Saturday, August 16, 2014

Detroit Lions assessment

After returning from the eve of the Dream Cruise, what a blast, yours truly caught a bit of the Detroit Lions/Oakland Raiders game. In no particular order -- a few random thoughts-----

Yes, it was a local broadcast, but can't they find a couple announcers that can be a little more objective? These guys were bigger homers than anything Babe Ruth ever swatted.

A Lions' place-kicker missed an extra point, then bombed a 56 yard field goal that looked like it would have been good from 65. So how do you grade him out?

Evidently, a new head coach, coordinators, and new systems haven't changed one thing with the Lions. A few bone-headed penalties every game are still mandatory. It's like it's in the franchise's DNA or something. False starts have to be the stupidest penalties of them all. Hey, the O-line just heard the snap count in the huddle 10 seconds before, so why, tell me WHY, do some of these behemoths continue to prematurely jump before the play has started? Once set, don't move until the center snaps the ball. Can the coaches not get them to comprehend this simple concept?

And speaking of dumb -- which is worse? The Raiders facing third and one deep in Lions territory, with 25 seconds left on the game clock and trailing by 6 points -- only to see their QB get called for delay of game, which made it third and six? Or a Lion defensive back commit blatant interference on the ensuing pass play to give them another first down. Or perhaps the Lions dropping 7 guys into red zone pass coverage, only to see a Raider receiver stand wide open at the goal line to receive the winning touchdown pass. This was some seriously dumb football going on. By both sides.

Much like President Obama, new Lions' head coach Jim Caldwell's hair seems to be turning gray in a hurry. This is understandable for the POTUS. He's been in office for 5 1/2 years and has/had to deal with a lot of thorny issues. Illegal immigration, those pesky foreign wars, the economy, and a dysfunctional Congress to name a few. That Oval Office gig is a really high stress job. It would likely turn anybody's hair gray.

But Caldwell has no idea what he signed up for. Yes, like all his predecessors that have crashed and burned before him, he'll make big bucks while being convinced he can lead the Lions to Super Bowl glory. I'll give him three years, four max, before he becomes just another addition to the Lions' ex-coaching scrap heap -- never to be a head coach elsewhere again. The Lions are where head coaches go to die. And despite the Detroit hype, Caldwell's record already suggests he was very effective at being a coordinator under another successful head coach, but not so hot when he assumed the reins of command himself. Forget the gray hairs, Caldwell will be lucky if he doesn't require some serious daily meds to calm his nerves in a few years. It's the Lions, remember? They could get the Pope to start eating xanax like popcorn.

It seems odd that while, on the one hand, coaches stress the importance of practice repetitions to get guys ready for the real games. But on the other hand, the Lions keep giving a handful of their "starters" a free pass from having to participate in practice. This guy has a personal excuse. That guy is being "brought along slowly". With still others, they won't risk the chance of injury before the games really count. So which way do they want it? It can't be both.

They've got a defensive tackle, one Nick Fairley, that has gone into serious pout mode because he hasn't got all the first team reps in practice. Nevermind that Fairley has been an underachiever in his  time with the team, and further nevermind that because of his huge belly hanging over his waist he still can't see his nether regions, or probably feet, without the benefit of a mirror. His pride has been hurt. Poor Nick. Oh boo hoo hoo. Do you think good teams around the league would put up with this nonsense? Please.

It will be interesting to see how the Lions' season plays out. They start off with a Monday night home game against the NY Giants on national TV. Big exposure. They even have to go to London later on in their schedule to play the Atlanta Falcons. Pip, pip, and tally-ho. Yet neither of these opponents were remotely competitive last year, and likely won't be this year.

And the Lions couldn't have asked for an easier schedule. Besides their obligatory division games, the only really tough contest they appear to have is against the New England Patriots in Foxborough.

Given all the talent they supposedly have, and given their star players, practice reps or not, are entering the "prime" of their careers -- if they don't make the playoffs this year, and maybe even (gasp) win a game in the postseason, they might as well fold up their tent in Detroit and go someplace else, but it's obviously not destined to happen in Motown.

Hey, the old Cleveland Browns moved to Baltimore and became Super Bowl champions. Same with the old Baltimore Colts moving to Indianapolis. The old LA Rams moved to St. Louis and won it. The old Houston Oilers went to Tennessee and at least GOT to the big dance. Expansion teams have come into existence and made appearances in the Super Bowl. See Carolina. Before them, Tampa Bay was an expansion team. They were initially terrible, but they eventually got it together and won a
Super Bowl. But never the Lions, one of the NFL's original franchises. Besides them, only the Houston Texans, Jacksonville Jaguars, and new Cleveland Browns -- all relatively new teams in the league -- have never made it to the Super Bowl.

And it's not going to happen this year for the Lions either. If things break right for them -- maybe a playoff game. If things break bad, not even that. Somewhere between 10-6 and 7-9, even given the "patsy" schedule that was handed to them.

But the Super Bowl this year? Not a chance....

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