New coach, new QB, same old Lions

Cold, Hard Football Facts for Jul 16, 2009



New Lions quarterback Matt Stafford, he of the No. 1 overall pick in the 2009 draft Staffords, was on NFL Network this week discussing the upcoming season in Detroit.
 
Naturally, talk with the untested rookie quarterback in Detroit turned to talk of the untested rookie head coach in Detroit, Jim Schwartz.
 
Stafford said something that should leave Lions fans just as distraught as they've been pretty much every year since the end of the Bobby Layne Era (that'd be 1957, Detroit's last championship season, for those of you keeping score at home).
 
Stafford discussed Schwartz's history as a defensive coordinator. It is true that Schwartz has worked under no less a defensive guru than Bill Belichick, and more recently fielded some tough defensive units in Tennessee.
 
That's good. But then Stafford said that Schwartz's top goal this year is to improve Detroit's porous run defense because – get this – Schwartz knows what stats are important when it comes to winning games in the NFL.
 
Apparently he doesn't.
 
We're not going to tell you the Lions were good against the run last year. In fact, they were dreadful. As our all-important Defensive Hog Index indicated, the Lions were dead last in the league last year, surrendering an abysmal 5.14 YPA on the ground. They finished 30th overall in the DHI indicator. Historically speaking, only a handful of teams surrendered a higher average per attempt on the ground than the 2008 Lions.
 
But believe it or not, stopping the run is the least of Detroit's worries heading into 2009.
 
Loyal Cold, Hard Football Facts readers – Hello, Cousin Cooter! – know that the NFL is all about passing well on offense and stopping the pass on defense.
 
And last year nobody stopped the pass more poorly than the Lions. In fact, no team in history stopped the pass as poorly as the 2008 Lions. In even more fact, it's an oxymoron to use the words "stop" and "pass" in the same sentence when discussing the 2008 Lions ... kind of like using the words "scenic" and "Detroit" in the same sentence.  
 
The Lions surrendered a 110.8 Defensive Passer Rating last year – literally the most ineffective pass defense in the history of NFL football. In 2007, meanwhile, the Lions fielded the first pass defense in history to surrender more than 70 percent completions over the course of the season ... so historically bad pass defense is kind of a trend in Detroit.
 
And it's no coincidence, folks, that the worst pass defense in NFL history was fielded by the first 0-16 team in NFL history.
 
As bad as the run defense was last year, it wasn't a deal-breaker for a team with more holes in it than Sonny Corleone. Just a couple years ago, the Colts won a Super Bowl with a run defense that was even worse than Detroit's (of course, that defense did stiffen in the postseason).
 
If Schwartz is such a defensive whiz, the fact that he seems so blissfully ignorant of the historically piss-poor state of his team's pass defense is a huge problem for Detroit fans hoping for a change of direction for the organization. The team made virtually no moves to improve its pass defense in the draft – it went offense with its first two picks, earning the post-draft emnity of the Cold, Hard Football Facts – and made only some token moves in free agency.
 
The biggest acquisition has been cornerback Anthony Henry, who's had a very good career with 29 picks in eight seasons with Cleveland and Dallas. He'll provide some help. But the Lions need more than some help. They need a complete overhaul of the worst pass defense in the history of football before they become competitive, no matter who's playing quarterback on offense.
 
And if the misguided off-season focus proves a portent of thing to come, Detroit will also soon need a complete overhaul in management and coaching. Sound familiar, Lions fans?
 
 

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