What happened at Ford Field last Sunday was terrific. Other than the end result of the Detroit Lions winning a football game, there was the “coming out party” of hopeful franchise quarterback Matthew Stafford.
Stafford threw for 422 yards and an NFL rookie record five touchdowns. More importantly, he led the Lions on a game-winning touchdown drive with less than two minutes on the clock. His game-winning touchdown pass, with a separated shoulder mind you, to fellow rookie Brandon Pettigrew allowed the Lions to come all the way back from a 24-3 deficit and defeat the Cleveland Browns 38-37.
Wait...the Lions were down 24-3 to the Cleveland Browns? Yes, yes they were.
This is not about being negative or an attempt to deflate Detroit’s momentary balloon of hot-air pride, but facts are facts. Being a 2-8 football team should not be celebrated, even if it does come after a 0-16 season the year before.
Coming into the game against Detroit, the Browns averaged just nine points per game, and had scored only five offensive touchdowns all season. Brady Quinn had just one touchdown pass on the year—he threw four against the Lions on Sunday.
Until the Lions defense stops impersonating a bunch of blind kids playing capture the flag, this team will not and cannot be successful.
Sports fans are collectively a short-minded bunch. The some 30,000 Lions fans in attendance at Ford Field on Sunday that were cheering, high-fiving, and celebrating a win over the NFL’s new worst team will likely be booing at some point this Thursday.
Go ahead, stand up and boo. If anything, it would only be good for this franchise. People in Detroit should not celebrate being better than the bottom. It should be expected, it should be demanded.
But it’s not. It has never been. Not with the Lions at least.
Remember when Mary Mornhinweg had a bucket of Gatorade poured over him after winning his first game as an NFL coach? I believe the Lions were 1-13 at that point. Or when Rod Marinelli gave his team an extra two days off because it beat Denver 42-6 and improved to 6-2, with eight games still left in the season? Even when Jim Schwartz sent the team back out on to the field to “celebrate” the Lions first win of the season against Washington with the fans in attendance, was that really something to celebrate?
I say no, heck no. Success should be celebrated, but stealing wins from teams just terrible enough to let you get away with it should not be.
Take a minute to think about why the Detroit Pistons have been so successful this decade. They have been as consistent as any team in the NBA. Why? Because heads roll if excellence is not accomplished. Losing is not tolerated, and mediocrity is unacceptable.
That mindset is not shared with the Detroit Lions organization, or the fans that support it. Random moments of Silverdome success were enough in the '80s. Barry Sanders provided enough excitement in the '90s. Newly constructed Ford Field and the promise of a “change in direction” sparked enough excitement in first part of this decade. But no truly positive results have ever come.
Other than Stafford’s play and toughness at the end of the game, the only other positive that can be taken away from this game was the leadership of Schwartz.
He was excited after the game, and rightfully so, but he was by no means celebratory. He downplayed the game as merely, “just one win” and cautioned the media to “not make too big of deal out of it.” In his Monday press conference, he looked like a coach with a 2-8 team. Not a coach still giddy about a recent victory.
That was the first sign of true leadership I have seen from Schwartz and his statements could not be more correct.
If the Lions win again on Thursday, that will be a sign of some slight progress taking place. Feel free to cheer for the moment and show some excitement. But if they lose, please, stand up and boo. This franchise will only get better when the City of Detroit demands that it does so.
While this past Sunday was a terrific moment, it was also a terrible reminder.