I am sure most people are aware of the six degrees of separation with Kevin Bacon. Basically it goes something like this. Person X knows Kevin Bacon who knows person Y who knows so on and so forth that by the time you get to the sixth person down the line pretty much everyone in the world, yes that was a slight exaggeration, has six degrees of separation from actually knowing Kevin Bacon. All because they know someone who knows someone on down the line.
Well I decided to apply something similar to the Detroit Lions Kyle Vanden Bosch. Because there is a domino effect of similar sorts there. I have seen popular fan sentiment to replace a player like Kyle, much like I have with Tim Tebow, another guy who has intangibles off the charts, another guy whom Jim Schwartz would not bet against. In fact, with Kyle, Jim Schwartz took it a step further when he decided to bet with him and show up on his doorstep, bottle of wine in hand, on midnight of the night free agency had opened up.
Degree One, Kyle Vanden Bosch. You need not look far to understand that Kyle is a special kind of person, not just a talented player. In fact in some ways Kyle is not so talented at all, he has had to work harder, longer, and more intensely than others to get what he has, because he is not so naturally gifted. He does not run a very fast 40 yard dash nor does he possess freakish strength. Instead what makes Kyle so special is the fact that he is the first person in the weight room in the morning and the last person to stop running on the field. Whistle to whistle, snap to snap, 110 percent effort, on and off the field. This is Kyle Vanden Bosch. It is the example he sets for others, that demands they follow, not because he insists upon it, but rather because when others see this monumental effort they cannot help but to be inspired.
Degree Two, Ndamukong Suh. From that very example above it is no coincidence that the Detroit Lions decided to bring him into the fold with the addition of another Nebraska Cornhusker. Perhaps the most highly touted college defensive tackle to ever become a professional football player, there is no denying Kyle's influence on Ndamukong. The Lions number 90 will tell you several times in his own words just how much Kyle has meant to him. In fact he will tell you that Kyle has, and continues to, teach him how to be a professional. Whistle to whistle, snap to snap, from day one at six A. M. in the weight room, Ndamukong has been shown what it means to be a professional. There is no question that with Kyle there in his every day football life, Ndamukong has benefited on the field. One can only speculate at the possibilities of Ndamukong getting rookie of the year honors and becoming an all pro without Kyle. While Ndamukong may still have been great without Kyle, there is no question that he is better with him.
Degree Three, The Other Guy. Ndamukong's play demands a double and sometimes a triple team, which means that the other interior defensive lineman, be it Nick Fairley, Cory Williams or Sammy Lee Hill, has a much easier day facing a one on one match up most of the day. This concept is rather simple, Kyle Vanden Bosh makes Ndamukong better which makes whoever plays next to him better. It is no coincidence that Cory Williams career found new life under these conditions. It is no coincidence that Sammy Lee Hill developed into the type of player that other teams are interested in after just one contract in the NFL, even though he started out as a developmental project from a small school. We have yet to see the true effects of this on Nick Fairley, but the prospects are rather scary for opposing quarterbacks to say the very least.
Degree Four, Cliff Avril And The Other, Other Guys. With all of this pressure up the middle, there is now this situation on the other side of the Detroit Lions defensive line. You know the side that generally has the less talented, less athletic right tackle facing a defender. Now there is a one on one match up out here as well, and a guy like Cliff Avril who does have quite a bit of god given talent in his size, speed, and twitch muscle skills can take advantage of that. There is no denying the impact of this domino effect on Cliffs career. With Kyle Vanden Boch here, with Ndmukong and crew performing in the middle, Cliff has taken a step forward in development a bit late in his career. Cliff is a better player, because of the example set off the field, because he follows it, because he works hard, whistle to whistle, snap to snap, on and off the field. However his emergence is not unique. Degree four is also prevalent in guys like Lawrence Jackson and Willie Young. With Lawrence you have a guy who is a cast off from Seattle. A guy who was given up on, a guy who could start for the Lions if need be. Willie on the other hand is just that late round pick that no one expected to make the roster. The guy who was reeling in the sacks in crunch time to close out a win for the Detroit Lions more than once last season. Would he be the player he is today without Kyle Vanden Bosch on the Lions? Would he be working so hard on and off the field to improve his game?
Degree Five, The Magnificent Back Seven. Ok, an over exaggeration again, however, considering the alternative you will soon see, I am sure the difference in Kyle Vanden Bosch on or off the Lions is pretty darn magnificent. Consider that without the above domino effect Stephen Tulloch probably does not sign with the Detroit Lions. Consider that and speculate on the effects of Deandre Levy, Justin Durant, and even guys like Bobby Carpenter. Once again all of them became Detroit Lions and elevated their careers and performance on the field. Even guys like Eric Wright came in and revitalized a damaged career. The pressure the Lions front gets and the attention it demands leaves the guys playing behind them much cleaner to make plays. Not to mention that opposing quarterbacks tend to make more mistakes. Once again the domino tumbles. Does Eric Wright really sign with Tampa for starting corner money without all of this? Does he really make so many impact plays to win games for the Lions? Rather than go through proving out how much Eric's play impacted wins for the Detroit Lions last season I will refer you to one of my favorite Lions bloggers, Ty Shalter, and his site, The Lions in Winter, with this article. This will be proven out this year, as you will see a decline in Eric's play on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, as they do not have a defensive leader with the intangibles and domino effect that Kyle Vanden Bosh brings to the table.
Degree Six, Greener Grass. As with many armchair quarterbacks and NFL fans, one could sit through the NFL draft in April and make plans to upgrade or replace Kyle Vanden Bosch. One could sit there and argue how a given players impact on the field would help the Lions more. In fact one could look at a couple of players from last years draft in doing so. How about J. J. Watt and Ryan Kerrigan. Two young stars from last year that at a glance would appear to be a superior alternative. Numbers to numbers the argument could be made, but then you realize, that those players do not exist in a vacuum. Ryan Kerrigan had a great rookie year, however how much of that is because he had players like London Fletcher and Brian Orakpo there to guide him, to teach him how to be a professional, and to put him in situations where he was one on one with another player instead of being double teamed? I even wonder what Brian Orakpo would have been like without London Fletcher there to bring him along, to teach him how to be a professional. Look no further than the career of Chris Long and how long it took him to emerge. He was a far more talented player coming out of college than Kerrigan or Watt, however there was no veteran leader there on the Rams. No leader with all the intangibles and work ethic and ability to beat the odds on less talent and more work to show him how to do it. No Chris Long did not emerge until he learned those hard knocks on his own. How about the impact of a Wade Phillips on a guy Like J. J. Watt? How about Patrick Willis and Justin Smith on a guy like Aldon Smith? Would those guys be the same players on other teams? Would they be the same players on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers? How about the Peyton Manningless Indianapolis Colts? Some players fall into the right situations to make them successful, others don't.
The point being this, without Kyle Vanden Bosch, most of the players on the Detroit Lions defense are not what they are today. Without Kyle and all the dominoes that do not fall the Lions do not win in Dallas, they may not even win on Monday Night against Chicago and they probably end up getting Tebowed rather than doing the Tebow over his sacked body in Denver. Without Kyle Vanden Bosch the grass is not greener, in fact without him the Lions do not even make the playoffs last season. So think twice when this April the NFL draft comes around and there are options that appear to be younger, faster, and put up more sacks and stat columns in a vacuum. Sure one on one, on a piece of paper they may appear to be quite enticing. However, never fall into the trap of thinking that the NFL plays its games on paper or that everyone plays a one on one match up. Because we all know, that the games are played on the field, 11 men on 11 men and sometimes more on one guy than others. We all know that while the blood, sweat, tears, and effort on any given Sunday can yield a victory, in fact, many times the victory is earned on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays, going back as far as training camp in film study, training, and preparation. Football is not won and lost because of the impact any one man has on another, it is won and lost because of the impact one man has on his entire team on and off the field.