Operation Identity: Finding the Detroit Lions' Future

Zac SnyderContributor IJanuary 21, 2010

DETROIT , MI - JANUARY 16:  Jim Schwartz, center, head coach of the Detroit Lions poses with General Manager Martin Mayhew, left, and Tom Lewand team president after a press conference to introduce him as the Lions new head coach on January 16, 2009 at Ford Field in Detroit, Michigan.  (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

As I wrote previously , I firmly believe this incarnation of the Detroit Lions rebuilding process needs to be within the context of generating a team and franchise identity. To put it more specifically, this team and city would do well to become known by perennially great defenses.

The most successful and prominent example is the Pittsburgh Steelers organization. From the steel curtain to the Super Bowl champions of the new millennium, the Steelers are known for their defensive prowess.

This does not happen by chance. The organization is obviously committed to maintaining this identity. Head coach Mike Tomlin is well schooled in the Tampa 2 defense, yet refused any urges of bringing widespread changes to the vaunted Pittsburgh 3-4 after his hiring in January 2007.

The Steelers have been ranked in the top four in total defense in each of their Super Bowl years, while their offensive ranks have varied between first and 22nd. There is nothing wrong with lighting it up offensively, but this organization's calling card is clear.

Does making a commitment to defensive excellence render last year's selection of Matthew Stafford as a complete waste? I don't think it has to. Terry Bradshaw is a Hall of Fame quarterback and Ben Roethlisberger has certainly made his mark as a high level quarterback.

It will take discipline from the Detroit front office to let Stafford grow with the offense while the defense gets the bulk of the personnel attention. If Matthew Stafford is truly as special as the organization believes, he should be just fine with serviceable NFL talent. A dependable running game and a wide receiver to take the pressure off Calvin Johnson should be areas that can be addressed while keeping the bulk of the organization's attention firmly on the other side of the ball.

What do the Detroit Lions see when they look in the mirror. I can't imagine they see much of anything. That is the problem, no one knows what they are or what they want to be. Run and shoot, west coast, Tampa 2, pound the rock; they've all come and gone as each new regime brings another square peg for this round hole.

The front office and coaching staff seem to be on the same page for the first time in recent memory, maybe ever. It is time to draw a line in the sand and commit to the defense. It worked for Jim Schwartz in Tennessee and it's overdue in Detroit.

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