Steve Brownlee column: Preseason football gives Lions fans the jitters
The sky is falling! The sky is falling!
Well, no, maybe it’s not.
Yes, it is!
OK, maybe, maybe not.
Oh, sorry about that, I shouldn’t make you suffer through a bout of talking to myself, something I’m often driven to do when it comes to the Detroit Lions.
I’ve watched parts of their first two exhibition games, and even though the team is 1-1, count me as not impressed.
My worries aren’t with the offense, which despite a lack of a running game has remained a high-octane motor as long as the Matthew Stafford-to-Calvin Johnson connection is intact. And the offseason addition of running back Reggie Bush can only add needed balance.
No, I’m really only watching the preseason for the Lions’ defense, specifically the secondary, which needs lots of help.
They haven’t exactly been torched, but consider the opposition – the New York Jets and Cleveland Browns, no offensive juggernauts by any stretch. They’d only look impressive if you thought you fell into a time machine and were watching the three-yards-and-a-cloud-of-dust units of Bo Schembechler’s Wolverines and Woody Hayes’ Buckeyes of the 1970s.
But all this teeth gnashing and talking to myself would be for a good cause if preseason performances actually meant something.
Stepping back from the situation, intellectually I know that exhibition games predict regular-season success about as well as watching movies with names like “Red Dawn” or “Singin’ In the Rain” help tell what today’s weather will be like.
I’ve heard that some Super Bowl champions have gone 0-for-the-preseason, and on the flip side, I know all too well about the Lions’ 4-0 exhibition record that turned into an 0-16 quagmire of a regular season in 2008.
That didn’t make it any less painful on Thursday night, watching Browns’ receivers get open across the middle, make an unobstructed catch, then turn upfield for 15 or 20 more yards when a Lions’ defender got deked out of his cleats.
It’s my own fault, though, for not watching the entirety of the game. I was trying to be a precision channel surfer, clicking from the Detroit Tigers baseball game as soon as a pitch was thrown, back long enough to catch a Lions or Browns snap, then as soon as a tackle was made, flipping back to see if the Miguel Cabrera or Prince Fielder knocked it out of the park.
So I missed some of the game’s background. Not until I watched Sportscenter early the next morning did I find out that Norv Turner had been hired as Cleveland’s offensive coordinator in the offseason.
As badly as he did as a head coach with several teams, he’s been a whiz leading offenses. Learning that fact also jogged my memory about the Jets and their hiring of Marty Mornhinweg as their O-coordinator.
He’s much like Turner – horrible for two years as Lions head coach, but has made his mark running offenses in Philadelphia.
Thankfully, then, maybe there’s a silver lining to Detroit’s defense getting lit up in the early going – these aren’t bad, inept offenses running willy-nilly on the Lions’ D. No, instead they’re average, run-of-the-mill ones still working on shedding their training wheels.
So what if that means my silver lining is just some crumpled up tinfoil leftover from a bonfire on a U.P. beach? Us Lions fans know enough to take refuge anywhere it’s offered.