

Winning four games this season is an acceptable outcome for Jim Schwartz, considering what he has to work with. A 5-11 record at season’s end would be a smashing success.

The Lions neighbors across Brush Street in downtown Detroit were in a similar position a few years ago. The 2003 Tigers are comparable to the current Detroit Lions. The Tigers nearly set the record for most losses in a season that year. Yet, they were playing in the World Series in 2006.

A step forward, no matter how small, is a step in the right direction. This weekend in Chicago is about staying on path, not rushing ahead to turn the corner.