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.