The suggestion has been made by many on this site that, while the Lions are a terrible 2-9, their statistics show a team that is improving. The insinuation is that, with a little better luck and a few bounces that go our way, this team could easily be .500 or better. I decided to visit ESPN.COM and take a look for myself.
First, let's look at the big statistic: penalties. As Sean posted yesterday, we've already surpassed our team totals for penalties called for either of the last two seasons, including our 0-16 year. We have 120 penalties so far, to 119 last year and 104 for the year of the debaclypse.
That's right...we're worse than the 0-16 team when it comes to penalties, and we still have 5 games left to play to expand upon that record. So much for headed in the right direction.
How about offense?
Let's start with the rushing game. As it turns out, our rushing game is terrible. We're 28/32 in yards and 30/32 in YPC.
Well, we've been scoring points, so clearly the passing offense must be better. So, how about passing offense? Sure, we have a ton of yards...but what's the real story? We are 30/32 when it comes to yards per attempt -- the more meaningful statistic.
In other words, our vaunted offense is 3rd from the bottom in both yards per run and yards per pass play. When our offense has the ball, there are only two teams worse than us at making something happen with that play. That's pretty fucking terrible, isn't it?
How about defense?
Our rushing defense scores out as 30/32 in terms of yards given up, and rises all the way to 28/32 in terms of yards per carry.
Our passing defense is a whopping 27/32 in yards per attempt.
In other words, our defense is 4th and 5th from the bottom in terms of yards we give up per play.
Add it all up? You have team records almost certain to be set in penalties. You have an offense that is third from the bottom in both yards per run and yards per pass. You have a defense that is fourth from the bottom in yards per run and fifth from the bottom in yards per pass.
We are, by the damn statistics everyone keeps pimping, at the very bottom of the league in rushing and passing, for both offense and defense.
Are we better than 0-16? Anything we could have done would be better than the 0-16 season. Are we MUCH better? We have a 2-9 record and we're at the bottom of the heap in offensive and defensive efficiency. If this is what qualifies as improvement -- if this is all it takes to get people excited about the detroit lions -- then you deserve another 50 years of this bullshit.
Are there positive things that can be taken out of this season? Sure. Stafford looks good when he can play. He has a chance to be our first actual, quality, long-term quarterback since Christ was in diapers. Best looked good before he got hurt. We've got some young players who may -- MAY -- turn out to be solid starters on defense. Suh and CJ are pro bowl quality players. Raiola is certain to die in an outhouse fire this offseason. There are good things happening.
There are also terrible, terrible things happening. We are an unfocused, undisciplined team who gets penalized at the worst times; we get beat badly by good coaching and good players; and we cannot keep our heads in the game for 60 minutes once a week. These things are realities that we have to deal with before we can make the jump from shitty to mediocre, let alone from mediocre to good. Talent was the hurdle in 2008. Now, these things are the hurdle.
Ignoring these bad things and focusing on "we're better than the absolute worst team in the history of the NFL, so fuck you" so you can be "Mr Positive" does not make you a better fan, or a more dedicated fan, or more loving of the team. It doesn't mean you want it more. It simply means you are unwilling to deal with the reality that says, by every realistic benchmark, this season has been a total fucking disaster.