In the Jim Schwartz era, the Detroit Lions embraced their reputation of being dirty and playing to the end of the whistle. With a significant number of crucial personal foul penalties, the team would constantly beat themselves last year, and the locker room culture became so toxic that the reports suggested that the inmates ran the asylum. For this poor culture to change under new head coach Jim Caldwell, he will try to attempt to make a 180-degree transformation and erase the dirty label away from the Lions, their best defensive player in Ndamukong Suh, and most importantly, turn their losing culture into a winning culture. Unfortunately, I don’t believe that this will work.
For Caldwell to succeed where few have before him, he will have to start with the most controversial player on the team in Suh and the most controversial position on Detroit’s defense, which is defensive tackle. For a unit that is led by three two-15 picks in Nick Fairley and Suh, this unit is the top interior line duo in the league, but their dirty play in the past has overwhelmed their solid on-field performances.
With the Indianapolis Colts under Caldwell’s tenure as both a head coach and an assistant coach for almost a decade, his teams were known for their discipline and being one of the least penalized teams in the NFL. Due to this crucial yet unnoticed factor, the Colts would ultimately gain great regular season and postseason success under both Tony Dungy and Caldwell.
So, the questions begin. Who will crack first? Will Caldwell succumb to Suh and his me-first, in your face attitude, or will Suh buy into the team concept and focus on being a great player rather than a dirty player? What I do know is that neither man will initially back down from what got them to this point in their careers. For Suh, he has only known one way of coaching, and that was his kick your face in the dirt and beat you up style that was encouraged by Schwartz. Likewise for Caldwell, his patience and disciplined approach led to no problems and a stable organization in Indianapolis. Unfortunately, I cannot see how this new relationship will work for the Lions.
I hope I am wrong in this assessment, as the Lions have one of the most talented teams not just in the NFC, but the entire NFL. Unfortunately, given Suh’s checkered past, I can’t see anyway that this former Nebraska Cornhusker can turn over a new leaf in the blink of an eye. However, if he does, and proves other doubters and myself wrong, I will be greatly surprised. If Suh reverts back to the old habits that led him to the dirty label most associated with him, things will get even worse in Detroit.