Sunday, March 30, 2008

Expectations: A Dangerous Thing

Expectations can be dangerous. There are many people who are devastated at great news, a good bonus at work, a happy date, a good vacation with their wife/family, the much improved final season record of their favorite sports team, and more...why? Because it wasn't as "good" as they were expecting.

Often times we as people build events that haven't happened yet up in our mind so much, that really there is not point in doing/watching the actual event -- it will never live up to the dream.

Now, I am not saying that you shouldn't have expectations; The danger is setting them either so low or so high that they lose all meaning. Someone goes to work expecting to lose a dozen customers that day, only to be ecstatic when they "only" lose 8. Conversely, if you expect to add 15, you will be super disappointed when you "only" add 5. Seem silly? It may, but that is what many people do on a daily basis. What is worse is then the guy who expects to add 15 customers loses 8, and the guy who expects to lose 12 adds 5 -- obviously, their expectations were way out of whack with what was going to occur.

While it is great to be excited, sometimes we have to think about what we are attaching expectations to -- and if a neutral party with all the facts would see them as reasonable.

Sometimes, expectations coming in are so far exceeded early that people swing into the complete opposite of where they started.

Example: Flashback to 2006 -- Rod Marinelli was in his first year as a head coach. Very seldom to teams suddenly improve their record enormously with a new coach -- usually they stay the same or go backwards. Since new defensive and offensive systems were going in, this usually means backwards. The Lions won 3 games. About normal for a first time HC installing new offensive and defensive systems for a team on it's 4th head coach in almost as many years. (Morhinweg, Mariucci, Juron). Rod made a lot of changes in his first season, and even more his second off season with the team.

Despite the fact that the team showed improvement throughout the year, and the fact that the Lions addressed some needs in the off season -- it lacked flash in regards to FA, and the draft wasn't a super "now we're unstoppable". The general expectation I saw floated around most often was about 3-4 wins, 5 if they were really lucky. Anything more than that would be amazing considering the entire league knew the Lions had a weak secondary, made weaker when Bullocks went on IR.

Fast forward to game 8 last season against Denver -- the Lions locked up their 6th win with a blowout win unlike any that had been seen for a long time by the Lions. Their record was 6-2. For a fan base who expected 3-4 wins, they were already about double that!! As they racked up the wins, I saw expectations swing from 3-4 to 10 -11 and that the season was a total disappointment if the Lions didn't make the playoffs. This from the same people who looked at the team less than 2 months before and said 6 or 7 wins would be beyond their expectations!!

They were the guy who thought his pay was getting cut because business had been bad, and suddenly sees the company has swung into unexpected positive results and starts thinking he's getting a 20% raise! Then he gets disappointed when things even out, but are still moving in a strong positive direction and he "only" gets a 8% raise -- when a few months before he would have been excited just to keep his job!!

Posted by stickety on 03/30/08 at 9:36AM
Right on DetFan1979:
The average know-nothing fan did backflips when the Lions were signing high-priced free agents like Woody and Bly. They bought in completely when Millen and Morningweg boasted about the "young speed" they were going to bring to the team by drafting guys like Boss Bailey and Kalimba Edwards. They rejoiced when the Lions selected receiver over and over and over again in the draft. I cannot even count how many times I've heard idiotic Lions' fans parrot the crap they hear on the radio from the likes of the "Huge" one, Bill Simonson (last year, he said that the Lions shouldn't draft Joe Thomas because you can always get good offensive linemen in the late rounds of the draft - brilliant analysis).
If you look more closely, you can see that Rod damn near pulled off a miracle last year. The Lions were a few plays away from being a playoff team in spite of fielding a collection of stiffs on defense and a borderline pathetic offensive line. The Lions have had a tremendous off-season so far: they've improved their defense while actually dumping salaries.
Now, they need to seal the deal with a solid draft. I'm not looking for the spectacular. Just fill two-three holes with good players.
Whether they have to trade down or up or stay pat, I don't care. Just do what it takes to fill the holes at tackle, linebacker, and running back.
Do that, and the Lions will be significantly better next year.

Not saying I agree with everything Stickety wrote (specifically, agree Joe Thomas quality OT's are not going to be there in round 3, but I think you can build a solid offensive line with the right 2-4th round picks), but he makes some very good points.

Last season, I expected that the Lions were going to win between 6 - 9 games depending on how the ball bounced, and possibly sneak into the playoffs if they were lucky. They won 7. Pleasantly satisfied. Since they are still a young team (overall), and I don't know who they are drafting, right now I am expecting about the same. If the draft seems about right, I might switch to 7 - 10 games. But only if I think it is a real home-run.

As we start to fall into solidifying in each of our minds either who/what position we want the Lions to draft over the next month (some people are zealously there now), it would be best to remember to temper our expectations - up or down as the need may be. Many of the best player analysts don't do mock drafts -- because even if you know who is going in the top ten, there are 3,628,800 different combinations they could be picked in (10 factorial for those who want to know where I got the number). Factor in 224 picks, plus compensatory picks, plus trades, surprise picks, teams who "reach" (or essentially have a player rated differently for THEIR team than others do.") and you realize that predicting the draft is like predicting the weather -- you can come close in a general way, but it will usually be far from exact.

When I sit down to watch the Lions on Sunday afternoon, or Sunday Night Football, or MNF, I have one expectation: To watch an entertaining game of football. Sure, I enjoy when the Lions are winning -- it enhances the fun, and the odds I will be able to watch my favorite team into the postseason. But it is not the end of my world if they don't.

My expectation while watching the draft (yes, I do watch it. Drives my wife nuts) is that I'll be entertained and informed by doing so. I would like to see the Lions get 2-3 solid starters, and 1 -2 contributing rotation guy in this draft. Preferably at areas I think are needs, but since I don't coach or GM the team -- I don't presume that I know more about football than Matt Millen, and certainly not Rod Marinelli, and the entire scouting department and all of his coaching staff. Sure, they can be wrong but I don't watch the draft to be right, I watch it to see if I know my own favorite team well enough that I was right.
When I'm looking at the Lions, I do a lot of thinking about what they could do, or what I think they should do. But in the end, as the draft nears, I think most about what I think they will do -- taking everything else into account. They often surprise -- but that is part of what makes it entertaining. If I always knew what was coming, it would eliminate the point of watching or analyzing.
So my request is that as we start to get more into looking at needs, what positions will be available when, who will be available, who should be picked, trading up or down, trade partners, etc. -- or as we go into the off season, and into 2008; please keep one thing in mind:
We follow this stuff because it is fun, not because we have any control over the outcome.
Go Lions!!!


Anonymous said...

When I first started thinking about this year's draft, I thought -- like many -- that the Lions had a ton of work to do. If they couldn't get 2 quality CBs and an OT in the first three rounds, then the draft would be a complete failure.

Then came the Rogers trade. It addressed the CB depth to some degree (supplemented as well by free agent signings) but it opened a new hole. Now the D-line needs attention instead of the DBs.

When I saw that many mocks had the Lions picking RB in the first round, I dismissed them out of hand. I thought that they needed a franchise MLB, two solid O-linemen, and definitely a serviceable DT.

Now that I think about it, a running back may be the best choice. I don't think the offensive line will be as bad as last year, as the QB won't need 30 seconds to find open recievers in a non-Martz offense. They did nicely when they did run the ball last year and I think if they develop more consistency there, they will begin to control T.O.P.. If that happens, the D will not be constantly wore down and may even be more effective.

That said. I like to temper my expectations. I don't expect to lose 15 customers, but I don't expect to become VP overnight either. I think the Lions will have a similar season to last year, except the wins will be consistent. They won't sprint out of the gates only to fall on their faces at the halfway point.


CHIEFGER139 said...

willy3411 -POSTED ON mlive 5:47AM ON EDWARDS ARTICLE-theres a article in the det free press this morning-he posted the link-they mention the lions needs and actually gave names of guys there bringing in
then a couple of blogs later willy3411 posted the nfl experts mock draft-3 rounds-if they got those 3 players it would be awsome-(guess who's 1st) also right after willy3411 i put the kevin smith highlight video link on-hes one there bringin to town--last year i predicted 6 wins and looking at the schedule it was difficult to do-its too early to pick how many wins now-the draft and other free agent pickups need to be made and the schedule of who we play(we know who) but when we play each one matters too-i figuring in yoUr range of 7-10 WINS right now-im sure i will pick more than 7 wins though once im ready to put my predictions in-i have high hopes this draft-i think there finally gonna draft needs over wants-and yes i think running back is a big need-not a want, probaly there 2nd highest need after linebacker

CHIEFGER139 said...

i can have high expectations and can handle a huge letdowm-thats part of being a lions fan-they usually do provide us with the let downs unfortunately

Anonymous said...


No need to worry. This team is building to "the beautiful ending".

Marinelli is really making good moves where it counts.

At RB, they have brought in Forte, Smith (Soon) and Choice. These are the three smaller backs who run "big". They like to smash people and run them over. I believe that Smith should be the target in this group. He's the one guy in this group who consistently bounces off and keeps rolling.

Neither of these guys are first rounders. Rarely do you here their names in the second round. It all depends when the "run" is on. If you see guys getting snatched up, Millen will trade up. If not, they will snag them where they have them sited in at. It's kinda like smelt dipping.

I don't usually cross-pollinate either, but since it's Opening Day...Go Tigers!

Anonymous said...

Even though it looks like the schedule this season is going to be harder than last season, I can't help but have my expectations raised going into this year. If only looking at it with my head, I would expect the Lions to have a very similar record to last year. But as a fan, I can't help but to get excited about moves that are made and get my hopes up for a 9-10 win season. That is one of the nice and fun things about being a fan. In my job, it is necessary for my expectations to be relatively accurate, but as a fan, I can get a little carried away and it's not the end of the world if I'm wrong.

By the way, this is my first post to your site, but I've been reading it for the past couple weeks and have been checking it almost daily. I've really enjoyed reading it and appreciate your analysis.

As a bit of an aside, I still hope that they bring back KJ and give him one more chance. I'm not a Bell fan, but he has proven that he can perform with this style of blocking scheme. I believe KJ has the tools and dedication to do a very good job splitting carries with Bell. Lets pick up a DT or an OT in the first, a MLB in the second, and then DT or OT in third.



CHIEFGER139 said...

welcome on board-you forgot the most important thing needed a running back-say we sign jones than we still have to small backs-ducketts gone-need that big horse who can convert on 3rd and short and who can pound it in when there in the redzone-notice all the backs they brought in are big-i know many bloggers say forget the line-had a lions fan in today at work and he started preachin the no running back speach-i threw him out of the office-we desperately need a big back what good does it do to bring in that big tight end gaines without a back behind him?
signed the wize chief

Anonymous said...

I definately agree with Lopper. I'd love to see KJ back on the lions squad. If they could sign him to a 1 yr contract it would work very well for both sides. The lions could have some insurance if Bell still doesnt show any huge rewards in the zone scheme and KJ can have another shot at proving he's a decent RB in this league. Not to mention that it would add more competition after training camp. The main problem with this idea is that we're switching to a new blocking scheme and it's obvious that KJ's injury would effect his ability to practice with the Oline.

I guess we'll see over the coming weeks how things work out with that.


JJLions20 said...

Expectations are only one of the elements of the Draft. But there is a lot more. The draft and what leads up to the draft is exciting for many reasons. To me there are three ways to experience the draft.

The first way is like a 6 year old kid on Christmas day. And I will admit it is a materialistic way of looking at Christmas, but remember I said a 6 year old kid. Yes, the hope and expectation builds as the day approaches. There is always that one gift you really want and you tell yourself as long as I get the one gift this will be a good day. Then when that morning hits, the expectations and hope are so high, you can't figure how any gift would be a bad one. When you get to select that first gift to open, you’re looking for the right size, shape, and any other characteristic that would make that first selection be that special gift. If you get what you want on the first selection the pressure is off for a little while. You let your brothers and sisters open their first gift, then you open another, and another and another. Inevitably every year you select a gift and open it. But you just can't figure it out. You might not say it out loud, but in your mind your saying, what the *&%$ is that. At the end of the day there is usually a little bit of a let down. You may not have gotten everything you wanted but if you got that one special gift, then the day was special. There is also the days to come when you get to use these gifts, so there is still some anticipation.

The second way of looking at the draft is to put yourself in the role of the GM. Construct your own draft board. Watch as players you like come off the board, and see if the guy at the top of your list is selected when it is your team's turn to draft. Hoping each selection before yours is a reach for somebody you didn’t have on your board. Then you see a player you have rated highly and he starts to slide down the board. The excitement and hope starts to rise. And if your team actually takes him, it is viewed as great value (the first of the ways DetFan1979 mentioned on how a draft can be evaluated). To me the draft is the highlight of a fantasy football league. It's that idea that you’re the GM for the day, and you have the ability to build your team.

The third way that I look at the draft is from more of a psychological point of view. In our case, can we think like Millen and Marinelli. Can we successfully predict who they will select when the pick is up, based upon who is available. This takes studying the two guys making the decisions, studying their philosophy, understanding the needs, figuring out what information is really mis-information, and seeing if you can determine the strategy. I think this will be very challenging this year. Last year CJ was the most popular prediction. But I don’t think many others could have predicted Stanton, Alma-Francis, or Alexander. I think this is a prelude for this draft. In order to predict the picks, you need to think like Marinelli, and listen to what he has said. If there is a kid on the board you really like at #15, but all the so called experts think he should go around #25, and if at the same time some kid that the experts think is to go at #10 is still there at #15, who do you take? The key is to think like Marinelli. If Marinelli really didn’t like the guy that was predicted to go at #10, he will select the kid that was predicted to go at #25. Here is the thinking. If you thought the kid could be a starter if he was drafted #25, then he will be a starter if you draft him at #15. If you didn’t like the kid’s character at #10, it didn’t get any better just because he slid to #15.

What Rod and Matt showed us last year is that they won’t go after the biggest need first. They are also willing to draft for the future. Stanton, Alma-Francis, and Alexander were never selected thinking they would be a factor for 2007. Matt and Rod drafted for the future.

So the key to predicting the Lions draft is to figure out which kids Rod really wants. Sure the Lions will bring in 30 players to interview. And the press is all over which guys came in and who the Lions want. But I figure at least half of the guys, Rod won’t want. So, just because they come in does not make them the next Detroit Lion.

The hype, hope, expectations, being a GM for a day, trying to think like Marinelli… It’s kind of like Christmas, but then again maybe Halloween. It’s all fun, and therefore so is the NFL Draft.

DetFan1979 said...

Hope you don't think I never get excited! As I said, I watch the draft -- and definately approach it all three ways JJLions described -- I've said many times I love anyhting related to football and the Lions, and it is both exciting and enjoyable to me.

JJ - you put into words things I was thinking (and I'm sure others as well) but had no idea how to say. Thanks!!

I realize this post may have sounded kind of preachy, but it gives me something to link back to when emotions/expectations swing around too wildly, and maybe head off the deep depression I sometimes see after the draft when the Lions don't pick that "perfect present" (Joe Thomas last year for me. Didn't get depressed, but that's who I wanted. Didn't think they would pick him to begin with, so that helped.)