Now is the time where all levels of the organization – players, coaches, front office and ownership – must roll up their sleeves. The team is faced with a heaping mound of rubble to rummage through as they attempt to put the pieces back together for 2013.
The first task at hand is identifying which pieces to salvage and which to discard, beginning with the coaching staff.
Team ownership should not jump to conclusions or make rash decisions when deciding the future of a coaching staff that brought the Lions back to relevancy prior to 2012's disaster nor should they give them a free pass. A full audit should be performed and an informed decision should be made.
Of course, if head coach Jim Schwartz does return, a decision will need to be made regarding his coordinators and position coaches.
"I think I'll just say that we're determined to correct some of our mistakes and to get back to where we all want to go," said Schwartz. "I'm talking about team, coaches, city everybody wants this team to be successful and we'll do everything we can to do that."
Soon after deciding on the coaching situation the team will have personnel choices to make.
"I think we have 18 guys whose contracts are up," said Schwartz. "It's going to be a challenge, but it's no different than last year. Last year was a challenge also. We had to let a couple guys go. We weren't able to get any free agents. We know what's ahead of us. We know that we're going to have to work very hard. We can do it."
After the coaches and players are re-evaluated the schemes need to go under the microscope.
"When we have a better grasp on (what the roster looks like) we'll be able to formulate a plan from a scheme-wise, coaching-wise," said Schwartz. "There's a general philosophy but we tweak from week-to-week and we tweak from season-to-season in trying to match our player's ability with the schemes that we run. That determines a lot of work in the off season."
Solidifying the coaching staff, forging a roster and adjusting schematically won't be enough. The players also need to grow from this experience.
"No doubt the team will look a little bit different next year, just like it does every year for every NFL team," said quarterback Matthew Stafford. "We'll learn from this year and the guys that are back next year, we'll be better for it."
Stafford had his blunders but also flashed brilliance at times. The 24-year-old signal caller will need to rally his teammates and push them to grind throughout the offseason in order to improve.
"It's going to be trying to get back to work with guys as soon as they're healthy," said Stafford. "We have some guys that are still rehabbing and when they're back out on the field it will be good to work with those guys."
That, the collective and individual offseason sweat, may be the single biggest factor on if 2013 more closely resembles this year's 4-12 finish or 2011's playoff berth.
"(We have to) focus and continue to work hard and know that every year is not guaranteed so therefore you have to prepare yourself like the year you got drafted and the year that took you to 10-6 and the playoffs," said safety Louis Delmas. "You have to have that mentality each and every year so when you enter a season you'll be able to hit it hard and have a successful season."
The good news is, with hard work, the Lions should be able to rebound.
"I think we can get it back," said Schwartz. "We have key players in place, including the quarterback and franchise wide receiver."
There is reason for optimism in 2013.
"Whatever they decide, I'm sure you obviously look at the big three, (wide receiver) Calvin (Johnson), (defensive tackle Ndamukong) Suh and (quarterback) Matt (Stafford) and build around that," said defensive end Lawrence Jackson. "With those guys, I feel like you always got a chance."
It may take some elbow grease but the Lions have the pieces to quickly remove the stink of the 2012 season.