COMMENTARY | Here we are again, Lions fans. Offseason. The part of the year when we get to sit in the metaphorical corner and think about what we did wrong over the course of the previous season. The corner is all too familiar to us, but we are not comfortable being Little Jack Horner. And this year it seems somehow less like home. 2012 was supposed to be the season that finally legitimized us as a real NFL team. At this time last year we were a playoff caliber team coming off a winning record and nowhere to go but up. 4 and 12. Ouch. And if that isn't painful enough, the NFL gods reach down from Mount Lombardi to torture us and allow the Mega-Matty duo to take down Jerry Rice's single season receiving record. We have amazing talent.
What went wrong?
Injuries? That definitely played a part. There is no telling how the season might have been different if Calvin Johnson consistently had a healthy 2nd string, 3rd string, or even 4th string wide receiver behind him to take some of the defensive pressure off of him. Strength of schedule? Possibly. We did have a tough schedule. In fact, 9 of our 16 games were against opponents that ended up in the playoffs. But, those of us who watched every Lions' game (thank you, DirecTV) know that these are not at the heart of the matter.
Injuries don't explain the ball security issues. According to Jim Schwartz in a recent interview posted on DetroitLions.com, the Lions gave up twice as many fumbles in 2012 as they did in 2011. And strength of schedule doesn't explain the poor decision making on the field. Listen. I have almost zero experience on the football field, but I'm pretty sure I would know whether or not I was standing in the end zone as I fielded a kick (*cough* Stefan Logan *cough*). Add in the issues in the locker room -- or wherever it was that Titus Young decided to sucker-punch Louis Delmas -- and the offseason legal battles of multiple Lions, and there seems to be a general lack of focus and discipline throughout the team.
Is Schwartz to blame?
A problem with lack of focus and discipline should direct our attention to the coaching staff, and ultimately the head coach. Please don't misunderstand. I like Schwartz as much as the next guy. But at what point do we start to question? Organizational culture tends to mimic the personality of the leader, and Schwartz has not always been the epitome of restraint and discipline. Fond memories of him chasing down Jim Harbaugh after the 49ers-Lions matchup in 2011 should come to mind. Could it be that the fiery personality that seems to have breathed life into the team and brought some excitement back into Motorcity gridiron could also be what is preventing us from stepping-up to the next level?
I wish the best for Schwartz and hope we succeed with him. I am by no means suggesting that a coaching change will magically turn things around. There are plenty of other well-known variables in our equation this offseason including problems in the defensive secondary, the return game, free agency... I'm sure you can continue the list. But, it does strike me that the front office would be amiss if it did not seriously evaluate the team leadership given the nature of the problems that we are having.
Well, onward to next season. Things will be better (spoken like a true victim of Battered Fan Syndrome -- which by the way, if you have read this far, chances are you are a victim as well). I know we will restore the roar!
Ryan Marcus is a sportswriter and lifelong fan of the Detroit Lions. With degrees in Management and Finance, he also writes financial educational materials.