Mike Tirico Explains Why Lions’ Season Was Already ‘Absolute Success’

Mike Tirico

Getty NBC Sports' Mike Tirico speaks at a 2021 event in Miami.

The Detroit Lions could be playing for a postseason birth on Sunday night, or they could be playing to prevent the Green Bay Packers from going themselves.

That situation is a good one, especially for a team in the second year of a major rebuild. It’s a fact that NBC Sports analyst Mike Tirico can’t ignore as he gets set to call the clash between the teams in Week 18.

Tirico lives in Metro Detroit, so as a result, he has had a front row seat to the Lions and their misfortunes through the years. The way the team has played this season has him believing a corner has been turned, however.

Joining the Twentyman in the Huddle podcast from Tim Twentyman of DetroitLions.com, Tirico took time to discuss the season, and as he said, he sees plenty of positives regarding how things have gone this year.

“All the way around, the pieces have been very successfully laid and are paying off. It took patience. When you look at the schedule, not a lot of bad teams played. Chicago’s the worst team record-wise, but we know how good the division games are and how good the Bears are with (Justin) Fields. They haven’t played a lot of tomato cans on the schedule and they have played most of their games pretty closely,” Tirico pointed out. “The three games that this team didn’t play well: New England, Dallas and Carolina which is going to hurt I think as we go through and you look back and reflect on this season. Every other game they were not only in, but had a real chance to win especially against Philadelphia and Buffalo, some of the best teams in the league. So this season, no matter what happens on Sunday, an absolute success. A tremendous springboard to 2023.”

As Tirico would say, Detroit is a football town and has energy for the game. He believes the team has the right leadership in place from the top down in order to create a lasting change organizationally and bottle that energy in the bet way.

“I think Dan (Campbell) and Brad (Holmes) have put that back in place. I think Sheila (Ford) has done a great job of going back to organize and figure out how we’re going to build this thing, how we’re going to get this thing going in the right direction under her leadership. I have talked to her off the record before any of these changes came in, before people were hired and this was the planning and the vision of building something to fit the city fit the organization and it’s done the right way with Dan and Brad,” Tirico said.

For all those reasons, Tirico seems to think the Lions are in very good shape moving forward, and that is regardless of how the season finishes this weekend.

Tirico Reveals Keys to Lions vs. Packers

As for this week’s game, Tirico is going to be in the booth with NBC Sports calling the action. As he said, there are many fascinating plots and subplots that could help provide a road map to who might win.

Specifically, Tirico told Twentyman he is looking to the secondary and both defensive lines to find some clues as to how the matchup might evolve when it gets underway.

(Aaron) Rogers (is) hot, receivers going. Can the Lions’ secondary have the game of the year or can the pressure up front help the Lions secondary? A bit short-handed on the defensive front for Green Bay. Can the Lions run the ball, establish a run? Throw off the run?,” Tirico said.

By the time the game kicks off, Detroit could be eliminated from playoff contention if Seattle beats Los Angeles. Tirico doesn’t seem to be worried about the Lions laying down, though, because of the identity that their head coach and team has forged.

“If you think for one half of one second that a Dan Campbell team is not going to play to win, I don’t know where you’ve been the last two years,” Tirico joked. “For this franchise, for this organization, for this fanbase, beating the Packers in Green Bay at Lambeau (Field) on Sunday Night Football and keeping them out of the playoffs might be as satisfying as getting to the playoffs and losing a first round game. It sounds really stupid, but if you live here, you know that. To do that would mean the world for these guys and would validate everything that’s happened this year.”

As Tirico concluded, the game is going to be a difficult one for the Lions, but that only serves to make it intriguing.

“It’s going to be hard. The Packers are a really good team. When Rogers gets on a run, he usually breaks the tape and wins that race, so it’s a fascinating matchup,” he said.

Tirico Loves Way Lions’ 2022 Season Played Out

No matter who wins the game, as Tirico said, he believes Detroit’s season has been a success already given how things started out a few months back.

For more proof of that, Tirico recalled the timeline of the 2022 season in Detroit. As he said, relative to how things were going when the team was losing at 1-6, the way the Lions have responded has been admirable if not unbelievable.

“Let’s just pull back to the beginning of the year pre-Hard Knocks. Vegas says 6.5 (wins) I think was the total projected for this team. Sitting at eight with a game to go. (When) the team’s 1-6 (it’s), ‘fire the coach, change the GM, bring in a new guy, what’s your draft pick, which quarterback (do you like?) Let’s watch Ohio State. Do you like C.J. Stroud? What about Bryce Young?,'” Tirico said. “It was all there. Now, here you are in week 18 discussing ‘do you think the Rams are gonna play hard. Do you think (Jared) Goff’s old team can play (well), where are the old Detroit Rams t-shirts? Can you bring them out for the early afternoon and try to bring the luck? Can (Matthew) Stafford come back for one game to help his old team after we showed him all the love?'”

The ebbs and flows of such a season only serve to prove to Tirico that patience is key amid a rebuild, and things can always change for the better. That’s where he sees the Lions sitting going into the season finale.

“It’s just a reminder of the patience needed when you’re building something, and that this is going in the right direction no matter what happens Sunday. This is going in the right direction. That’s encouraging I think for the franchise, the organization and the fans,” he said.

It’s a good and strange position to be in as a Lions fan at the conclusion of another year on the gridiron.

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