Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Above the Fold - Examining the Detroit Lions' remains

Now that the Lions are dead and buried, officially playing out the string, it's time to pile on the Honolulu blue and silver. The Lions blogosphere, whom can pile on better than anyone, examines a Lions team that looked like a shoo-in for a playoff spot, but are now on the outside, looking in.

When it some to the Lions, there are many questions in search of an answer. Just what in the Hell happened to the Lions? Why the fold job? Was it Millen's fault? Marinelli's? Are they that low on talent? Who's coming back for 2008? Who's getting the proverbial bus ticket out of town? Why ate we still fans? Why do we still care?

The Detroit Lions are an enigma that no one can figure out. But let's try anyway...

At the Fanhouse, they shoot holes in Rod Marinelli's claim that the Lions DO have talent, but aren't being coached properly. I remember the Lions' spin when Marinelli was hired, that you didn't need to have the best talent around, as long as they were "Coached up" by Marinelli. Turns out, talent is actually a prerequisite needed to succeed in the NFL. Who knew?

But talent is sort of a catch-all term. You can be the most physically-gifted specimen in the NFL, but if you're consistently screwing up and wasting that physical talent, you are not talented.

So, by proxy, the fact that, as Marinelli puts it, "We've gone through it, we've gone through it, we've gone through it. And as teacher if a guy is not getting it, then you've got to keep doing and keep believing and keep pushing ... " is not a negative reflection on the coach. When the best football players in the world (supposedly) can't grasp things despite repetitive lessons, then no, sorry Rod, your players lack talent.

The Sarge can "Coach up" the following stiffs till the cows come home, but that won't make them any better as football players.

Exhibit 1. Kalimba Edwards: Great athlete, but blows as a football player.
Exhibit 2. George Foster: Talented enough to be a 1st round pick. Bad enough of a football player to be deactivated every Sunday.
Exhibit 3. Boss Bailey: Has great genes, along with all the tools you'd ever want to see in a linebacker. But he can't tackle worth a shit, which makes those tools absolutely useless.

It's hard to believe the Lions were once 6-2. It feels like it's been eons, rather than a month and a half, since the Lions won. Fire Millen remembers the good old days...Of 6 weeks ago.

Remember when we were 6-2 and in the drivers seat for the playoffs. If we could have manned up and won in Minneapolis, we could still be there. But we fell apart like a cheap suit.

Our playoff chances exited just a week after Jon Kitna’s 10 win season prediction left us as well. Six weeks ago, ESPN was loving Jon Kitna and the Lions and now we are back to being the laughing stock of the league. Even on PTI last night, they had us labeled as the same old Lions. I feel beaten up and battered after this rollercoaster season. I guess I will have to fire up quite a few Miller Lites to make it through the last two games.

I whole heartedly agree, save for their choice of beer. My personal beer of choice would be Anchor Steam, my second choice being a Canadian brew with a high alcohol content. If it's going to take copious amounts of Swiller Lite to get you to the end of the season, more power to you. But any alcohol filled port in a storm, so to speak.

If the Lions finish the season 7-9 or 8-8, Pride of Detroit says that we should not be conned into thinking the Lions have made any progress during the Marinelli era. Closing out the season with a win or two is not going to salvage the 2007 season. It'll be more comparable to polishing a turd. No matter how much you polish, it's still a piece of shit.

Should Detroit end up at 7-9 or 8-8, then looking at the record alone, many would say this was a successful season, as sad as that may sound. Problem is, there is more to a record than wins and losses.

It's one thing to lose one week and win the next, but to start the year 6-2 and realistically have a shot at finishing 6-10 is simply inexcusable. I'm getting sick of watching this team go out there one week and play well enough to win only to follow it up a week later with a complete joke of a game. As harsh as this may sound, Rod Marinelli's job should be in question if the Lions don't win at least one of their final two games.

Not that it's going to happen, as William Clay Ford can't even bring himself to fire the most inept GM in sports history, let alone a coach with a 9- 21 record, but I'm with Sean in regard to Marinelli. His team has collapsed like a house of cards. Imploded like an out of date Las Vegas casino. What was once a promising season has become an epic failure, one of the worst in Lion history.

Are young players like Ikaika Alama-Francis or Manny Rameriz any good? Will they be part of the solution, or just more of what ails the Lions? We have no idea, as they have barely played. That needs to change. The Detroit Lions Weblog says it's time to wave the white flag on the 2007 season, and spend the last 2 games evaluating players who could be part of the future.

Unfortunately, they now appear to be running on fumes. Had they won again improbably last week against the Cowboys, maybe things could have been different for this team. At any rate, after six consecutive losses, I want to see more of players like Gerald Alexander, Calvin Johnson, Ernie Sims, Ikaika Alama-Francis, Manny Ramirez, Brandon Middleton, et al and less of the team’s veteran players. Would it hurt Millen to grab a few guys off of other team’s practice squads? There is going to be more roster turnover this off season, why not get a head start?

Essentially, for the love of God, the Lions need to wave the white flag and look forward, so that they can avoid another horrific season, amid a string of so many of them.

It's beyond obvious that the Lions need to rebuild, especially on defense. So why bother playing stiffs who will not be Lions in 2008? Marinelli should spend the rest of the season evaluating what little young talent they may have, rather than trying to win games that have become totally irrelevant after last night's Vikings victory. Determining who is worth bringing back in '08, along with getting as high a draft pick as possible, is vastly more important than winning two meaningless games.

Which one doesn't belong? Dombrowski, Dumars, Devellano, Millen. Of course, it's Millen, and not because his name doesn't begin with a D. Eno says the Lions, unlike the other 3 Detroit professional franchises, don't have "The One," a visionary who can change the culture of a losing organization. He also has a suggestion as to who should be "The One" for the Lions...

The Lions need to find The One. Somewhere out there in the NFL, such a person exists. I believe that. Is he a former player? Unlikely, especially if we're talking recent former player. It's asking a lot to expect a recently-retired player to become a successful NFL GM. Dumars did it, but the NBA is different than the NFL. Far fewer players, for one.

Is he a former GM? Well, maybe, but hopefully not one who's been out of the league too long.

Most likely, The One is employed by another NFL team currently, possibly as an assistant GM or in a similar position in the personnel department. What I would do is look at perennially successful teams like the Patriots, Seahawks, Colts, and maybe even the Cowboys and raid their front office for their bright, young executives.

I don't know as many front office types in the NFL as I do in other sports, so I don't have a lot of actual names to throw around here. So in lieu of that, I mention traits and backgrounds.

But if you want a name, here's one: Mike Holmgren.

I could go for Holmgren as "The One." Then again, I could go for a howler monkey as "The One" if that meant Millen would be given the ziggy.

That's "Above the Fold" for Tuesday, 12-18-07!


  1. From an analytical perspective (admittedly, not my strong suit) it seems that the Lions need major upgrades on the offensive line. With the skill postion players they have, a little more time for Kitna and some slightly larger holes for Jones should result in much better offensive efficiency.

    From a defensive perspective, my feeling is that all they need is one big playmaker somewhere to make them an above average NFL defense. Whether that is at DE, LB or DB I don't think matters much.

    Of course upgrading the OL and finding a defensive playmaker are not easy tasks, particularly when Matt Millen is making personnel decisions. I'd like to see the Lions draft offensive linemen in rounds 1-4 this year to address that need and go after a free agent on defense if he's there.

    From my perspective as a Lions fan (something I'm much more qualified to speak on) I have little confidence that whatever changes they make will add up to improvement on the field - if they follow my advice or the advice of someone more qualified to give it. This franchise gargles testicles.

  2. I agree wholeheartedly about the offensive line. That has to be a priority on the first day of the draft. The defense is a much tougher fix. We're in need of pass-rushing defensive ends, outside linebackers and cornerbacks. Luckily those are three positions easily to fill, and relatively inexpensive. {/sarcasm}

  3. I'm with you both on the O-line. Michigan's Jake Long would be a perfect fit, too bad he's going top 5 in the draft. A tackle is a priority, to say the very least.

    As for a defensive playmaker, I really can't remember the last time the Lions had a gamechanger on that side of the ball. They've had more than their share of good defensive players, especially in the 90's (Blades, Speilman, Porche, Ball), but they've never had the player that would, as the Big Buck used to say, "Block out the sun!"

    Unfortunately, we all know Millen is incapable of finding that impact player. God, I hate the Lions...

  4. As I've said before, while I like Long, I'm a bit leery of taking another highly-touted UM O-tackle.

    I've always been moderately tolerant of Millen, since I think he's made some good moves- the trade with Cleveland that brought in Roy and KJ sticks out- but it's absolutely ridiculous what's going on here. The last straw for me was the Bly trade. I didn't care for that back-stabbing little pussy either, but to trade your best player for an O-lineman that can't do anything and a running back who isn't even good enough to be active is the sign of a complete and utter moron.

    Fire Millen for anyone else, and I'll shake my head and wait for the next rebuilding period to be over.