Tag Archives: Calvin Johnson

Detroit Lions – Looking Forward to 2018

Yes, I know the Lions are currently in second place in the NFC North.  Yes, I know the Lions are still in the hunt for a wild card spot in the 2017 NFL Playoffs.

But based on their performance over the last three games, even if they make the playoffs, they won’t last the first round.  And should we as Lions fans find that acceptable?  I suppose for a fan base that hasn’t seen a championship since 1957, it would be.

I for one am not going down that path.  60 years since the Lions were last crowned as the best in the NFL is far too long.

Since Lions GM Bob Quinn has taken over, the Lions have made progress.  The 2016 draft shored up the offensive line with OT Taylor Decker and C Graham Glasgow as well as improving the defense with DT A’Shawn Robinson, S Miles Killebrew and LB Antione Williams.

Quinn made some small improvements in 2017 in getting some WR help drafting Kenny Golladay but the focus was mainly on defense again.

So where do the Lions go in 2018?  There is no question the Lions made Matthew Stafford the highest paid QB in the NFL was the right move.  But it’s an all too familiar trap the Lions seem to fall into by relying on one player with massive talent and hope the rest of the offense can do adequately enough to put points on the board.  We’ve seen this with Billy Sims, Barry Sanders, Herman Moore, Calvin Johnson and now Matthew Stafford.

The Thanksgiving Day loss against the Minnesota Vikings exposed a huge deficiency, perhaps the worst kept secret in the NFL: The Detroit Lions don’t have a running game.

I’ve never been a fan of Ameer Abdullah.  He tends to jitterbug too much instead of making one cut, find the hole and go.  And at 5-9 and 203 lbs., he isn’t big or strong enough to be used for short yardage situations.  He is, at best, a change of pace running back and should be used in that fashion if the Lions deem to keep him on the roster.

Personally, I’d cut ties with Abdullah because of the presence of Theo Riddick.  Release Abdullah and look for a big running back that does take the one cut and then heads North.

I doubt the Lions (unless Quinn does some horse-trading) will have a shot at Penn State’s Saquon Barkley or LSU’s Derrius Grace.   Both of them are big-play threats that would take a ton of pressure off Matthew Stafford.  Play fakes would go to the next level and imagine Stafford working with a 2nd and 3 most of the time instead of 2nd and 8!

And the passing game, as good as it is now, would be even more explosive!  A play fake on 2nd and 3 and then Stafford hits Jones, Tate, Golladay or Ebron on a seam route that leave the middle open because the linebackers have moved up, anticipating the run.  If Stafford see’s the linebackers stay back, he hands it off and most likely, the running back picks up the first down.

I think Oregon’s Royce Freeman would be an excellent fit for the Lions.  According to Pro-Football Focus, he is listed as #2 in the nation in breakaway percentage among 2018 eligible running backs.  At 5-11 and 231 lbs., he has the size to bust through holes and with a 4.5 40 time, is fast enough when he hits the hole to get deep into the secondary.

I also think he’ll be able to move the pile in short-yardage situations.  He’ll need to get better on protecting the ball and needs to shore up his blocking techniques but those are coachable.

By getting Freeman (or a equivalent of Freeman), you get a running back that will wear down a defense, allow for better play calling and most importantly, you have a rested defense that can tee-off on opposing QB’s.

In fact, if getting a big running back is the only player they take on the offensive line, I would applaud the Lions going after more D-line players and in the later rounds, get some depth for the Offensive Line, specifically the guard position.

I want the Lions to be an elite team and be one that will be elite for years to come.  Stafford is still a relatively young QB at 29 but in the NFL, anything can happen.  The Lions need to give Stafford the final piece of the puzzle:  a 1,000 yard rusher (one he hasn’t had in 5 years) and a rusher who can give him consistent 85-100 yards a game.  The fact that the Lions haven’t had a running back to gain 100 yards in a game in over 4 years is just as dubious as the 0-16 season in 2008.

Lions need to build on this season and should have a goal to get to and win the Super Bowl in 2019.

 

Detroit Lions Bob Quinn’s First NFL Draft as GM – Make Us Proud!

Show Us What Ya Got Bobby!
Show Us What Ya Got Bobby!

On April 28th, we Lions fans are going to see what new GM Bob Quinn is going to. Is he going to start this team on the road to consistent winning seasons and perhaps a trip to the Super Bowl within the next 3 years? Or will he flame out like so many other GM’s the Lions have had over the years.

I will say that last year, while disappointing, was perhaps one of the most interesting seasons that I could recall in a while. Not so much regarding the play on the field which started like crap but ended up with the Lions being in contention until late in the season. Not a place anyone expected them to be after a horrendous 1-8 start.

Martha Firestone Ford does not show the loyalty that her late husband, Bill Ford, Sr., did when it came to GM’s and coaches. She is loyal to them as long as they are winning…but she has a quick hook if results aren’t achieved as the firings of Mayhew and Lewand prove. I also believe that she was instrumental in part of the removal of Joe Lombardi as the offensive coordinator last year which gave Jim Bob Cooter a chance which he took great advantage of.

When Cooter took over the job on October 26th, Cooter had very little time to get his offense ready for the trip to London. I think the only thing he could do was try to survive the game. It had to be tough on the players to get used to a new offensive coordinator with only 4 days to prepare and make that long trip across the pond. And it showed in the game, a 45-10 loss to the Kansas City Chief in jolly old England.

The loss came on November 1st. Four days later, General Manager Martin Mayhew and President Tom Lewand were thanked for their services and show the door.

Both were left-overs from the scorched-earth tenure of THE most inexperienced GM that ever walked the face of the earth, otherwise known as the smarmy Matt Millen. But they made some significant contributions and after the epic 2008 0 – 16 record, Millen was fired (two years too late in my estimation), Mayhew engineered some decent trades and drafts to get the Lions into the playoffs four years later in 2011. Granted, they were overmatched in the Wild Card game against the Saints but they did improve each season since 2008. Yeah, I know, how can you not after losing every single game in 2008…and after achieving a 10-6 record in 2011, they reverted back to their losing ways in 2012 and flopped to a 4-12 season.

Enter Bob Quinn, then the New England Patriots director of pro scouting, hired by Ernie Accorsi, an excellent GM during his time with the New York Giants. The search was quick and the face-to-face interview that Accorsi had with Quinn gave light to the reasons why the Patriots just don’t win, they dominate year after year.

Accorsi spoke with Patriots head coach Bill Belichick (a former Detroit Lion receivers coach in 1977) and while the conversation they had hasn’t been made public, Accorsi respected Belichick’s opinion enough that he convinced the Lions to pull the trigger and hire Quinn.

And in yet another smart move, the Detroit Lions retained Accorsi as a special advisor which gives Quinn a very experienced person to speak with as this is Quinn’s first time as a General Manager.

In typical fashion, Quinn isn’t giving any hints on what his plans are for the upcoming draft April 28th – 30th. And so far in free agency, Quinn has made some significant moves, getting WR Marvin Jones from the Bengals after the retirement of Calvin Johnson.

He also shored up the secondary bringing in four defensive backs, CB Johnson Bademosi and Crezdon Butler as well as safeties Tavon Wilson and Rafael Bush. And perhaps the most intriguing signing was getting Buffalo Bills DT Stefan Charles on a one year contract.

Which brings us to the draft. What will Quinn do? Not sure but I suspect that it won’t be a typical, desperate Detroit Lion draft where they pin the hopes of success on one player. Quinn and the advice of Ernie Accorsi is going to be geared into building a team. A team that will have sustainability and if it just happens to follow how the New England Patriots do business, well cripes, I think all of us die-hard Lions fans can accept a 15 year run with an average of 11 wins a season, 13 trips to the playoffs, 6 Super Bowl appearances and 4 Super Bowl wins.

Granted, there is a lot of work to do…and to be honest, I don’t suspect we’ll see the Lions in the playoffs in 2016. However, the success the Lions had in the second half of 2015 is a decent foundation to build on. Jim Caldwell may not have the football acumen of a Bill Belichick but he does have 2 Super Bowl appearances, winning one of them.

I predict the draft will be a good one for the Lions. Bob Quinn and company are going to give the Ford Family and the City of Detroit something to be proud of for a long time.

Calvin Johnson: First Ballot Hall of Famer? Damn Right He Is!

Calvin Johnson

On March 8, 2016, Calvin Johnson released a statement announcing his retirement from the Detroit Lions and the National Football League.

And in typical fashion for Calvin, it was done with dignity and a whole lot of class. Just about everyone that talks about Mr. Johnson would say he is one of the classiest people in and out of the NFL. I never personally met the man but the way he conducted himself on the field and in the numerous interviews I’ve seen on him, he is on my Top Ten List of people I would love to have a conversation with.

No doubt the critics of Johnson will say that he left too much in the tank and is being selfish for leaving the game early. Far be it from me to speak for Calvin, but in my humble opinion, those naysayers have no idea what they are talking about.

In the nine years Calvin played in the NFL, he caught for less than 1,000 yards in only 2 of those years. In 2007, his rookie year, Johnson caught 48 passes for 756 yards and in 2009, he caught 67 passes for 984 yards.

From 2010 to 2015, he averaged a little under 90 receptions per year and 1,424 yards per year. This includes the NFL record year in which he caught 122 passes for 1,964 yards, breaking Jerry Rice’s record of 1,848 yards set in 1995.

Calvin also had a game against the Dallas Cowboys where he torched them for 329 yards on 14 catches and 1 touchdown in which the Lions won, 31-30. This is the second most yards in a game behind Flipper Anderson’s 336, but Flipper needed OT to get all his yards.

Some other NFL records Calvin holds in addition to the most receiving yards in a season:

  • First player with at least 2 touchdowns in each of his team’s first four games in a season
  • 2 seasons with at least 1,600 yards (tied with Tory Holt and Marvin Harrison)
  • Most consecutive games with at least 100 yards receiving with eight
  • Most consecutive games with at least 10 receptions with four
  • Most 100 yard games in a single season with 11 (tied with Michael Irvin)
  • Most receiving yards in a five game span (861 yards)
  • Most receiving yards in a six game span (962)
  • Fastest to reach 10,000 yards receiving (115 games)

Detroit Lions Franchise Records:

  • Most receiving touchdowns in a season (16 in 20111)
  • Most seasons with 10 or more receiving touchdowns (4)
  • Most career 70+ receptions per year (8)
  • Most games with multiple touchdowns in one half (12)

It’s hard to argue his greatness. Calvin, at 6-5” and 239 lbs., caught just about everything that came his way. But his body took a ton of abuse with corners and safeties pulling and pushing on him, trying to do as much as they could get away with to prevent him from catching the ball.

And not once did Johnson ever call his opponents out or complain to the referees about what was being done to him…it was part of the game and he accepted it with class and dignity.

Even in the opening game of 2011 against division rival Chicago Bears, when he rose up above Zack Bowman to catch a Scott Hill pass with 24 seconds left on the clock. When the call was overturned, you saw Calvin shake his head in disbelief but not once did he berate officials or throw a fit as we have seen some other players do.

In fact, Johnson took it upon himself to say  “That was me; I have to know the rules about completing the catch.” Though until this day, there is no one that can explain to just what is a proper catch.

He refused to let that moment define him. Instead, he forged on to continue to be one of the best that has played the position.

Let’s discuss his Hall of Fame possibilities. I may be a tad biased since he was a member of the Detroit Lions but I truly believe that Calvin has done enough to be a first ballot Hall of Famer. I can already hear the arguments that he shouldn’t…in fact, one fellow blogger from the Sportsblog pretty much indicates Calvin is not only a first ballot Hall of Famer, he shouldn’t even be considered for election to the Hall.

On February 17th, Anthony Eyeballs wrote “Calvin Johnson Is Not a Hall of Famer!” citing such various reasons that I will put arguments against.

  1. Calvin did not play long enough. I agree with most that Calvin did indeed cut short his career. But in this day and age of hoping for a good life after participating in a brutal sort, I applaud Calvin’s decision to leave the game while he still had a lot left in the tank. We can put forth the “love of the game” mantra, and for the most part, Calvin did show he loved the game. But football is a cruel mistress to the body. It takes a lot and outside of making a whole lot of money, it leaves that body in terrible shape if one stays in the game too long. Calvin wants to start a family and I’m sure he hopes to be able to pick-up his baby boy or girl without having shooting pains. Calvin loves the game but his priorities have shifted and now family comes first.
  2. His teams were never too great and never won a Super Bowl. This perhaps is the most erroneous reason for any player who had great careers but have this is an issue. Calvin Johnson was drafted and paid a lot of money to do two things: Catch passes and score touchdowns, which he did at an amazing pace. He was not responsible for drafts, free agency signings, play calling or which quarterback would throw to him. And he was not responsible for front office decisions…are you seriously going to put Matt Millen on his shoulders as a determent to getting into the Hall?

Jamie Samuelsen, co-host of “Jamie and Wojo” show, wrote an article in the Detroit Free Press “Jamie: Calvin Johnson is a Hall of Famer, but not right away.” He states that in pure numbers, Johnson falls short. Again, I don’t think people are taking into account what Calvin feels is the best for him and his family. Samuelsen says “If Johnson had played a few more years, he would have been ranked alongside some of the greatest names in the history of the sport, such as Jerry Rice and Randy Moss. Instead, he finds himself listed alongside receivers such as Santana Moss, Irving Fryar and Muhsin Muhammad in receptions, yards and touchdowns.”

I hate to break the news to you Jamie, but Calvin has always been compared to Jerry Rice and Randy Moss. Back in 2013, Jerry Rice stated “This guy is gifted but he also has the work ethic. A lot of guys are gifted but they don’t want to sacrifice and put the time in and he’s willing to do that. At the same time it doesn’t go to his head. That’s why I’m saying he’s only going to get better with that kind of attitude.”

This was after Calvin broke Jerry’s single-season receiving record with 1,964 yards. He also caught 122 passes, 5 of them for touchdowns in an otherwise dismal 4-10 Detroit Lions season.

These 3 wide-receivers, Calvin Johnson, Jerry Rice and Randy Moss all have one thing in common: Defensive coordinators had to tailor their defenses to stop them. And for the most part, they didn’t do a very good job. While in Calvin’s case, poor defenses caused the Lions to win less than teams Rice and Moss played on, I would say that Calvin gave defensive coordinators the most nightmares based on his physical gifts. I mean, just how do you match-up with a 6-5, 239 lb. freak of nature who could run a 40 yard dash in 4.35 seconds?

Along with that size were Johnson’s incredible hand strength and most importantly, how he could control his body in the air while making some of the best breath-taking catches that were ever witnessed.

Did Calvin retire too soon? From a fan’s perspective, yes. Who wouldn’t want to see a player of this caliber continue to play? But from his perspective, one I can only conjecture, he left the game on his terms and perhaps he could give a rip if he makes it into the Hall.

We shouldn’t judge Calvin on why he chose to leave the game. We should respect his reasoning and thank him for all of the great moments he gave us in his short time.

We should also embrace the fact that not once in his career was he ever accused of taking performance enhancing drugs, ever called a selfish player and never ever involved in any stupid off the field antics. He is a very dignified and classy player and person of unquestionable integrity, something that everyone should aspire to be.

In my mind, Calvin Johnson is already a Hall of Famer…for being a good person.

Thank you Calvin for giving us some great memories!

NFL Crowns Detroit Lions as Champions – In 1957

FreePressLionsWin

Going into the 2016 season, it will be 59 years since the Detroit Lions have won an NFL championship.

To put things in perspective, and I know there are a lot of people in the same boat, I will be turning 58 in 2016 without ever seeing the Detroit Lions win a championship.

Want to know what the trophy looked like last time they won?  Here you go:

Ed Thorp Trophy

It was called the Ed Thorp Memorial trophy.  Who was Ed Thorp you might ask?  He was a referee, rules expert, sporting goods dealer and a good friend to the NFL owners during the early years.

You aren’t going to find this trophy in a case of any of the teams that won NFL championships from 1934 through 1969 because there was only one trophy.  It was passed each year to the teams that won, much like how the Stanley Cup is in the NHL.

There are replicas of the trophy but the original’s location is unknown.  The last recipient, the Minnesota Vikings in 1969 somehow lost it when the NFL went to the Lombardi Trophy in 1970.  It is also believed to have cursed the Vikings as they being the last winners…and they went on to appear in 4 Super Bowls and lost them all.

Since 1957, the Lions have not gotten back to the big dance.  To be honest, I’m not all sure as to why.  Yes, there were some bad general managers and presidents that ownership stayed loyal far longer than others would have.  However, the phrase “even a blind squirrel finds a nut once in a while” comes to mind.

I don’t write this to bash the Lions players or coaches.  I am fairly certain that each of them has a desire to win.  However, having a desire with little talent to do so, that’s something different.

Each of us Lions fans can count numerous coaches and players that while had a desire to win, had no business being in the NFL.  Marty Mornhinweg, Joey Harrington & Titus Young are just a few that come to mind.

Years ago, when I was writing for the Bleacher Report, I had speculated as to which team between the Detroit Lions and the Cleveland Browns would get to the Super Bowl first.  Ironic that these two teams have waited in futility for decades, the Lions looking at 6 and the Browns  just a little over 5.

What holds true then and now is that these two teams are the oldest teams in the NFL to have never played in a Super Bowl.  Cleveland perhaps would have gotten there in the 1980’s were it not for the Denver Bronco’s and John Elway.

The Lions best opportunity to date was in 1991, the last year the Lions won a playoff game.  They were one game away from getting to the Super Bowl and after blowing out the Dallas Cowboys at the Pontiac Silverdome 38-6, they reverted to kittens the following week and were blown out by eventual Super Bowl winner, Washington.

No, there will be no re-hashing the ineptness of the front office for the past 5 decades, we all know what the issues are there.

What I do want to stress is that the Lions, as an organization, owe it to their fans, in Detroit and all over the world, to put together a team that must have one focus in mind…from the owner down to the ball boy, to get to the Super Bowl and win it.

The other professional teams in Detroit have done their best to mollify Detroit Sports fans, the Tigers, Red Wings and Pistons have all gone on to win World Series, Stanley Cup and NBA Championships numerous times since the Lions last won an NFL Championship:

Tigers – appeared in 4 World Series, winning 2 of them, 1968 and 1984.

Red Wings – Appeared in 9 Stanley Cups, winning 4 of them.

Detroit Pistons – Appeared in 5 NBA Championships, winning 3.

Is it too much to ask Lions ownership to get us one?  Don’t hand me that crap that the NFL is very competitive.  MLB, NHL & NBA has just as fierce of competition as the NFL does.

How do teams like New England, Pittsburgh, San Francisco, Green Bay and Seattle consistently get into the playoffs and Super Bowls and win?

Detroit Lions have the same access to college players and free agents that these teams do, right?

I believe the issues is one of lack of vision…at the top.  Martha Ford may be the elixir to get the Lions pointed in the right direction.  She shook the team to the core by firing Millen left overs Martin Mayhew and Tom Lewand.

She also made a smart decision by hiring Ernie Accorsi as a consultant to find a GM for the Lions.  The search won’t really begin in earnest until after the Super Bowl and there are plenty of candidates to approach.

But what will make the Lions attractive to the next general manager?  Will they have the power and authority to do what it will take to put together a Super Bowl team?

And what of the current status of players?  Will Calvin Johnson be used to accumulate draft picks?  Will Matthew Stafford be that QB that all of us hope he would be when drafted in 2009?  Will the Lions ever have a potent running attack?  An offensive line that will open holes and pass block?  Will they have a good defensive team and a good offensive team at the same time?

There are more questions than answers at this point.  And I can only watch from afar and continue to support my Lions as I have been for as long as I can remember.

Right now, I turn my attention to my second hometown team, the Seattle Seahawks and hope they can find the magic and get back to the Super Bowl for the third straight time.

Go Lions!  Go Hawks!

 

 

Detroit Lions: Who Are These Guys?

Who Are These Detroit Lions

Watching the Detroit Lions destroy the Philadelphia Eagles yesterday, two recurring movie quotes kept popping up in my head.

The first, as you can tell by the picture of Paul Newman and Robert Redford, is from Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid.    When being chased by a posse of the best lawmen money can buy, Butch turns to Sundance and asks, “Who are these guys?”

The second one, after the game was over, is from a Richard Dreyfuess movie Let It Ride.  After winning a ton of money at the track, Dreyfuess shouts, “Did I win?  Did I win?  Son of a bitch, God likes me! He really, really likes me!  What a day!  What a fabulous day!”

So here we are, the Lions playing some very good football on both sides of the line.  Now 4-7,  after starting out 1-7 looking like an imitation of a Matt Millen team.

But changes, ones that have been a long time coming, were made.  Joe Lombardi, who directed the offense last year to a 11-5 record, was jettisoned after losing to the Minnesota Vikings  28-19 at home.  Lombardi, despite having the success in 2014 as well as being the QB coach to Drew Brees the previous 5 years in New Orleans, was never a good fit.

Stafford often appeared uncomfortable with the offense.  He is not the type of QB that is going to be successful dumping off to backs and tight-ends…and Lombardi seemed to forget that he had one of the best wide receivers on the planet in Calvin Johnson.

Enter Jim Bob Cooter…really, that’s his name, you can’t make this stuff up.  Granted he started off badly with the uninspired loss to Kansas City in London but the Lions were still basically running the Lombardi offense.

Then came the firings of Tom Lewand and Martin Mayhew and since then, the Lions offense has gotten better each week…and have 3 wins in a row to show for it:

First was the biggest win the Lions have had in recent years, the 18-16 victory over the Green Bay Packers in Lambeau ; the first since 1991.  Granted there was the gut-wrenching final seconds where every Lions fan was sure Mason Crosby was going to make that 50-yard field goal.  But he muffed it and the Lions won for the first time in Green Bay in 24 years.

Next up was the rising Oakland Raiders.  The Lions, despite playing at home, were underdogs in this game.  But the Lions D had something to say about that.  They held David Carr to just 169 yards passing and no TD’s.  They stymied the rushing attack, holding them to a collective 54 yards but did give up 1 TD.  Hey, this is the NFL and it’s hard to keep teams out of the end zone in this league.

Then came yesterday’s masterpiece, the 45-14 dismantling of the Eagles.  The offensive line gave Matthew Stafford time all day.  And Stafford showed just how good of a quarterback he can be when he is given time.  A sterling 337 yards passing with 5 TD’s and zero interceptions and a career best QB rating of 137.5.

Let’s talk about Mr. Stafford for a minute here:  For all you folks that want to heap the troubles the Lions had on his shoulders, you were wrong to do so.  Stafford showed that given the time, he has the capability to put up Tom Brady stats…and I say right now that if Stafford had the protection that he had yesterday for his whole career, the Lions would have been in the Super Bowl already.

The Lions need to get more depth on the offensive line and need to do so in the upcoming draft.  They have the talent at the position spots with Calvin Johnson, Golden Tate, Lance Moore, Ameer Abdullah and Joique Bell.  Shore up that line because everyone knows that the offensive line needs quality players on the first, second and third string.

That line yesterday, in addition to allowing Stafford to throw for 337 and five TD’s also gave some hope to the dormant rushing attack.  Granted, we didn’t have an individual rush for 100 yards, but collectively they went for 108 yards on 30 attempts and scored 1 rushing TD.  Getting nearly 3.6 yards per attempt as a team is pretty darn good.

And how about Theo Riddick?  The Lions have something special in this guy and better keep utilizing him.  Five receptions for 62 yards and a score.  He has become the third-down receiving threat coming out of the backfield.  When the Lions played like they did yesterday, there isn’t a team that can cover all of their receivers.  And if Eric Ebron can ever pull his head out of his ass and catch the ball, adding a good receiving tight-end into the mix, tell me how doubling up on Megatron is gonna stop this team.

The Lions still have a mathematical chance of making the playoffs.  They are now 4-7, right there with nine other teams such as the Tampa Bay Bucs, New Orleans Saints and Chicago Bears.

The Lions remaining five games are all winnable, provided they can keep playing the way they are:

12/3 – Green Bay:  After a fast 6-0 start, the Packers have come back into the NFC Central pack.  With last night’s loss to the Bears, they now are in second place in the division.  Lions have to protect the home turf here and with the way they are playing, should do so on Thursday night football.

12/13 – @ Rams:  This is going to be a tough game for the Lions…and it will be a low scoring one.  The Rams defense is one of the toughest in the league and if the O-line can give Stafford some time against that front four, Stafford should be able to have success.  Theo Riddick will be an important tool in this game.

12/21 – @ Saints:  Saints can score points but they just can’t stop anyone.  Drew Brees is still one dangerous quarterback but he doesn’t have the top flight weapons that he used to have.  Still, they are in New Orleans and dem Saints fans are some of the most supportive in the NFL.  High scoring shoot-out, Calvin and Golden Tate could both have huge games…and Abdullah could run wild against the Saints run defense.  Could be a great Monday Night Football game.

Side note:  My wife, an avid Saints fan, is convinced that the trade of Jimmy Graham to the Seattle Seahawks have hurt both teams.  Saints may have improved their protection of Drew Brees but lost a valuable offensive weapon in Graham.  Seattle still hasn’t figured out quite how to use Graham thus both teams have taken a hard road this year.

12/27 – San Francisco 49rs:  This team is a mess…and the Lions cannot take this team lightly, something they have done in the past.  If the Lions do actually beat Packers, Rams and Saints the three previous games, then this becomes a must win game, more so than any other game.  I would call this the definition of a “trap game” and the Lions need to stomp the 49ers into oblivion.

1/3/16 – @ Da Bears:  How sweet it could be if the Lions and the Bears both needed to win this game to get into the playoffs…and the Lions would shut the Bears fans up and eek out a close win.

If the Lions do indeed win out, that would give them a 9-7 record and quite possibly the 13th seed in the wild-card.  Granted, we can forget a home playoff game but I would say that most Lions fans would call the 2015 season one of the best they’ve had.  To start out 1-7 and finish 9-7?  That is some serious football.

Who are these guys?  These are the Detroit Lions!

Go Lions!

Detroit Lions Slay The Dragon In Lambeau

Lions Packers Score

The last time the Lions were on the winning side of an NFL game they played in Wisconsin, George Bush was president…George Bush Sr. that is.

There has to be a party going on back in Detroit right now…and, at least for one week, the Detroit Lions, as a team, can feel good about themselves.

It has been a very long time since I’ve seen the Lions dig deep to win a game…and of course, they didn’t make it easy what with Matt Prater missing 2 extra points as well as the sure handed Calvin Johnson muffing an onside kick.

I don’t care.  The Lions won in Green Bay too snap a 24 game losing streak that was bordering on the sublime.  Scratch that, it was already sublime.

Defense really stepped up in this game to help out the offense…and the offense played better than Green Bay for once…not by much but enough.

Weird calls, missed calls and a lot of no-calls.  But the officiating was crappy for both sides…and it didn’t come down to a blown call…it was decided by the players as it should always be.

There was one point in the game, somewhere in the 3rd quarter where I thought the Lions were going to hand it over the Packers.  On first down, the Lions gained eight yards.  On second down, they handed it off to Joique Bell for no gain so that left a 3rd and two.

So many options and the one I would have picked would be to fake the hand-off inside and let Matthew Stafford run to the outside.  But no, the hand-off went to the up-back and he was stuffed and the result forced the Lions to punt.

But the defense bailed out the offense, as they did all day.

I live in Seattle which plays on Sunday Night Football.  I am sure that all of my neighbors were ready to call the cops considering all the yelling and swearing that was going on.

And as I paced nervously in my front room, knowing that Mason Crosby was going to crush us yet again, I had to watch.

And then I saw the wounded-duck that came off Crosby’s foot and fall far short of the uprights.

The.  Detroit.  Lions.  Frickin. Won. The. Damn. Game.

Congrats Guys…cherish this win and get ready for Oakland at home.  And play with this intensity for the rest of the year…play with this passion, play with this grit.  Because at the end of the day, if you play your hearts out, I can respect that.

Don’t give up.

Go Lions!

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

Detroit Lions – A Model for Mediocrity

Lion Confused

So the Lions are now 0-3 and have less than a 2% chance of getting into the playoffs.

No big loss there, they haven’t won in the playoffs in 24 years, why the heck should we expect anymore?

Back on September 12, I wrote an article Detroit Lions – I Gotta Believe.  Looking back on it, I think I spoke to soon.

The Detroit Lions, over their entire 84 year history (and I am including the fours they were the Portsmouth Spartans) have a winning percentage of .459.

Now there were some fantastic years, like the six year run they had from 1952 to 1957, getting the NFL Championship game four times and winning it three…all before I was born.  To put that into perspective, I am 57 years old…and this team has never won a championship, literally, in my lifetime.

The most recent success of any length of time was from 1991 to 1999 where in that nine year span, they made the playoffs six times and only winning once….and they didn’t get back to the playoffs until 2011, 12 years later.

And now after this 0-3 start, I have little faith they will even 5 games this year.

But you know what?  I don’t place the entire blame on the players or the coaching staff…sure, they can do better and there is talent there.  What isn’t there is an intangible thing…I believe what this team is missing is “heart.”

With the exception of a very few players (Calvin Johnson, Joique Bell, Golden Tate and DeAndre Levy), most of these guys are just really good technicians and will rarely stretch themselves to do as much as they can to help the team.

Where it really boils down to is the management team of the Detroit Lions.  Yes, I’m talking about you Martin Mayhew…and you Tom Lewand and yes, even you Mr. William Clay Ford, Jr.

These guys, since Matt Millen was shown the door in 2008, have said all the right things…but have done little to back it up…and have even done less to get this team where it needs to be.  They have made poor choices in coaches…poor choices in draft picks….poor choices in free agents.

The numbers back me up.  I chose eight teams that I believe that have  been the most consistent performers over the past decade.  Below will be the team, the average number of wins from 2004 to 2014 and the winning percentage during that time:

NFL Team Comparison

 

As much as I despise the New England Patriots, there is no one that can deny the success they have had over the past decade.  Bill Belichick, for as grumpy and ornery as he is, is a freakin genius when it comes to out-thinking and out-coaching opponents.

The Green Bay Packers have done some remarkable things in the past 10 years and they got themselves a great quarterback in Aaron Rodgers and found the players that will jump in front of a truck for him.  And he replaced a pretty good QB in his time, Brett Favre.

The Detroit Lions ownership, such as it is, needs to bring someone in that is on the level of a Bill Belichick or Packer GM Ted Thompson and give him free reign to tear down this team and build it into a sustainable, successful team.

There is blame on the current coaching staff that can be spread around as well.  Jim Caldwell, despite his record, inherited a Tony Dungy team that went to the Super Bowl in 2010 while head coach of the Indianapolis Colts.  After Peyton Manning got hurt, he could do no better than 2-14 in 2011 and was fired after the season.

His stint with the Baltimore Ravens, while successful as the quarterbacks coach in 2012 and then as offensive coordinator in 2013 where he earned a Super Bowl ring, could be construed as that he is a great assistant but when sitting in the big chair, he has little to offer.

As for our franchise quarterback, Matthew Stafford?  I have to admit, when the Lions drafted him, I was sure it was the second coming of Bobby Layne.  But any passion that Stafford had has been coached out of him by Caldwell and staff.  He has no guts, no drive and certainly doesn’t have the heart to lead this team.  He is a technician, much like Jeff George was.  Stafford isn’t nearly the jerk that George was but there are similarities between the two.  I’m sure you can find them if you look hard enough.

There is more wrong with the Lions than right…and if they don’t look back at their own dismal history and learn from it, this team will never be any better than mediocre…and I think I am being generous with that.

I’ll still watch and I’ll still cheer…why you ask?  I grew up in Detroit, I was born there so it’s coded into my DNA…and you just can’t fight Mother Nature.

 

Detroit Lions – I Gotta Believe!

Roaring Lion

The most wonderful time of the year?  It ain’t Christmas baby…it’s the start of a new NFL season!

And yet another hopeful and optimistic start for my hometown Detroit Lions.

There have been a lot of changes to the Lions, most notably the departure of Ndamukong Suh to the Miami Dolphins.  While I was sad to see him go since he was such a disruption on the defensive line, part of me thinks his leaving will be a good thing in the long run.

Also gone are fellow defensive tackler Nick Fairley, running back Reggie Bush and offensive lineman Garrett Reynolds.

Its too bad Reggie Bush didn’t pan out with the Lions as we all hoped he would.  He showed flashes of brilliance during his time here but injuries caught up with him and he was never able to bring consistency to the running game.

New additions are defensive tackle Haloti Ngata to replace Suh as well as three other defensive tackles Corey Wooten, Tyrunn Walker and rookie Gabe Wright.  Rookie CB Alex Carter comes in to the secondary with some high expectations.

On the offensive side of the ball to help Stafford is highly touted rookie running back Ameer Abdullah who, along with Joique Bell, should give the running game some credibility.

To bolster the offensive line, Manny Ramirez comes back to the Lions after four years with the Denver Broncos along with rookie Laken Tomlinson.  The O-Line showed some promise in the run game during the pre-season.  As for protection in the passing game, I think once the O-line gels, they will be OK.  That and along with the work that Stafford has done to get rid of the ball quicker should help mitigate the sacks.

Lions have two legitimate Pro Bowl wide receivers right now, the incredible Calvin Johnson as well as the tough Golden Tate.  With Lance Moore coming on to give even more veteran savvy, I don’t see any issues there…just need to stay healthy!

How Brandon Pettigrew stays on this team is beyond me.  But he must be doing something right.  He is a good blocking tight end and has had some good receiving games but not really someone you can count on in the clutch.  I think Stafford will look more toward Eric Ebron in clutch situations.

In most of the pre-season predictions, I have seen the Lions having a single digit win season, anywhere from 6-10 to 9-7.  My gut tells me that the Lions could be the surprise team in the NFL this year and the win total could go as high as 12 games.

Key games:

10/5, Monday night in Seattle – Huge test in a very hostile environment.  I don’t think they can have the talent to pull it off here but I do believe they play the Hawks very tough.  Why have this as a key game?  It prepares them for going into Lambeau to get that fricking monkey off their backs.

10/25, at home against Minnesota –  Despite the Vikings 7-9 finish last year, many pundits have them vaulting over the Lions to a double digit win season this year.  Yes, I know that AP is back but historically, the Lions have contained him pretty well.

11/15, at Green Bay – It has been nearly a quarter century since the Lions posted a victory at Lambeau.  If the Lions want to have any shot at getting by the Packers, they need to sweep them and a victory here would give them momentum to have back to back playoff appearances for the first time since the 1990’s.

11/26, Thanksgiving Day at home against Philadelphia – Turkey Day is always key.  And it isn’t going to be easy against the fast-paced, Chip Kelly offense.  Lions have to take care of business at home and a win on Thanksgiving always gives us Detroit Lions fans a better Thanksgiving, right?

As for the playoffs, when the Lions get there, I see them getting to the NFC conference game against the Seahawks.  And unfortunately, that’s where the run will end but this will cap off a great season and hopefully build for 2017.  If this nuclease can stay in place, then the Lions are in the Super Bowl next year.

Here is to a great season!