Jim Caldwell’s in Detroit along with new offensive coordinator Joe Lombardi and defensive coordinator Teryl Austin. They’ll be patrolling the locker rooms, with something missing — leadership.
Someone needs to put a sign outside of the Lions’ locker room that says: “ATTENTION: if anyone has spotted our leadership, please contact the front office immediately!” in bold letters. It’s the sorry and frustrating truth: the Lions lack leadership. Worse than that? They lack it from their biggest stars: Matthew Stafford, Calvin Johnson, and Ndamukong Suh.
Nobody’s willing to say anything, acting as though leadership is an energy drink they purchase at a local convenience store. It is time for one of them — if not all — to break silence’s grip and step into the ring with bigger gloves. It’s time for them to rattle the cage, evoke some energy, and yank opportunity by its neck.
Suh often made commotions with his on-the-field antics, drawing penalties that gnawed on his wallet. This year, Suh kept himself clean, staying under the radar, repairing his somewhat smeared image in the media. But when the Lions were experiencing chinks in the armor, with chest plates falling off, and stab wounds going deep enough to draw blood, he didn’t say a word. The media — who he was trying to become friendlier with — received nothing, left out there to dry like disappointed kids receiving coal on Christmas. Suh was named a defensive captain this year for the first time in his career; he should’ve acted like one.
Barry Sanders lives on folks, this time in the form of a wide receiver known as “Megatron.” Johnson reminds fans and media members of Sanders with his calm and overly quiet demeanor. If reporters seek information, don’t expect it from him. The media would have a better chance of getting insight from the third-stringers. It’s truly baffling; Johnson has a remarkable stature with the league, being one of the greatest receivers in today’s game. He continuously chooses to seal his lips as his team fails year in and year out, causing massive frustration. People respect credibility, something Johnson has with his breath-taking catches and remarkable record-breaking seasons. He has the right to use his overly rested vocal chords; it’s time for his voice to be as big as his six-foot-five stature.
And then there’s the most important position on the team, quarterback, occupied by Mr. Positive himself, Stafford. The quarterback’s leadership is as vital as a coach’s; he’s the alpha male of the pack. Stafford, a quarterback with tremendous talent, feeds the media nonsense on numerous occasions. When questioned about the character of the locker room after the Lions’ disgusting second-half collapse, Stafford stated the following:
“Not satisfied with our record. The effort of this team and the preparation, we were in every single football game we played this year. We had chances to win all of them. We didn’t win as many as we probably could have or should have. That’s on the players for not making the plays. We understand that, but the effort of this team and the character in that locker room is something to be proud of.”
Come on, Matt. That’s it? Where’s the fire? Where is the lusting hunger for a playoff appearance? Where is that almighty demand for respect that all quarterbacks should emit? The character in the locker room is something to be proud of? If character that quits and becomes sloppy leading up to one of the most abysmal collapses of a team in recent history is something to smile upon, Stafford and his men need reality checks. It’s time to take a long, hard look in the mirror. It’s time for Stafford himself to stand at the front of the line, guiding his men to march forward with heavier stomps. It’s time for Stafford to demand people hang onto the ball, prepare harder as those around him follow, and speak when something isn’t right, fixing it.
Look at championship franchises like the Pittsburgh Steelers, Baltimore Ravens, and New England Patriots. They all possess loud, rejuvenating leadership. The people in those locker rooms have defined leaders to look up to, respecting their words, fighting hard to the end. Patriots’ Tom Brady demands players practice hard, doing so himself. Ravens’ Terrell Suggs commands his defense to knock opposing offenses with full heart. Steelers’ Troy Polamalu and Ben Roethlisberger keep their sides of the ball intact, promoting success and tough play. Players need to embrace leadership rolls; Stafford, Johnson, and Suh should take notes.
A coach is definitely a key to leadership and preparation, but players — like Stafford, Johnson, and Suh, can contribute immensely. Caldwell is known for his passion and leadership, something Detroit’s lacking. However, Caldwell isn’t on the field making the plays. Caldwell can’t force these guys to overwork themselves; they have to want it, fulfilling it themselves. Why over-complicate something? If aspects are sliding downwards, do something to shift them in another direction by saying something. Stafford, Suh, and Johnson are all deemed as team captains, though their actions speak otherwise.