By: Will Burchfield
“The one thing I learned being in Green Bay,” T.J. Lang said last month, a day after signing with Lions, “is nobody’s satisfied with just winning the division or winning a playoff game. The expectation is to win the championship, and that’s something that hopefully we can develop here.”READ MORE: Michigan Matters: From Mackinac to Motor Bella, Major Events Return
A week into offseason workouts with his new team, Lang is excited – and somewhat surprised – by the organization’s level of ambition.
“Getting into the building I was very happy to see that the expectations were already high,” he said on Tuesday. “Nobody is just satisfied with making the playoffs. We want to win the division, we want to have a perfect home record. The goals are much higher than I would have thought being on the outside looking in, so that was definitely a good sign.”
There was a time, during his years with the Packers, when Lang viewed the Lions as an easy win. But the team’s competitive reputation has improved in recent years, something Lang gained an appreciation for in his battles with Detroit last season.
“Just the way they competed, you could see the energy they had was different from previous years. Obviously coming down to Week 17 and battling it out for the division, I think those are all good signs of an improving team,” Lang said.READ MORE: Rolling Stone Magazine Named ‘Respect’ #1 Song Of All Time
In Lang’s first four seasons in the NFL, from 2009 to 2012, the Lions went 1-7 against the Packers. But Detroit split the season series in 2013, 2014 and 2015, and pushed Green Bay for the division title in both 2014 and 2016.
“I’ve had a good close-up look at ‘em for a number of years now and the thing I’ve been impressed with is I’m seeing constant improvement. I said it when I signed here. I really truly believe that we’re a team that’s ready to take the next step and really make some noise,” Lang said.
The Lions have made the playoffs two of the past three seasons. Their next step is winning the division, something they haven’t done since 1993. An even more distant achievement is going undefeated at home, something they haven’t done since 1991. If those are indeed two of their goals, as Lang indicated, the team is setting its sights high.
One thing to keep an eye on: Lang, who was open and forthcoming in his first meeting with the local media, may have overstepped Jim Caldwell’s boundaries in discussing expectations. Last season, the Lions coach said that topic was off limits.
“We talk about goals one time, and that’s before the season starts. We set them up, we talk about what they are, and they’re not for public consumption,” Caldwell said. “Then we go ahead and narrow our focus.”MORE NEWS: Fourth Stimulus Check: Will You See Another Relief Payment Soon?
It is Caldwell’s way of keeping his team focused on the task at hand. But maybe Lang’s open optimism, which doesn’t have to come at the cost of an everyday perspective, is just what the Lions need.