Lions must learn to play as the hunted


We’ve seen jovial and engaging Dan Campbell.

If the Lions are to progress and take the next step to winning a division title we must see tough Dan Campbell.

Every coach that succeeds does not have to be a jerk. Neither does Campbell. However, he must be tough on the Lions even when things are going well. This team has a history of falling back just when it seems as if it is moving ahead.

It’s like clockwork. In 1980 the Lions did their own version of the Queen song “Another one bites the dust” after a 4-0 start. A few weeks later opposing teams mocked the Lions by playing “Another one kicks our butts” after the Lions struggled the rest of the season and missed the playoffs.

In 1991 Detroit won the NFC Central Division and their only playoff win since 1957. Players did not talk about when they’d go to the Super Bowl, but how many. The Lions finished 5-11 the following year and have yet to make a Super Bowl.

In 1995 the Lions won their final seven games of the regular season to finish 10-6. They faced the Philadelphia Eagles and Lions reject quarterback Rodney Peete in the first round of the NFC playoffs. Offensive tackle Lomas Brown guaranteed victory over the Eagles. Detroit trailed 51-7 at halftime on their way to a 58-37 loss.

In 2007 the Lions finished the first half of the season at 6-2 following a 44-6 demolition of the Denver Broncos. In the post-game receiver Mike Furry screamed “Hey media. You can kiss our ass.”

I went on the air the next day and predicted Detroit would not make the playoffs. I’ve seen this movie before. The Lions lost seven of their final eight games to finish 7-9 and miss the playoffs.

Prior to this season many showered praise on the Lions after watching the culture change in Hard Knocks. Campbell was a favorite to win Coach of the Year. There were short odds on Detroit making the playoffs.

None of that happened after the Lions began the season 1-6.

Campbell tells his team to go win a division title because he believes Detroit can finally hang with the big boys.

“It’s about raising expectations,” Campbell said during the NFL owners meetings. “We need to be thinking that way, and everything about what we do needs to have that type of purpose. Our standards have always been about winning. You’re trying to win every game, but ultimately I think to take the next step, you’re shooting for the division. You win a division, you get a home game and the rest takes care of itself. That’s the next part of the process. I think we are positioned much better to swing with the big boys this year. I can’t tell you what that means in win totals, but it means that is the goal. We got to go get this division.”

The Lions are almost always the hunters. They don’t know what it’s like to be hunted. They will get team’s best shots next season. I’ve been in enough opposing dressing rooms to know teams sometimes lose interest in the Lions or don’t respect them.

Campbell must convey to his team that it hasn’t won anything yet although folks are giving the team the NFL North crown. He must remind them this team missed the playoffs despite a hot finish.

Some way, somehow Campbell must humble his team even as he showers players with praise.

Another key is the Lions must be sharp in September where they carry a 1-7 record under Campbell.


Featured Photo Credit: © Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

For more from the author Terry Foster, check him out on Twitter here: @terryfosterdet

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