Saturday, August 17, 2013

Preseason Doldroms

I'm not going to panic about the Lions yet, based on their two preseason performances.  But I am going to make a mental note about recent history and remind myself the rebuilding period is over.  It's make-or-break time.

We're in Year 5 of the Mayhew/Schwartz regime.  This is sort of uncharted waters.  In years passed, coaches were fired somewhere between the middle of Year 3 to the end of Year 4.  Franchise quarterbacks found themselves "Lionized" - a term coined by local beat writers that meant the QB reached the point of hopelessness.  Just see Jon Kitna, Joey Harrington, and Scott Mitchell, et al.

I have only watched parts of the second preseason game against Cleveland.  The preseason is difficult to gauge a team.  I personally think it's too long and should be cut by one game.  But it's clear from what highlights and I've seen and what's been written, they haven't looked good.

We can make all the excuses in the world we want for them right now: preseason games are meaningless. They're shaking off the rust.  They didn't have Calvin Johnson. Whatever, I don't care.  The fact is, this team is built to make a playoff run.  The fans should demand not just a playoff appearance, but at least a victory.  Something tangible to take into the 2014 season.

Next week is the big dress rehearsal.  That's just the way the preseason works. Game 1, you briefly see the starters probably no more than a couple of series.  Game 2, you see a little more of the first team, maybe they play into the second quarter.

Game 3 is the most important.  This is the closest it gets to a meaningful game in the preseason.  The depth charts have been finalized for Week 1 and hopefully the rest of the year.  The key thing is to get everyone on the same page, create some form of continuity, and keep them healthy.

The Lions will get a huge test in the form of the New England Patriots on Thursday.  Two years ago, the Lions beat the Patriots in the same dress rehearsal game, and they went on to a 10-6 season and a short trip to the playoffs.

The last preseason game is meaningless to starters, but valuable to coaches and players on the bubble of being cut.  The Lions can't afford injuries and the goal for most players is to make it through without injury.  But the Lions can use the extra game time to develop rookies and second-year players.

The goal from here on out should be playoffs every year.  Realistically, they look right now to be a 7-9 or 8-8 team (not my official prediction, YET).  They can make the playoffs.  They need to make the playoffs and do so without any dumb luck or outside factors, like a blown call here and there by the referees.  I want solid, decisive victories.

Bottom line: the Lions need to win, or both Jim Schwartz and Martin Mayhew need to be released.

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