There is a hidden cost that the Detroit Lions have incurred as a result of their stunning, shameful loss at home to the New York Jets. A cost that may set the Lions' rebuilding program back for years to come.
For the Lions, last Sunday’s game was supposed to be a statement game. A game that would see the Lions ascend into respectability and legitimacy among the cognoscenti, players, media and fans.
But, they lost, and more importantly those veteran free agents who will be targeted in 2011 were likely left with a decidedly negative perception of Detroit after the Lions failed to establish themselves as a destination of choice.
Veteran free agents want two things: a nice contract and a team that figures to become a contender.
The Lions have lost the respect of those free agents, whom they covet, at the worst possible time.
The Lions progress under the leadership of general manager Martin Mayhew, and head coach Jim Schwartz, has been well-documented.
In spite of this, free agents in 2010 decided that Detroit was a team to pass on.
Because we live in an age where instant gratification is mantra. This offseason Keith Bulluck, the talented, albeit often injured linebacker, decided that the Lions were too far removed from a trip to the playoffs. He signed with the Giants.
Can you blame him?
Greg Eno got it right. Schwartz went FUBAR in the Jets game. The head coach's gaffes contributed more than any other factor to what may be the most costly Lions defeat in years.
Knowing the hidden cost of this unmitigated disaster, what can the Lions do to recover a positive perception among the 2011 crop of veteran free agents?
1. The Lions must win at Buffalo, and then rack up a win against the Cowboys at Jerry Land. Back-to-back road victories would regain some respect, if only self-respect.
2. The Lions must beat the Bears and Vikings at home. This is the highest priority.
3. The Lions must beat a team who has widely acknowledged credibility. Green Bay at home, Tampa Bay or Miami would qualify.
It’s time for the Lions to make a statement. While this season is far from over, there is a sense of urgency that transcends winning and losing.
The Lions must regain the high ground, and once again become an attractive destination for those coveted 2011 veteran free agents.
Mike Sudds is a Featured Columnist for Bleacher Report. Mike is also an analyst and correspondent for DraftTek.com.