As fans and columnists spray blame across all parties, the actual event of Ndamukong Suh leaving Detroit lays on the bench.
The Suh era is over in Detroit.
It was filled with controversy and ended with a kidney-punch loss. Detroit never won anything while he was there, but Suh’s stay coincided with a 38-42 record and two playoff appearances. That’s the best five-year stretch for the franchise since 1994-1998.
Suh was the turning point. Calvin Johnson and Matt Stafford had arrived, but it was Suh who forged the Lions’ identity. Suh turned the Lions into villains. Suh got the Lions to buy into “Detroit vs. Everybody” before there was ever a song about it.
At his best he kicked extra points during the preseason and won Defensive Rookie on the Year on a bad team. At his best he was a combination of strength and speed that didn’t make sense. At his best you saw a man who worked relentlessly to win.
At his worst he was the guy with shady automobile accidents. At his worst he played dirty, leaving fans to either come up with stupid defenses for his actions or acknowledge that, yeah, he got out of hand every once in a while. They were willing to accept the stomps and the weeks of criticism from the TV blowhards for those moments when Suh got to the backfield and threw out his big right arm around a running back before the offensive lineman could get out of his stance.
Stafford is too inconsistent. Johnson needs help from someone else to take over the game. Suh was the leader. Through different coaches and different levels of success, Suh forced his personality on that team.
Why would he want to leave the team he helped build?
The most insight you’ll get into why he made the decision he made won’t come from whatever was written in the past day or two. It’ll come from this ESPN piece from September.