On October 30, the Detroit Lions were 1-6 following a loss to the Miami Dolphins. Fans and coaches agreed that things weren’t working, and that it was time to make a change. The very next day, the Lions made the decision to part ways with defensive backs coach Aubrey Pleasant. After that day, the team has not looked back.
Since the firing, the Lions have played their best football in years. They are 4-1 over this period with their only loss coming in the final moments to the Buffalo Bills. Their defense, which was on pace to allow the most points in NFL history, has dramatically improved. Prior to Pleasant’s departure, the Lions were allowing 32.1 points per game, but over the last five games that number has improved to 19.8.
With a drastically improved defense and an offense that refuses to cool down, the Lions have found a recipe for success. Just this Sunday they defeated the Jacksonville Jaguars, a team with an identical record prior to the game, by over three scores.
Something is certainly cooking in Detroit, but it makes fans wonder, how did firing Pleasant have such a drastic effect on this team in such a short amount of time? A defensive backs coach should not have this much influence on the game right? The truth is that Pleasant was not the only thing preventing the Lions from winning.
The likely reason for this midseason turnaround was a shift in mentality. The Lions have been showing up every week like they are playing for their jobs, their coaches, and a spot in the NFL playoffs. The staff needed to make a drastic change in order to demonstrate that the previous level of play would not be tolerated, and that it would cost people their livelihood. Does that mean Aubrey Pleasant was a scapegoat? In some ways yes and some ways no. The results have been undeniable, but it is hard to believe they have improved so much by simply firing a coach below the level of coordinator. At the end of the day the Lions have looked phenomenal since the firing, just as they drastically improved following Anthony Lynn’s firing just last year. Dan Campbell clearly has a method to his madness.