Cris Collinsworth says something is brewing with young Lions

Posted Dec 2, 2011

As a former wide receiver for eight seasons with the Cincinnati Bengals and now an Emmy-winning NFL broadcaster for NBC, Cris Collinsworth knows the makings of a good football team when he sees one.

When he looks at this 2011 Lions team, he can’t help but be reminded of the Cowboys teams of the late 80’s and early 90’s, right before they became one of the elite teams in the NFL.

“Is this the beginning of something like in Dallas when they went 1-15 and then 8-8 and then went on their run? It’s kind of where I see this team right now," Collinsworth told while visiting the practice facility in Allen Park on Thursday. "I think with their core group of young guys this is going to be a team that’s going to have to be dealt with for awhile.

“I don’t know how far they’ll go this year. Are they going to make the playoffs? I think they certainly have a pretty good chance to make a run."

The Cowboys from 1991-96 rolled off seasons of 11-5, 13-3, 12-4, 12-4, 12-4 and 10-6 after going 3-13, 1-15 and 7-9 the three seasons prior. There were three Super Bowl titles mixed in there, too.

“You look at the teams that have beaten the Detroit Lions and it’s part of the blue chips of the National Football League,” he said. “They aren’t losing to a bunch of slouches. I think that they are sort of at the level where you would hope they’d be.

“So many times with young football teams you get that up and down sort of roller coaster thing, and I don’t really see that with this bunch. That’s the mark of a team that can: A) Crank it up defensively on occasion and get after the quarterback.

B) When this 23-year-old quarterback, we keep forgetting he’s that young, all of the sudden turns 26 and 27 and he’s Aaron Rodgers, and some of these other guys are growing up with him, it’s a pretty good looking bunch. “

As a former receiver, Collinsworth said he’s most looking forward to watching Lions receiver Calvin Johnson on Sunday, who he says is the best receiver playing right now along with the Texans’ Andre Johnson.

“Yeah, he reminds me a lot of me,” Collinsworth said with a laugh. “No, he doesn’t. He’s a real athlete.

“I remember we saw a thing on our Showtime show where Gunther Cunningham was talking to him on the sideline and basically saying ‘I’ve been around the game my whole life and I’ve never seen anyone like you.’

“That’s kind of what you see. He’s a guy that’s definitely going to get a lot of attention on Sunday Night’s broadcast because I know I probably won’t be able to take my eyes off him.”

This will be the first time the Lions are playing on NBC Sunday Night Football and Collinsworth said he excited their back on primetime.

“It’s been a long time since I covered one of their games, to see a team get off the deck, if you will (is nice),” he said. “I live in Cincinnati so I know a little something about getting off the deck.

“This is an exciting young team. They have a lot of players and I’m a little sorry I may not get to see them all. Ndamukong (Suh), I was really looking forward to watching him. Louis Delmas, I was really looking forward to watching him.  Chris Houston. There are so many. Jahvid Best is another one I would have loved to watch. But the core has really been built here and I don’t think anyone questions that Matthew Stafford is going to be the guy or Calvin Johnson is a star or Brandon Pettigrew is going to be a pretty good player for a long time in this league.”