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The Detroit Lions have no discipline

The Detroit Lions have a discipline problem, and it goes well beyond penalties.

Detroit Lions v Dallas Cowboys Photo by Richard Rodriguez/Getty Images

I struggled to find something to write about in this week’s Monday column. How many more ways could I possibly come up with to tell you that the Detroit Lions are bad after another loss? After thinking it over for a while, the one thing that really kept coming to my mind is that this team just seems to lack discipline in every single way.

What do you think about when the word discipline comes up? My first guess would be penalties. That is a part of what I’m talking about when I say discipline. The Lions continue to shoot themselves in the foot with penalties at the worst possible time.

They did that again on Sunday when the offensive line suddenly forgot how to play and racked up several penalties and killed multiple drives. Amani Oruwariye chipped in with his weekly penalties when he did stuff like this.

The penalties are bad and they do show quite the lack of discipline, but that’s not totally what I’m talking about here. There’s so much more.

For example, the Lions lack the discipline to stick with what is working. They lack the discipline to play it safe at the time when playing it safe is the right way to go. The perfect example is the fourth-and-1 on the Lions’ final offensive drive of the game. The disciplined thing to do would have been to work something short yardage and just get that first down while also running down the clock.

What, instead, happened is that someone got an idea and before you know it, the Lions are throwing deep to Josh Reynolds in the end zone. Reynolds predicably does not catch the ball. This is not Reynolds’ game. This hasn’t succeeded all season with Reynolds. Why do it? That is undisciplined coaching. Even if Reynolds does catch it and the Lions score, they’ve left two minutes and three timeouts on the clock for an offense that they’ve forced to punt one time all game.

It wasn’t just Sunday. It was the fourth-and-9 against the Patriots, the decision not to punt against the Vikings, and more. Aggression is good and I applaud the Lions for doing it most times, but they have to know when to not do it. It’s like partying with that one person who just doesn’t know when to quit, and then your fun night out turns into you babysitting your friend who can barely walk and is constantly on the verge of puking.

They do it on defense, too. The Seahawks pretty much just ran the same play 25 times in a row and the defense fell for it every time. I can tell you that the Dolphins are going to throw to Tyreek Hill on third-and-long. If they don’t do that, they will definitely still throw it.

I understand that just because you know a team is going to run a play doesn’t mean you’re always capable of stopping it. But it almost feels like the Lions know it’s coming and refuse to prepare for it. I understand that this defense is young and inexperienced. What I can’t understand is how it’s possible to go through several games where you force one or zero punts. Even a bad team accidentally gets it right sometimes. This Lions team just can’t do it.

What’s worse than all those things is that the Lions lack the discipline to stick with what’s working. The Lions scored 27 points in the first half against the Dolphins and then completely fell apart in the second half. What happened? How does this team completely fall away from what was working time after time? You can make a good case that their opponents are good at making halftime adjustments, but then you’d have to tell me that every team the Lions play against is good at making halftime adjustments. I just don’t see it.

It seems as though the Lions make their own adjustments too. They completely move off of what they were doing and try to do something else. Whether they get too aggressive or too conservative varies through the weeks. Why can’t the Lions just stick with what works or what was working?

Now, this doesn’t mean that the Lions need to burn it to the ground and fire everyone. Discipline is a trait that can be learned. We talked about youth and inexperience. This team is full of it and it’s not just on the field. The coaching staff shares that inexperience too. They need to turn things around.

A good start would be to sit down and think about who they ideally would like to be and then sticking to that identity. It can’t be bipolar every week. Teams just can’t win that way. There has to be discipline or this just isn’t going to work. The right head needs to be on the shoulders and right now, it’s not.

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