Traverse City Record-Eagle

Sports Columnists

December 17, 2012

James Cook: Lions won't overreact with changes

You'd think there will be a lot of turnover with the Detroit Lions next season.

Think again.

That would require imagination on the part of the Lions' brass. Probably not going to happen.

Instead, they'll try to roll out the same head coach and coordinators in the name of continuity. Maybe that's the right call.

About right now — after an embarrassing 38-10 loss to equally deplorable Arizona — it's easy to assume that isn't the prevailing opinion of most fans of the 4-10 Lions.

First off, it will be nearly impossible to convince a better coach than Jim Schwartz to come to Detroit. Don't hold your breath for Bill Cowher or Jon Gruden.

But if Scott Linehan is back as offensive coordinator, he better use a little more creativity. Scratch that. He better use LESS creativity. He has the best receiver the NFL has seen since Jerry Rice or Randy Moss in his prime, and consistently manages to under-utilize him, using Calvin Johnson far too often as a decoy and instead putting the game in the hands of receivers like Mike Thomas and soon-to-be-ex-Lion Titus Young. You can't throw to Calvin on every down, but c'mon, he should be getting 200 yards every game with the talent he has.

Heck, even Scott Mitchell — perhaps the most heavily criticized Lions quarterback in decade (and that's saying a lot, given the presence of Joey Harrington) — knew when he was in trouble to just throw in Herman Moore's direction.

Do the Lions coaches deserve to be back? That's very debatable. But will they be back? Yeah, probably. Some assistant will be fired as a scapegoat, and Jim Schwartz, Linehan and Gunther Cunningham will be back.

The most disturbing part of this season is the almost complete lack of progress.

Quick, name a Lions player who has played better than last year. Short list you came up with, eh?

Last year, Detroit was 10-6 and they brought back 21 of 22 starters on both sides of the ball. And yet they're somehow much worse than last year.

Granted, they've lost a lot of close games that were decided by a small handful of plays that often went their way in 2011, but you'd figure that a year of seasoning for a fairly young team would make them even more likely to pull off those plays.

Exactly the opposite has happened.

Then add Schwartz' apparent lack of discipline to the equation.

The Lions had a bevy of players arrested in the off-season. It's not Schwartz' job to baby sit young, rich football players, but top coaches don't have this happen in large numbers like this.

With Detroit's precarious salary-cap situation, there will be some turnover with players this year. Cap casualties are imminent, given the massive contracts of Matthew Stafford, Ndamukong Suh, Johnson and Nick Fairley chewing up huge chunks of the Lions' cap — and likely another high pick coming aboard in April.

But, whether or not the fans want it, it's doubtful the coaching staff will change drastically.

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