Quarterback Matthew Stafford (9) appears to be one of the few givens on the Lions' roster. Receiver Titus Young, on the other hand, no longer is part of the team's future. (Daniel Mears/Detroit News)
One of these years, Lions fans hope they'll have something to celebrate the day after the Super Bowl. I mean, something other than a marginal, moody receiver finally being cut.
Titus Young is gone, another wasted pick, another symbol of poor decision-making. The Lions didn't have much choice after all Young's tantrums, but once again, it's a forward step that obscures a backward step. And it doesn't get the Lions any closer to anywhere.
This is the toughest time for Lions fans, the lull between America's big football event and Detroit's big football event (the NFL draft). Forty-seven Super Bowls have been contested and Detroit is one of four current NFL cities that stubbornly has declined to send a team, joining Cleveland, Houston and Jacksonville.
But the petulant receiver is gone! Yay! Now what? Now, the Lions jump back on the treadmill, searching again for receivers, searching for a way to get where they've never been.
Like many around here during the Super Bowl, you gobbled guacamole, munched on meatballs and marveled at the athletic feats, particularly the halftime show. And you wondered: Will I ever see it?
I'm not here to raise false hope, and neither are the odds-makers. They've pegged the Lions at 40-1 to win next year's Super Bowl, which plops them in the middle of 32 teams.
It takes effort to dig up positive signs, and no, Young's ouster Monday doesn't count. The Lions think they have their franchise quarterback, Matthew Stafford, and know they have their franchise receiver, Calvin Johnson. They have a potentially dominant defensive tackle, Ndamukong Suh, and should get a defensive playmaker with the No. 5 pick.
Everything else — literally, everything else — is a question mark, and I can't tell you next season will be any different. But I can offer one enduring truth: Disarray is not a deterrent to winning a championship.
Go back two months and you'll find few teams in more disarray than the Ravens. John Harbaugh fired offensive coordinator Cam Cameron and replaced him with Jim Caldwell, while in the midst of losing four of five to finish 10-6. Quarterback Joe Flacco was weathering criticism and angling for a contract, while linebacker Ray Lewis was somehow healing a torn triceps muscle.
The Ravens aren't the first team to turn disarray into dominance, and in fact, it's become a recurring theme for Super Bowl champions.
The Giants were 7-7 before winning last season. The Packers were 10-6 before winning the year before.
Unfortunately for the Lions, it's not as simple as chasing NFL blueprints, which are ever-changing. Is it all about drafting a highly touted quarterback? Hmm. The 49ers shattered that with unproven Colin Kaepernick. So just build a great defense! Hmm. The Ravens were 17th in yards allowed while the Lions were 13th, for what it's worth.
The Lions lack two essential elements on display in the Super Bowl — a dominant offensive line, which produces a punishing ground game. Trends haven't resonated with a franchise that has one playoff victory since its 1957 championship, but here's my sincere advice to the Lions: Stop focusing on the wrong things.
It has been the most absurd constant during the 49-year ownership of William Clay Ford. It's something I truly hope his son, Bill Ford Jr., can change whenever he takes over.
The Lions worry about perceptions, about flashy offense, about marketing stars and generating "buzz." It was true when they hired Matt Millen and drafted Joey Harrington and Charles Rogers. It was true when Martin Mayhew couldn't stop collecting offensive pieces to help Stafford break 5,000-yard barriers.
Stop it. Seriously. I'm not even kidding about this.
Some of the problems for the Lions are directly related to that "buzz" philosophy. They drafted Jahvid Best for his stirring speed, ignoring the concussion history that likely will end his career. They added Young, a second-round receiver of questionable character, and you can bet he won't be the last recognizable name lopped from a 4-12 team.
I want to believe Ford Jr. will be different, and I hope he's developing contacts around the league so if he has to make changes, he doesn't end up hiring a TV analyst. Recently, the Lions brought in Brian Xanders as a senior personnel executive, and it's always encouraging when a team admits it needs help. Xanders has a solid background as Broncos GM, but we have no idea how much impact he'll make.
It's not impossible to build a Super Bowl team — heck, every franchise has done it except the Futile Final Four. Detroit fans are the most tortured in the NFL, and please, don't even debate it. Cleveland has a legitimate gripe, having lost its team to Baltimore, but in the past 55 years, the Browns have seven playoff victories. The Lions have one.
It takes bold ruthlessness, and the Lions seldom show it. Look at Jim Harbaugh's gamble, ditching starter Alex Smith for Kaepernick. Look at what John Harbaugh did, dumping his offensive coordinator so Flacco could unleash a dangerous deep passing game.
Meanwhile, the Lions "boldly" cut a receiver after numerous missteps. The Lions are 22-42 under Mayhew and Jim Schwartz and still have the same coordinators — Scott Linehan and Gunther Cunningham — and most of the same offensive linemen, defensive linemen and linebackers. That has to change dramatically now, with so many free agents on the roster.
The Ravens won with brash moves and superb execution from their quarterback. The Lions were watching again, and beyond Beyonce, you hope they got an eyeful.
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