Yesterday, FOXsports.com writer, and Sirius NFL radio host, Adam Schein posted one of his “Schein’s Nine” pieces, similar to Peter King’s “Ten Things I Think I Think”. The final item certainly turned my head: Packers cornerback Al Harris proclaiming that the Lions can win eight games this season. Per Schein, Harris is enamored of the Lions’ new coaching staff—not only The Grandmaster, but new coordinators Cunningham and Linehan. He likes the way the Lions have set up the quarterback position, the way they ran their draft, and the impact veterans brought in—especially the new linebackers, Julian Peterson and Larry Foote.
Predictably, Schein then distances himself as far as possible from this bold proclamation, saying the Lions have “no shot” at winning eight games. What absolutely floors me about this, is that most of the NFL media spent all of last year marvelling at the incredible job that the Dolphins and Falcons did in turning their franchise around, and consequently spent all spring babbling about teams switching coaches and drafting players and signing free agents to follow their blueprint, and yammering on about which team will be “this year’s Dolphins” . . . and yet when presented with a smart, veteran football player with a deep passion not only for playing the game, but the business of the game, saying that a division rival could pull off an eight-win improvement, it’s laughable. Ridiculous. “No shot”.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not putting money on the Lions playing .500 ball this year—I predicted them to go 7-9, remember—but it goes to show what creatures of habit, routine, and expectation we are. It can’t be impossible for an NFL club to rise from the very, very depths of the NFL to win double-digit games, without making a huge, splashy move—we’ve just seen TWO teams do it! Neither the Fins nor Falcons dropped $100M on a megastar. Neither the Fins nor Falcons hired The Hot Candidate to coach their team; I bet you most NFL fans still couldn’t bring Mike Smith’s name to their tongues. Neither the Fins nor Falcons got a lot of attention for the important moves they did make; each added quality veterans like Chad Pennington and Michael Turner.
NFL fans and media spent all spring talking about following these two teams’ “blueprint” for success--but very few of those people seem to understand what that blueprint is, what was successful about it, and how teams are going about replicating it. Of course, much time has been wasted scouring NFL depth charts, looking for wideouts and tailbacks who played quarterback at some post-Pop Warner point in their careers, so they can be floated as possible candidates to “run the wildcat” . . . but the Wildcat isn't “the blueprint”, it's a PRODUCT of the blueprint. The Dolphins thinking of, testing, tuning, and deploying the Wildcat formation in the NFL last season is the product of having good coaches at every level of the staff, a deep and talented roster, and a franchise-wide committment to quality and innovation.
Again, I am not floating the Lions as a potential playoff team. I’m not saying that if you think the Lions will only win five games (Schein’s prediction), that you’re a moron. All I’m saying is, in the NFL, on any given Sunday—and in any given season—anything can happen. No team ever has “no shot” to win big (or lose big), especially when we’re still on this side of training camp.