Sunday, December 30, 2012

Why the Detroit Lions are losing

Basically it's because the whole organization, from top to bottom, consists of individuals that wouldn't be tolerated in any other NFL city. Consider ----

Owner William Clay Ford. A half century of the Lions' folly under his ownership speaks volumes and nothing more need be said.

General manager Martin Mayhew. He was front and center when the Lions showed a tad of false promise last year, and has since gone into hiding again, as well he should. This is the guy that used a 1st round draft pick to select an offensive tackle -- one Riley Reiff -- that can't even start. On any other NFL team, 1st round picks are supposed to immediately step in and be difference makers. In years past, it was standard procedure to spend a 1st round pick on a QB, while he sat back and learned for a couple years under the current starter. Not any more. Look at Andrew Luck in Indianpolis and Robert Griffin III in DC. They not only started immediately, but led their teams into the playoffs. Mayhew picked an offensive tackle to ride the pine. Only the Lions.

President Tom Lewand. The bean counter. It doesn't take a CPA to figure out Lewand's put his team in a financial bind. Even though they're coming off yet another woeful season (4-12), he had 7 players that ate up a full 58% of the salary cap. Calvin Johnson made $20 million. Matthew Stafford 12. Ndamukong Suh another 12. Aging defensive lineman Kyle Vanden Bosch 6. Mediocre at best linebacker Stephen Tulloch 5. Ever-yappy center Dominic Raiola another 5. For reasons that perhaps only the Lions' "brain trust" can comprehend, they saw fit to throw another $10 million at defensive tackle Cliff Avril for a year. Add it all up and it comes to about $70 million. The NFL salary cap in roughly $120 million. Bottom line? The Lions were left with 42% of the salary cap to pay the other 85% (46 players) on their team. It's not that the Lions wouldn't like to procure more talent -- they don't have the cap room to pay for it. Lewand's mysteriously disappeared too. Imagine that.

Head coach Jim Schwartz. What can one say? He's a loser. After 4 seasons as the Lions' coach, Schwartz is a whopping 20 games under .500. That's a bunch when the seasons are only 16 games long. Put another way, if the Lions were to go a perfect 16-0 next season, after 5 years Schwartz would STILL be a career loser. The chances of that happening? Well, here's a promise. If the Lions go 16-0 next season, yours truly will stand bare-ass naked on the sidewalk outside the Oakland Press building handing out Honolulu blue kool-aid until the authorities drag me off somewhere -- or the boss just shoots me. Actually, the latter might be preferable, but I'm fairly confident it won't come to that.

The coordinators. Defensive coordinator Gunther Cunningham has been around the NFL for a very long time. He put in many years with the KC Chiefs, the LA Raiders, and San Diego Chargers before being dragged along by Jim Schwartz. He's mostly been associated with losing teams too.
Offensive coordinator Scott Linehan was recently praised by Jim Schwartz as having done a great job. Well, what else would Schwartz say? I hired him and he has the creativity of a potted plant? It's not too hard to imagine how Linehan goes about calling plays. Put yourself in his spot. "Let's see. I've got a below average offensive line, a sorry-ass corps of running backs, tight ends that can't catch, and a few receivers that weren't good enough to stick with any other team. Eureka!! I have it. Hey Matthew, throw it in the general direction of Calvin and maybe he can catch it." After all, that's pretty much what the Lions' offensive strategy has been -- and look where it's got them. Calvin has a record, but the team loses and loses, and loses some more.

The players. Look at the Lions' roster. As a receiver, Calvin Johnson would start on any NFL team. But when other bean counters take a look at the massive salary cap hit that CJ brings along with him, many might not be so interested.
Mattthew Stafford could start for a few teams, but the majority of them already have QBs in place that they wouldn't trade even up for him. Stafford passes for a lot of yards only because Calvin Johnson is on his team. Put him somewhere else, and I suspect he'd be about average.
Placekicker Jason Hanson remains one of the most reliable in the league at his position, but I'm not at all sure how many teams would be interested in a 42 year old kicker.
Beyond that, who else do the Lions have on their entire roster that would be a sure-fire starter on another team? They've got a few guys with some talent, but those same guys either can't stay healthy, or have "issues". Either way, they're damaged goods in the eyes of general managers elsewhere.

So there you have it. The entire Lions' culture is STILL infested with people that wouldn't be good enough to participate in the league anywhere else. Certainly not by any city or franchise with an iota of pride, not to mention self-respect.

As I've stated on many occasions for umpteen years -- including 2011 when the Lions' faithful thought their team was finally going to be a contender -- what happened to the Lions this year was not only predictable, but highly probable.

Given their current sorry state of affairs, they're not going anywhere in the next few years either.

In my opinion, the only way the Lions can finally become competitive is to blow up the whole team. Get rid of the front office personnel, all the coaches and, yes, even the players. Start with a clean slate. The Fords could afford to eat all those contracts. Then they need to find one no-nonsense guy with a brilliant football mind to start building it from scratch, and put him in charge of the whole operation. The name Jon Gruden comes to mind. Gruden would laugh at coming to Detroit you say? Maybe, but if he was offered $10 million a year for 5 years and given the authority to hire his own coaches and have final say on draft picks and/or free agent signings, and further charged with the challenge of building a contender starting off with nothing -- he just might listen. Sure, they'd probably go 0-16 the first year, just like they did in 2008. Jim Schwartz came in and got the Lions to 2 wins, then 6, and then 10 last year. But that's where Schwartz maxed out. This year the Lions are once again heading back to the bottom of the barrel. The stupefying 3 year contract extension that Schwartz received aside -- he's pretty well outlived his usefulness. Anyone that thinks the Lions will become perennial contenders in the foreseeable future with what they have in place now is only fooling themselves. They have WAY too much downside; it was exposed once again this year, and it's not going away any time soon.

Blow it up and start over. After all, what do they have to lose? They've quickly become a laughingstock again. And give Gruden a call. If he's busy, check out a guy named Bill Cowher.


  1. OMG...we have had this discussion before, you are so correct, but Ford needs to go as well. I have met five year olds with more understanding of the game.

    The Princess


    1. William Clay will go alright -- eventually. If nothing else, God will retire him, permanently. But then Mustang Billy will likely be in charge for the next few decades. And HE'S the guy that talked Dad into hiring Matt Millen in the first place. It ain't looking good from the ownership standpoint.

  2. They must just need a tax writeoff....

    The Princess