The 2021 Detroit Lions are a fascinating team. Despite their 0-7 record and the history of this team’s failures, there is an undeniably positive vibe both within and outside of their practice facility in Allen Park. Players are showing confidence on and off the field, coaches are noticing week-to-week improvements, and a fanbase that has been notoriously (and understandably) cynical overwhelmingly believes this team is headed in the right direction.
Lions quarterback coach Mark Brunell sees it, too. On Friday speaking with the media, he spoke glowingly of the culture of the franchise, specifically how the players have come into work every day without losing motivation or comradery.
“I’ve been on teams where you go through a few struggles and things start to fall apart a little bit, but this team has a lot of character,” Brunell said. “I think this team also knows that, like I said, at some point we’re going to turn this thing around and we’re going to get the wins. They’re coming.”
It’s no secret that the Lions went out this offseason and searched for players with a chip on their shoulder, players that simply wanted the opportunity to prove themselves every week. Guys like Kalif Raymond, Jerry Jacobs, and Alex Anzalone have all made the most of their opportunities. For a guy like Jonah Jackson, who had to deal with an 11-game losing streak at Rutgers in 2018, he’s been impressed with the team’s composure through tough times.
“You just come into work every day. It’s really the guys in the building that make it,” Jackson said. “It’s hard, but the guys in the building—as long as you guys come every day—work hard. It’s not like we’re losing by a crazy amount. It’s right there. We’ve just got to capitalize on it. The guys in this building, the coaches, everybody, they make life easier when life’s—not hard, but all the stuff that’s going on, the losing.”
And while Brunell gave plenty of credit to the players for their positive attitude, he also noted that it all starts up top with coach Dan Campbell and general manager Brad Holmes.
“It’s character, and it starts from up top with the head coach and the general manager. Being positive, challenging guys, making sure that we do our best to stay together,” Brunell said.
The Lions have gotten close several times to notching that first win. They were a record-setting field goal away from stealing one from the Baltimore Ravens. They were a missed Vikings 54-yard field goal away from picking up their first win over Minnesota in four years. They were 12 yards away from taking the lead on the Rams—one of the league’s best teams—with under five minutes to go.
Their failures all came down to one thing: poor execution in critical moments. Brunell believes the team’s youth and inexperience have played a part in those struggles.
“It does. We’ve got some young players, of course, and some guys that haven’t played a lot,” Brunell said. “We’ve got some veterans, but regardless of what age you are or how many years you’ve played in this league, in those critical moments, you have to make the play.”
Ultimately, Brunell not only sees resilience in this franchise but believes they’re actually getting better, too.
“But I will say, guys, we’re seeing improvement. We really are. We’re seeing young players get better. We’re seeing some good things. I know it might sound crazy, but we have some momentum.”