The City of Detroit is undergoing drastic changes to its government, work force, landscape and future. In came Dave Bing, out went Kwame Kilpatrick; as the auto industry temporarily disappeared, the film and entertainment industry arrived; As Joe Lewis Arena deteriorates, a new venue is being blueprinted.
Now, the city's beloved football team appears to finally be taking part in the transformation, as well.
The Detroit Lions organization is changing. Someday, the term "same old Lions" will be thrust into the history scrapbook along with that of "'68 riots," "Devil's Night," "Dead Wings," "Bad Boys," and "Hitsville U.S.A." It will be a memory, not a reality.
The change is a work in progress, but it is happening right now.
The old Lions would fall down 21-13 to a far superior team and stay down without even attempting to fight back. The old Lions would lose their best player early in a game and use it as an unspoken excuse for the outcome.
These Lions fight.
But these Lions, like the teams of years past, often lose their fights. They don’t lose because of a lack of effort on the field or leadership from the sideline. They lose simply because they are not equipped to win.
After falling down early, Detroit was on the verge of tying things up with the defending Super Bowl Champions last weekend. (And no, I don’t want to talk about the offensive line on that last series. Just let it go.)
Matthew Stafford sat out, Daunte Culpepper filled in nicely. Calvin Johnson went down with an injury, Dennis Northcutt and Derek Williams stepped up.
I can’t help but think things would have unfolded differently in the "same old Lions" era. Instead of a 28-20 disappointment, the game against the Steelers would have been a 30-point, channel-changing nightmare.
Jim Schwartz has installed a new mentality in this team, a good one, and the team has bought in.
All that can be asked of a head coach at the professional level is that he gets the most out of his team. One win and four losses is the best this team has to offer right now.
The Lions 2009-2010 ad campaign states, "We’re building this team right." I cannot argue with that claim. Certainly when compared to last year’s punch-line of "The time is now."
The time is not now, not next week, not this season. But the time is coming for this Detroit Lions team. It has to be.
I believe this team is finally on the right track. Sure, I, like many others, have believed this before only to be let down. But I’m willing to go down with the ship on this one. The Detroit Lions are going to be good.
This is not internal or irrational optimism. It’s simply observation. Even William Clay Ford is starting to earn my trust.
Ford has taken as much heat for the failures of this team as anyone. For the longest time, he deserved it. The two worst types of owners to have in sports are ones who either do not care or are completely incompetent. A third type is simply described as Al Davis. (There is no description or credible theory for what goes inside that man’s head)
Ford has none of those traits. The Lions ownership has been ill-advised and over-trusting. Not incompetent or careless.
If you need further proof, look at the family's other endeavors. Take Ford Motor Company, for example. When the other big guys in town pleaded for handouts and settled for a life preserver in the form of dreaded paperwork, Ford handled its own problems.
Sure, some tough adjustments were made, but Ford Motor Co. weathered the storm. It survived. Much, while certainly not all, of that credit goes to the members of the Ford family in charge of operations—the same people who hold the highest seats within the Lions organization.
People are held accountable now. Never again will someone as unqualified as Matt Millen hold a job in the Lions organization for eight years. Nor will a player who consistently under-performs remain on the field when a better option is available.
Granted, the situation is still bleak. But let this thing breath, put the glass cover back over the "blowup" button, and just wait.