As part of a feature by Zac Snyder of Sidelion Report (The Fansided site for the Detroit Lions), we were asked to provide some answers to a few questions on the state of our franchise. Snyder is providing Q&A sessions on Sidelion for all of Detroit’s opponents in 2011. The Lions will travel to Invesco Field at Mile High for a Sunday afternoon contest on October 30th (assuming that the season is played as currently scheduled). That will be Denver’s 7th game of the season and will be the second game of four against the NFC North. I will post a link to his story when he posts my answers about the Denver Broncos, but in the meantime I figured I could post his answers to my questions about the Lions. Enjoy.
1) It seems like there is some positive energy around the Lions for the first time in a while. What is the atmosphere like around the franchise from a fan’s perspective?
Zac Snyder: Some fans have joked about the lockout coming just when the Lions appeared on the cusp of breaking through. A perfect example of Lions-luck. Lockout aside, fans are overwhelmingly excited to get this season going because the Lions should be a lot of fun to watch. The fact that the Lions will play in (and host) their first Monday Night Football game in a decade just adds to the excitement and examples of the Lions gaining respect from the national media have been everywhere. There is a great deal of confidence in the way the Lions are building and the staff they have in place. This kind of harmony is actually quite odd.
2) Where do the Lions rank in the hierarchy of the Detroit sports scene?
ZS: Remarkably high considering how poor they have been over the last decade. Detroit will go bonkers if the Lions become a consistent playoff team and the Lions will be the unquestioned king of Detroit sports. Detroit has been regarded as a baseball town but it is more likely it is a football town that has been in hibernation. I shake my head when I see teams like the Tampa Bay Bucs fighting for a playoff spot amid a local television blackout. That would never happen in Detroit.
3) What was the fallout from the Millen-era in regards to the relationship between the team and the fans? Has that relationship been fully repaired under the new regime?
ZS: There has always been a disconnect between fans and Lions owner William Clay Ford and the Millen-era was just another example of it. Ownership can be described as loyal to a fault and there have been times that their commitment to winning was questioned. That being said, sentiments are much better now because Martin Mayhew has proven himself trustworthy as the general manager and head coach Jim Schwartz strikes the perfect balance between football competency and likability. Fans see Schwartz as someone they can relate to and his mentality, particularly with his defensive lineman, fit the city perfectly.
4) What is the status of Matthew Stafford after his injury in 2010?
ZS: He ended up having surgery after spending most of the season trying to rehab the shoulder. Although that sounds worse it really isn’t because surgery was a chance to go in and fix it with a greater degree of certainty than rehab would have provided. His surgery was very similar to the one that Sam Bradford came back from prior to his rookie season so there isn’t any reason to suspect Stafford can’t come back just as strong. He’s already shown that he is feeling good by bombing some throws at Georgia’s spring game and organizing workouts with receivers like Calvin Johnson and incoming rookie Titus Young. He’s back.
5) What are your thoughts on the Lions’ 2011 draft, and what are your expectations for next season?
ZS: I like the Lions draft despite the fact they did not address a number of their needs. The organization views the draft as a talent grab over a need filler because they take a long term view and the strategy seems to have merit to it. Nick Fairley was a draft day gift, Titus Young was a surprise pick that grows on me by the day and Mikel Leshoure is a back I liked leading up the draft but never felt the Lions would be in position to make a play on him. I’m glad they did. Doug Houge and Johnny Culbreath appear to be solid late round potential picks.
As far as next season goes, I would probably settle for 8-8 with 16 starts from Stafford. I look for the Lions to be on the board as a team in playoff contention when the networks put up their graphic of the NFC playoff picture but I don’t expect a playoff appearance. They’re probably a year away from that.
6) What is the deal with this “Silver Crush” moniker given by Jim Schwartz?? Zero points for originality, but thanks for the nod.
ZS: Yeah, yeah. The nickname has caught some flak for being a bit of an Orange Crush rip-off but that really isn’t how it came about. The Lions defensive line was nicknamed the Silver Rush in the 70′s so the Silver Crush is supposed to be an updated name that pays homage to the team’s past, not that I expect anyone in Denver to take it that way.