This started as the ramblings of a pissed off fan. It kind of grew from there. Here's my take on the Detroit Lions...where they've been and what they need to look for to take this team to respectability.
0-16. I'll say that again...0 and friggin' 16. Let that sink in a bit. Worst team in NFL history. First team to go 0-16. First winless team since the 0-14 Tampa Bay Bucs. 9th team to go winless in a single season. Aauurrgghhhh!
We need to find a way to move forward and turn this franchise into a winner. How to do that? Well, I’m not sure where to start. Let’s go back and look at the beginning of this total disaster, see what happened and see if those same mistakes can be avoided in the rebuilding that is required in Detroit. That means going back to 2000 and a little bit of a history lesson (hope I don’t bore you right off).
Bobby Ross was the coach and went 5-4 before he resigned after a home loss to Miami, claiming that the team had no fight and were only playing for their paychecks. Coach Ross was replaced by Gary Moeller (The Lions have not been back to the playoffs since Bobby Ross resigned). Moeller was given a 3yr contract by our buddy and Lions owner William Clay Ford, Sr. The end of the season in 2000 had the Lions finishing 9-7, tied for 3rd in a 5 team division, 2 games out of 1st (Vikings were 11-5). They missed the playoffs by losing the last game of the season on a last second, 54 yard, field goal. No playoffs. Mediocre at best but they looked like they might compete for the next few years and maybe take the division or a wildcard spot. They were improving.
Enter Matt "I have no experience whatsoever" Millen. Millen decided to fire Moeller and replaced him with Marty "let’s kick off instead of receive in overtime" Mornhingwheg. Marty went 5-27 during the 2001 (2-14) – 2002 (3-13) seasons and was promptly fired by Millen. Big step backwards from the Ross/Moeller era
Millen’s first draft was not a total disaster. He selected tackle Jeff Backus with the 18th pick in the 1st round, center Dominic Raiola & nose tackle Shaun Rogers in the 2nd round. The 2002 draft was where things started really going downhill. Detroit’s 1st pick, the 3rd pick in round 1 was Motor City favorite, Joey Harrington. Julius Peppers went at #2 and Carr went 1st. Hindsight is 20/20. Peppers was definitely the choice there but Detroit, or Millen, thought that a QB was needed to replace the Charlie Batch/Mike McMahon duo currently under center. Kalimba Edwards and Andre’ Goodman rounded out the 1st 3 picks for Detroit. TE John Owens was selected in the 5th round, played a couple years, left and came back to Detroit last season.
2003. Enter perennial savior, Steve "why can’t we be friends" Mariucci, previously of San Francisco 49er’s fame. He seemed like the right choice at the time and was a fan favorite right away. Then the season started. The Lions went 5-11 in ’03 and 6-10 in ‘04, a small improvement from the Marty years but still very bad. 2005 was the end for Mariucci. He was a players coach, dishing out little to no discipline and could not get the team to perform well. He only had 4 wins going into the 2005 Thanksgiving Day game and after a 27-7 loss on national television to Atlanta, was fired the next day and replaced by the defensive coordinator, Dick Juron. Juron went 1-4 to finish the season and was let go.
The 2003-2005 drafts were the wide receiver years. Mariucci wanted receivers for his west coast offense and Millen happily complied by making some terrible choices at that position. The 2003 draft Detroit took WR Charles "Rasta" Rogers in round 1, LB Boss Bailey in 2 and DE Cory Redding in 3. 2004 saw the Lions take WR Roy "I coulda been a contender" Williams (has since whined his way to a trade to Dallas, big win on our part with 1st, 3rd and 6th round picks in the ’09 draft) and RB Kevin Jones in round 1 and LB Teddy Lehman in round 2. The 2005 draft was WR Mike "I’m slow and fat" Williams in round 1, DE Shaun Cody in 2 and QB Dan "benchwarmer" Orlovsky in the 5th round. Nothing to brag about, not much that really panned out as a stud for Detroit.
2006 was the beginning of the end for Detroit. The Rod Marinelli years (also the end of the Joey Harrington experiment). I have the highest respect for Rod Marinelli. He coaches hard and expects his guys to do the same. He is upstanding, doesn’t pass the buck and doesn’t take any crap. He’s a great defensive coordinator. He is not however, in my opinion, a head coach. Since his hire, the Lions have gone 10-38. Friggin’ 10-38!! ’06 was 3-13. New coach, new schemes, you might expect that. Benefit of a doubt. ’07 the Lions went 7-9. Hey, an improvement! 1st time with more than 5 wins since 2000! Looks like we’ll compete next year, in 2008!
The 2006 draft saw the Lions taking LB Ernie Sims in 1, SS Daniel Bullocks in 2 and RB Brian Calhoun in 3. In 2007, Detroit took Calvin "Megatron" Johnson in1 (best pick of the Millen era) and Drew "I’ll ride pine so I wont get hurt" Stanton in round 2. Then comes 2008, Millen’s last draft. Tackle Gosder "throw another flag" Cherilus was taken 1st (IMO, should have been tackle Jeff Otah), LB jordon Dizon in 2, RB Kevin "the beast" Smith, DT Andre Fluellen in 4 and LB Cliff Avril in 5. Actually not a bad draft this past year. Smith is a friggin’ stud. If he stays healthy, big time player for years to come.
2008, the year of infamy. The year that all Detroit Lions fans want to forget and will never be able to. 0-16. Millen was fired after 3 games and replaced by Martin Mayhew and Tom Lewand. About 6 years too late. I won’t talk much about the disaster that was 2008. It’s still fresh in the minds of all Lions fans. I just hope that it stays in the mind of owner William Clay Ford as he moves the franchise forward.
That’s the past. That’s how the Lions got to where they are today. Now what happens? The general consensus (meaning everyone on the planet except William Clay Ford, Sr.), believes that a complete house-cleaning is needed…no, not needed but absolutely required to get this franchise back on track. I should think we should hear later today about Marinelli being let go. You can’t keep a coaching staff after an 0-16 season. Ford, Sr. has already come out and said he’s keeping Mayhew and Lewand on as a "committee" in the front office, hoping to bring in a 3rd person to round that team out.
BIG FRIGGIN’ MISTAKE.
There are times to stand pat with what you have. This is most definitely not one of those times. 0-16, Mr. Ford. 5 (I could be wrong on that number, might only be 4) blacked out broadcast this season because you couldn’t fill the seats. 1st time for that in a very long time. If you keep the status quo, I will guarantee more blackouts next season. No one wants to see anyone from the Millen era still having any place in the new regime. Time to start from scratch. Does Roger Goodell need to step in and teach you how to run a franchise? He probably should because it’s obvious (to everyone but yourself) that you don’t have a clue how to run a professional football team. Enough with the Ford bashing. Too easy of a target.
So, where do they go from here? Folks who frequent Pride of Detroit know that I’m a huge fan of Ford bringing in Scott Pioli from New England. He’s definitely my 1st choice. Hopefully he would bring current Pats O-Coord, Josh McDaniels with him as head coach and Matt "big-ass contract in ‘09" Cassel as the new QB in Motown. That would allow them to focus on defense (Detroit currently has little, ok, has no defense, especially against the rush) and some O-line to keep Cassel off his back and concentrating on scoring some points.
Others who could fit the bill as GM in Detroit are:
Ernie Accorsi - former Giants G.M.
Charley Casserly - former Texans and Redskins G.M.
Tom Donahoe - former Bills G.M.
Bill Kuharich - Chiefs V.P. of personnel who once served as G.M. of the Saints.
Floyd Reese - former Titans G.M.
You could probably throw Marty Schottenheimer into the mix but I would seriously doubt he’d want anything to do with the Lions.
There have also been rumblings of Bill Parcells opting out of his contract when Miami gets a new owner this winter. I would not look poorly on the Big Tuna coming to Detroit. Look what he did to Miami in one year.
Coaching is another issue. If/when Marinelli is gone, who to replace him with. I like the Josh Daniels idea (with Pioli) 1st. There is talk of Bill Cowher and several others who could fit in:
Jim Haslett - if he doesn’t get the Rams job permanently
Herm Edwards - if KC lets him go
Mike Heimerdinger, Offensive Coordinator, Tennessee Titans
Jim Caldwell, Associate Head Coach and Quarterbacks Coach, Indianapolis Colts
Ron Rivera, Defensive Coordinator, San Diego Chargers
Jason Garrett, Assistant Head Coach and Offensive Coordinator, Dallas Cowboys
Steve Spagnuolo, Defensive Coordinator, New York Giants
With the upcoming draft, the Lions could really start moving forward but what should they do? QB Matt Stafford? DE Brian Orakpo? OT Michael Oher? (I hope they take LB James Laurinaitis with their second, 1st round pick). Maybe they should try and trade the pick away for multiple picks? I believe, again with the Pioli choice, Matt Cassel would fit in Detroit well. If not, try and trade for a QB instead of drafting one. There’s not much out there and I don’t know who they could snag. Brady Quinn maybe? How about Brian Brohm from Green Bay (doubt they would trade inside the division)? That would leave the draft to shore up both sides of the ball, already having a QB in place. Orlovsky and Culpepper are not the answers. Stanton is probably not the answer and Henson is definitely not the answer.
Too much to do this off-season. I just hope that something good happens in Detroit. The fans, after years of dealing with incompetent choices by William Clay Ford, should not have had to deal with 0-16. No team should have to deal with 0-16. It’s time for some big changes in the Motor City.
I have been a Detroit Lions fan for a very long time. I do not want to see more of the same ‘ole, same ‘ole that WCF is famous for. He has loyalty to his guys but it is time to make a business decision for the betterment of the franchise. Please Mr. Ford, do not stick with Mayhew and Lewand just because they have been ‘loyal". Look where that’s gotten this franchise in the past. NFL’s worst team in it’s entire history. 0-16. Let that sink in, Mr. Ford.
I’ll be back rooting for the Lions again next year. No matter how many times I say I’ll be looking for a new team, I just keep coming back. That’s what loyalty is all about, Mr. Ford. You have thousands of fans who show loyalty through generations. How about doing something for us once. Turn this franchise around. The beginning is now. Time to start fresh and do it right for a change. A big change.
Everyone have a Happy New Year. I certainly hope the Lions do.