Originally posted on 60 Max Power O  |  Last updated 6/1/12

The most recent arrest of Detroit Lions defensive tackle Nick Fairley emphasizes how two very talented NFL franchises have moved in opposite directions since their regular season meeting in 2011. One, the San Francisco 49ers, moving in a positive direction; beefing up their offense and keeping their defense in tact, with hopes of fighting for a championship. And two, the Detroit Lions, seemingly taking a step backwards in their progress; stringing arrest after arrest and fine after fine together, fighting against the NFL rules with the hopes that their players are allowed to take the field.

The change in direction came when the two played each other in week six of the 2011 regular season. It was a hard nosed affair that culminated with a 49ers victory and the infamous post game celebratory back slap deliver by 49ers Head Coach Jim Harbaugh to Lions Head Coach Jim Schwartz. It is apparent now, as Schwartz took great offense to the slap and lost his composure, running down Harbaugh with the intentions of engaging in a physical confrontation, that that is where the fork in the road was met.

Prior to that game, the Lions were poised for a deep playoff run, carrying a perfect 5-0 record. Including the loss to the 49ers, the Lions began to reel afterward, posting a meager 5-6 record. Including three losses on their home turf. The 49ers on the other hand went into the Lions game with a 4-1 record. Only to improve on that, going 9-2 the rest of the way to the playoffs and an NFC championship game.

After the 49ers game, the Lions started to show signs of immaturity and lack of positive leadership. Most notably was the Ndamkong Suh stomping incident, for which he was ejected and suspended two games. To make matters worse, Suh attempted to patronize the entire viewing world when he claimed he was wrongly penalized and that he did not and would never do such a thing. Apparently Suh forgot that the game was a nationally televised game…on Thanksgiving Day. Only the second most watched game after the Super Bowl each and every year.

Next incident on the fall from grace was the NFC playoff game against the New Orleans Saints. In that game the Lions accumulated 11 penalties for 107 yards. Two of the penalties were given for conduct after the whistle had blown. One for shoving an official and the other for taunting by throwing the football in the face of an opposing player. Those are quite possibly the easiest penalties to avoid if proper leadership was in place. Certainly a Jim Harbaugh or a Patrick Willis would not stand for that type of on field behavior.

And that was only the later part of 2011, this year it seems the reigns on the team are even looser. The aforementioned Fairley has been arrested twice in the past two months. The first one, on April third was for marijuana possession. And his most recent, just days ago, was for reckless driving. Fairley was alleged to be going over 100 miles per hour and attempting to elude the police in pursuit. He is also have alleged to have no proof of insurance, an open alcohol container, and refused a Breathalyzer.

It only continues from there. Wide receiver Titus Young has apparently already gotten into an altercation with a teammate in the voluntary organized team activities. He is alleged to have sucker punched someone during a time of the year when there is not even any physical play allowed. Coach Schwartz evaded the incident when asked by reporters, quoting:

"This is the voluntary part of our offseason program. There is no need to comment. It sort of entails that it is not voluntary. I’m not going to comment on any other thing, other than Stephen Tulloch (who will miss the next few weeks with an injury) because Tulloch will be down for a significant period of time."

Very strange comment considering a fight is a fight, regardless of whether it occurs during voluntary workouts or mandatory workouts. Especially on a team that is drenched in chaos and reeling from bad publicity.

Not to be outdone, running back Mikel Leshoure and defensive Johnny Culbreath were each arrested for marijuana possession this year. Actually, to be fair, Leshoure was arrested twice this year for marijuana possession.

Schwartz also panned over the media questions regarding the unbecoming character and behavior displayed by so many of his players, stating:

"We’re not playing any games right now. I think that a lot of times when people focus on some things about a team you can miss other things that a team does and we’ll just keep working harder to do better next time."

Again, does it matter if there are actual games being played? Of course the media will focus on the negative more than they will the positive progress of a team. Though, that is only when the negative so heavily out weighs the positive. For Schwartz to imply that all the criminal activity within the team can be overlooked due to the fact that they are not actually playing football, and only working out, is bordering on condoning.

In his defense, what else could he say? All teams and coaches go through this sort of thing. And a lot of players make the mistakes that the Lions players have made. Maybe not as many players on one team, for the exception of the Cincinnati Bengals a few years back. What rights the ship is an organization like the San Francisco 49ers, that demands to be respected by its players and carries itself to a higher standard. And coaches like Jim Harbaugh that are firm in their leadership and concerned with the image that his players portray as part of the 49ers family.

After the week six game in 2011 there were two roads diverged in a wood; one leads to success, the other to turmoil. The 49ers traveled down the path toward glory while the Lions ended up taking the latter. With any luck the Lions can turn the ship around and readjust their course. They are by far talented enough to pull it off; they just have to commit.

Be sure to check out other great articles at Sports Media 101.

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