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Detroit Lions hope to imitate Carolina Panthers' rise

The Carolina Panthers will play Sunday for the right to represent the NFC in the Super Bowl.

Carolina owned the best record in the NFL this season at 15-1 and won their division for a third season in row.

But just three years ago things weren't as rosy in Charlotte.

In fact, Carolina was going through the exact situation Detroit found itself in this past season.

The Panthers hired Dave Gettleman as their general manager in January of 2013, aided by Lions consultant Ernie Accorsi, after Panthers owner Jerry Richardson fired GM Marty Hurney after a 1-5 start to the 2012 season.

The Panthers responded to the front-office shakeup by coming on strong at the end of that 2012 and finishing 7-9.

Richardson, at the time, intended to keep Ron Rivera as coach, and the way the team played down the stretch made him even more confident in that decision.

Are we seeing the similarities here?

Lions owner Martha Firestone Ford fired team president Tom Lewand and GM Martin Mayhew after a 1-7 start this past season. Just like the Panthers in 2012, the team responded by finishing the season strong and ended the year with a similar 7-9 mark as Carolina in 2012.

After the season, Mrs. Ford came out publically in support of Jim Caldwell, but left his future in the hands of new GM Bob Quinn, who Accorsi helped the Lions find.

After several meetings last week, Quinn decided to keep Caldwell as his head coach.

"After spending a significant amount of time together, it is clear that our football philosophies are very similar," Quinn said in a statement after deciding to keep Caldwell. "Consequently, I am convinced he is the right man to lead our football team moving forward."

"Jim's entire body of work is impressive. Not only did he lead the Lions to the playoffs his first season here, but when you look at how the players responded the second half of last season, under difficult circumstances, it's clear to me that this team believes in him and responds positively to his leadership.

"Our entire focus now is on the offseason and all that it entails."  

Gettleman made the same move in Carolina three years ago and he and Rivera have teamed up to win the last three NFC South titles.

There are a lot of similarities between the two ituations.

Both fired their GM after terrible starts to the season. Both came on strong afterward to finish 7-9. Both have franchise quarterbacks in place. Both hung onto their head coach to let them try to finish what they started. Both teams hired a GM with a ton of scouting experience in their background.

Whether or not the Lions will bounce back in similar fashion as Carolina did to win their division in 2013 is yet to be determined, but at least there's a similar model the Lions can look and see that it can be done.

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