As a Lion fan for the past 35 years, there are very few people that know the heartbreak that a lifelong fan like myself has gone through.
It is sad that at 53 years of age, these Lions have not won a championship in my lifetime. The only other team that has lived through this kind of drought is the Cleveland Browns. Just what kind of symmetry would it be if these two teams peaked at the same time and met in the Super Bowl?
One just has to wonder what those odds are. You can see these two teams on a collision course to meet in a Super Bowl in about three to five years.
Martin Mayhew has done wonders with his efforts to correct the travesty of Matt Millen. He trusts his scouting department, something that Millen never did.
He asks and listens to Jim Schwartz on needs and talent of players, again, something that Millen never did. Mayew has a love for the game, respects the game, and has looked to other teams recent successes, such as the New Orleans Saints and the New York Jets.
Millen was completely arrogant and saw coaches as a necessary evil and treated players even worse. He gave no team or coach time to develop properly which explains the fact that under his tenure the Lions had six head coaches—two of them interim.
How can any team breed success when every two to three years, you change coaches, bringing in new offensive and defensive schemes?
The answer is—you can't.
Attempting a quick fix bred failure. Millen was also a lousy judge of talent. His only great draft pick was Calvin Johnson. The list of failures is a mile long: Mike Williams, Charles Rogers, Joey Harrington, Kalimba Edwards, and Shaun Cody.
Free agents were not any better. Bill Schroeder and Az-Hakim never played as well as they did for their former teams, and let's not forget about Fernado Bryant and Damien Woody.
But enough of the past.
Looking forward to the future, we can see a very solid foundation setting in. Matthew Stafford is going to be the real deal, the best quarterback since Bobby Layne. Mayew has surrounded him with solid targets to go along with Calvin Johnson, such as Nate Burleson, Brandon Pettigrew, Tony Scheffler, and Bryant Johnson.
Mayhew has also solidified the running game and for perhaps the first time in nearly 12 years, since Barry Sanders retired, the Lions have a dynamic running back who can score from anywhere on the field.
Lions longest run in 2009? 64 yards. If there is any indication just how good Jahvid Best is going to be, just look at the Denver Bronco game—a 51 yard gain run on "tight" legs.
And just look at what's going on on the defensive side of the ball. The Lions went out and drafted Nadamukong Suh this year and Louis Delmas the year before. To further upgrade the line, they went out and signed free agent Kyle Vanden Bosch and traded for Corey Williams.
While Mayhew may not have gotten the same level of talent for the secondary, Chris Houston, Jonathon Wade, and C.C. Brown are nothing to sneeze at. Drafting Amari Speavey and bringing back Dre Bly were two more great moves on Mayhew's part.
I know that over the last decade, Lions fans have been teased by successful preseasons. We were teased even more during the 2007 season when Mike Martz had all of us dreaming of playoffs when the Lions started fast out of the blocks at 6-2. Reality set in as the players on that team were not as good as their record indicated.
But this just feels different. Jim Schwartz isn't being bombastic like Rod Marinelli or banking on past successes like Steve Mariucci. He's methodical and the players have all bought in to what his coaching style is.
Brilliant to bring in a solid and proven offensive coordinator such as Scott Linehan. You know darn well that Linehan poured over a ton of tape and scouted Matthew Stafford before declaring "This is our guy".
Brilliant to bring in Gunther Cunningham who had such great success as a defensive coordinator with Kansas City. Just one thing Gunther: When are you going to teach these guys that arm tackles just ain't gonna get it done?
I'm looking forward to this season...perhaps more so than any over the past five years. This team is being built for the long haul. I suspect that once they get to the playoffs, they will have a pretty good streak in getting there every year. And of course, eventually, they will get to the Super Bowl.
My guess as to when? 2014 in New Jersey and they win 28-24 over the Cleveland Browns.
Hey, stranger things have happened!