Detroit Lions  

 

Jim Schwartz's Detroit Lions are NFL's biggest underachievers

Kyle Terada/US Presswire
Matthew Stafford has been a big reason why the Detroit Lions have struggled; his 78.9 rating ranks 24th in the NFL.

They are an embarrassment. They are impossible to watch. They are a clown show. They slip on the proverbial banana peel on national television. They are the biggest group of underachievers in the NFL.

Not the New York Jets, folks. Meet your 2012 Detroit Lions.

Yes, the Lions (4-10) are back to being a laughing stock. And yet, nobody is really focusing on it to the level it deserves.

The Lions improved from 2-14 in 2009 to 6-10 in 2010 and 10-6 in 2011. But recent history shows that teams that make a large leap forward often stagger back. Since 1990, there have been 10 NFL teams that improved by at least three wins in each of two consecutive seasons. Those teams had a composite .475 winning percentage the following season; only one of the 10 had another improvement of any size; and only three of the 10 had winning records.
Team Seasons Yr 1 Yr 2 Yr 3 Yr 4
Cowboys 1989-1992 1-15 7-9 11-5 13-3
Patriots 1992-1995 2-14 5-11 10-6 6-10
Redskins 1994-1997 3-13 6-10 9-7 8-7-1
Falcons 1996-1999 3-13 7-9 14-2 5-11
Jets 1996-1999 1-15 9-7 12-4 8-8
Steelers 1999-2002 6-10 9-7 13-3 10-5-1
Chargers 2000-2003 1-15 5-11 8-8 4-12
Panthers 2001-2004 1-15 7-9 11-5 7-9
Jaguars 2003-2006 5-11 9-7 12-4 8-8
Packers 2005-2008 4-12 8-8 13-3 6-10
Lions 2009-2012 2-14 6-10 10-6 4-10*
* With two games remaining.

-- NFL Digital Media Research

What a difference a year makes. One year ago, the NFL world was genuinely celebrating the Lions' return to the playoffs. Jim Schwartz turned the program around. Lifelong Lions Dominic Raiola and Jason Hanson were being celebrated for their persistence. I remember interviewing them on SiriusXM radio and getting the chills during each conversation as they explained the tormented path from NFL hell back to the promised land. They both stressed how much it meant to the city and the fans.

On Sunday, it was as if they reenacted a scene from the inept files. They played the Arizona Cardinals in Glendale. The Cards were on a nine-game losing streak and featured an offense right out of the stone ages.

Arizona blew out Detroit 38-10.

Let that marinate for a second.

The bleeping Cardinals blasted the Lions, winning by four touchdowns.

Ryan Lindley now has one win in his career. Chances are it will be the only win he ever has. And it came against the 2012 Detroit Lions.

If Matt Millen was still in charge (I apologize to Lions fans for making them sick with that thought), Detroit's failures would be getting attention. Millen was an overmatched, out-of-touch leader and a great symbol of the 0-16 Lions in 2008, also known as the worst team in history. Maybe Lions fans think this season doesn't really register on the embarrassment scale. And in theory, they would know.

How about this nugget of futility? The Minnesota Vikings and Christian Ponder have double the amount of wins as Matthew Stafford's Lions. Imagine if I told you that in the preseason.

I thought the Lions would take a step back and go 8-8. I didn't like the run game or the back end of the defense. I never expected this.

What's most alarming about this horrendous season is it raises legit questions about the Big 3 in Motown: Jim Schwartz, Matthew Stafford and Ndamukong Suh.

Schwartz deserves so much credit for his focus and leadership in restoring credibility. He deserves so much blame for this season. It started in the offseason. A Lions player was arrested or charged seven times, with Mikel Leshoure and now ex-Lion Aaron Berry getting hit twice. That's insane. That's unfathomable. That's a distraction. Jim Schwartz joked in the offseason that you wouldn't see his Lions go skeet shooting in lieu of practicing, like Mike McCarthy's Packers. Well, you won't see arrests in Green Bay to that level. Or New England. Or in any place where the postseason is the norm.

The Lions consistently commit penalties in big spots. Suh has played foolish and dirty for two years and Schwartz hasn't done a thing. And this season, Suh hardly has been a dominant player. The Lions are undisciplined on and off the field, and Schwartz enables it.

Schwartz poked fun at Jim Harbaugh last season for not knowing when to throw the challenge flag. On Thanksgiving Day, with the nation watching, Schwartz was guilty of not knowing these very rules and cost his team dearly. It was classic irony and mismanagement.

Do you realize that Matthew Stafford basically has a 1:1 TD-to-INT ratio, chucking 17 scores against 15 picks? Stafford (three INTs) largely was responsible for Detroit's humiliating loss to the Cards.

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In addition to his poor play, what bothers me is Stafford's attitude and lack of leadership. When we talked on the SiriusXM Blitz a few weeks ago while he was promoting some hair product, soft drink, backward baseball cap or something, Stafford didn't think the offseason issues and overall lack of accountability had anything to do with the poor play. Would this ever happen with any of the truly elite quarterbacks? Think about it. Both Mannings, Aaron Rodgers, Tom Brady and Drew Brees demand accountability from their teammates. Stafford does not.

Football fans are stuck with the Lions on Saturday night in primetime. They face the Atlanta Falcons. They will lose for the 11th time this season.

Schwartz, Stafford and Suh will be back. They changed the franchise in 2011. But in 2013, Jim Schwartz will have plenty of time to go skeet shooting in the spring after watching the Packers play meaningful football in January.

Follow Adam Schein on Twitter @AdamSchein.

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