It has been quite the year for the Detroit Lions in 2006. From the ups and downs to everything in between. There was the signing of new coaches and players, the NFL Draft, an eventful training camp, and the train wreck 2-13 season. Through it all however, I've had a fun time covering it for you guys.
As the final game of the season played on the final day of the year approaches, it's a nice time to look back on the last 12 months and just reflect on everything. Starting out for Detroit, there was the signing of Rod Marinelli, a first time head coach in the Motor City. Also, Mike Martz, an offensive guru signed on with the Lions after initially rejecting them. Another coordinator that came aboard was Donnie Henderson, who hoped to run a solid defense.
Once the 2006 draft in April came, along with Pride of Detroit's first posts, Lions fans were excited. For the first time it appeared everyone was concentrated on winning come September. A big name coach in Mike Martz was brought in and very good free agents as well. The quarterback situation was shaping up even before the draft when Jon Kitna arrived in Detroit, and that didn't necessarily sit well with some. Nonetheless, an experienced veteran QB was something better than the past few years.
The 2006 NFL Draft provided lots of suspense as it always had with Matt Millen running things. The popular pick of drafting Matt Leinart presented itself when he fell down to Detroit's pick, but the Lions went in a different direction and took Ernie Sims instead. I personally did not like the choice, and although Sims has been great this season, I still wonder how the future may be different without Leinart.
The biggest departure from Detroit came after the draft when Joey Harrington was traded to Miami. A saga that was horrific from day one in Detroit finally came to an end, and many felt that an era of losing did as well. With Harrington gone, things could now be focused on winning instead of the normal losing culture. Nobody expected Harrington to play so well for the Dolphins this season, but it just shows he couldn't do it in Detroit.
Training camp came in the summer and as usual provided great wondering. This was the time of the year when teams' rosters seem to take shape and predictions begin. Many felt the Lions were good enough to actually make the playoffs, with some even going out on a limb and taking them to win the division over the Bears. I was optimistic too, maybe not to that extent, but was hopeful at the least.
The end to the training camp period and sign that the season was ready to get started was the day of trimming the roster down one more time. With a deadline to cut enough players to have a 53-man roster, Detroit had some tough decisions to make. The biggest name to be dropped was former #2 overall draft pick Charles Rogers. Following a career that was nothing more than injuries and drug suspensions, the Lions felt no need to keep him on the roster, and inevitably dumped him. Another cut that didn't seem like a big deal at the time was Artose Pinner. Pinner just didn't make the cut due to limited space on the roster, especially at running back. As it turns out, Detroit would suffer through much of the season without solid depth at running back. Plus, take the fact that Pinner had a career day against Detroit and that didn't help any.
Once the regular season did get started, great optimism remained after the first game. Although it was a loss, Detroit played it down to the final snap against the defending NFC champions and only lost 9-6. However, the hopes of winning and making the playoffs soon went out the window the next week as Chicago just stomped over Detroit on Rex Grossman's career day.
Things wouldn't get any better for three more weeks. The Lions had a shot to win in three consecutive games, but somehow managed to lose them all. Not only did the Lions control the game in some of them but also had the lead late in a couple. However, mistakes by Jon Kitna proved to be too costly as the Lions lost five straight to start the season.
Detroit did finally get that coveted first win after beating the Buffalo Bills 20-17. A small glimmer of hope remained as a proven down year in the NFC would allow a mediocre record to make the playoffs. The Lions couldn't get a streak going into their bye week as they lost to the Jets on the road. Roy Williams opened his mouth in a way to try and provide some motivation by saying that the Lions would run the table going into the second half of the season. For the following week, I actually thought he was on to something. The Lions opened the second half of the year with an upset victory over Atlanta and their second win of the season.
Since then, that team we saw beat the Falcons has been nonexistent. The Lions have dropped seven straight and have completely fallen apart. Decimated by injuries, you can't even win when fourteen players are on the IR, especially when many are starters. Now, Detroit heads into one last game to cap off a year that has been a roller coaster ride.
Following the game on Sunday at Dallas, the general and logical feeling is that the Lions will be served with their fourteenth loss of the season, which ties a franchise record. Just when everyone thought things would go in the right direction, a setback like this comes and takes us back to 2001. Along with that, Matt Millen still remains in his job despite the constant uproar for his firing. It doesn't appear that will happen any time soon, so Lions fans may be stuck with him for another year.
Anyways, to send out the year 2006, Detroit may clinch the number one overall draft pick, something that hasn't happened yet since Matt Millen did arrive. The opportunities that go along with that are endless and once again may be the root of optimism. Whether the Lions again fall flat on their face or actually give Detroit fans something to cheer about is something that everyone will have to wait and see. But, here's to 2007, hoping that it will be better than 2006 for the Detroit Lions, because quite frankly, it can't get much worse.