1. I know the Lions' season has not gone the way fans have hoped, but are there any positives you can take away from the 2010 season to this point? At 2-8? You got to be kidding!
It's time for our weekly Q&A session with a blogger who covers the Patriots next opponent. Up this week is The Wayne Fontes Experience, a great blog that has covered the Lions through thick and thin, and mostly the thin. The site's lead blogger, Al Beaton, is one of Bloguin's finest football minds and always comes up with some great responses for the network's weekly Blog Poll Power Rankings. I asked Al a series of questions about the Lions, and he, in turn, asked me a few about the Pats. His responses are below, followed by a link to Foxboro Blog's Q&A session on The Wayne Fontes Experience.
Seriously, there have been a few things. First and foremost, the defensive line, which was rebuilt in one off season. 2nd overall pick DT Ndamukong Suh is a beast, a lock to be the defensive rookie of the year. DE Kyle Vanden Bosch has proven to be worth his free agent contract, both from a performance and leadership point of view. Cornerback has been stabilized with the acquisitions of Alphonso Smith and Chris Houston. In his first season as the starting MLB, Deandre Levy is proving the Lions made the right decision in giving him the job after playing both OLB and MLB as a rookie in 2009.
On offense? When healthy, WR Nate Burleson has proven to be a valuable free agent pickup as a number two receiver. Shaun Hill is the Lions' first legit NFL quality backup at quarterback in...well, it's been a long time. Rob Sims has solidified one of the guard spots, which had been a revolving door for the past decade. Calvin Johnson is Calvin Johnson. When he can stay on the field, Matthew Stafford is gold.
For the second year in a row, the draft has been productive. Martin Mayhew is proving to be a good GM, even if the record has yet to show it.
After wandering in the NFL wilderness under Matt Millen,all is not lost...even though it sure feels like it most Sundays.2. What do you make of Jim Schwartz as a head coach?
At the start of the season, Jim Schwartz's approval rating with the Lions' fanbase, if not through the roof, was quite high. He's personable, whip smart, and well thought of throughout the NFL. Any thoughts the Lions would even entertain the thought of another head coach was folly. But after literally giving away the Jets game, losing to the then winless Bills and getting blown out by the hapless Cowboys, the questions about Schwartz's ability to get this franchise over the hump are becoming more and more pointed.
What really set everyone off was the loss to the Jets. The Lions had the ball and a ten point lead with five minutes left. The combination of Schwartz butchering his clock management combined with some very odd play calling, the Lions gave the game away. After the gut-wrenching loss, the Lions proceeded to come out listless against the Bills, unable to execute against the Cowboys, fell to 2-8, and are now one of the short list of teams competing for the 1st overall draft pick in 2011.
The current Lions are undeniably more talented than the 0-16 team Schwartz inherited. No one was expected this team to compete for the playoffs, but continued improvement, to 5-6 victories, was expected. But we still see the same silly mistakes, boneheaded penalties and lackluster performances Lions fans have seen for decades.
Schwartz is in no danger in being fired. He walked into as crappy a situation as any NFL coach has in history, and Matthew Stafford's injury issues have thrown a monkey wrench into his plans. Schwartz deserves time to fix what was a decimated roster, and is going to get it. If Matt Millen was given 8+ years and a contract extension by owner William Clay Ford, it goes without question Schwartz's job is safe. But it's no longer a given. There must be visible improvement next season (if there is a 2011 season) on both the field, and more importantly, in the standings.
We're not asking for the moon, or even the playoffs. Win a game or two on the road, and put together a modest winning streak, neither of which has happened since the first half of the 2007 season, is what we'd like to see.
If we don't, next year should be Schwartz's last.