A good team on its way to becoming great.
That’s the common refrain following the Detroit Lions’ first winning season since 2000. In a circumstance that only Detroit could experience, the club’s very appearance as a wild card team was roundly appreciated, making the playoff loss in the first round to the New Orleans Saints palatable for many observers. But that is sentiment, and a couple of weeks into the off-season, it’s waning, replaced by pressure to win those playoff games—next season, not sometime down the road.
Right on schedule, mock drafts are populating the NFL news sites. Lions fans are chief among those tracking the prognosticators, and coming up with their own draft picks, and free agency picks and pans.
As well they should. We the fans are feeling the pinch of another football season running away from us, and Lions fans in particular (shall we say, “restore the roar”?) have good reason to look forward to the immediate future.
One might look first to the philosophy of GM Martin Mayhew and head coach Jim Schwartz to determine how optimistic one should be.
The Lions’ approach to personnel selection in the Mayhew-Schwartz era has been to acquire the best player available rather than fill specific voids. Will that philosophy change following the club’s winning 2011 season? Not likely, reports Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press.
But humor me as we run down the wish list: More sustained pressure on opposing quarterbacks. Improved corner coverage. Improved tackling.
(Then again, whose wish list is this item not on? Looking at you, Tampa Bay.) A short-yardage run game.
When a list like this separates the movers-on from the over-and-outs for post-season contention, a continued focus on tricky-to-define “best availables” over players who can fulfill the wish list is limiting. A specific personnel philosophy is clearly important to cultivating a good team into a consistent playoff contender, a great team. Selecting the best player available can feed that success. But by not viewing player selection through this new lens of post-season experience, the Lions might find their philosophy to be quickly outdated and out of touch.