Wednesday, October 17, 2007

The absolute LAST word any Detroit Lions fan wants to hear is "Patience"

You can say many things about the Lions fanbase. You can call them hopeful, deluded, pissed, unhappy, tired, enraged, and only a few. But the the one word you can't use to describe a Detroit Lions fan is "Patient," or any derivative thereof.

As for myself, I tend to get more than a touch cranky when I see the words "Lions" and "Patience" in the same sentence, paragraph, article, web site, fish wrap, you name it.

Patience? I lost mine during the Wayne Fontes years. Older fans may have lost their patience in the 60's, when the Lions could never beat the Packers, relegating them to 2nd place in seeming perpetuity, and always out of the playoffs. I'm sure many others lost it during the dark days of the 70's and 80's, when the Lions seem to perennially hover around .500, rarely awful, but never better than mediocre. The younger Lions fans have finally come to their wit's end during the Matt Millen era.

The one thing several generations of Lions fans have in common is their understandable lack of patience.

Yet, what do I see as the headline for today's Killer Kowalski column on Mlive?

"Players, fans must have patience"

You have got to be shitting me!

The Lions still have a long way to go before they can become an elite team and the dilemma here is that nobody has any patience to let it develop the way that it should. The fans and media definitely don't have any patience and that's to be expected -- and largely ignored.

Nope, the Killer is serious...

You know, patience is all well and good, but that's the last thing Lions fans want, or need, to hear. Especially in the NFL, where bad teams can turn around their fortunes in one season, the latest example being the 2006 New Orleans Saints.

In the NFL, you are one good draft, and a few solid free agent signings , from being a legitimate playoff contender. Especially in the Pop Warner conference, otherwise known as the NFC. Good Lord, a totally one-dimensional team with a horrific quarterback won the NFC last season, in the Chicago Bears.

The NFL, with it's non-guaranteed contracts, weighted schedule, profit sharing and salary cap, is designed to be a level playing field, where any competently run team can be a playoff contender. And there's the rub, as the Lions have never been competently run. Not in over 50 years, anyway. So don't tell me I need to be patient, as nothing ever changes.

The Killer tells us that things are now different, with the Sarge, Rod Marinelli, running the team.

It's not just about scheme -- you've got to draft well and make good free agent decisions -- but your scheme is your identity, the bedrock of everything you build from.

That's what Marinelli's trying to build in Detroit. He has good schemes with excellent teachers on both sides of the ball, but they're not even a year-and-a-half into this thing and impatience is already threatening to chip away at the progress they've already achieved.

Good schemes? OK, let's look at the offense. They can't run the ball. They can't protect the QB. They can't get the ball to the supposed "Can't miss" rookie receiver, Calvin Johnson. Save for the 4th quarter against the Bears, the offense has been MIA for 3 games.

As for the defensive scheme? The opposition pretty much does whatever they want against Mainelli's "Vaunted" Tampa Two defense. Even the awful Bears and Vikings were able to move the ball. In the games the Lions somehow won, it was more in thanks to the offense, than the "Vaunted" Tampa Two defense.

Don't tell me they have a good scheme. Screw "Scheme." You need players to run any scheme. And what I've seen of the personnel that Marinelli has brought in (It's pretty obvious that Marinelli and Mike Martz are calling the personnel shots, with some input from Millen), he's sorely lacking in finding the most important part of his scheme, the players to run it.

For example, the 2nd round of the draft is where you expect to make hay, and pick players who should be no-doubt about it starters. The results of this years 2nd round is the Lions in a nutshell.

Drew Stanton - Out for the season due to a knee injury, won't make any sort of impact for 2-3 seasons, at best.

Ikaika Alama-Francis - Made the 53 man, but only activated for 2 games. His stat line for the season is 1 tackle, and then nothing but lots of zeros.

Gerald Alexander - Wow, someone who's playing regularly. Has 20 tackles, 5 assists, and 1 pick, in 5 games at safety.

The Lions went 1-3 in the 2nd round. Let's continue...

4th round:

AJ Davis - Cut.

Manny Rameriez - Made the 53 man roster, but yet to be activated for a game.

5th round:

Johnny Baldwin - Cut.

7th round:

Ramzee Robinson - Cut, then re-signed to the practice squad, has not been activated for a game.

In the 2007 draft, with 8 picks total, only 2 picks are getting playing time, Johnson and Alexander. (I'm not going to delve into the unfathomable reasoning as to why the 2nd overall pick is 2nd string) In the 2nd through 7th rounds, where you find your diamonds in the rough, develop depth, add special teams role players, and hopefully 2 or 3 starters, the Lions went 1 for 7. There's no denying it, that's horrible drafting.

Yet I'm supposed to have faith, and have patience? With that sort of track record? Please.

The Killer goes on to say...

Nobody wants to hear it. The players themselves have grown weary of hearing the constant negativity (some of it coming from these pages). The players hear an endless loop of talk radio that declares they're doomed to failure.

Considering the history of this franchise, that might be the safest bet.

Doomed to failure? Hey! Something the Killer and myself agree on!

Good coaches have been chewed up and spit out by this town before and the "We want a winner right now" crowd is getting hungry again.

I take issue here as well. Good coaches? I can think of only 3 in my lifetime of Lions fandom.

Joe Schmidt, who rather than continue to be browbeaten and under cut by the incompetent Russ Thomas, quit in frustration.

Don McCafferty, who won a Super Bowl with the Colts, but had a heart attack after one season in Detroit, passing away. You have to wonder if the stress of working for such a dysfunctional organization had something to do with it...

There was Bobby Ross, a respected coach who won a national title at Georgia Tech, and took the Bolts to the Super Bowl. The Lions job literally drove him insane, spewing sound bite after sound bite ("Abandon ship-whoomp-whoomp-whoomp," "I'm a good coach, I don't coach that stuff") losing whatever coaching skills he had while with the Lions, finally quitting in utter disgust.

Other than that, the Lions have not exactly had a murderer's row of coaches. They've had clowns, snake oil salesmen, buffoons, morons, drunks, a guy who just happened to be there, the totally unknown, a former player, and with a great pedigree. But I doubt you would call any of them good coaches.

The jury is still out on Marinelli, but the results to this point have not been encouraging, even with his current 3-2 record.

I know I've gone totally off track with this post (Which has turned into a rant), but when writing about the Detroit Lions, and the frustration of having to be patient, you tend to go right off the rails in discussing all their issues.

I'll just end with this. Search detroit+lions+patience, and you'll get 152,000 hits. Almost every one of those hits bitching about the lack of same...


  1. Let me say this about Bobby F. Ross--and the "F" stands for the same thing as it does in Bucky F. Dent--I think he stunk also. Anyone who would run off the best player in franchise history--even better than Doak Walker and Bobby Layne--is a total butt-head. While Barry may have gotten tired of losing, Ross wasn't much of a help. He was just another tired ass retread that the Lions specialized in hiring as coaches. Like all coaches he was so full of chocolate and the sound bites you attribute to the insanity of being the Lions' coach are typical of the overaged retread coach. They're never going to be worth a damn, but at least I remember Doak Walker.

    Now, you'll have to excuse me. I'm going to watch the Denver Broncos implode because Mike Shanahan believes his press clippings. If Millen believed what people write about him he would quit and go back to riding his Harley without a helmet--maybe that's what caused him to turn stupid, a secret closed head injury. There's my rant. Screw the Lions and all who sail in them.

  2. I wonder who "Kowality" Tom Kowalski's is talking about when he refers to a "win now crowd" among Lions fans. I live in Washington, DC and fans here talk about the Super Bowl. How long has it been since Lions fans talked seriously about even making the playoffs?

    Lions fans have no expectations. The Lions fans I know would be satisfied with 8-8. I know I sure would be. Are we part of the "win now crowd"? If so, is that really unreasonable?

    I'll agree that there is a lot of negativity among Lions fans. And I suppose I could see how that could be detrimental to the team, although its not like pressure and negativity exist only in Detroit and we are talking about professional athletes. But to suggest that the negativity is the product of some sort of "win now" mentality among Lions fans is silly.

  3. I say we give Marinelli 2 more years. I've said all along that I sense an actual plan here now. They drafted Calvin because the offensive system needs stud receivers. Also, it takes at least one year for a player to understand Martz's brand of insanity. So the coaches draft offense, knowing that it'll provide some short-term gains. And if they win even 1 more game this year, and play hard in the remainder, then progress has been made.

    Then next year, you draft O-Line and defense. Also see what you can get in free agency. Get a stud cornerback (or two) and a decent left tackle, and then you could well be a surprise team in '08.

    I understand the lack of patience- believe me! But for the first time in years, I see something here that appears to be an actual "Plan".

    I wonder what the actual conversations were when Marinelli was hired. I recall reading about the Bolts, back in the dismal years of the early 70s, once again hiring another coach. And the owner (Gene Klein) wrote later that the guy he hired (Sorry, I don't recall the name) told him in his interview that the Team was several years away from competing, because they had traded draft picks for has-been players, had no solid scouting program, and thus had no young talent. Essentially, they were gonna have to get a bunch of young kids, and play them until they got it together.

    So they did. And the results were Fouts, Kellen Senior, and the success of the Air Coryell years.

    I'll give Killer a pass on this one. If he still preaches "patience" after the '09 Draft, then I say we lynch him.