Saying that they've done less with more couldn't be more accurate. Or more of an understatement, for that matter.
Shrouded behind the late December post-season runs of those they aim to become, the Detroit Lions have managed to notch three consecutive wins, including two on the road and two against playoff contenders. Although the final tally (the team could end the year 6-10 with a win on Sunday) might not be aesthetically pleasing, it speaks more to the club's progress and, most importantly, future.
They have one of those in Detroit, and it's bright.
The Lions have won this year without their starting quarterback, the defensive presence of Kyle Vanden Bosch, their perpetual placekicker, either of the top two running backs, all the while playing musical chairs in the secondary. They've managed to build a system that extracts success from cast-offs and otherwise unheralded athletes, grooming quantifiable depth that is shielded by a myriad of talent.
Basically, they're building an NFL team in Detroit. Finally.
Linebacker Bobby Carpenter, who was dispatched from Dallas and couldn't crack the rosters of Miami or St. Louis, led the team in tackles in Sunday's win over the Dolphins. He didn't even start the game. Nathan Vasher, considered a washed-up cornerback two years ago, picked off a pass and later body-slammed Miami running back Ronnie Brown to help preserve victory.
Neither player was employed at the start of the season.
Now they're just a couple of the many names that have helped fuel Detroit's end-of-season revival series; a testament to the work and scheme developed and catered to by coach Jim Schwartz, coordinators Gunther Cunningham and Scott Linehan, and the masterful eye of GM Martin Mayhew.
The chemistry between Detroit's front office and the team's coaches is particularly noteworthy, a seamless formula of working parts that has spun success from what appeared to be a destitute situation.
They've managed to take a pitiable past and injury-riddled campaign and create something worthwhile.
Chef Ramsay couldn't do more with less.
"The way you get guys up to speed is having consistent coaching," explained Schwartz. "Having an idea of what you want to do in your scheme, having good teaching techniques, and also having a plan and sort of sticking with it."
GM Martin Mayhew has been behind Detroit's acquisitions. The coaching staff has been behind the result.
"That makes it easier to plug guys in."
That might seem like a foreign concept around here.
Under former GM Matt Millen, the franchise wasted roster spots on blown draft picks and lemon free-agent acquisitions. And, under the multiple coaching changes, never appeared to establish any scheme. As Millen's pokes and prods turned into desperate risks and frantic prayers, the transient, ambiguous roster fed an incessant identity crisis. One that was defined only by failure.
The hard work of the last two years has finally restored what was left in disarray. The Lions made key acquisitions via the available channels entering 2010, and that roster proliferation continued throughout the season. Rather than each change resulting in haphazard placement and awkward faux pas, they've only added to a refreshing symmetry.
While a rather successful upheaval has been evident all season, the development of this franchise has been more defined in the past three weeks. Whatever they're doing, it appears to be working.
Although they remain a work-in-progress, the Detroit Lions finally have the most important part figured out: who they are.
Notebook (from TheSportsXchange):
"Anytime that you're a player and a coach, coming in and out of the stadium is sometimes a difficult thing," coach Jim Schwartz said. "People pay their money for tickets, and they can say about anything they want -- and you'd be surprised at some of the things that are said to you going in and coming out and on the sideline. But that's what fans do, and as coaches and as players we need to keep our composure."
Raiola was fined $7,500 in 2008 for making an obscene gesture at fans at Ford Field.
"There are not many teams that have had three-plus starts by three different quarterbacks going into a year and kept the production up," Schwartz said. "Like I said, that was a really good defense we played (Sunday), and we still managed to (prevail despite) some matchups that we weren't winning, particularly early in that game."
"I think both teams are familiar with each other. If anything, you can argue that it would favor them a little bit because we would have less time to prepare for their quarterback situation, whatever it is. We really won't know as we move on until much later in the week. ... Whether Brett Favre plays or not, whether it's (Joe) Webb, Patrick Ramsey -- all those things are question marks, and I think, from a preparation standpoint, in a strange sort of way it may actually favor them. But from a physical standpoint, it should favor us."