Thursday, January 28, 2016

Detroit Lions. Another yawn

A lot of Lions fans thought late owner William Clay Ford must have been the problem. After all, he'd been in charge since 1963. Many coaches came and went, certainly entire generations of players, two new stadiums were built, and front office personnel was shuffled.

Still, the Lions remained the Lions all along. As in "same old". In the rare years when they were semi-competitive, they offered up just enough to keep their koolaided fans (and faithful media) hopeful for better things to come. Next year was always going to be the year.

The magical next year never happened. The Lions would crash and burn, and the whole process would start over again. It's been going on for over a half century.

But WCF can be blamed no longer. He has an airtight alibi, as in he's no longer alive. His dear widow Martha, now 90 herself, is running the show along with her daughters. Good luck with that.

Not long ago, the Lions underwent quite the purge. The president was fired, as was the GM, along with the offensive coordinator and a few coaches. Martha was doing quite the house cleaning and it was certainly long overdue. Even more recently, the Lions, in their infinite wisdom, have seen fit to can a few marketing people and even trainers. Will the waterboys be marched off to the guillotine next?

Yet the lead actor somehow survived. That would be head coach Jim Caldwell.

JC is an interesting sort. He was smart enough to endear himself to ownership -- Martha "loves" him, and always seems to say the "right things". The press also loves him because he's so accessible. On top of that, Caldwell is considered a "players coach". They love him as well.

So what could go wrong? Mostly the fact Caldwell is still there. His track record strongly suggests he's well suited to be an able lieutenant, but not cut out to be a general. He may be a nice guy and all, but this is not what the Lions need. They need somebody smart, tough, and demanding. A no-nonsense guy that won't shy away from hammering his own players, if necessary, in the pursuit of excellence. No more wishy-washy stuff about a player working hard and showing "potential". Either get it done -- NOW -- or you're gone. Period. Caldwell will never be that person.

JC's track record to date with the Lions falls into the category of "very predictable". Like in Indianapolis before, he inherited a team his predecessor had put together. In his first (2014) season with Detroit, the Lions had been so bad the previous year the NFL gave them a patsy schedule befitting such a sub-par team.

The Lions would go on to squeak into the playoffs (along the way catching every break imaginable to do so) and make a predictable first round exit.

But they had made the playoffs, hence their 2015 schedule would be a bit tougher. And so it was. Besides their mandatory 6 division games, the Lions had to play some good teams at the start of the season. The result? They were clobbered every which way and their season was basically over before Halloween. The back end of the schedule was a bit kinder, and the Lions won some meaningless games after it didn't even matter any more.

The upshot? The Lions' faithful, likely including Martha and the girls, forgot about the first half of season -- which was telling -- and only considered what a great "turnaround" Caldwell had engineered. It was the usual Lions' "fool's gold". The fans and media bought in yet again. These guys are getting better, they claimed. Reload the season tickets and sit with bated breath when the draft comes around. Anything's possible next year. It could be the one.

No, it won't be. If anything, the 2016 season will be just another cruel punishment inflicted on the sappies. Given their sub-par 2015 performance, the NFL has once again handed the Lions an easy schedule. The Lions could well go 10-6 or 11-5 again and make another playoff appearance. Jim Caldwell would probably get a contract extension. But does anybody seriously think the Lions would even remotely be considered as Super Bowl contenders? Of course not. The Motown koolaid is strong, but hopefully not THAT strong.

Look around the league and even at the Lions themselves. Carolina is sitting on top of the NFC. Seattle will be back, and Arizona is really good. Heck, within their own division, Minnesota's on the upswing and if Green Bay can ever stay healthy, they remain a force.

Meanwhile, Calvin, the former Megatron Johnson, doesn't even know if he wants to play next year. Can't blame him. He's got enough money and has taken enough beatings. The Lions O-line remains Keystone Koppish, they don't have a decent running back, have a bevy of tight ends -- but even when they can stay healthy, none are complete players. Their D-line also remains in flux, the linebacker corps is average at best. the secondary is unsettled, and they have over 20 guys that are in contract limbo.

Many say defensive coordinator Teryl Austin is worthy of being a head coach somewhere. Well, he's interviewed for 7 such jobs recently, and nobody else has found him fit to hire. He'll be back with the Lions because he doesn't have a helluva lot of choice.

So yeah. Let the hype begin for the Detroit Lions and their 2016 "possibilities". But in the end, you just know what's going to happen. They'll do just enough to keep the suckers coming back for even more frustration. And they'll willingly do so. Such is their nature. Poor devils.

When it comes to the Lions -- it's just another year. After over a half century of futility, who's even counting any more?

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