Are the Lions Cowardly?

As the Lions started out 5-0, they were the toast of the league. How could they not have been? Since 2000, the franchise has not had a winning season; from 2001-2010 the team went an abysmal 39-121. They averaged less than four wins per season for an entire decade. In that stretch, Lions fans had to endure Joey Harrington, Matt Millen, and an 0-16 season amongst much, much more anger, frustration, and heartbreak. It had to have been incaclulably intolerable to be associated with the franchise as a fan, player, coach, or executive.

At the end of last season, the Lions finally started to turn their fortunes around, finished the season 4-0 after a 2-10 start, and continued their momentum into this season for their aforementioned 5-0 start. Now at 6-2, the Lions have found themselves embroiled in postgame controversy for three straight weeks and are teetering on the edge of becoming the league’s villains. First, there was the infamous Jim Schwartz-Jim Harbaugh handshake fiasco after the Lions lost to the 49ers (which Harbaugh initiated but Schwartz overreacted to). The following week, Falcons players accused Lions defensive linemen Cliff Avril and Ndamukong Suh of taunting quarterback Matt Ryan while he was injured:

Receiver Roddy White told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution: “I lost a whole lot of respect for 90 [Suh] today, and also 92 [Cliff Avril], the [bleep] they were doing when Matt got hurt. That was unacceptable. … Like 92 was kicking [Ryan’s] feet, saying, ‘Get him off the field.’ We don’t do stuff like that. We don’t rally over guys when they get hurt. It was just inappropriate behavior. I mean, ‘Get the cart’? Are you serious? Come on. When you compete, you never want to see a guy get hurt.”

Suh, who is well-spoken and gregarious off the field, has been fined $42,500 for illegal hits in his 1.5 year career and repeatedly criticized as a dirty player. This week, he set up his own meeting with commissioner Roger Goodell in an attempt to better understand the flags and fines he has incurred. Given what he said afterward, it doesn’t seem as though the meeting achieved that intended purpose: “I’m not going to change the way I play,” Suh said. “I feel that the way I’m playing and the way I have played in the past is continuing to play within the rules.”

This past week, Lions players mocked Broncos quarterback Tim Tebow relentlessly, imitating his prayer pose after sacks and touchdowns and were ungracious winners after the game. The Big Lead’s Jason Lisk compared these Lions to the Bad Boy Pistons of the late 1980s and suggested that they embrace the mantra:

Whether you agree or disagree with whether [all this behavior] was appropriate, I think the Lions just need to own it. Yeah, they were mocking a move by Tebow, who the league had just pitted against them in some false good versus evil narrative. So run with it. Be the Bad Boys. Be the Laimbeers and the Rodmans of the NFL and take on the establishment. Be the heirs east of the Mississippi of the Al Davis’ attitude.

The Lions may have already swung so far to this side that they cannot come back. If they keep winning, I suppose the ends justify the means. This arrogance and mean-spiritedness, though, just calls attention to themselves and will inspire their opponents. They are behaving in a cocky manner that would be more justifiable if they had won something, but it’s been almost 20 years since the Lions won a playoff game. Is this swagger real or is it manufactured bravado like that of the cowardly lion in the Wizard of Oz?

Jim Schwartz deserves immense credit for turning around the culture in Detroit. He took over a situation where the franchise had not only been awful for a decade but also lacked the assets which so many years at the top of the draft should have brought to win with for the future. That the Lions have gone 10-2 after beginning Schwartz’s tenure 2-24 is an unbelievable testament to his resolve and determination–it does not happen unless the team plays with a massive chip on its shoulder. If the Lions do fully embrace being the Bad Boys of the NFL, as Lisk suggests, they better keep winning or they will find out the hard way that what goes around comes around. From my perspective, at least it’s interesting.I cannot wait for the Packers to play them on Thanksgiving.



2 Responses to Are the Lions Cowardly?

  1. Atishay says:

    This stuff is so overblown, it’s gotten really ridiculous (I’m speaking in general and not regarding your article specifically). It really doesn’t matter what others think of the Lions; they’ll either win or they won’t. They didn’t get to this point overnight, as you stated, and they won’t suddenly start losing because they are “evil” and karma will come back to haunt them. This talk about Suh being a dirty player is really dumb and I am shocked that it continues to go on and get louder even though no one can seemingly provide concrete facts proving that he is dirty. Watch the tape of the Lions-Falcons game and you’ll see that Suh and Avril are nowhere near Matt Ryan. How do you kick someone’s feet from 5 yards away?

    This team is being built the “right way,” as most would acknowledge. They are certainly not a finished product and are still very young and have a lot of room to improve. They are still a flawed team; what NFL team isn’t nowadays?

    See you on Thanksgiving.

  2. your column ryan does not devote any space to the edition of this yr’s game of the century. blasphemy thou name is you. bama v lsu will feature the 2 best teams in college football. each team is loaded w nfl talent, the speed of the game will ascend a notch. bama will be a 5 pt favorite at kickoff, but this does not tell the tale of the tail.

    unlike many teams w great players, these teams know how to win, expect to win, and will make winning plays. they have been taught the habit of winning. each of the teams are the mirror image of each other.

    even tho bama is the las vegas favorite, this means nothing per the pundits who generally pick lsu. neither team will fold under pressure. the best team will win on the merrits because it knows how to win, expects to win, and has developed the winning habit. the winner of this game will likely win the sec championship, and then be crowned the national champion. i believe it has happened the last 5 yrs.

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