Mike McCarthy, the head coach of the Green Bay Packers, 2011 Super Bowl champions, can't help but notice that the Lions are a much improved team. In fact, he may even be a bit concerned about the Detroit Lions this coming season.
If McCarthy is concerned, there is good reason to be so. He has said as much in recent interviews.
"I think it's very obvious that Detroit has improved their personnel," he said. "With the high picks they've had, they've done a good job of late. They have a lot of positives, from their offensive perimeter, which is going to be one of the better ones in the league.
"It's just the consistency at quarterback. It's hard to play with three quarterbacks, and they did a helluva job playing with three quarterbacks."
I'd like to read further into what he is saying.
McCarthy knew that we beat Green Bay in week 14 of the regular season, with our third-string QB. Now I know that the Packers' first-stringer went out with a concussion and so they had to bring in their second-string QB, Matt Flynn. However, it still stands that the Lions played together as a team and beat them.
Mike may want to focus on the fact that the Lions have had the benefit of some high first-round picks in past few years, but everyone knows having the structure to support them is just as important. All you have to do is look at the Matt Millen era to know what a difference it makes.
McCarthy also pointed out that the Lions will benefit from consistency at QB, which he is not wrong about, but, again, that is not the most important factor.
Consistency at QB is not what beat them last year.
Martin Mayhew (Detroit Lions GM) and Jim Schwartz (Detroit Lions head coach) have created a positive "team" culture. This new culture is what the Packers should be concerned about.
Beating Green Bay clicked a switch on for the Lions, as they finished out the year with three additional wins. This shouldn't be disregarded or under appreciated by any of the NFC North coaches.
When the Lions figured out how to win, they kept winning.
This is the team the NFC North will face in 2011.
Don't get me wrong, no organization will be happier about having consistency at QB than the Lions themselves. Having Matthew Stafford back will just make them better.
As Minnesota Vikings coach Leslie Frazier said, "A good quarterback can cover up a lot of ills. There's a reason people do whatever they can to find that franchise quarterback."
Chicago Bears coach Lovie Smith had a hard time talking about Green Bay as the Super Bowl champs. The Bears were close to going the distance themselves, but even Smith had to acknowledge that this season will present even more of a challenge because of the Detroit Lions.
"When you have the world champion in your division and Minnesota was in an NFC championship game not long ago and everybody wants to talk about the improvements that Detroit has made, it's a tough division. It's a quarterback division—with tough defense. From top to bottom, you've got to be ready."
McCarthy, joined by most of the NFL, believes that when Stafford is behind center, the Lions will become even more of a threat.
"I think they're a young, excellent football team that is going to be much improved next year," he said. "Any time you play with a number of different quarterbacks, it's going to affect your team. I think once they get Matthew healthy and get more consistency there, they're definitely going to be a challenge for us." (All quotes are via Tom Kowalski of MLive.com)
Detroit is a legitimate team on the rise and will find a way to win, no matter who the play-caller is. It has already shown that to be true. Stafford will hopefully be able to stay healthy and play all season. There is something truly magical when Stafford connects with Calvin Johnson.
Ultimately, however, the best news to come out of Detroit in a very long time is that the Lions are prepared to win, no matter who is on the field.
McCarthy is right to give Detroit its dues and, as a die-hard Lions fan, I appreciate hearing it.