I want to have you perform a quick test in order to illustrate a point. Please read the following statement and think about how it makes you feel...
The Detroit Lions will miss the playoffs this season.
OK, did that upset you? If it did, then you are probably one of the fans that needs to adjust your perspective on this season a bit. Before you get all radical and rip me to shreds, take a moment to read the rest of the fanpost.
Before this season started, many of us had hopes that the Lions could make a jump to compete for the playoffs. That optimism was fueled by the winning streak at the end of last season, and the idea that we might finally be able to keep Matthew Stafford healthy for a full season.
While hope is always a good thing, it can also lead us to disappointment. The disappointment comes when our hopes turn into expectations, and those expectations exceed what the team accomplishes. Certainly, it is too early to say the Lions will not make the playoffs this season, but that possibility exists. The Lions season is not necessarily a failure if they miss the playoffs.
It is a virtual certainty that the Lions will win more games this season than they did last year. We need to remember that the Lions have already shown significant progress this season, even if they do miss the playoffs. The very fact that you even have expectations of competing for the playoffs at all is a testament to how far this team has come.
Before this season we had serious holes at linebacker and cornerback. Both positions are now fairly solid and even have some bench depth. We were looking for a safety to play next to Louis Delmas and we seem to have found one in Amari Spievey. In truth, the defense has been pretty decent this season and that is saying something when you consider how bad the defense was only two seasons ago.
Matthew Stafford has made some nice progress this season. I know that a lot of people are frustrated with his struggles in recent games. Did we really expect Stafford to light up the NFL this season? This is only Matthew's second season if you consider actual playing time. He is keeping his interception totals at a very good ratio with touchdowns. He is still in the top ten QBs in almost every stat you care to look at. That is pretty good for what is essentially a second year quarterback.
The problem is that we have seen Stafford look so good at times. It is easy to start expecting him to perform at that level all the time. That may not be a reasonable expectation for a young and relatively inexperienced quarterback. He did not have the benefit of sitting behind a Hall of Fame mentor like Aaron Rogers. I don't think the problem is that Stafford is performing badly considering his age and experience. The problem is that we expect too much, too soon.
That seems to be a recurring problem with Lions fans this season. Because of the great start to the season we got a little giddy. We were drinking the kool-aid by the gallon, and loving every moment of it. We lost sight of the fact that only a couple of teams have ever gone a whole season with no losses. Did we really expect the Lions to be undefeated this season? So why are we acting like a kid that had their toy stolen now that some losses have finally come?
Some may say that they are frustrated with the way that the Lions lost the last two games, but why? The Lions were in both games until the end. The team is competitive. We are not going to win every game so we need to stop acting like the world has ended when we do lose. All you can really ask for, in the age of parity in the NFL, is to have a team that has a chance to win every Sunday.
Certainly the Lions have ways to improve the team. That is also something you can say about every team in the NFL. Even the mighty Green Bay Packers have looked beatable at times. The Pack almost lost to Andy Dalton in his first NFL game. The Green Bay defense looks porous at times. In fact, the Lions defense looks much better. There is no such thing as a perfect team in the NFL. Expecting the Lions to be one is just not reality.
The best thing for everybody to do is take a deep breath and start to realize what the Lions really are as a team. They are still a substantially flawed product.
- Have an inconsistent (and sometimes incompetent) offensive line.
- Have a promising, but relatively inexperienced quarterback.
- Have lot of new players on defense trying to mesh.
- Have significant injuries to key special teams and offensive players.
- Have a quarterback and receivers that are often not working well together
- Have an inconsistent running game.
There it is. Those are not little issues. The Lions still have a long way to go, but they are making progress. Before you start going all teenage emo dump about how the Lions have disappointed you, just remember one thing. If you are disappointed it is only because you have chosen to set your expectations at a level that was never reasonable in the first place. Don't blame the Lions. Blame yourself for not keeping your perspective.
Our team is 5-2. that is still pretty darned good and we have a pretty decent chance to still make the playoffs. Early in the season I posted an article about how Lions fans need to learn how to win too. I wrote that article specifically because I could see that many fans were getting too giddy. I could see that people were setting themselves up for a fall. Now we have witnessed exactly what I feared when I wrote that article. Maybe some of us should go back and read it again to get a refresher.