Disclaimer: This is not a post about drowning excitement or expecting less on the field. It's about context. It's about making sure that fans remember what this team is recovering from and what it's going to take to get where we need to go.
There's got to be a silver lining, right? Last night's horrendous loss to Cleveland has to have some positive side to it, doesn't it? I think it does. I think it's a reminder to us all that this team was 0-16 last year and that all of those holes simply couldn't be filled in one off-season. It's a work in progress and might be for a year or two more. Last night's performance only reiterated that we, the Lions faithful, need to have some patience this season and temper our expectations a little. That doesn't mean that we can't be excited or expect a better product... we should expect a better product. In fact, we should demand a better product each and every year. But we should also remember what this team was last year and that it's going to take some time. Progress should be taken as a term relative to the Lions themselves. Progress for these Lions is a couple of wins - literally. It's that particular context that I think we need to remember when we see our inconsistent Lions trying to take steps forward.
The last few weeks, the Kool-Aid has been flowing generously - as it usually is this time of year. Last night's game brought our excitement crashing back down to reality. All of those thoughts of Stafford being invincible and a lock to be successful quarterback unraveled a bit. All of a sudden, we got a glimpse of how he could fail. That was a bit scary for me personally. Over the course of weeks and months, we build this team up to a level that it might not yet be capable of playing. Then we all get the wind knocked out of our sails when things don't go right. This is football. Games can snowball in a hurry. The Browns no doubt caught us off-guard last night and we weren't able to respond and match their intensity. The Lions aren't yet contenders and will be inconsistent until the rookies are ready and the remaining holes are filled. That is... sadly... going to take some time.
After you sit back and digest the game in context, it's a bit silly to get all worked up about the Lions performance and Stafford's more specifically. After all, it's only a preseason game and there is time to clean things up. Stafford will have two more games to improve and show us his capabilities. If he's not ready, he's not ready and Culpepper will get a chance to prove his worth. If Stafford is ready, he'll still struggle from time to time. That's the nature of being a rookie in the NFL. If it was easy, everyone would succeed. I still have no doubts that he has the tools to be a good NFL quarterback, I just think it might take a few more talented players for the team around him to come together. Let's remember what those quarterbacks have had for receivers the last two weeks. It can't be easy for them to succeed with that to work with. Basically, they have third string receivers going against a first string secondary. So again, let's put last night into context and remember that this team is the preseason version and a continuous work in progress. There is still a lot of room for excitement and optimism with this team. There are going to be ups and downs, but this team is still much better than last year. I can confidently say that even after watching last night's game.
I will try to find the time to do the play-by-play analysis over the next few days and hopefully I will be able to see some positives in an otherwise dreary outing.