Sunday afternoon was a swift kick in “the boys” for Detroit Lions fans. How could it not be? Think about what they had to witness.
In one NFL playoffs, they witnessed the Cincinnati Bengals snap a 31-year playoff losing streak, beating the Las Vegas Raiders in the Wildcard. The Bengals snapping the streak moved the Lions to the top slot of the longest streak without a playoff win (30 seasons).
Let’s take a quick trip down memory lane to see how this came to be.
Two years ago, the Bengals finished 2-14. Last season, after drafting Joe Burrow, they finished 4-11-1. Not pretty, but it’s clear that the Bengals were initiating a rebuild. After 16 years of nothingness from Marvin Lewis, Zac Taylor needed time. Coming from the LA Rams to Cincy, he had his work cut out for him. Those previous two seasons weren’t enough time, especially after Burrow suffered a season-ending injury last year in Week 11.
Unlike the previous two years, this season, however, was different. The Bengals showed growth. They exceeded expectations. And they went 10-7, won their division, and knocked off the reigning AFC Champions, Kansas City Chiefs, at ArrowHead, to advance to the Super Bowl.
In three years and back-to-back significant draft picks in Burrow, and Ja’Marr Chase, the Bengals changed their fortunes. Whether they win the Super Bowl or not, the AFC goes through them next season. They’re the “Roman Reigns of the AFC.” They’re the head of the table.
Detroit Lions fans desire that growth.
You know, firing a stagnant coach to turn around and hire a young, proven mind.
To their credit, the Lions front office tried it. They fired Jim Caldwell after feeling there was a ceiling with the team. The only problem is, unlike the Bengals, they fired a locker room favorite (Jim Caldwell). And they did it for a man in Matt Patricia, who came from the Bill Belichick coaching tree.
Besides Brian Flores and maybe Bill O’Brien, the Belichick coaching tree produces spoiled fruit.
Watching the Bengals advance to the Super Bowl wasn’t enough for Lions fans.Nevertheless, the coup de gras came hours later. They saw their “ex-spouse” wine and dine their new mate, giving them things they’d never seen before.
A year to the date the Detroit Lions traded Matthew Stafford to the LA Rams for Jared Goff and some picks, he led his new team to an NFC Championship victory. In one season removed from the Lions, Stafford will now start in his first Super Bowl. He now joins a list of players such as Cliff Avril and Kyle Van Noy, who immediately hit the Super Bowl after leaving Detroit.
In the words of my late grandmother, ain’t that a humdinger?
Matthew Stafford leading the LA Rams to the Super Bowl in his first season doesn’t mean the Lions are at fault for his playoff success (or lack thereof) in Detroit. After all, the numbers are the numbers. He played a part in not throwing a touchdown in seven consecutive quarters in the playoffs with the Lions. And that’s with having duos of Calvin Johnson, Golden Tate, and Marvin Jones at different times.
However, it does showcase that it wasn’t all on him, as some try to say.
Stafford getting to the Super Bowl in his first year with the Rams proved a lot. That with the right talent around him, he can get you to the Super Bowl. Being fair to the Lions, they did have the right talent and coach in place in 2014. Several Lions players have vocalized they felt it was their year. The problem was that after the controversial loss to Dallas, the Lions didn’t retain that squad. They didn’t keep that level of talent around Stafford.The team began to slowly regress.
In fact, one anonymous former Lions player told me “After they didn’t bring everyone back from 2014, I knew it was over. I knew we couldn’t f****** win.”
Despite a portion of the Detroit Lions fanbase being happy for Stafford’s success, Sunday was a harsh reminder of how badly this franchise has continued to operate. At least before Sheila Ford Hamp stepped in anyway.
Seeing bad franchises have quick turnarounds and playoff success is a slap in the face for fans in Detroit. Witnessing the best quarterback in franchise history walk out the door and become a winner is hurtful to some. Regardless of those facts, the Detroit Lions fanbase should know their day is coming.
Clearly, as of now, the Lions are in the early stages of its most significant, and realistic rebuild of the franchise. Along with that, if Dan Campbell and his coaching staff can continue it’s development of players, coupled with Brad Holmes nailing draft picks, Detroit’s day will come. I can’t say when, but trust me, it’s on the way. Until then, take a page from the late Otis Redding. You’ve all loved the Lions for too long so why stop now?
Follow Kory Woods on Twitter at KoryEWoods.