The Lions offseason outlook and Harbaugh’s staff is now coming together
The Lions season is over, and it was quite a season. They did far better than anyone thought they could. Although many thought it was impossible to get to the playoffs but I don’t think there was a very big crowd who thought they could win 11 games this year. That’s a tremendous feat, but now the story turns to where the Lions go from here. While 11 wins is good, it wasn’t good enough and while they were a playoff team they are not quite on the same level as some of the top teams in the league. Simply said, they need to get better. They finished one game out of having the best record in the league, and had a chance to win their first playoff game since 1991. Still that’s not good enough, and getting better will not be easy.
When you talk about this offseason for the Lions it begins with the topic of Ndamukong Suh. They tried to work out a deal last offseason to no avail and now he is a free agent, who no doubt is going to chase the money. I’d like to say he’ll give Detroit a hometown discount but I know he won’t. I also would like to say he will give Detroit the first shot, but I don’t even think he’ll do that. He’s chasing one big thing and that’s the money. I have a hard time believing he will not test the market to see what he can get. I know he wants to get paid like one of the best defensive players in the game, but I don’t know if it will happen. I don’t know if there’s anyone out there who wants to pay a guy that type of money just to deal with the headache of him get suspended for a game or two a year.
Suh is no doubt the leader of that defense and Detroit needs to do everything they can do to get him back. He’s the best player on the biggest strength of your team. That doesn’t mean a deal will get done though. Even Detroit needs to think about whether they really want to go forward and continue to deal with his antics on the field. Personally, I really don’t think he’s coming back (and don’t be fooled into thinking because he cried at his press conference it means he wants to be here). He is going to chase the money and I’m not convinced the Lions will put up the highest amount. Now maybe they will, and maybe they should, but I just think he ends up somewhere else. If he leaves the Lions then need to focus on resigning Nick Farley because there’s no way you can let both walk away in the same offseason. Also, if Suh does indeed leave, the defense will have a hard time repeating their performance again next year. He accounts for so much on that defense and it’s hard to find a player who gets that much respect from opposing offenses.
In a different light they are at a wait and see when it comes to defensive coordinator Teryl Austin. He came out of nowhere this year to make a name for himself by turning a bad defense into one of the best in the league. I have a feeling he will be back, but there’s a reason he’s a very wanted man right now. When other teams see the results he got Detroit in just one year they want a part of that action too. I don’t think he will get a head coaching job because it’s just one year of work. I would assume other teams will want to see a bigger body of work before giving him the reins to the organization. But he’s another one that Detroit can’t afford to lose, and this one isn’t going to be bought. If he gets the right opportunity he’s bolting and I don’t think anyone will blame him if he does.
Offensively they need to take a big jump next year, but I don’t know where that is going to come from. Maybe they get better in a second year in the offense and I think that is what needs to happen because I don’t think they are lacking on offensive playmakers (outside of maybe the QB, but he’s not going anywhere, and a great QB isn’t going to just walk through that door). The biggest change I honestly could see would be a subtraction to save money. I wouldn’t be surprised to see them let someone like Reggie Bush walk. He missed quite a bit of time this year and they could get a nice chunk of change to throw at Suh if you let him leave. Bush is often injured and it is pretty close to the norm to see a veteran shown the door when you have a younger guy (Theo Riddick) who can do the job. On the offensive line I would think Raiola is gone and Swanson takes over the center spot next year. They certainly need to get healthy, but perhaps they could do something to upgrade certain areas on the line. Overall though I really don’t see the personnel changing a lot because I still think they have enough playmakers.
The other thing to remember is that the schedule gets tougher next year. It naturally happens when you have a good season. On top of that, they won’t be playing the NFC south next year. Instead they will be playing the AFC and NFC west. That means west coast trips to Seattle and San Diego. It means facing Denver and Arizona at home. They also will have divisional crossover games with Philadelphia and New Orleans. Oh and don’t forget about that trip to London to face Kansas City. The good news is that everyone else in the division will be playing a similar schedule. The bad news is that with those schedules I’ll be surprised if the NFC North gets two playoff teams again. It’s safe to say the Lions need to be better and it’s not going to be easy.
Harbaugh’s staff coming together
The Michigan Football coaching staff is beginning to take shape. Michigan has now locked down their top two coordinators after getting a yes from former Florida defensive coordinator D.J. Durkin yesterday. It was widely assumed he would get the job, but had duties to finish up in Florida where he was serving as the interim coach for their bowl game after Will Muschamp was fired. Durkin will join a staff that also includes offensive coordinator Tim Drevno who was formerly the offensive line coach at USC. On top of that Michigan is also looking to fill out their position coaches and reportedly offered former running back Tyrone Wheatley the job of RB coach. The staff is getting set up and the early indications are that it’s a promising staff for Harbaugh and the Wolverines.
It would appear that Durkin is a very good hire. He has coached up top ten defenses the last two years at Florida, and while Will Muschamp was a defensive head coach, Durkin still earned a lot of credit for those defenses. Perhaps more important is the fact that he’s one of the best recruiters in the nation. In fact, in 2012 he was ranked as the best recruiter in the nation (I personally don’t know how they figure that but it sure sounds good). In the immediate future it would appear there are three or four recruits willing to go anywhere he goes and if there’s something Michigan needs right now it’s incoming freshman for, what is right now, the smallest recruiting class in the nation.
Before he came to Michigan the reports were that Harbaugh didn’t have a big desire to recruit (one of the reasons the NFL reporters were trying to say he wouldn’t go back to college). First of all I don’t think that’s true. One of the first things he did was call up all their current recruits and started working on others. Secondly, even if that is true he’s now surrounding himself with guys who are extremely good recruiters. Yes there’s Durkin but Greg Mattison is known as a very good recruiter and he’s still on staff and Tim Drevno is also known for being a good recruiter. On top of that Harbaugh is getting guys from all corners the country. One of the biggest things with coaching is getting the best players. Well Michigan is going to be able to recruit and they will be doing it nationally.
On Tap for Tonight:
Michigan State Basketball @ Iowa. 7:00