The Detroit Lions, coming off of a disappointing 7-9 season influenced by a terrible meltdown, are still highly regarded as a team that can turn it around in 2014. Analysts believe the Lions have much talent, something which will help the fresh addition of coach Jim Caldwell.
Yes, it’s true, Detroit has talent. They have a decent amount of really good talent, but that’s about it. Nobody can use the word “great” when analyzing any Lions player; none of the Lions’ players are great. Que the “how dare you,” and “look at Calvin Johnson, Matthew Stafford, and Ndamukong Suh,” comments.
The statement above will still stand as high as the Statue of Liberty, taunting those who refuse to acknowledge the truth that lurks. No, Johnson, Stafford, and Suh, are really good players, but not great; they’re nowhere near great. Sure, they each put up stats that make your eyes glare, but nothing more.
Football — and sports period — go beyond stats. Many players can put up ridiculous stats; it’s the great plays that matter more. “Great players make great plays,” they say; it should be altered to “Great players make great plays, and at the greatest of times.”
Suh is a driving force up the middle, anchoring a dominant defensive line. But, when the game was on the line the most, with Detroit needing a key sack on a third down to end a drive, Suh was silent. Opposing teams were able to march on the Lions’ defense at will, stomping their hearts out to take the victory. Houston Texans J.J. Watt is remarkable at making plays at the perfect moments, like the time at Ford Field when he sacked Stafford to take the Lions out of field goal range. Great defensive players come through when needed.
Johnson is a very, very good receiver. He puts up incredible stats with incredible catches, shredding defenses numerous times. However, when the Lions were inching closer to a playoff berth, he pushed them farther back. Where was Johnson in the Tampa Bay Buccaneers game on Detroit’s final offensive play? You don’t remember? He was busy coughing up a pass on a third down that would’ve given the Lions a brilliant scoring opportunity to win, resulting in an interception. Where was he on a third-and-15 against the Baltimore Ravens? He was dropping the pass, being wide-open in the middle of the field. That play was a mammoth momentum changer, taking the Lions out of scoring range. Johnson was average at the worst possible moments.
And the leader himself, Stafford. Stafford was disgraceful down the stretch, turning the ball over numerous times in disgusting fashions. He as well had a terrible game against the Buccaneers and Ravens, failing to help Detroit march towards the playoffs. He also threw a pick-six against the New York Giants, giving away a fourth-quarter lead, eventually causing a loss, ending the Lions’ playoff chances. Stafford threw 12 picks over Detroit’s dreadful 1-6 finale, forfeiting them from playoff contentions.
It’s not all on them. It’s not saying that they aren’t good or very good players. It’s saying that they aren’t great because great players step up and make those plays when it matters the most. Great quarterbacks guide their teams, making the big throws to win those games in the midst of playoff runs. Receivers hang onto the football to propel their teams forward in crucial games that can heavily impact the future. Great defensive players don’t make plays on just first and second down, but on third downs when a team is attempting to win. Great players don’t just make plays in the beginning of the season or in the first three quarters of games, they make them consistently, and in fourth quarters when it’s do or die. Shining stats don’t make greatness; great plays at critical times do. Detroit has some very good players; none are great, yet.