As extremely difficult as it is to do a thorough " review " of where the Lions are at, I want to try and at least start by asking the " right " questions.
First off, and I really think that this is the most important question, and it's, how strong is the overall talent level of this team ? The Lion's coaching staff and front office had the whole NFL sold on the "idea" that the Lions' talent level had drastically improved, that the roster had a nucleus of rising young stars, and that the Lion's would perennially challenge for a playoff spot going forward because of this. This was no superficial front that they were making, they had a playoff appearance, and some pretty impressive statistics by key players in 2011 to point to.
Was 2011 just a mirage ? Or are players like Stafford, CJ, Pettigrew, Suh, Fairley, Houston, Tulloch, Avril, Levy, Best, Scheffler, Delmas, etc. really enough of a nucleus to "trust" going forward ? and without " upsetting the applecart " as far as coaching and front office changes ?
Also, the front office DID make attempts to upgrade the supposed weaknesses of the team this past off season. As in, they drafted three corners with NFL calibre athleticism, they went after special teams and linebacker help in the draft, they took BPA in the first round with a stud OT, they took a productive receiver in the second round to supposedly add to a "strength" of the team.
So, where exactly are we now ? The NFL is such an up-and-down league. The Giants looked like they had perennial talent last year and won the Super Bowl to prove it. This season though, they missed the playoffs. The Falcons were an easy first-round out last year and this year look really tough. The Seahawks and Redskins missed the playoffs entirely, and this year, both teams found a groove, to say nothing of the transformation of the Broncos and Colts.
Well those teams have great QBs now you say ? Well, Stafford is only 24 years old and lost almost his entire receiving corp after CJ, had a mediocre running game, and an also depleted defense that couldn't make key stops. So where does this leave us overall ?
For all those that say " we need defense . . . we need defense ", well, the Cowboys went out in free agency and the draft last off-season and got two of the best CB's anyone could ever hope to find, the final "missing pieces" they thought, and still, missed the playoffs.
Here's another thing too. Ya the Lions lost their last 8 games, but it was also 7 really close games against playoff caliber teams.
Other things to consider too: injuries to the receiving corp., injuries to the secondary, no Jahvid Best, TD Young flaking out. It was kind of a "cursed" season for a still "cursed" team. But really, how far away are we ?
I suppose I'm willing to still think that with a now #5 position in the draft, and a major free agency period coming up, that the glass is still somewhat half-full, and that any major shake ups in the FO or staff could be short sighted.
Other than the Fords talking Jimmy Johnson or Bill Parcells out of retirement to coach and GM this team, I don't know what else as far as major "moves" the Lions could make that would really make for an "improvement". Don't laugh, supposedly the Jets are considering Parcells as I write this.
Hopefully, 2012 was just a really tough " growing pains " type of a year for a team that has some major " growing up to do ".