Highlight Reel Diaries, Vol. I

>> 12.17.2009

Will Matthew Stafford start another game this season? It seems less likely by the day. With every tight end, runningback, and offensive lineman added to the Injured Reserve list, the already-iffy situation Stafford was drafted into gets . . . iffier.
He has fewer weapons with which he can attack opposing defenses, and less protection from enemy attacks. The Lions may indeed be his team now—but that team is currently as bad as it’s ever been. With only two wins so far, and three games left to go, victory has never mattered less.
We can debate about whether starting Stafford in week one, and on Thanksgiving, were wise decisions. But here and now, the decision to shut him down is easy. Unfortunately, it really is his team.
It’s become apparent that without Matthew Stafford at the helm, the Lions have no chance to win. It’s both exciting and depressing to say that about a rookie quarterback, but it’s true. Naturally, it follows that as fans, if there’s no chance of victory, there’s no reason to watch.
Ah, but there is. While the offense has been decimated by injuries, the defense is still relatively intact. Sammie Hill is developing into a force in the middle, and the battle between DeAndre Levy and Ernie Sims will affect the future of all three veteran starters.
Louis Delmas may, or may not, play—but the rest of the defensive backfield is auditioning for next season. Guys like Will James, Marvin White, and possibly new signee Brian Witherspoon will have to make an impact—or face the Turk.
Most importantly, we’ll see a rookie coach developing, too. How this team responds to last week’s fiasco will say a lot about Jim Schwartz’s ability to motivate. Two games ago, against the Bengals, it seemed as though the Lions’ defense played their best game of the season. Now, with absolutely nothing on the line, they’ll need to do that well again just to keep the Cardinals from blowing them out of the stadium.
It’s easy to throw in the towel. It’s easy to stop watching the games—especially when you’re assisted by the NFL’s blackout policy. It’s easy to start talking about free agency and the draft. It’s easy to start talking about Maybe Next Year all over again. But if you watch—really watch—on Sunday, you’ll get a sneak preview of Next Year.
Watch the players who’ll be the foundation of the defense for years to come. Watch the level of effort the veterans put out. Watch to see if Calvin Johnson plays, and if he does how hard he goes. Most of all, though, watch Jim Schwartz on the sideline—both his demeanor, and how the players respond to him. With luck, he’ll never have to coach through darker days than these—and there’s no true measure of a man than how he performs during his darkest days.


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