Confessions of a Lions fan
So here we are again. All but forgotten. But the Lions went out with a bang Sunday, signaling the decline of the over-hyped “America’s Team” the Dallas Cowboys and the first “turned-corner” of the Matt Millen regime since the finishing of Ford Field.
Despite being in an almost insurmountable minority, I support Matt Millen. When he first came to the Lions, he inherited an unsalvageable infrastructure. He set out to replace it, and left a wake of destruction in his path. And has had little to show for it. Matt started by bringing in the wrong players (Bill “hands of stone” from the Packers stands out) and followed it up by bringing in the wrong coaches. And then to seal the deal, brought the wrong drafting philosophy. And it all blew up in his face, culminated this year in a 3-13 record and probably the worst GM record over 5 years since the Buccaneers were an expansion team.
Its ironic, that based on all of the above, I see the break in the clouds. So, if you are a football fan and can stand some non-poker content, here now is why the Lions will be a good team to bet on in 2007. (and remember, you heard it here first).
* When your team is bad, and you want it to be good, you draft defense. (Argue all you want, this is reality). The Lions went against that mandate for years. Then Coach Rod Marinelli came to town. And he drafted Ernie Simms. With Leinart on the board. This guy understands what it takes to fix a team.
* Early meetings with Coach were Night/Day different from previous coaches. Not so much in the message, but for its lack of sales. Mooch and Morningweig (whatever) spent a lot of time with the media explaining and selling the vision. The first time I met coach, he reminded us he did not have time for us. Now that is a coach. And he is firmly in charge.
*He wanted his son-in-law to be the defensive coordinator but was denied access by the Bucs until this year. Expect that change VERY shortly. Henderson did not even understand the Tampa-two.
*The Lions are going to flip some WELL RESPECTED assistant coaches. Why? Because this is the Rod and Martz show. They know what they want. They don’t have time to argue with “well respected assistants”.
*Think briefly about the defensive line you will likely face as a Lions opponent in ’07:
Gaines Adams, Cory Redding, Shawn Rogers, James Hall.
Um, good luck.
*“The Lions need talent at every position”. It just isn’t true. The Lions lack blockbuster starters. They used Sunday to pencil in Stanley Wilson as the starting corner in 07. Bly, Kennedy and Bullocks with him in the secondary. But the linebacker core has underperformed for years now! Bailey and Lenon will need to compete just to remain on the team next year.
* Expect the Lions to sign a FE backer when Rod’s son-in-law comes over. I’m sure he has someone in mind as he is a linebackers coach currently.
* On offense, the line is paramount, as is a 3rd/4th receiver. For this reason alone, I bet Mike Williams is granted one more year to “get it”. Expect the signing of a “Martz type 4th receiver” and the resigning of Furrey. As for the offensive line which boasts just 2 starters, expect THREE new faces.
* In talking with players towards the end of the season, most believed they had a top-notch head coach, liked the complex Martz system and secretly admitted that a couple of players were not “on board” yet. (see above) Matt Millen will personally work on Rogers. The players believe now by and large, and Sunday proved it. They went far from mailing it in. They beat a playoff team (albeit a poor one). This team wants to win, Kitna is a blood and guts QB (and Harrington will not even make the Miami roster next year) Kitna is the type of QB that the Lions needed. One that will get dirty and in your face.
Ok, so now it all looks rosy, right? Well, just one problem. The Lions have no running game. No offensive guards, no right takle, and probably no running back. I don’t expect Kevin Jones to play again. (Do you?). IF the Lions can run the ball in pre-season, take them seriously.
This will be the most important off-season for the Lions in decades. Do it right, improve drastically. Blow it, and the entire thing will come apart.
The ULTIMATE irony. Picture 3 years from now the Lions playing for the NFC championship with Millen still in charge. And if that day comes, and if there is any justice in the world, all the Detroit sportswriters will be fired. Mostly for what we already know, they have no idea what they are talking about. (according to “sources”, Matt Millen has been fired every year he’s been here.)