Despite the state of the franchise being quite different, a number of people have pointed to what happened in 2008 as a reason to not get too excited over the Detroit Lions going undefeated in this year's preseason. In 2008, of course, the Lions went undefeated during the preseason and ended up going winless during the regular season. Nobody expects a winless regular season again in 2011, but many think 2008 is a reason to brush off the Lions' 4-0 record in this year's preseason.
Now, I will be the first to admit that it is tough to decipher what is and isn't relevant about the preseason. Sure, there are statistics pointing to correlations between preseason and regular season records, but it isn't easy to figure out what a team's preseason record means, if anything. Take the Colts, for example. They have gone winless in the preseason twice in the last six years (2005 and 2010), and both years they went on to make the playoffs. On the flip side, the Lions have had a good amount of success in the preseason as of late, but it hasn't yet translated to any regular season success.
While you do have to take the preseason with a grain of salt because it isn't a solid predictor of what will happen in the regular season, it isn't fair to compare 2008 to 2011 for the Lions. I know, I know, it's easy to joke about what happened the last time the Lions went 4-0 in the preseason, but there's really no comparison between the two teams. Proof of that comes from looking at the Week 1 starting lineup in 2008 and the projected Week 1 starting lineup in 2011. Across the board the difference in talent is unbelievable.
|QB||Jon Kitna||Matthew Stafford|
|RB||Kevin Smith||Jahvid Best|
|WR||Calvin Johnson||Calvin Johnson|
|WR||Roy Williams||Nate Burleson|
|TE||Dan Campbell||Brandon Pettigrew|
|TE||Michael Gaines||Tony Scheffler|
|LT||Jeff Backus||Jeff Backus|
|LG||Edwin Mulitalo||Rob Sims|
|C||Dominic Raiola||Dominic Raiola|
|RG||Stephen Peterman||Stephen Peterman|
|RT||George Foster||Gosder Cherilus|
|DE||Jared DeVries||Kyle Vanden Bosch|
|DT||Chuck Darby||Ndamukong Suh|
|DT||Cory Redding||Corey Williams|
|DE||Dewayne White||Cliff Avril|
|OLB||Ernie Sims||DeAndre Levy|
|MLB||Paris Lenon||Stephen Tulloch|
|OLB||Alex Lewis||Justin Durant|
|CB||Brian Kelly||Chris Houston|
|FS||Gerald Alexander||Louis Delmas|
|SS||Dwight Smith||Amari Spievey|
|CB||Travis Fisher||Eric Wright|
|K||Jason Hanson||Jason Hanson|
|P||Nick Harris||Nick Harris or Ryan Donahue|
|LS||Don Muhlbach||Don Muhlbach|
|KR||Mike Furrey||Stefan Logan|
|PR||Shaun McDonald||Stefan Logan|
Looking back, you can see why the Lions had so many issues on the field in 2008. Between an inept general manager who put the team together, a mediocre coaching staff and an overall lack of talent, it's no surprise the Lions struggled to win games. It's still hard to believe they didn't manage to win one game, but it's hardly a shock that they were so bad given the low amount of talent on the team.
Fast forward to now and the Lions have upgraded their talent across the board. Only a few positions haven't undergone any changes from '08 to '11, and the ones that did experienced significant upgrades. Just look at the defensive line. In 2008, the Lions were starting DeVries, Darby, Redding and White. Now the Lions have Vanden Bosch, Suh, Williams and Avril as starters, and the second string of Lawrence Jackson, Sammie Hill, Nick Fairley/Andre Fluellen and Willie Young is even a big upgrade over the starters on the 2008 D-line.
I guess my point is this: While you have every right to be skeptical about the preseason meaning anything about what will happen in games that actually count, don't discount what the 2011 Lions did just because of what happened in 2008. I understand if you're cynical about what goes on during exhibition games, but it's very lazy to rain on the parade by pointing to what happened in 2008, especially when you consider that the 1993 Lions also went undefeated during the preseason. That team ended up winning its division and finishing 10-6.
Sometimes the preseason can be a sign of things to come like in 1993, and sometimes it can be completely misleading like in 2008. To me the 2011 Lions seem more '93 than '08, and hopefully this undefeated preseason will in fact be a sign of things to come for Detroit.