Monday, December 31, 2007

Answering the Detroit Lions week 17 "Burning questions"

The Detroit Lions are done for the season. Which means it's time for the final regular season edition of TWFE answering Mike O'Hara's burning questions!

Topics include: Should William Clay Ford's give Millen a "Win or else" ultimatum, how much Mike Martz is to blame, why the defense has gotten a free pass in comparison to the offense, and just how much better are the Lions over last season?

Let's finish off the year with a bang, and light this candle!

Burning questions following the Lions' 34-13 loss to the Packers on Sunday and the end of another failed season:

Q: What should the owner, William Clay Ford, do immediately?

O'Hara: Ford should give everybody this message: last chance.

That means make the playoffs in 2008, or the owner changes everything from the top down. There should be no excuses -- for injuries, poor performance, lack of continuity in the coaching staff or the personnel department.

Whatever it takes to win in 2008, no matter how ruthless decisions must be, it has to be done. And he should say it today -- to everybody in the organization.

Big Al: Ford? Last chance? LAST CHANCE? Get serious, Ford loves Millen too much to ever say such a thing. He would never offend his porn 'stached buddy. Of course, a Glengarry Glen Ross style ultimatum of "Make the playoffs or you're fired!" is exactly what's needed. The Lions front office desperately needs that sort of "Hit the bricks" kick in the ass. Though needed, could you even imagine Ford putting his uber-rich, aged, creaky foot down, and demanding a playoff berth, or else?

Me neither.

Q: Will Ford do that?

O'Hara: He has done it twice in the last 13 seasons, and he should do it again. He did it in 1995, when he had a good team that was not living up to its potential. The Lions were 3-6 and had just been blown out in Atlanta. After the game, Ford held an impromptu press conference and issued an edict for coach Wayne Fontes: If the Lions didn't make the playoffs, Fontes would be fired. The team responded and won seven straight games for a 10-6 record.

And at the end of the 2000 season, when the Lions wasted an 8-4 start and lost the last game of the season to miss the playoffs, Ford made the most sweeping changes since he became owner in 1964. He hired Matt Millen and gave him the authority to run the franchise. Millen cleaned house.

Big Al: No. Next question.

Q: The Lions haven't won in Millen's seven years as president. What difference would it make for Ford to come out so strong?

O'Hara: It shakes people up when the boss puts everyone on notice. Nobody could ask for a more benevolent or supportive owner than Ford. He has written enough big checks without getting a payoff. There's nothing that would carry more weight than Ford putting everybody on notice that they have to win to keep their jobs.

Big Al: Even though Ford's not going to "Come out so strong," if he did, it would eliminate the complacency that has settled within their Allen Park HQ. Maybe the threat of their livelihoods would kick start the Lions front office. Lions personnel have been compensated quite handsomely for very little in the way of results.

You'd think that they'd have a little more pride in their efforts, highly paid or not.

You'd think wrong.

If Millen and his cronies were given the choice of making the playoffs, a set of steak knives, or being fired? Personally, screw the playoffs. Making them would be a total fluke. I hope they get shitcanned. With extreme malice. They can keep the knives...

Q: One person who doesn't need to get the message is Mike Martz, the offensive coordinator. There are reports that he's out after two years. Is it a mistake for the Lions to let him go?

O'Hara: No. The offense is more fun to watch than it used to be in the previous regimes. The plays are better, and they gain more yards, but they haven't won enough games.

Teams that win consistently in the NFL have offenses that can make big throws and tough, short runs. The Lions lack the ability to run. Martz hasn't given the offense any sense of continuity. The lack of a running game after two years is stunning.

Big Al: I was as gung ho as the next guy when Martz was hired. He was the dream hire, the man that would make us forget the "Wet toast" offense of Mooch. I'd seen plenty of "The greatest show on turf," and couldn't wait to see Martz implement his offensive show in Detroit.

Well, we got a show, alright. It blew goats, but it was a show.

Martz deserves to get the ziggy. But the Lions cannot sell his ouster a cure all to what ails them. Marinelli is just as much to blame, as he hired Martz, and allowed him to run his offense without any checks and balances. Marinelli would say every Monday that he wanted to run the ball more. The next Sunday, Martz would ignore the running game. Then the circle would begin again. Just who was in charge?

It's ultimately the head man who needs to be held responsible. In another lifetime, I was a manager, in charge of quite a number of employees. If one of my people screwed the pooch, who would corporate come down on? Me. Because that person was MY responsibility. I trained them, I told them what to do, I was their boss. If they failed to follow orders, violate rules, fuck up in any way, it was MY fault.

Marinelli is Martz's boss. He should be held to a higher level of accountability than his soon to be scapegoated coordinator.

Q: How much blame does the defense get?

O'Hara: Not enough. It's been horrible most of the year, and it looked disorganized against the Packers. Two weeks ago in San Diego, Chargers third-stringer Darren Sproles ran for 122 yards, a career high. Sunday, it was second-stringer Brandon Jackson's turn. He ran for a career-high 113 yards. That should never happen.

Big Al: I agree. Not nearly enough blame has been assigned to Joe Barry and his Tampa 2 defense. His defense is last in the NFL. What else is there to say? Well, I'll try...

The offense is bad, but the defense is beyond awful. Where's the accountability? Donnie Edwards was fired as defensive coordinator at the end of the 2006 season, thanks to the defensive issues. We hear nothing of the same in regard to the status of Marinelli's son-in-law. Why isn't Barry on the chopping block? Do I really need to answer that question?

Again, Marinelli is ultimately responsible for the team's failings, the defense included. It's especially galling when you remember Marinelli was sold to the fanbase and MSM as a defensive guru, a master of the hot Tampa 2 defense, the man who made Warren Sapp an All-Pro.

I've seen none of that from Rod Marinelli. We've been sold a bill of goods.

Q: Overall, are the Lions better with a 7-9 record in 2007 than they were with a 3-13 record in 2006?

O'Hara: Absolutely. But it doesn't matter. They weren't good enough. They were 1-7 in the second half of both seasons, and that's what defined them both years. They had no chance in '06, but they blew their chance this year.

What matters most is that for the eighth straight season, the Lions are out of the playoffs.

It's time for the owner to say that everyone has run out of last chances.

Big Al: Better? Record wise, sure. It was a mirage, nothing but smoke and mirrors, but 7 wins is 7 wins.

But the question everyone asks is if the Lions are any closer to being a playoff team? After the 1-7 finish, the only answer is the Lions are as far from being a playoff team as they've ever been during the Millen era. Thus, I don't expect a playoff berth in 2008, 2009, 2010...

Next season, Millen, Marinelli, along with anyone and everyone associated with the Lions organization need to be working to keep their jobs. Nothing short of making the playoffs should be accepted.

It should be put in black and white by William Clay Ford. A public statement needs to be made that Millen will be held to a "Win or else" ultimatum.

Ford: Make the playoffs, you keep your well compensated jobs. Miss the playoffs, you're fired. That goes for very single member the Lions coaching staff and front office.

As nice as that sounds, I don't expect any sort of "Win now" order being given to Millen. Ford doesn't work that way. Mediocrity is the best we can hope for.

Think of it this way. Of 2nd generation Fords, Henry Ford II was the shit. A total bad ass, a great businessman, a leader of men, he's the Ford brother who took the family company to great heights. Hank the Deuce's brother, William Clay Ford, on the other hand, didn't do shit with FoMoCo. He was lost in the large shadow cast by the charismatic Deuce. William Clay was ultimately shuffled out of the decision making process altogether, and left to play with his toy, the Detroit Lions.

William Clay was/is/always will be known as the mediocre Ford. He was with Ford Motor, and he is with the Lions.

Mediocrity is all he knows...

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