FanPost

Measuring Progress

Hope everyone is gearing up to have a great Thanksgiving week, regardless of what the Lions do (or don't).

There's no doubt this has been an interesting year... I've missed writing about it so far, but a certain tone in Lions fandom finally made me sit up straight in my chair and get going at the keyboard.

The despair over the games we've lost, and the way we've lost them is worrying me. In particular, I'm bothered by the "Same Old Lions" meme that's going around.

An opinion piece over at the Freep asks, "How can we really say the Lions have progressed?"

The question, of course, is rhetorical. He goes on to say, "...2-8 is 2-8. And 26 losses in a row on the road is just that: 26 losses in a row on the road. Words are so tired at this point. As long as the losing continues, words are useless."

Friends, if the Lions were a stock, I'd be buying right now. Not on gut feel, but fundamental measures of progress. See why below the jump.

I'm going to continue the business analogy a little bit. Let's use the 0-16 season of 2008 as the year the Lions hit bottom and went into restructuring. 2009 is the first year under management with mostly the same assets, 2010 is the second year and they're finally getting to implement their plan further.

 

In business the headline is profit. In football, it's wins. Those are the immediate relevant measures for how you're doing right now. You're making money, or not. You're winning games, or not.

So, on wins... we've gone from zero in 2008, to two in 2009, to two so far in 2010 with a tough schedule to go.

Doesn't sound like progress.

But don't let losses alone fool you. Investments are being made. Things are changing under the hood, in the factory.

Here's some 2008, 2009, and 2010 info I've pulled from ESPN NFL Stats and NFL.com Stats. Pretty basic offensive and defensive measures, normalized by game or per play. I've added league rankings in for each stat, with the last column giving you the change in ranks from the 2008 ranking to where we are today in the middle of the 2010 season.

Offense

2008

2008 Rank

2009

2009 Rank

2010 (10 wks)

2010 Rank

Change 08-10

Pts/G

16.8

27

16.4

27

23.4

15

12

Yds/G

268.3

30

299

26

336.4

19

11

Comp %

55.2

30

54

28

60.5

20

10

Pass Avg

6.5

23

5.9

28

6.1

30

-7

Pass Yds/G

185

24

198

21

255.9

6

18

Pass Rating

71.3

29

58.1

31

82.1

21

8

Rush Yds/G

83.3

30

101

24

80.5

31

-1

 

 

Defense

2008

2008 Rank

2009

2009 Rank

2010 (10 wks)

2010 Rank

Change 08-10

Pts/G

32.3

32

30.9

32

23.7

22

10

Yds/G

404.4

32

392.1

32

344.2

19

13

Yds/Play

6.4

32

6.1

32

5.5

19

13

Pass Yds/G

232.3

27

265.6

32

213.6

13

14

Rush Yds/G

172.1

32

126.6

25

130.6

26

6

Int/G

0.125

32

0.5625

30

0.9

16

16

FF/G

1.375

3

1.125

8

1.6

3

0

Sacks/G

1.875

16

1.625

29

2.7

6

10

Pen

5.6875

12

7.0625

31

7.3

25

-13


The stat categories should be mostly self explanatory (FF is defensive forced fumbles).

I always prefer to support my thoughts with minimal extra editorial, and I'll continue that. Allow me to point out some interesting items, though.

1) Take a look at the points and yardage defensive stats from 2008 (and 2009). We were dead last or close in virtually all of them. That's changed to respectably towards the tail end of the middle third of the league so far in 2010.

2) Interceptions per game has been a remarkable turnaround. Interestingly, forced fumbles per game were always top third of the league and have stayed that way. Sacks per game have improved into the top third caliber.

3) Penalties are the clear regression during the Schwartz era. We've gone from 12th least penalized team in 2008 to bottom third of the league the past two years.

4) Offensive stats are up, with points, pass yards, and completion % being the biggest jumps.

5) We are languishing in the basement with rush yardage, and our vertical passing has declined slightly.

All in all, the stats show a lot of improvements in rankings (often double-digit) in the vast majority of categories. It hasn't translated to wins yet, but which direction are things heading if even a few of the following happen by 2011?

a) Stafford is healthy and can play a full season

b) Best recovers from turf toes and returns to early 2010 season form

c) Talented players that joined the team in 2009 and 2010 get more reps and time in the system

d) The draft yields improvements at LB, DB, O-line or elsewhere

e) Schwartz improves from experience as a head coach

f) Penalties, some the most correctable issues for a team, are reduced

The question we need to ask ourselves is how fast is fast enough for this improvement to happen, not whether it is happening. The stats above show you (as if we need telling!) that the final year of Millen-Marinelli was a cataclysm. What should appropriate expectations be for improvement after the worst sustained period of management and single season of futility in NFL history?

We are clearly getting better. You may not be satisfied with the pace of progress, and that's definitely your right. But please don't tell me these are the "same old Lions."

This is a FanPost and does not necessarily reflect the views of Pride Of Detroit or its writers.

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