Big Blue-print? Lions on right track

Jim Schwartz (Jeff Hanisch, USPW)

The NFL is a copycat league, but Detroit's philosophies are similar to Super Bowl champ Giants.

The NFL is the ultimate copy cat league. 

When a strategy or system begets success for one team, there are usually several others that later follow suit in an effort to replicate the same triumphs. 

Examples of shameless borrowing are abundant throughout the NFL.  From the West-Coast offense to aggressive 3-4 defenses, it is not uncommon to observe a successful system employed by one soon be a commonality across many of the league’s teams.

So, with the champagne barely flat and the confetti still being swept after the New York Giants Super Bowl victory, how many teams will adopt Big Blue’s blueprint?

Of course, speculation is a prerequisite to actually answering that question.  However, Detroit Lions fans may find comfort that their own structure doesn’t differ too much from that of the Giants. 

An exemption of all 32 teams will prove that the deeper you dissect the more differences you will find between each.  The Lions and the Giants are no exception to that rule as they have different techniques, philosophies and playbooks.  However, that would hold true when comparing any two teams.

Comparing the Lions and the Giants is akin to playing a game of Photo Hunt, where two seemingly identical pictures are placed side-by-side while a user attempts to find all of the minor differences.

From afar, these two teams appear to be structured the same.

Offensively, they are both built around a franchise quarterback who is complemented by a group of talented receivers. In fact, it could be argued that Lions' quarterback Matthew Stafford actually had a superior season to eventual Super Bowl MVP Eli Manning.

In the passing game, they both love to utilize three-receiver sets (though the Lions are more likely to split a tight end out wide than the Giants).

Both teams value a running game but are not afraid to abandon the run if it is ineffective.  Also, both prefer a committee approach to the backfield, ideally employing a speed back and power runner. In Detroit, rookie Mikel Leshoure's Achilles injury negated what would have been the team's version of powerback Brandon Jacobs.

On defense, the similarities continue. 

In a time where aggressively blitzing defenses appear to be an increasing trend, both teams prefer to generate their pressure from a four-man defensive line keeping their back-seven in coverage.

Both teams value their front-four to the extent that they maintain a deep rotation of talent, with their depth players representing viable starting options for some teams.

The Giants proved that you don’t need a powerful running game, a blitz happy defense or a lockdown corner to win a championship.  Rather, you need an effective strategy, a coaching staff and management team in unison regarding that strategy and a franchise quarterback.  

As the Lions enter their 53rd consecutive seasons looking to claim a title rather than defend it, they may be closer than ever.

After all, they already have much of what the reigning champions already have, save for the rings.  

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