Monday, November 23, 2015

Detroit Lions. A strange animal

Remember when the Lions were 0-5, then 1-7? All was seemingly lost -- again -- and their president and general manager got fired. Certainly head coach Jim Caldwell's days were numbered -- right? Usually when an owner breaks out the broom, the head coach is the FIRST one swept out the door.

But then something most unexpected happened. The Lions went into Green Bay and defeated the Packers. Nobody saw that coming, especially the bookies. True, normally reliable Packer place kicker Mason Crosby missed a last second field goal that would have changed the outcome, but it was from 52 yards out. Not super-long, but not a gimme either. Maybe a 50-50 proposition, and that's the way it goes sometimes. The Lions had chalked up a very improbable victory. Jim Caldwell could exhale.

Just yesterday the Lions squeaked out a home win over the Oakland Raiders. The silver and black boys are hardly world beaters this year, but they're decent. It was odd, or maybe not, to see them favored by 3 points on the road against the Lions.

In the meanwhile, the Lions had appointed an interim Pres and GM, for reasons only a Ford can understand, but their version of the oval office has now been filled by a "permanent" chief executive. That would be one Rod Wood. Or that wood be one Rod Would. Whatever. Close enough. No word yet on the next "permanent" GM, but the Wood man will have to hire somebody eventually. Wood himself admits he knows nothing about football, and therefore was unqualified to be the president of any other NFL team. But he thinks he'll fit right in with the Lions and the Ford football hierarchy. Truer words were never spoken. It's comical when one thinks about it. And it's usually a good idea to have a GM-- you know, a football guy -- when that pesky draft rolls around. Or dabbling in the free agent market. Or trades. Or negotiating player contracts with shyster agents with the sword of Damacles salary cap always looming overhead. A typical NFL GM is a very busy guy trying to juggle a lot of balls.

Thing is, your typical NFL GM normally wants to hire his own head coach. The two recent wins notwithstanding, Caldwell might not be out of the woods -- there's that name again -- just yet. A new GM doesn't want to be saddled with the baggage his fired predecessor left behind. A fresh start is a fresh start and any GM worth his weight in $6 leathery hot dogs and $8 cups of nasty draft beer will also demand the authority to hire his own coaching staff -- or no deal. When the new kid in the ivory tower finally arrives, it remains to be seen what will become of Jim Caldwell and his merry band of coordinators, coaches, and assistants.

But Caldwell's lucky penny has come up heads lately. The win in Green Bay was a shocker, and the Lions put on a ho-hum effort to squeak by the Raiders. Next up are the Philadelphia Eagles on Thanksgiving day.

Head coach Chip Kelly raised a lot of eyebrows when he dumped a lot of very talented players in a roster purge before this season began. And he traded a fairly reliable QB in Nick Foles for Sam Bradford, a guy that not only can't stay healthy, but is mediocre at best when he's even available to play. Kelly was given the benefit of the doubt by many. He had won every place he had been before. Perhaps the mad genius had a plan that would shock the world. Turns out, the Eagles have gone into the tank. A week ago they got beat at home by the lowly Miami Dolphins. Just yesterday they were walloped -- again at home -- 45-17 by the Tampa Bay Bucs. You know, those guys with the crab leg stealing rookie QB named Jameis Winston. It doesn't get any lower than being drubbed by four touchdowns at home by the likes of the Bucs.

But this is the team the Lions have up next. If they can beat the sad-sack Eagles it would mean three wins in a row for Caldwell and the always unpredictable Lions. Plus, it will be a nationally televised game. Exposure galore. Like it or not, NFL junkies around the country will have no choice but to watch these two teams while the finishing touches are being put on the usual Thanksgiving feast. It's the only game available in the early time slot. The good game doesn't come on until the leftovers are being zip-locked and refrigerated and the dishwater loaded up. Still undefeated Carolina at Dallas should be quite the show. Yeah, later on it's the Cheesers and Da Bears in a yawner. But toss a couple more beers on top of the mountain of food already in their stomachs, and everybody will be sawing logs anyway. Perhaps when the hosts finally come to again, all the company and their insufferable kids will have found their way out. One can hope. And check the fridge. Chances are, some of those leftovers will have mysteriously disappeared. Nobody will know anything, of course.

In all probability, a risky concept when it comes to the Lions, they will likely beat the Eagles. At that point the Lions would be 4-7. Could they run the table and wind up 9-7 and perhaps sneak into a wild card spot? Sure. Anything's possible. I might get a Pulitzer for this post -- but I wouldn't bet on it.

The reality is the Lions bumbled their way out of any playoff chance before Halloween. And the next day the KC Chiefs put a 45-10 exclamation point on it in London. At that point, it was already over.

Right now, and for the remainder of the season, at least until a new GM gets hired -- whenever that is -- Jim Caldwell, his staff, and several players are trying to save their jobs. It's a double-edged sword for the Lions. Forget the playoffs, much less any delusional Super Bowl aspirations. That's not going to happen. And sure, they might win a few more games this year. But if they do, they'll just slide further down the draft board next spring. So even if they win -- they lose.

Then again, other than Calvin Johnson, the Lions have pretty well stunk it up in the draft for several years anyway.

Let the banker man Rod Wood look after the Fords' various accounts. Again, he's already admitted he doesn't know squat about football. But what the Lions REALLY need is an NFL savvy GM that will come in, jettison the obvious trash, and get to work building a house that will last -- one brick at a time. It will take a while, but the right guy can do it. The trick is finding that person, and he being willing to come to the Lions. Neither is a given. A really smart guy is going to look long and hard at the current plight of the Lions before jumping into a commitment that might well spell the end of his NFL career in a few years if he gets it wrong. It's not always only about the money to truly qualified people that value their reputations. Such people will never be hurting for dough, because others will want them as well.

His first order of business should be showing Jim Caldwell and his underwhelming staff out the door. JC might be a nice guy and say all the right things, but make no mistake. When it comes to leading an NFL team, this guy is a proven loser. The Lions have no, repeat NO shot at being contenders while he and his minions are in charge of field strategy.

But of course it's still the Lions and the Fords still own them. Anything can happen. If the late Willie Clay wasn't inept enough, now it's Martha and her girls.

Good luck with that. It's like an old time merry-go-round in the twilight zone. Round and round it goes, but that damned brass ring is always on the far side. It seems impossible. But hey, we're talking about the Lions here.

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