We have seen articles that grade, rate, and qualify Martin Mayhew's draft picks in a very subjective and debatable manner. Rather than offer an opinion, this writing is going to focus on some numbers in the effort to shed some light on just how well our beloved general manager is doing.
Lets start off by looking at the History. The Detroit Lions were 0-16 and quite possibly the worst team in the NFL when Martin took over as general manager. Perhaps more telling of the actual record is the fact that only a handful of starters remain on our current 6-10 roster. Think about that and let it sink in for a minute.
Only Jeff Backus, Gosder Cherilus, Calvin Johnson, Stephen Peterman, Dominic Raiola, Drew Stanton, Cliff Avril, Andre Fluellen, and Don Muhlbach remain on the Lions roster from he who shall not be named's reign of terror. So 9 holdovers of 53. Roughly 17% of the most talented players left on the current team who have improved their winning percentage from .000 to .375.
Ultimately Martin Mayhew is the man calling the shots, he is the one who hired Jim Schwartz, he is the one who will hire the next coach. So in some regards he is the man ultimately responsible for every bit of success or failure that this team has had, or will have, until he is replaced or moves on.
Through all of those moves the Lions have went from 0-16 to 2-14 to 6-10. Winning percentages have went from .000 to .125 to .375. So in his first year Martin managed to get results infitely better than his predecessor. In the next year he manged to continue to improve the team 300%. Keep in mind as a team gets better it is harder and hader to continue to improve.
So the real question is, how well did Martin do compared to his peers? Yes this is a rhetorical question! Let the stats ensue. Please note that the comparisons are year from year, not cumulative.
2008 NFL Record | Winning % | 2009 Record | Winning % Differntial
32. Lions 0-16 | .000 | 2-14 | +.125
31. Rams 2-14 | .125 | 1-15 | -.062
30. Chiefs 2-14 | .125 | 4-12 | +.125
29. Seahawks 4-12 | .250 | 5-11 | +.062
28. Browns 4-12 | .250 | 5-11 | +.062
27. Bengals 4-11-1 | .281 | 10-6 +.344
26. Raiders 5-11 | .313 | 5-11 | .000
25. Jaguars 5-11 | .313 | 7-9 | +.125
24. Packers 6-10 | .375 | 11-5 | +.313
23. 49ers 7-9 | .438 | 8-8 | +.062
22. Bills 7-9 | .438 | 6-10 | -.062
21. Redskins 8-8 | .500 | 4-12 | -.250
20. Chargers 8-8 | .500 | 13-3 | +.313
19. Saints 8-8 | .500 | 13-3 | +.313
18. Texans 8-8 | .500 | 9-7 | +.062
17. Broncos 8-8 | .500 | 8-8 | .000
16. Bucs 9-7 | .563 | 3-13 | -.375
15. Jets 9-7 | .563 | 9-7 | .000
14. Cowboys 9-7 | .563 | 11-5 | +.119
13. Bears 9-7 | .563 | 7-9 | -.125
12. Cardinals 9-7 | .563 | 10-6 | +.062
11. Eagles 9-6-1 | .594 | 11-5 | +.094
10. Vikings 10-6 | .625 | 12-4 | +.125
9. Patriots 11-5 | .688 | 10-6 | -.062
8. Dolphins 11-5 | .688 | 7-9 | -.250
7. Ravins 11-5 | .688 | 9-7 | -.125
6. Falcons 11-5 | .688 | 9-7 | -.125
5. Steelers 12-4 | .750 | 9-7 | -.187
4. Giants 12-4 | .750 | 8-8 | -.250
3. Colts 12-4 | .750 | 14-2 | +.125
2. Panthers 12-4 | .750 | 8-8 | -.250
1. Titans 13-3 | .813 | 8-8 | -.312
Interesting notes from 2008 to 2009
Of the 9 teams that were 6-10 or worse only one team, the Rams, fared worse the following year. They had 1 less win. The Rams went from 31st to 32nd in the standings.
Of the 7 teams that were 7-9 or 8-8 only two, the Bills and Redskins fared worse the following season.
Of the 6 teams that were 9-7 to 9-6-1 (Eagles) two fared worse, one held static, and three improved their record the following year.
Of the 10 teams that were 10-6 or better only two, the Vikings and Colts, fared better in the following year. They each had 2 more wins. The Vikings went from 10th to 4th and the Colts went from 3rd to 1st.
The largest improvement from 08 to 09 by three teams was by a margin of 5.5 and 5 wins. The Bengals improved by 5.5 games and went from 27th to 9th. The Chargers improved by 5 games and went from 20th to 3rd. The Saints also improved by 5 games and went from 19th to 2nd.
In transition from 08 to 09 most teams that were 8-8 or worse got better and most teams that were 10-6 or better got worse. The better than average group whom had a record better than 8-8 yet worse than 10-6 had mixed results.
We could say that Martin did a good job but how hard is it to improve on complete and utter failure? Therefore this picture offers little evidence one way or another on if Martin is doing better than his peers. However it is safe to say that he is at least doing as good and certainly not worse. It speaks to the sad state of affairs the Lions were left in when competence on the job makes him seem like a superstar.
In terms of winning percentage the Bengals, Chargers and Saints have to be the clear cut winners in this year. Mickey Loomis and A. J. Smith both managed teams that went from average to the playoffs and Mike Brown managed to take a sub .500 team to the playoffs. Looking at the results, 9 general managers performed as well or better for their respective teams as Martin Mayhew had for the Lions. They are represented above by being italicised.
2009 NFL Record | Winning % | 2010 Record | Winning % Differntial
32. Rams 1-15 | .063 | 7-9 | +.420
31. Lions 2-14 | .125 | 6-10 | +.250
30. Bucs 3-13 | .188 | 10-6 | +.437
29. Redskins 4-12 | .250 | 6-10 | +.125
28. Chiefs 4-12 | .250 | 10-6 | +.375
27. Seahawks 5-11 | .313 | 7-9 | +.125
26. Raiders 5-11 | .313 | 8-8 | +.187
25. Browns 5-11 | .313 | 5-11 | .000
24. Bills 6-10 | .375 | 4-12 | -.125
23. Dolphins 7-9 | .438 | 7-9 | .000
22. Jaguars 7-9 | .438 | 8-8 | +.062
21. Bears 7-9 | .438 | 11-5 | +.250
20. Titans 8-8 | .500 | 6-10 | -.125
19. 49ers 8-8 | .500 | 6-10 | -.125
18. Giants 8-8 | .500 | 10-6 | +.125
17. Broncos 8-8 | .500 | 4-12 | -.250
16. Panthers 8-8 | .500 | 2-14 | -.375
15. Steelers 9-7 | .563 | 12-4 | +.187
14. Jets 9-7 | .563 | 11-5 | +.125
13. Texans 9-7 | .563 | 6-10 | -.188
12. Ravens 9-7 | .563 | 12-4 | +.187
11. Falcons 9-7 | .563 | 13-3 | +.250
10. Patriots 10-6 | .625 | 14-2 | +.250
9. Bengals 10-6 | .625 | 4-12 | -.375
8. Cardinals 10-6 | .625 | 5-11 | -.312
7. Eagles 11-5 | .688 | 10-6 | -.063
6. Packers 11-5 | .688 | 10-6 | -.063
5. Cowboys 11-5 | .688 | 6-10 | -.313
4. Vikings 12-4 | .750 | 6-10 | -.375
3. Chargers 13-3 | .813 | 9-7 | -.250
2. Saints 13-3 | .813 | 11-5 | -.125
1. Colts 14-2 | .875 | 10-6 | -.250
Interesting notes from 2009 to 2010
Of the 9 teams that were 6-10 or worse only one team, the Bills, fared worse the following year and the Browns stayed static.. The Bills had 2 less wins and went from 24th to 29th in the standings.
Of the 8 teams that were 7-9 or 8-8 only three teams got better, the Jaguars, Bears, and Giants.
Of the 5 teams that were 9-7 only the Texans fared worse, falling from 13th to 22nd in the standings.
Of the 10 teams that were 10-6 or better only the Patriots improved in the following year. They had 4 more wins and went from 10th to 1st in the standings.
The largest improvement from 09 to 10 was by a margin of 7 wins. The Bucs managed to go from 30th to 13th in the league. The Rams also made a significant move by a margine of 6 wins and going from 32nd to 19th.
In transition from 09 to 10 most teams that were 6-10 or worse got better and most teams that were 7-9 to 8-8 got worse. The average teams at 8-8 overwhelmingly got better. And the top tier teams that were 10-6 or better overwhelmingly got worse.
Martin showed better results in this year. Improving the team by 4 wins and .250 in percentage. A respectable performance, but not the home run type of performace that other general managers have set with a 5 to 7 win improvement in one year. Still it does give merit to some of the optomism, hype, and praise that Lions fans heap on Martin.
Looking at the results 6 general managers performed as well or better than Martin in this time frame. It is definately a respectable showing by Martin, but hardly the "best general manager in the league" type of material that we are all used to buying into as Lions fans. To compound that is the fact that it is abundantly apparent that it is fairly easy to improve when you are 6-10 or below.
In terms of peer to peer. The following general managers only managed to better Martin Mayhew in one of his two years of record. In the other year Martin got the best of them, so they could hardly be considered any better than him at this point. Though they are certainly worthy adversaries in thier own right.
Bengals: Mike Brown, Jaguars: Gene Smith, Packers Ted Thompson, Chargers: A. J. Smith, Saints Mickey Loomis, Cowboys: Jerry Jones, Vikings: Rick Spielman, Colts: Bill Polian, Rams: Billy Devany, Bucs: Mark Dominik, Bills: Buddy Nix, Bears: Jerry Angelo, and Falcons: Thomas Dimitroff.
Only the Chiefs Scott Pioli has equaled or bettered Martin Mayhew in both of his years to date. So it is safe to say that while Martin has several peers who may get the better of him, he also may get the better of them. In total that is 13 other managers in the league. Currently there is only one that can truely be measured as being any better than Martin. So there is absolutely reason for praise when taking into account the actual measure in wins to determine improvement from year to year.
However it is also clear that a true test of a general manager comes when a team is on the top of the league, not the bottom. More specifically we could point to the 10-6 mark which is commonly the break point for some teams to make the playoffs, and others to just miss them. Looking at teams of that record is it blatently obvious that it is very hard to actually improve your record. This is what puts managers like Bill Polian, Rick Spielman, and Bill Bellichick into a special category. They are the only three to improve a 10-6 team over the past two years where 17 times other managers have failed to do so.
So things are looking up for the Lions and Martin Mayhew, and they should be based off of their past records, and Martins. The Lions should be expecting an increase of anywhere between two and four wins this season. 8-8 to 10-6 and then we have more of a sample size to look at. Admitedly two years is a relatively small sample. However it is what we have to work with, and in some ways it is rather telling. After all the average life span of a player in the NFL is about 3.5 years. Turnover of coaches and the roster along with changes in team schemes and philosophy happen at a fairly quick rate in the NFL. This means that larger sample sizes tend to obsolete themselves if you go much further than four or five years back. The dynamics of the situation are just too fluid to take anything but snapshot views if you want a relevant conclusion.
Depending on how the Lions fare this year, Martin Mayhew's real test will come in the following year, or the year after. All indications are that he will at least hold his own in those regards if not manage to become one of the elite 3-4 managers in the league. Prudence would suggest we wait until those results are in before we can truely crown him a king among kings, an elite general manager in the NFL. For now, lets just say that he is an extremely young, talented, and promising prospect that will take another year or two for us to truely know if he can achieve the potential we all see in him.