Detroit Lions – Will They Ever Turn The Corner?

Roaring Lion

One thing I have to get off my chest:  Writer’s block absolutely sucks!

One would think that after the Seahawk – Lions game two weeks ago, I could offer a unique perspective on what went down seeing how I have lived in Detroit and Seattle for about the same number of years now.

But nope….nothing, nada, zip.

So I decided today that I would write something, anything to get my mojo back…and what I came up with is common ground:  What the heck is going on with the Lions?

Forget the statistical stuff…anyone can look up and see where the problems are.  I’d prefer to be a little more philosophical if I could.

Their last championship season was in in 1957, 58 years ago.  I was born in 1958 and I’ve see my Lions in the playoffs 11 times in my lifetime and have only seen them advance beyond the first round once.  That would be the dismantling of the Dallas Cowboys in 1991 with a score of 38-6.

Naturally, they couldn’t carry over that success the following week where the Lions were dismantled and humiliated by Washington, 41-10.

When William Clay Ford purchased the Lions in 1963 for $4.5 million dollars, many believe this became the crux of many, many problems that the Lions have endured over the years.  The Lions have had their share of great players during this time, like Alex Karras, Greg Landry, Billy Sims, Lem Barney, Mel Farr, Herman Moore, Chris Speilman and of course Barry Sanders.

But despite these great players, the management portion has always been less than stellar.  Russ Thomas, who was actually with the team as an assistant coach in 1952 and 1953.  But when William Ford tapped him to be the GM in 1967, he was pretty much the sole reason for the Lions mediocrity during his 22 year reign.

Russ Thomas was a tight-wad as if the money spent on player salaries was his own.  His philosophy on player salaries was to avoid paying market value at all costs.  If his number for a player was set in his mind, he would rather lose the players than pay them what they were really worth.

Understand the Lions had many players drafted they let get away because of Thomas being a miser.  Players such as Fred Belitnikoff, perhaps one of the greatest possession receivers to  play the game.  Or seven time Pro-Bowl safety Johnny Robinson.

Did you know the Lions actually drafted six time Pro-Bowl quarterback John Hadl in 1962?  He was taken 10th over all by the Lions…and never played a down for them.  He, of course, became the starting QB for the San Diego Chargers and from 1966 to 1970, averaged over 3,000 yards passing and 28 touchdowns per season.

After Russ Thomas came Chuck Schmidt who attempted to get the Lions on the right track.  From 1989 to 2000, he gave the Lions perhaps the most successful decade since the 1950’s.  During that time, the Lions made six playoff appearances, winning one (the sole win since 1957) game out of seven.  He gave Wayne Fontes some very good players during that time…and while they had pretty good regular seasons, the choked during the playoffs.

And of course, after Schmidt came the GM whose name will not be spoken, a demon who had no business being a general manager of a Girl Scout team let alone a professional football franchise.  A GM who put together a team that went 0-16 in 2008…Nuff said.

And now we have Martin Mayhew who started out looking pretty damn good…course after following the previous GM, how could he not, right?

This current crop of players that the Lions have, both on offense and defense, compares fairly well with other NFL teams.  But for some reason, the Lions just can’t get the combination right.  They either have the players but a coaching staff that is unimaginative or they have the coaching staff but don’t have the player talent to execute!

Okay, this part is going to be a bit tricky:  I know the Ford family is Detroit loyalty but I truly believe the crux of the Detroit Lions is the Ford family.

I was hoping that the Ford family would have sought out a buyer for the team under the condition the team stays.  But I see that Martha Ford has taken over and William Clay Ford Jr. has pretty much reduced his role as Vice Chairman, leaving the team being controlled by President Tom Lewand and GM Martin Mayhew.

This current coaching staff, with Jim Caldwell as head coach and coordinators Joe Lombardi (Offense) and Teryl Austin (Defense) seems to be running a bit scared…as if they are coaching to not lose games as opposed to trying to win them.

Granted, the win over the Bears last week showed some promise.  The offense seemed to open up more with Stafford getting some deep passes to Calvin Johnson.  Still need to get an effective running game though….something that can be relied on to eat up some game clock toward the end of games.

I look at the last six games…the Lions could easily be 4-2 instead of 1-5.  If they hadn’t blown 21-10 lead at the half and allowed the Chargers to score 23 points in the second half, they could have had a rare West Coast win.

They were in the Minnesota game and of course, lost a heart-breaker to Seattle.  Screw the missed call, Calvin has got to hang on to the ball until the whistle blows.  But it was a great play by a great player in Kam Chancellor taking on another great player in Calvin Johnson.

I doubt the Lions will have a shot at the playoffs this year.  But I do want them to get on a hot streak and make the Packers nervous.  If anything, a sweep of the Packers this year would be a helluva accomplishment…and it would give the Lions something to build on next year.

Yeah, I know, I’m just as tired of saying it as much as anyone but wait until next year. 

It Ain’t Easy Being a Detroit Lions Fan

The title of this article says it all:  It ain’t easy being a Lions fan.

After Monday night’s game, where yet the Lions snatched victory from the jaws of defeat yet again, I questioned my own sanity as to why I am so loyal this this team.

Can’t be because of the four NFL Championship games they won, they all occurred before I was a twinkle in my Daddy’s eye.

Prior to the game, I was pondering which jersey to wear.  Should I honor my hometown team and wear my number 15 Golden Tate III or should I wear my number 31 Kam Chancellor to honor the team I have watched since I moved here in 1989.

The pull was to great, I wore the Golden Tate III jersey.  Because I wanted to see my Lions come to Seattle, the league’s loudest stadium with the most loyal fans and do something great.

The Seahawks were plumb for the taking, having started out with road losses against the St. Louis Rams and the Green Bay Packers.  The game against the Chicago Bears was a great effort by the Seahawks and as much as I love the Lions is about as much as I dislike the Bears.  After the 26-0 shutout, I felt that it couldn’t have happen to a better team.

But being a Lions fan is to suffer strange losses and heartbreak.  The loss to the Seahawks wasn’t the strangest…forget the batted ball rule…Kam Chancellor made one helluva play to knock that ball lose.  And Calvin Johnson himself said that “bottom line, I have got to hang on to the ball.”

As for the no call on KJ Wright for batting the ball out of bounds, it really is a non-issue…if Johnson had hung on to the ball, the defense, which really played great in this game, would have had to stop the Hawks with 1:51 left in the game.

Now despite the Lions recovering three fumbles and sacking Seattle’s Russell Wilson 6 times, the Lions were still having a very hard time containing him.  There were scrambles that Wilson made that looked like he was coached by Twyla Tharp.

But here’s the thing:  The Detroit Lions did play a very good defensive game.  Despite the fact the Seahawks didn’t have Marshawn Lynch, they contained that offense pretty well…and to hold a team that had averaged 24 points a game over the last three games to only 13 is saying something.

But now we get to the crux of the issue, the Detroit Lions offense.  After dropping 21 points in the first half on the San Diego Chargers in the opening game of the season, the Lions became predictable.  Golden Tate came out and said that opposing teams knew what was coming.

And watching the game against the Seahawks, in the first three quarters, I was about 75% correct on what they were going to do…and I’m no expert at reading offenses.

But in the fourth quarter, the Lions offense suddenly came awake.  With 6:24 left in the game, the Lions put together a masterful 91-yard drive that could have driven the Seahawks into panic mode until the fumble in the end zone.

During that drive, the Seahawks didn’t know what hit them.  Stafford was masterful with pin-point precision, hitting four different receivers driving them to the 11 yard line, setting up the fateful play.

And it’s at this time you want to go to your best players.  Stafford drifted back, looked for the best wide receiver on the planet and connected.  And Calvin did what every bone in his body said to do:  Fight to get over the goal line…and a special play by a special player in Kam Chancellor put the Lions at 0-4.

Here’s what gets me about Matthew Stafford.  During that drive, he got what Golden Tate called “that look in his eye” that would give him the focus to put the Lions on his back and drive them to victory.  It’s one of the reasons Tate said he wanted to come to the Lions.

If there is any hope for this season, Matt Stafford has to get that “look in his eye” from the opening kick-off until the final gun.  It’s his team, he needs to own it.

And Joe Lombardi, quit being an old lady and take the shackles off.  Convince Jim Caldwell that the current ball-control offense isn’t working and start taking some chances early in the game instead of always in desperation mode.

It’s time to awaken the Lion.

Awake The Lion

Seattle Seahawks vs. Detroit Lions – Beer Thinker is Conflicted

SeattleDetroit

I have been dreading to write this.  My heart wants my original hometown team, the Detroit Lions, to get off the snide and start winning.  Of course, all of us true blue Lions fans have been waiting for them to get off the snide for a very long time.

But my head is telling me the Seahawks are going to pull this one out and even their record to 2-2 on the national stage of Monday Night Football.  The Hawks are just too talented and well coached, playing at home and under Pete Carroll’s tenure, have done very well playing in nationally televised games.  Too many hills for the Lions to climb.

Not to mention the 12’s, one of the most fanatical fan bases in the NFL.  I know there is a contingent of loyal Lions fans that will be attending the game…I would hope that the 12’s will welcome the Lions Pride with respect.  We’re all here to cheer on our respective teams.  Let’s not do anything stupid on either side, OK?

Since I have lived in both Detroit and Seattle for approximately the same amount of time now, I feel I have a better perspective of both teams than the average fan.  Anyone that knows me knows that deep down, I am a Lions fan.  That will always be true.  But the Seahawks also have my attention as well…and why wouldn’t they?  They have achieved something us Lions fans have been waiting for since 1957…a chance to play in a championship game.

To further torture myself, I decided to do a comparison between the two teams.  To be fair, both are compared from 1976, the inception of the Seahawks, to 2014…a total of 612 games.

Bottom line for regular season games?  Seahawks went 305-307 for a winning percentage of .498.

The Lions?  242-370, winning at a .395 clip, just over a full percentage point worse than the Hawks.  If the Lions could have averaged just 1.61 games over the past 36 years, they could be at almost .500 since 1976.

Here’s the thing about the two teams:  From 1977 to 2010, both teams had frustrations in the playoffs.  Granted, in 2005, the Hawks made their first Super Bowl appearance but we all know what happened in that game.

But in 2010, Paul Allen, since purchasing the team from Ken Behring in 1997, hired Pete Carroll and most important, John Schneider.  With these two at the helm, they have made some fantastic draft choices, finding players they believe would fit their system the best.  And they found many of these players from the 3rd round to the 6th as well as signing free agent rookies.  They built a program around a power running game and protecting the football for an offense.  As for defense, they went unconventional to very tall and rangy cornerbacks such as Richard Sherman and safeties like Kam Chancellor with a linebacker mentality.

And in a span of four years, the Seahawks played in 10 playoff games with a record of 7-3, appearing in back-to-back Super Bowls winning it all in 2013 and losing in a heartbreaker in 2014.

I don’t believe in the history of the Lions that they haven’t had the same level of coaching or players.  There have been some very good coaches the Lions had…Bobby Ross, Steve Mariucci and Jim Schwartz come to mind…and current head coach Jim Caldwell has an impressive resume as well.  And yes, we have had some bumbling idiots as well such as Rod Marinelli and Marty Mornhinweg.

But the coach is only going to be as good as the players assembled for him.  And in this comparison, right now, the Seahawks have far surpassed the Lions in every single aspect.  The draft better, they scout better, they look deeper and they sign smarter.

The Lions would do well to take a page from the Seahawks…but that’s not going to happen until a progressive owner takes over.  I respect the Fords for being one of the longest-tenured owners in the league.  But I said this when I was writing for FireMillen.com:  The Lions will never become consistent contenders until new ownership comes in.

I want the Lions to remain in Detroit forever.  And any new owner that comes in will need to keep them in place.  But that new owner needs to bring in a new philosophy and a winning attitude.  Otherwise, I’m not sure when the Lions will ever get back to the big dance.