By: Eric Thomas
As we approach the first football Sunday of the regular season, Lions fever is sweeping the area—but this year’s strain shows different symptoms than in years past. Lions fever, was usually marked my waves of delusional euphoria and tendency to spend money on a jersey with the name of the new draft pick / off-season signing stenciled into the back. This year’s strain of Lions fever has been exhibiting symptoms of anxiety, dread and vertigo-inspired calls for Shaun Hill to be the starting quarterback (victims who call for Kellen Moore are beyond saving and should be sent to sit in quarantine).
This is usually the delusional part of the year, when Lions fans are filled with deluded optimism; people who once hailed the arrival of Mike Martz and Steve Mariucci as the dawn of a new Lions dynasty. These are the same people who bought Boss Bailey jerseys. Lions fans are unusually negative this year. Instead of happily beer bonging their way from the Eastern Market, fans slipper walk toward the season—head down, hair askew, eyes caked with fistfuls of black makeup, the Cure in their earbuds, long sleeves covering the ladder marks on their wrists that signify every humiliating collapse and soul-crushing failure (“Challenge flag doesn’t count,” “Scott Mitchell,” “Marty takes the wind.”).
C’mon Lions fans! Shouldn’t you be used to losing by now?
It’s hard to blame them (us) because this was supposed to be different. With Matt Stafford, Ndamukong Suh and Megatron, the Lions had a young core of talent to build around. Now that 2012 is in the rearview, it lays there like a stinking corpse and it’s understandable if fans are a little cynical. The team spent last year pinky-swearing that focus and determination would see them through…only to run full speed into the brick wall of sadness.
It’s been deigned a “make or break” season for Jim Schwartz. If this season falls apart, he will be cast out and the same door that hit Marinelli, Mariucci, Mornhinweg, Ross, Fontes and God-only-knows-how-many-interim coaches will swing in his direction. If the Lions have a bad season, they spin the wheel again.
It’s too narrow in scope to say that Lions fans are simply still sad from last season. Lions fans are morose because they know what could come next. Those of us who wear the Honolulu blue have never known a Super Bowl, but we know how the alternative works.
If the Lions lose the first few games, things will spin out of control fast. The questions will mount, the losses will multiply and the locker room will fracture. The odor of change will be in the air early and there is no saving a season after that. Some will argue that Schwartz will need to go before the season is over, because it’s best to move on now. Linehan will be named as the interim head coach because he did it before, he may win a few games down the stretch but everyone knows that there will be wholesale rebuild next year. He’ll be fired with the rest of the staff after the last game of the season—a last second loss to Minnesota that the Lions led for much of the game.
In 2014 they’ll hire the coordinator of whatever team was successful last year. The local media will praise the new coach, there will be some who wonder why someone else wasn’t hired, but we’ll go with it because whoever it is will have a compelling story and will likely say things like “Super Bowl” and “win now” with a certain level of conviction that will make us swoon. Maybe he’ll talk about fundamentals. The next season will open with managed expectations. We have to understand it takes the players a while to understand the new system of offense/defense/special teams. They need to learn the terminology. Matt Stafford needs to learn his new throwing motion. They need to learn how to really take advantage of Calvin’s talents. They’ll win two or three games, but they’ll be somewhat competitive at the end of the season because the other teams are resting their starters and Detroit will be abuzz with hope for the next season. We’ll say things like “building” and “next year,” then spend the spring and summer distracted by the draft and free agency period—camp will open with words like “promise” and “hope” until they’re crushed by sixty points in the second game of the season. The local media will be in full roar openly questioning the second year head coach, fingers start pointing in the locker room, there will be whispers if the Lions have the players to execute the new coach’s scheme effectively, they need a new quarterback, running back, linebackers to that the new coach can fully execute the plan he laid out when he talked about “Super Bowl” and “Win now.” After 4 wins in 2015, they’ll overhaul the roster with players who more fit the new coach’s scheme, they’ll go on an eight game losing streak early in 2016, fire the coach midseason and place whichever coordinator as the head coach because he’s had experience as a failed head coach somewhere somehow in some strange place in the past.
In 2017 they’ll hire the coordinator of whatever team was successful last year. The local media will praise the—
I’m not helping am I? I’ve never felt this more than this year: Please. Win. I don’t know if I can take all that again.