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. 

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