Edson: Lions Need Stability More Than Ever
If the Detroit Lions needed a blueprint for turning around their franchise, they would be wise to look at the history of the Pittsburgh Steelers.
It is the most stable franchise in the history of the NFL.
Since 1969, the Steelers have had a total of three head coaches. That’s a staggering number in this day and age of quick fixes and impatient fan bases.
Chuck Noll took over in 1969 and retired in 1991, followed only by Bill Cowher and now Mike Tomlin. All three coaches won Super Bowls. The Rooney family has owned the Steelers forever.
We’ve all lost count of the number of coaches the Detroit Lions have employed since the Ford family took over 55 years ago. What we do know is that the Lions were guided for far too long by inept general manager Russ Thomas and his successors.
But now I see hope. There is a new regime in place over the last couple of years and they are drafting better and scouting better. The results are this: the Lions made the playoffs last year and will have a winning record again this year.
That was guaranteed by their 20-10 win over Chicago on Saturday. What the Lions need now is stability in the front office and with the coaching staff.
Why? Because that’s the best way to fix a streak of 24 straight years without winning a division title.
The Lions may not be the best team in football in 2017, but they are trending upward. And that’s a sign we haven’t seen for years.
It would be nice to hold out hope that they will make the playoffs this season. But it’s not going to happen. Carolina took care of that with Sunday’s win over Green Bay. And if the Lions and Atlanta Falcons end up tied for a wildcard berth, the Falcons own both of the tiebreakers.
Still, there are many positive signs for fans to hold onto. Matthew Stafford has connected on more than 80 percent of his passes over the last three games. The defensive secondary – often a weak spot – has produced 14 interceptions and five fumble recoveries this season.
So where do the Lions need to beef up in the off-season? Well, start with the offensive line. After Saturday’s win, the Lions have gone 66 games in a row without a 100-yard rusher in a game. That’s jaw-dropping.
The fact they have put together solid back-to-back seasons based on that fact shows you the value of Stafford.
Jim Caldwell is often targeted for criticism by the media and fans, but he and his staff deserve credit for two solid seasons in a row.
Now the media and fans have to let the Lions brass and coaching staff continue to do their jobs. Believe it or now, this franchise is finally trending upward.
As we’ve learned from franchises like the Pittsburgh Steelers, stability is often a factor in a team’s success over the long haul. That’s something the Lions could use right now.
Nick Edson is a retired Hall of Fame columnist and sportswriter. He worked 25 years at the Traverse City Record-Eagle, 18 as sports editor. He is a two-time president of the Associated Press Sports Editors Association and a member of the Michigan Basketball Coaches Hall of Fame.