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  • There's Always 2013: Detroit Lions



    Unlike other teams that will appear on this list, the Detroit Lions are a group that had a lot of promise before the 2012 season got underway. Until last season, optimism and the Detroit Lions had not been written together in the same sentence since before Napster was the way people got music illegally. 2011 featured a fearsome defensive line that was still developing, a finally healthy Matt Stafford who went on to throw for 5,038 yards and 41 touchdowns along with the best receiver in the NFL. The end of last season is about the time 2012 started to go off the rails.

    WHAT WENT WRONG:

    The 2012 season starting having red flags surround it as soon as red lights were seen in the rear view mirror by the first Lions players arrested. What began last season as an edge (3rd in the penalties in 2011), quickly turned into a team that is now regarded as undisciplined. The problems with their most talented lineman has been detailed here before. The team now stands at 4-10 and their coach admits that the season has "gone off the rails."

    The offense was 4th in the league in scoring last season while Matt Stafford averaged 7.6 yards per attempt. This season, the offense is now 14th in scoring while the quarterback from Georgia is averaging .8 yards less per attempt and has 24 less touchdowns thrown. This season has been another in a long line of instability at the running back position. Last year, Mo Morris, Jahvid Best and Kevin Smith averaged 4.3 yards a carry. This season, Mikel Leshoure, Smith and Joique Bell are averaging 4.2 yards a carry while Best is wondering if he can continue his career after prolonged concussion symptoms. The rushing attack has fallen from 16th to 25th in rushing first down percentage.

    The defense has somehow been worse as the secondary has been as bad as advertised. In 2011, Eric Wright and Chris Houston were burned on the outside a lot while Louis Delmas and Amari Spievey showed some promise at safety. The corner position went unfortified in the off-season and then injuries hit. Delmas has only played six games while Chris Houston has had to start 12 games again. Jacob Lacey, Jonte Green, Drayton Florence, Bill Bentley and Alphonso Smith have all been mostly terrible. The defense has fallen from 23rd to 28th in points allowed.

    The defensive line has been slightly worse and is about 5 sacks behind last season's pace. There have been questions about effort and the also about if Suh's contract is worth it.

    Overall, the 2012 Detroit Lions are not too much different than the 2011 version on the defensive side of the ball, but they have been much less efficient on the offense. Matt Stafford has not been the same player as he was in 2011. They are 24th in turnover differential this season at -9 after being 4th in 2011. They are still 7th in penalties and don't have the other stats needed to overcome their problems.

    WHAT CAN BE DONE:

    The first major decision the team has to deal with is if they want to keep Jim Schwartz as head coach. Despite one season of joy, Schwartz had lost 10 games or more in three of his four seasons as sideline general. Will upper management decide that Schwartz simply cannot keep a team together and develop it properly?

    Beyond that, there are many other things to discuss. Talent used to be an issue in Detroit. Now, a roster base must be developed and holes must be filled in the deficient areas while dealing with the problem of spending over 40% of the money on three players (Stafford, Johnson, Suh). So, the scouting must be good and the team has to become a NFL version of the Tampa Bay Rays. They have to do it quickly.

    Outside of Louis Delmas, the secondary must be overhauled. They cannot miss as badly as they did on Titus Young. They may want to see if the Titans release Chris Johnson because of his contract in hopes that he could play 16 games and run wild on the indoor turf at Ford Field. Amazingly, they need another receiver on the other side of Calvin Johnson other than the aging Nate Burleson. It is possible that Ryan Broyles can grow into being that guy. If they finish bad enough and get the chance, it may not be a bad idea for them to get Manti Te'o.

    Finally, the players on the team must stop getting arrested.

    Comments 28 Comments
    1. wxwax's Avatar
      Thanks for explaining their problems so clearly. I see that their points allowed average is three worse than last season. And their scoring average is down six points. Bad trends.

      Personally, I feel that Schwartz contributes to the discipline issues on his team. His tendency is to excuse rather than address them. It was interesting to hear a Suh teammate basically rip him for playing like a diva and taking plays off. That's a discipline issue. Maybe they should hire Schiano?
    1. SpartaChris's Avatar
      Didn't Schwartz just sign a contract extension? Any ideas how long it is?
    1. wxwax's Avatar
      Quote Originally Posted by SpartaChris View Post
      Didn't Schwartz just sign a contract extension? Any ideas how long it is?
      Google says he signed an extension last summer, terms not disclosed.
    1. Pruitt's Avatar
      Just looked over the Lions 2011 season and realized that the defense was pretty lousy last season as well. Was last year's success merely the result of an early season hot streak, or was there enough talent in place to have created a solid team?

      I think it was the former - I'm reminded of the Browns who had the one good season under Crennel before receding back to the bottom of the barrel. The difference is that the Lions have a couple of studs, but that isn't enough to get anywhere in the league.
    1. darvon's Avatar
      I don't think Suh is the problem, or at least the main problem. Suh got a lot of single teaming in his first year and double teaming thereafter.

      His effectivity is down, but Fairley's is up, probably as a result.

      Although I think Martin Mayhew did a good job initially, I am wondering about the recent drafts.

      I didn't see much 2012 production from the 2012 draft. Good GMs with teams that have needs get much better each draft.

      Is the talent of the 2012 Lions much better than the 2011?

      And the 2011 draft wasn't much better.

      We did a lot of Rounds 1-3 picking of players with injury histories and they all came a cropper.

      I think Martin Mayhew, the GM, probably needs to be replaced also. I am uncertain about Tom Llewand, Club Pres, who hired both coach and GM. Probably not, if he cleans the house beneath him, probably so if he does not.
    1. Rich Gapinski's Avatar
      Quote Originally Posted by Pruitt View Post
      Just looked over the Lions 2011 season and realized that the defense was pretty lousy last season as well. Was last year's success merely the result of an early season hot streak, or was there enough talent in place to have created a solid team?

      I think it was the former - I'm reminded of the Browns who had the one good season under Crennel before receding back to the bottom of the barrel. The difference is that the Lions have a couple of studs, but that isn't enough to get anywhere in the league.
      Interesting point. For fun, I took the roster and grouped them into "green", "yellow", "red" and "developing" groups. I would think you would want 25 players in the green and developing numbers and another 15 or so in yellow so you would only have to build the final dozen or so pieces of the team. I'm spitballing here, so I may change those numbers later.

      Green= player is solid starter, keeper
      Yellow= serviceable, can start but ability or age may be an issue soon
      Red= A guy there to stay under the cap, something that needs replaced
      Developing= Self-explanatory

      This is just merely my own opinion of the slots, Detroit fans will be better at this than me.

      Red
      Kris Durham
      Will Heller
      Kassim Osgood
      Brian Robiskie
      Titus Young
      Jason Fox
      Dylan Gandy
      Stephen Peterman
      Sammie Hill
      Lawrence Jackson
      Ashlee Palmer
      Tahir Whitehead
      Ron Bartell
      Don Carey
      Drayton Florence
      Tyrell Johnson
      Ricardo Silva
      John Wendling
      Jahvid Best
      Gosder Cherilus
      Pat Lee

      Yellow
      Shaun Hill
      Kevin Smith
      Nate Burleson
      Tony Scheffler
      Mike Thomas
      Jeff Backus
      Corey Hilliard
      Dominic Raiola
      Rob Sims
      Andre Fluellen
      Justin Durant
      Deandre Levy
      Chris Houston
      Jacob Lacey
      Nick Harris
      Corey Williams
      Joique Bell
      Shaun Chapas

      Green
      Stephen Tulloch
      Matt Stafford
      Stefan Logan
      Calvin Johnson
      Brandon Pettigrew
      Ndamukong Suh
      Willie Young
      Louis Delmas
      Amari Spievey
      Nick Fairley
      Cliff Avril
      Don Muhlbach- once you have a long snapper, he stays
      Stephen Tulloch
      Jason Hanson
      Kyle Vanden Bosch

      Developing
      Kellen Moore
      Mikel Leshoure
      Riley Reiff
      Ryan Broyles
      Ronnell Lewis
      Travis Lewis
      Bill Bentley
      Jonte Green

      Boy, I did think they would have more "green" players.

      UPDATED: 5:52pm 12/19/12
    1. iwatt's Avatar
      Nick Fairley is borderline green at this point though. He did start the season as developing.

      The older players are hard to judge.
    1. edave's Avatar
      Not a lot of changes...

      Move to green:

      Stephen Tulloch
      Nick Fairley

      Move to yellow:

      Corey Williams

      Move to red:

      Gosder Cherilus
      Pat Lee
    1. wxwax's Avatar
      This is very interesting, Rich. Good idea.

      For the purposes of comparison, I'd be interested in seeing a similar breakdown of, say, the Falcons or the Redskins, since those are teams I know. After doing a few teams you might get a less-spitball sense of how many players you need in each color to be a winner.

      I wonder how much perception bias affects the groupings? By perception bias, I mean the tendency to grade a journeyman guard as a green if the team is winning and as a yellow if it's not.
    1. Rich Gapinski's Avatar
      Quote Originally Posted by wxwax View Post
      This is very interesting, Rich. Good idea.

      For the purposes of comparison, I'd be interested in seeing a similar breakdown of, say, the Falcons or the Redskins, since those are teams I know. After doing a few teams you might get a less-spitball sense of how many players you need in each color to be a winner.

      I wonder how much perception bias affects the groupings? By perception bias, I mean the tendency to grade a journeyman guard as a green if the team is winning and as a yellow if it's not.
      Yeah. I like it, it's a more detailed Lombardi "blue chip" thing and sort of like Football Outsiders' Red-Yellow-Green for fantasy, except it is not fantasy.

      I will try more as I do more articles like this one. I don't claim to know every player in the league and there certainly will be misses, but I won't be so far off that the results don't mean anything at all. Perception bias cannot be avoided, unfortunately, whether it is a job search or rating the value of players.
    1. darvon's Avatar
      Create Old Green

      Move to Old Green:
      (in addition to other's moves)
      VanderBosch
      Hanson

      Move to Red:
      Best

      Move to Green:
      Avril

      Move to Yellow:
      Bell (3 years in NFL)
      Leshoure
      Broyles
      Pettigrew...maybe.
      Chapas


      Mayhew had control of the 2009,10,11 and 12 drafts.


      Move to Developing:
      Raiff

      Move to
    1. wxwax's Avatar
      Huh, every time I see the Lions Pettigrew makes big catches.
    1. darvon's Avatar
      I think that less than half the other teams in the NFL would trade theirs for Pettigrew.

      Teams that Wouldn't trade.
      Dallas
      NO
      NE
      SF
      GB

      SD
      ATL
      CIN
      HOU

      And maybe 8 teams that are tossups.
      He might be Green, but barely.

      If he wouldn't start on more than half the teams, I don't consider that Green, but rather just so desperate that we start a Yellow.
    1. darvon's Avatar
      Mayhew is responsible for 2009,10,11,and 12 drafts:

      Here is scorecard:

      2009

      Round Choice
      1 1 Matthew Stafford Green
      1 20 *[17] Brandon Pettigrew Yellow(by my reckonning)
      2 33 Louis Delmas Green
      3 76** DeAndre Levy Gone
      3 82*[17] Derrick Williams Gone
      4 115*** Sammie Lee Hill Gone
      6 192*[17] Aaron Brown Gone
      7 228 **** Lydon Murtha Gone
      7 235 ***** Zack Follett Gone
      7 255 Dan Gronkowski Gone


      2010
      Round Selection Player Position College
      1 2 Ndamukong Suh DT Nebraska Green
      1 30* Jahvid Best RB California Red
      3 66 Amari Spievey CB Iowa Green
      4 128* Jason Fox OT Miami (FL) Red
      7 213** Willie Young DE NC State Green
      7 255*** Tim Toone WR Weber State Gone

      2011
      Round Selection Player Position College
      1 13 Nick Fairley DT Auburn Green
      2 44 Titus Young WR Boise State Red
      2 57 Mikel Leshoure RB Illinois Yellow
      5 157 Doug Hogue LB Syracuse Gone
      7 209 Johnny Culbreath OT SC State Gone

      2012
      Round Selection Player Position College
      1 23 Riley Reiff OT Iowa Dev
      2 54 Ryan Broyles WR Oklahoma Yellow
      3 85 Dwight Bentley CB LA-Laff Dev
      4 125 Ronnell Lewis DE Oklahoma Dev
      5 138 Tahir Whitehead OL Temple Red
      5 148 Chris Greenwood CB Albion Gone
      6 196 Jonte Green DB New M State Dev
      7 223 Travis Lewis LB Oklahoma Dev

      Total 2009-2012

      1st Round 3Green/1 Yellow/1 Red/1 Dev
      2nd Round 1 Yellow/1 Red
      3rd Round 1 Green/2 Gone/1 Dev
      4th Round 1 Red/1 Gone/1 Dev
      5th Round 1 Red/2 Gone
      6th Round 1 Gone/1 Dev
      7th Round 1 Green/5 Gone/1 Dev


      A green GM would have about these minimums:

      1st or 2nd rounds: 75% Green/25% Yellow
      3rd,4th,5th rounds: 10% Green/60% yellow/30% Red-Gone
      6th, 7th rounds: 25% yellow/75% Red-Gone



      So for a 7 player/7 round draft after development a Green GM would have 1.8 Greens, 2.8 Yellows, 2.4 Red-gones or 26%Green/40%Yellow/34%Red-Gone

      Mayhew is 5 Green/2 Yellow/15 Red-Gone or 24%Green/9%Yellow/67%Red-Gone. with 5 in Dev.

      Mayhew seems to be somewhat poor with first round picks, extremely poor with 2nd, very poor with 3rd-5th, poor with 6-7.

      Grade: Red GM.
    1. darvon's Avatar
      This is an interesting way to grade GMs.

      Want to grade the roster of a GOOD team and see how their GM stacks up?

      How about NYG? I would suggest SF, but I think their GM is only in his 3rd year.

      Or how about Houston?
    1. Rich Gapinski's Avatar
      Quote Originally Posted by darvon View Post
      This is an interesting way to grade GMs.

      Want to grade the roster of a GOOD team and see how their GM stacks up?

      How about NYG? I would suggest SF, but I think their GM is only in his 3rd year.

      Or how about Houston?
      I plan to do this over time and post them here, I do think an interesting idea has unexpectantly sprung forth.
    1. Rich Gapinski's Avatar
      Also, I did do an updated Draft Analyzer for this year, but I never got around to the team-by-team tables split from the base sheet. I'll at least get the base sheet up.
    1. darvon's Avatar
      I love analyzing and grading GMs. Comes from Matt Millen.

      You post a team roster Red/Green/Yellow and let us knitpick, and I will reverse engineer the drafts of the GM (or at least the last 5 for a long lived GM).
    1. Rich Gapinski's Avatar
      Quote Originally Posted by darvon View Post
      I love analyzing and grading GMs. Comes from Matt Millen.

      You post a team roster Red/Green/Yellow and let us knitpick, and I will reverse engineer the drafts of the GM (or at least the last 5 for a long lived GM).
      I'll start building a spreadsheet of any team anyone tackles a team and posts here. I will be doing the Chiefs as part of their "2013" article tonight. I suggest an on-going thread for Red/Green/Yellow/Developing Roster Breakdowns.
    1. darvon's Avatar
      But an old, but current good starter needs to go into Green. A GM has to worry about getting a replacement in place, but it isn't an error for not replacing him yet, like it is for Yellow, albeit a small one.