His declaration drew considerable attention, because it was a bold assessment considering the 2008 Lions produced the NFL’s first ever 0-16 season.
While most Detroit area fans snickered (or flat out laughed) when they heard Smith’s bold retort, I liked it. To me he has the right attitude. One has to believe in what he is doing if his endeavor is going to be anywhere near positive and fruitful.
It you do not believe that you can pass an entrance test, maintain your marriage, swim across the pool or qualify for a particular job opportunity, more that likely it will not happen.
Smith is thinking like a winner.
I’ll never forget an interview with former NFL great Jim Brown when he unequivocally told me that he never, ever went into a contest thinking that his team had no chance to win.
I know that just because Smith said he believes this team has a good shot at being a winner makes it so. His belief alone will not manifest itself into reality. Maybe the Lions will finish under .500 yet again, but I’m down with Smith.
As the Lions begin training camp this Friday in Allen Park, Smith’s spirit is the kind the team needs if it is going to lift itself from the NFL basement.
When reporters read Smith’s statement, the majority chuckled and smirked.
One exclaimed, “What a knucklehead Smith is for even thinking that the sad sack Lions could even dream about being a playoff team in 2009.”
No matter, Smith hasn’t backed down from his prediction that the Lions will make the playoffs this fall.
“It’s a new attitude,” Smith said. “We got new players, we got Pro Bowlers, we got guys who won Super Bowls. All those things count, no matter what anybody else thinks. That’s the confidence that you’re supposed to have. I didn’t predict any wins; I didn’t say we’re going to win this amount of games. My whole point (is) we’re good enough to get to the playoffs, and if we get to the playoffs, anything can happen.”
Smith said he doesn’t understand why his online prediction made headlines last week all ever the country.
Myself, I understand why many scoffed and laughed at Smith’s prediction
that the Lions will be a playoff team. After all, the Lions allowed the second-most points in NFL history last year and had the worst offense in the NFC. They lost by an average of 15.6 points per game, and squandered early leads late in the season against Tampa Bay, Carolina and Minnesota.
“We should have won a bunch of games last year,” Smith said. “Tampa Bay, Carolina, and we weren’t that far from the Saints. We lost to the Vikings, 12-10. There were plenty of games we had a real chance to win.”
Smith’s positivity is rooted in the fact the Lions have added six new starters on defense, the team drafted quarterback Matthew Stafford and tight end Brandon Pettigrew in the first round, and former Pro Bowl quarterback
Daunte Culpepper, by all accounts, is in excellent shape (his restructured
knee is close to or at 100 percent).
“We’re at a really good position right now with a rejuvenated Culpepper,”
first-year Lions coach Jim Schwartz said following pre-training camp workouts. “Daunte has done an incredible job between the end of the season and now of making a commitment and being back. I think anybody that saw any of our mini-camp (practices) sees a lot of the old Daunte.”
Part of the scorn and doubt many expressed over Smith’s bold declaration
probably was rooted in the fact that former Lions quarterback Jon Kitna made headlines each of the last two years when he said he expected the Lions to win 10 games.
Well, we all know the Lions did not even come close to matching Kitna’s
As training camp commences, Smith acknowledged that the Lions have a long way to go to become a good team.
“Are we good enough right now?” he questioned. “No, but the way we’re working we’ll be good enough. But I don’t think anybody’s good enough at this point. But the way we’re working and the consistency that we have, we’re working for the playoffs.”
Individually, Smith said this is going to be a breakout year for himself.
“I’m working toward a Pro Bowl, working toward a championship,” he said. “We gave games away as soon as we went to practice. This year everybody wants to win. We have new players and new coaches and a new attitude.”
Certainly, Lions fans have heard it all before. So, the only way to change perceptions is to win.
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