In the NFL there are 4 different groups of teams. Over time, as GM's, Coaches, and Luck changes, the teams will slowly migrate from group to group. Sometimes, the overall migration seems swift -- but in actuality is either fleeting luck, or has really been building for some time, but was subtle enough not to be noticed until it finally broke through. This can happen to teams both on teh way up -- and the way down:
- Teams that are pereniall playoff contenders -- year after, they are in the postseason, but may or may not rack up many wins, but at least they are there. Typicall 10+ win teams.
- Following that, are a group of teams that make the playoffs every other year or so -- they'll make it two in a row, then miss one, etc. These are 9-10 win teams.
- Then there is that group of teams that will only rarely sneak into the playoffs as a wildcard in a good season, and often get booted in the first round, but are solid 7-9 win teams.
- Last is the group of teams that never even get within shouting distance of the playoffs and are playing for pride by the end of October. 7 wins is rare, and they continually pick in the top half of round one after years of 2-5 wins, with a possbiel 6 or 7 win season thrown in when lucky.
In the 90's, despite the negative reputation the Lions get, they hovered between the top two groups. They only won one game (after a first round bye) and lost in the Divisional Championship round. Sadly, during the Ross years they migrated down into hovering between the 2nd and third group. Then after Millen took over, the years of dissipation caught up with them and they dropped like a rock into the bottom category - with Millen making mistake after mistake, along with his coaches, that kept them there.
Right now, it appears to me that Marinelli once again has them into the 3rd group, and this year will tell whether 7-9 was a fluke, or whether they will solidly be in group 3, and building toward group 2. they may show that 7-9 was a peak, and that they have a lot of work to do still. I think they will be 7-9 again at worst, and possbily do better (based on the now, which could change a lot before the season.) That would put them in group 3 moving up towards 2 if they can keep building on the foundation that is being built before our eyes.
As for me and this building project of the Lions, with all of the promise I am seeing and potential to move into the top tier of the NFL, I'm going to treat it like a great big pot of slumgolli: Enjoy it while it lasts - and hope that Marinelli is writing down the recipe as he goes.