Tony Ortiz: Lions’ Three Major Weaknesses Exposed
Q: Was this a ‘good’ season for the Lions??
A: Yes, it was. To go from 6 wins to 10 wins and the playoffs makes this a good season – and a good starting point for the Lions
Q: Was this a ‘successful’ season for the Lions??
A: No, it wasn’t. Not even close.
Q: Really? Why not??
A: Because the Lions didn’t accomplish all of their goals. If their only goal was to make the playoffs, then I would have a different answer. However, everyone I talked to in the locker room leading up to Saturday night’s game all said the same thing: making the post-season wasn’t enough and that they were aiming for more.
Q: What went wrong for the Lions in the final two games of the season, losses to Green Bay and New Orleans??
A: The Lions had their three major weaknesses exposed by two of the better teams in the NFL.
Q: What were those weaknesses??
A: They couldn’t stop the run, they couldn’t run the ball and they had shaky depth in the secondary. That last one was damaging, especially with players like Louis Delmas, Chris Houston, Chris Harris and Erik Wright battling injuries. Players like Aaron Berry and Alphonso Smith failed to pick up the slack and were targeted early and often by the Packers’ Matt Flynn and the Saints’ Drew Brees. Those are three key reasons why the Lions gave up an amazing 90 points and close to 1,200 yards of total offense in those losses.
Q: Do those numbers mean that defensive co-ordinator Gunther Cunningham could be in trouble??
A: No. He didn’t fail to make interceptions or miss tackles; that was his players, who didn’t do their jobs.
Q: So, what does the organization have to do next??
A: In no particular order: get contract extensions with Calvin Johnson and Jim Schwartz; resign Cliff Avril and Stephen Tulloch; improve the depth in the secondary in free agency or in the draft [for the reason explained in the last answer]; resign QB Shaun Hill and / or Drew Stanton; get a veteran running back in the off-season to team with Jahvid Best and Mikel Leshoure [preferably one that can remain healthy for the entire season]; start developing young talent to play on the offensive line.
Q: After this season, is there anyone in line for post-season awards??
A: Jim Schwartz will be talked about for ‘Coach of the Year’, but the 49ers’ Jim Harbaugh or the Packers’ Mike McCarthy will probably win. Matthew Stafford and Calvin Johnson will get some MVP votes, but Brees or Aaron Rodgers will win that award.
The most likely winner will be G.M. Martin Mayhew as NFL ‘Executive of the Year’. He oversaw the rebuilding of a Lions team that went from 0 – 16 in 2008 to 10 – 6 this year. That will play well with the voters, who like to reward rags-to-riches stories like this one.
Q: What does the 2012 schedule look like??
A: Tentatively, the Lions will face the Packers, Bears, Vikings, Jaguars, Titans, Cardinals, 49ers and Eagles on the road. Home games at Ford Field will feature the Packers, Bears, Vikings, Colts, Texans, Rams, Seahawks and Falcons. Expect the Texans to come to town for Thanksgiving Day. I’ll be stunned if the game against the 49ers isn’t on a Sunday or Monday night.