In looking back at the last few months, I must say that I have some great mixed emotion. On one hand, I am sure that I am not alone in saying congratulations to Mr. Mayhew & co; I am beyond excited with the work he has done with his and our team in a very short period of time.
But my extreme frustration with the Millen era grows. In knowing that Mayhew & Lewand we part of the Millen staff, to say I was skeptical at first would be an understatement. But to look at the moves they have done since taking over, they are nothing short of in tune with what should have been and could have been done a long time ago. Imagine, the gall of Millen to have had these two on staff & vito ideas and moves like they have put into place in the last eight months. Imagine where this team could have been had Millen listened to his support like any good Manager does. I cringe at the thought.
Having said that, I think it is safe to say that these two have stepped out of the Millen shadow with some tremendous moves:
1. Roy Williams trade to Dallas ~ the first move, quite possibly the best move in acquiring key draft picks
2. Hiring coaching staff: Jim Schwartz HC, Gunther Cunningham DC & Scott Linehan OC ~ yet to be seen how great of a hire these are, but by all indications this is exactly the mindset the Lions needed to be infused with, three coaches that have great experience in high level positions & have had success within their respective systems. Most importantly, they are focusing within their strengths (we don't have a make-shift o-line coach as an OC!!)
3. Free Agency: no superstar pick-up, but as per their motto they picked up key additions & improved several positions (CB, LB & DT starters, HB2, WR2 & 3). These moves especially on defense were key.
4. Jon Kitna trade to Dallas: Mayhew must have had some IOU's to cash in w/ Jerry Jones...cuz if not, Jones was made to be a fool in making these trades & Mayhew made to look genius-esque.
5. Draft: at first glance I gave this draft a B-, key picks & potential starters in top three picks & lots of depth and special teams players later in the draft
6. Larry Foote: this one sealed the deal for me, it makes my overall grade of the draft go to an A-...call me crazy but I think that Mayhew & co. had some inside information in that L Foote would become available, this was a story early last year so not surprised it came around again & the more I think about it, the more I think this may have been a pre-meditated draft knowing that Foote would be available.
I said in a post a few months back that at the end of the day our defense led to the 0-16 record. The offense scored enough points to keep them in most games. But because the Lions were down by 21pts more often than not, defenses could pin back their ears & attack. The second half of the season our offensive line actually look like a unit that could move the line and consequently K Smith started moving the ball well (also helps that he saw regular starts). But it was the defense that looked out classed almost on an every down basis. The LB's now have 3 solid playmakers, guys that can trust eachother not to be out of position, to make plays so that no one needs to play out of their position to cover someone elses mistakes. The d-line now has a run stuffing big body that should allow for the high motor (sorry for the Marinelli'ism) DE's to pinch in from the edges. They may not be top tier DE's, but they can be effective in this role; especially with support behind them in the LB's. On the corners, again not shut down guys, but all guys that have skill & one big intangible: a chip on their shoulder. They all have something to prove. And now that there is a lot more rush potential on opposing QB's, they shouldn't (key word) be left on an island to cover for 6-7+ seconds. They all have some speed & ball hawk ability. And at the safety spot, I love the draft of Louis Delmas. I can't get the picture of A Peterson breaking our safeties ankles out of my head. I love the fact that the front 7 now has a rocket backing them up, a guy that will add strong run support; but will also make some great pass break ups over the middle with some huge hits on receivers. I am excited to see our defense be at the very least middle of the road. The only piece that really sucks is that the NFC North as a whole got a whole lot tougher competition wise at the same time.
All this being said, I beleive that the Lions actually made huge strides this offseason and dare I say maybe even kept pace with the rest of the division. And all of this has been said without a mention of Pettigrew who will only help the two existing playmakers from last years offense (Megatron & K Smith) and Matt Stafford. With Foote now on board, this pick is actually really growing on me. I think that if all works out well, and my collective fingers & toes are crossed, Mayhew & co. may have just recreated the Culpepper/Moss early years scenario. And who better to teach young Jedi Stafford how to get the ball deep to his big man than the QB who was there & the OC that put it all together.
With all of this, I have great anticipation; and from reading the other posts, I am not alone. But perhaps lost in all of this is the quesion, where would the Lions be had Millen listened to his support in years past? Where would we be as fans had Mayhew & Lewand put forth ideas & moves such as these two or three or four years ago? I know hind sight is 20-20, but the moves made this year aren't a one time shot; I am sure that suggestions like these had been made previously only to be trumped by Millen. Look how he ruined Mooch by forcing him to play Joey Piano-Fingers.
None the less, we are in a new chapter and one that in my opinion is not only long over due, but one that is reading very well and has become a page turner. I for one cannot wait for the season to start. Should the Lions even make it to 5-11, which I think they have a great chance of bettering, I for one vote the Mayhew & Lewand GM of the year. Well done gentlemen, well done...and thank you for helping us keep the roar alive!!