Little Mistakes Lead to Big Questions About the Lions

One of the things about the NFL that fascinates me the most is the difference between winning and losing.  The NFC North has provided me with a great example of the latter: the Detroit Lions.  You ask yourself, “Why can’t this organization get over the hump and win championships?  Will this be the year they finally do it?”  Its true that they certainly do have the talent to compete.  But there’s more to winning than talent.

Yesterday I ran across this article by Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press.  In it he reported that the Lions were no longer trying to keep their pre-draft visits a secret:

“’The fact is, everybody in the league knows (whom we’re bringing in),’ coach Jim Schwartz said during the NFL meetings last week. ‘So if everybody in the league knows, it really doesn’t matter. And if it’s interesting for the fans, … then I’m all for it.’”

“How nice,” I thought. “But its really non-news since, as Schwartz states, word gets around and the trick is really just a matter of separating significant information from pre-draft smoke and mirrors.”

I was wrong.

Mike Florio at reports that when Schwartz says “everybody knows” he really means “everybody knows”:

“Multiple sources have advised PFT that the Lions, intending to send a list of their pre-draft visits to the league as required by rule, sent the list to every team.

“Let’s repeat that.  The Lions were trying to send an e-mail to the league office with a list of pre-draft visits.  And they instead sent the list to the entire league.”

Wait.  It gets better:

“One source said that the same thing happened when quarterback Matthew Stafford was placed on injured reserve during the 2010 season, sending the e-mail to the entire league instead of to the league office.

“In other words, this is the second time in less than four months that the Lions made the same mistake.”

Almost everyone who e-mails heavily has at some point copied people by accident.  It’s very easy to do and most often you wipe your brow and say, “Wow.  I’m glad it wasn’t anything important.”  But you know deep down that if it had really been important, it almost certainly wouldn’t have happened.  That’s because almost any careful person with any degree of common sense triple checks the addresses (and everything else) before sending anything truly sensitive.  Even considering that, mistakes happen.  But to have it happen twice in such a short period of time?

Its not that the Lions are going to be hurt badly by this.  As Schwartz stated to begin with, everyone really does pretty much know.  In the broad scope of life in the NFL, what they did is a little thing.  But it’s the little things that make the difference between winning and losing.

Many football people throughout the league, fans and otherwise, expect the Lions to compete in the NFC North in 2011.  That has included me.  But a full five months before the season (hopefully) starts it already may be time to re-evaluate.

The Lions have a bad habit of finding ways to lose.  It’s not just bad luck.  It’s characteristic.  It comes from incompetence throughout the entire organization extending from sloppy execution on the football field (Calvin Johnson dropping a ball instead of retaining it all the way through the catch) to sloppy execution in the front office (the inability to send a simple e-mail with sensitive information to the league office).  Since Schwartz took over as head coach and Martin Mayhew became the general manager, that incompetence has been deceiving because it hasn’t led to huge blunders.  But mistakes like these should still be an ominous sign for fans everywhere.

UPDATE:  Tom Kowalski at comes to the defense of the Lions by pointing out that not all of the pre-draft visits were revealed.  However, Kowalski is clear in that the Lions shouldn’t be completely free of the charge of incompetence in the matter.  Florio’s response is here.

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