Detroit Lions, Super Bowl champs? Keep those dreams under control, fans.

Detroit Free Press

It’s tempting to imagine the Lions could beat either Super Bowl team, but fans should resist the urge to dream of a title as early as next season because they don’t have a record of sustained success.

On Sunday, you’re going to plop yourself down on a couch. You’ll grab some chips and guac and your favorite beverage. Then, somewhere around your third serving of your favorite beverage, and about halfway through Super Bowl 57, you’ll have an epiphany:

The Detroit Lions would totally be winning this game!

That’s what you’ll tell yourself as you wonder whether anyone noticed you just reached for your fourth favorite beverage.

I’m here to tell you to pump the breaks and resist that urge — both for the fourth beverage and those dreams of a Lions Super Bowl.

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It’s not happening. It wouldn’t have happened this season, and it won’t happen next season.

That doesn’t mean the Lions won’t be better next season, and possibly much better. But if you think they’re going to go from starting 1-6 to a 9-8 record to winning Super Bowl 58, I’m politely asking you to put down that beverage, give your car keys to a friend and find some strong coffee — perhaps a Starbucks Venti with two shots of espresso.

Because, friend, you need equal doses of reality and caffeine to wake you from your delusion.

Yes, I know the Philadelphia Eagles went 9-8 last season and now they’re in the Super Bowl. But the Eagles didn’t come out of nowhere. They’ve been an elite team for a while, with a general manager in place for more than a decade, playoff appearances in five of the past six seasons, three of the past six NFC East titles and a winning record five of the past six seasons — and they’re only five years removed from a Super Bowl title.

The Eagles have institutional greatness baked into their team. The Kansas City Chiefs do, too. I’m sure you’ve heard of Patrick Mahomes by now.

And forget about the fool’s gold of copying the Eagles’ or Chiefs’ blueprint. Everyone wants to believe the NFL is a copycat league, and it is, but probably not the way you might think, because general managers and head coaches won’t be sitting around the TV on Sunday figuring out ways to emulate the Eagles or Chiefs.

NFL teams instead simply follow trends, like any industry. Mobile quarterbacks, the two-tight end set, the zone blitz. This is what NFL teams copy: concepts, not organizational blueprints or flow charts. I mean, who would be silly enough to try to copy the New England Patriots’ dynasty by hiring a couple of their assistants?

What I’m saying is there are no short cuts. One promising season doesn’t mean we should expect a streak of greatness from the Lions to begin next season and continue unabated for a decade.

After all, you’ve got to walk before you can run. And honestly, the Lions were lucky they didn’t trip over themselves and lose all their front teeth this season.

I hope the organization is self-aware enough to understand how narrowly it avoided disaster. Dan Campbell had fun admitting he heard the talk from fans and media about his possible firing during the 1-6 start. Yes, the Lions went 8-2 after that, but that only underscores how quickly things can change in the NFL — for good or bad.

I don’t have to remind hardcore Lions fans of this. They surely remember those heady days of 2011, when the Lions went 10-6 under a promising first-time coach and a promising first-time GM, made the playoffs and were beating the New Orleans Saints at halftime in the Superdome.

Calvin Johnson, Ndamukong Suh, Matthew Stafford. Oh, all that promise. The Lions had ended their lengthy playoff drought. They had some great, young players. They were on their way. When was the parade on Woodward going to start?

The next season: 4-12.

I’m not saying this Lions team will deliver a repeat of that team. But they need to be aware that it happened before and it could happen again.

Yet it’s going to be hard to listen to the echoes of the past with the hype machine churning hard and loud all year, thanks to media and fans who will remind the Lions at every juncture how much is expected from them. They’ll be the darlings of the national media, who will finally decide to visit Allen Park after a years-long absence, hoping to mine a new narrative for the upcoming season.

All that attention and all those expectations will be enough of a challenge for the Lions next season. But that’s what championship teams, even in their nascent forms, must contend with to actually become contenders.

I know it will be tempting Sunday, between the guac and the commercials and swigs of your favorite beverage, to imagine the Lions are a lot closer to The Big Game than they really are. It’s impossible to say when or if they’ll ever get there, but, if nothing else, this team and its leadership has given everyone hope that it might happen one day.

So raise a glass on Sunday to your Lions, because around here we should learn to celebrate the small victories before we can celebrate the big ones. And try not to burn your lips on that coffee for the morning after.

Contact Carlos Monarrez: Follow him on Twitter @cmonarrez.

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