After making the playoffs in 2011, the Detroit Lions looked like a team that was developing into a championship contender. The talent was seemingly in place, and it looked like the Lions finally had a coaching staff ready to take them to the next level. With their playoff drought over, the next step for the Lions was seemingly to win some games in the postseason and make a run at their first Super Bowl appearance.
Fast forward to now and the Lions' main goal is really just to get back to the playoffs given what happened in 2012 and 2013. The Lions collapsed in both seasons, going 4-12 in 2012 and 7-9 last season, and they now have a new head coach in Jim Caldwell. His experience with Super Bowl-winning teams had a lot to do with the Lions' decision to hire him, and the hope is that he will be the man to truly elevate this team to the level of contending for championships.
Another person with Super Bowl experience who joined the Lions this offseason is safety James Ihedigbo. He came to Detroit after spending time with the Baltimore Ravens, New England Patriots and New York Jets. He went to the AFC Championship Game with the Jets in 2009 and 2010, made a trip to the Super Bowl with the Patriots in 2011 and won the Super Bowl in 2012 with the Ravens. He's been a part of some great teams over the years, and based on what he's seen since coming to Detroit, he thinks the Lions have the makings of a team that is capable of winning a championship. From MLive:
"It's one of those things, you can feel it," Ihedigbo said. "With this team, I can feel the makings of a championship-DNA team. Are we willing to sacrifice? That's the question, and I know we are. There are guys in this locker room that are willing to pay the price, whatever it is, to put the work in to be a champion. Yeah, we definitely have that championship DNA."
Based on what happened last season, you could argue that the Lions had enough talent to at least be champions of the NFC North. They didn't actually win the NFC North title because that talent consistently made killer mistakes and failed to protect leads en route to a disappointing finish to the season. In essence, the 2013 Lions lacked that championship DNA that Ihedigbo was talking about.
While it remains to be seen if the 2014 Lions will truly be any different, they have at least added a lot of people this offseason who have been a part of championship teams. Caldwell, Ihedigbo, Golden Tate and coordinators Joe Lombardi and Teryl Austin all won championships elsewhere before coming to Detroit, and they are now set to be important building blocks for a team that is looking to establish itself as a champion in the future.