Wednesday, September 24, 2008
Now that the news has sunk in I suppose I can go back and try to describe what it was like to live through the Matt Millen era. To be honest, this is probably an era that will be remembered with horror for years and years, the way our grandparents shudder when they remember the Great Depression. Fifty years from now some young Lions fan will be bitching and moaning until some old dude sits him down and tells him he doesn't know what the fuck he's talking about, that back in the day we had to suffer under the reign of Matt Millen. And then the old fart will proceed to horrify the young dude with tales of Joey Harrington, Charles Rogers, Mike Williams, Marty Mornhinweg and fans wearing paper bags on their heads and the numbers 31-84.
And it's those numbers which will stand the test of time, numbers which will be stuck in the record books long after memories of Millen's stunning incompetence begin to fade. That comes out to an average record of roughly 4-12. 4-12! That's not even a bad season in Detroit. That is an average season in the era of Millen. In almost every other football city in the country 4-12 is damn near reason for a riot. It is apocalyptic and it is always the forebearer of almost total change in both management and personnel. But for the Lions it was just the standard. 4-12 is mediocrity under Millen. 7-9 is the fucking apex. The more you stare at those numbers the more incredible it is that he both lasted as long as he did and that the fine people of Detroit didn't rush Ford Field and murder him in his office.
Look, the Lions were always pretty bad before Millen came along, but there was always the hope that they would get better, that even though Wayne Fontes might end up fucking up in the playoffs or that Barry Sanders would fold if he had to play outdoors that at least there was a chance that the Lions might, if everything broke right, win. I haven't mentioned this yet, but I happened to be in attendance in 1991 when the Lions had their lone playoff victory in the last fifty years. I was 12 and there was a feeling that the Lions were finally on the right track after years of mediocrity. We had Barry, we had an exciting offense, we had a team that fucking steamrolled the Dallas Cowboys, and there was the palpable sense that it was only the tip of the iceberg. That's what made the rest of the 90s so frustrating. The Lions always seemed like they were on the verge of recapturing that and finally even moving past it. But then Barry retired, Matt Millen came in and hope became a memory that faded more and more with every miserable season.
Look, at first it was kind of funny. Ha ha, can you believe how fucking bad these guys are? But we still thought that this Millen dude knew what he was doing. Sure he didn't have any front office experience but he was part of some great teams with both the Raiders and the Niners and the naive amongst us thought that he could have learned some of that through osmosis. I mean, once a winner, always a winner, right? Now, I know that has been disproved over and over again in a myriad of sports. Just look at Isiah Thomas. But, man, we wanted to believe. And we wanted to believe because we had been so close and we felt like we deserved it. But then one bad season turned into another and pretty soon it wasn't so funny anymore. This asshole was clearly a dunce of the lowest order.
And that brings us to the cold, harsh reality of today. Matt Millen is gone now, but his years of failure have removed any sense of that hope. Barry Sanders is approaching middle age, and there is nothing on the horizon like him. There is nothing about our team that inspires hope, nothing that makes us think that maybe next year things might turn around. Fanbases live and die based on hope, and we haven't had hope in a long, long time. And that, even more than the stupid and bizarre choices Millen made during his reign of incompetence, is what I will remember Matt Millen for. He took not only success but the dream of success away from Lions fans. People are happy today, and why shouldn't they be? The disease has finally been removed. But in a week and a half when the Lions take the field again, they'll remember the terrible toll that the disease took on its host. And they'll remember for the next several seasons as the Lions try to heal from that disease, and with each one of those seasons that pass, more distance will grow between the present and a past whose hope gets dimmer and dimmer. So, thanks Matt. You're gone now, but your stink remains.
Good God they finally killed him.
Of course, this all had to come a day after I put up a post saying it wouldn't happen. Fuckers.
But really, this is a good thing, and while tomorrow cold, dark reality will likely settle in, and the Lions will still be shit and the Fords will still be sitting in their offices, having bought themselves another few years of peace by being able to say HEY GET OFF MY ASS I FIRED MILLEN WHADDYA WANT FROM ME? I will just be happy today and bask in the knowledge that the cretinous oaf known as Matt Millen will either be working for FOX or on that plane to Oakland to interview with Al Davis.
Hooray! My only regret is that it didn't happen at the hands of Lions fans finally storming Ford Field and dragging Matt Millen out and flinging his corpse into the Detroit River. Oh well, you take what you can get I guess.
Tuesday, September 23, 2008
So, the big news this week is that Bill Ford Jr. decided to throw Matt Millen under the bus. He says that if it were up to him Millen would be gone but he doesn't have the authority, which is clearly bullshit. The saddest part about all this nonsense is that poor dumb Lions fans everywhere will think that the future of the team is bright under Ford the junior, but this is such a transparent attempt to save his own ass from the angry mob that it is laughable. And by laughable I mean despicable. And by despicable I mean fucking odious. And by fucking odious I mean fuck all these dudes.
Matt Millen isn't going anywhere whether it is Old Man Ford or Ford the junior running things. Why fucking bother? They've got enough problems just trying to make sure their eponymous company doesn't go bankrupt under their watch. You think either one of them gives a shit that Matt Millen is probably hiding in his office as we speak playing with toy trains or talking about Transformers with Calvin Johnson? Fuck no. They're just glad there's someone else there to take the heat, someone even more inept. If Ford the junior really gave a flying fuck he would have already put Millen on a plane to Oakland so that he could take up the reins of the Raiders franchise. That is his destiny, you know.('Sup Harpo)
Look, the simple truth is that this was just some lame ass attempt by Ford to cover his own ass for a little while longer. Soon enough his daddy will shuffle off this mortal coil and there will be no one else to blame, no one to point to as the reason for the Lions perpetual failure. There will just be Ford Jr., sitting in the same office his dad slurps his applesauce in now, and there will be Millen sitting in his office, watching the team embarrass themselves every Sunday and no matter how much Lions fans bitch and moan this will not change. Ford knows this day is coming so he is trying to build himself a little goodwill while he can. But fuck that.
In other news, Jon Kitna has a sprained knee, which is devastating because frankly I was hoping it would be a career ender. Sad. Then again, his replacement, Dan Orlovsky entered the game and threw an interception on a fucking screen pass. A SCREEN PASS. Jesus. Someone get me the number for a suicide hotline. Oh well, at least we have the era of Drew Stanton to look forward to. And by look forward to I mean dread. And by dread I mean tolerate by getting pants shittingly drunk in order to dull the pain.
Meanwhile, it appears that Rudi Johnson may have stolen the starting running back job from Kevin Smith. Maybe he got his panties back. I don't know, but whatever the reason, Rudi actually was the only Lion that looked half competent on Sunday. Then again, that probably means that when the Lions come back from the bye week he will run for 9 yards on 12 carries and the team will resign Tatum Bell. Fuck, just resign him anyway and make the two of them live together for the rest of the season. Hide some cameras and sell the shit to the NFL Network.
I am saddened to also report that my man Lennie Small appears to have permanently lost his job to Gosder Cherilus. Some will say that poor Lennie was simply not up for the job but I believe that the Lions are just anti-retard. Then again, Matty Millen continues to patrol the hallways of Ford Field, so...I dunno. Perhaps they are just anti-lovable retard. I hope Lennie has the ACLU on speed dial and he takes these fuckers to the cleaners for their obvious bias against his kind.
Fuck, it's already been a long season and it's only going to get longer. I just hope it doesn't reach the point where I am pining for Wayne Fontes and begging for the days of Scott Mitchell. If it comes to that know that there is a good chance that I am wandering pantsless in the middle of traffic with a fifth of Jack in my hand. Either that or Harpo and I will join up and drive shitfaced across the country, killing everyone who reminds us of Al Davis and Matt Millen along the way. Until then, my misery will be yours. You're welcome.
Sunday, September 21, 2008
How do you go back and analyze a game that was so thoroughly one sided that the final score could have been 70-13 instead of 31-13? How do you look for signs of life from a team who, with every play, look more and more like they have already checked out, like at any moment they might just wander off the field and roam aimlessly in traffic until they are hit by a bus? How do you continue as a fan when it is blindingly obvious that there is absolutely no chance that not only will your team not come anywhere close to the playoffs but that they will likely not be competitive against even the worst teams in the league?
Well, the answer to the first two questions is simple. You don't. You can't go back and pick apart what was essentially legalized rape and murder. You just have to accept that it happened and try to move on without looking back. The horror of the flaming wreckage of today's game is just too great, too ridiculous, to ponder seriously. It happened, lives were ruined, bodies were mutilated, war crimes occurred, and that's that.
But the answer to the last question is not so simple. It's one that I've had to ask myself year after year after agonizing year. Why in the hell do I even give the tiniest of shits about this godforsaken team? And the truth is I can't give you a reason. There is nothing logical about it, nothing I can point to and say "There, that's why I follow this team." There are no players, no coaches, no proud history to look back on, nothing but utter failure and a stink that never quite washes off. And, as a Lions fan, you are always marked with that stink. Tell someone you are a Lions fans and they will either offer their condolences or they will laugh. In the hierarchy of football fandom, to be a Lions fan is to be the village idiot or a bum on the street wallowing in his own piss and shit. It is embarrassing. So why put myself through that? Because it's always been there, that's why.
There was never a time that I sat down, watched a game and thought "You know what? I kinda like this team. I think I'm going to cheer for them from now on." No. Instead, the Lions are in my blood. They are like some degenerate diseased relative. You can pretend all you want that they don't exist, you can laugh about them, bitch about them, get angry with them, and in the end hate yourself for still loving them. But you can't ever leave them, can't just cast them aside and wash your hands of them, because in the end they're still your family. They'll still be there when you show up for Christmas. They'll still talk to you at weddings and at funerals. They're always there because they're in your blood. You love them and you hate them. You hope that they will somehow get better one moment and in the next you curse them. They are a complete fucking bane to your very existence but you know that you can't give them up. You just can't, because they've always been there, and one way or another, when someone mentions their name or you see them on the street you feel something, maybe sometimes it's love, maybe sometimes it's hate, but you still always feel something. Indifference is the only way to break free of them, but indifference is not something that you can try to attain. It's either there or it isn't.
To be a Lions fan is to be cursed. To be a Lions fan is to be miserable. But I am a Lions fan and so be it. I hate these horrible fuckers, but put them up against your team and I will hope every time that they kill your boys. My name is Neil and I am a Lions fan.
Friday, September 19, 2008
Is there any hope? I mean, any at all? Well, in the bigger picture, I think we've already established that no, there is no hope. But, in the shorter term, as in this week and this week only, maybe there's a sliver of hope. Maybe the Lions can beat a 49ers team that really isn't that good either. Maybe Rod Marinelli can successfully stifle the offensive game plan of Mike Martz. If anybody knows what Martz is going to do, it's Marinelli. On the other hand, everyone else knows what Martz is going to do every week too and still, he's reasonably successful and I see no reason why Rod Marinelli should somehow be able to effectively game plan better than anyone else. And maybe the 49ers aren't that good, but neither were the Falcons, and look how that turned out.
There seems to be a strain of thought going around that if the Lions can simply avoid a bad start like in their first two games then they might be okay. I have a problem with this line of thinking for a couple of reasons. First, these starts were not just bad. They were horrendous, nigh apocalyptic really, so to suggest that the Lions can simply avoid their occurrence is the most ridiculous of foolhardy wishes. Why not just hope for a million dollars delivered by a truck full of supermodels who will blow you over and over again, sprinkling pixie dust all over your dong so that it stays perpetually hard? Look, the Lions have struggled to start games because they aren't any good. There are no mystical reasons for their struggles, no weird fuckups or strange bounces that have led to deceiving scores. No, the Lions just suck.
Another reason why I have a problem with this line of thinking is because what on earth would possibly make someone think, given this team's long and tortured history of utter failure, that they could just make a few tweaks here and there and then rise up and kick ass? I mean, come on, this is not a team that has been beating everyone's ass for years and is just off to a shaky start this season. No, this is a team that is perpetually putrid. This is the football team I have followed virtually my entire life. They have always sucked, they suck now, and they will suck until the end of time.
And so, sadly, I don't really see this game being any different. The Lions were annihilated by Michael Turner in Week 1 and Frank Gore is probably a better back than Michael Turner. Not only can he run the ball, but he can catch it coming out of the backfield. Basically, he can operate as sort of a poor man's Marshall Faulk for Mike Martz and that's kind of scary. Meanwhile, the Lions have, in successive weeks, made Matt Ryan look like Joe Montana, and Aaron Rodgers look like John Elway. Now granted, JT O'Sullivan isn't as talented as either one of those two guys, but it's not like either one of them have a long track record of dominant NFL performances either. I expect that O'Sullivan, with his quick release, will look like Dan Marino against the Lions overmatched defense. And yes, I know it's sad that the Lions defense is overmatched by the 49ers of all teams, but let's face it, the Lions D would be overmatched by a pee-wee football team.
Offensively, who knows what will happen? The Lions might be able to find some success if they recognize that the only way they are going to consistently move the ball is by throwing it to Calvin Johnson and Roy Williams. Johnson looks like a phenom, and even though Williams has gotten off to a slow start and doesn't look like he even gives a shit at times, some of the blame for that can be put on the offensive game plan, which has given Williams shockingly little opportunity to make plays. Sadly, he has been sacrificed thus far to the god of running the football, who has apparently deemed that the sacrifice isn't enough since the Lions running game is somewhere between utter shit and complete disaster. A competent football coach would recognize this and adjust accordingly, but the Lions coaching staff is anything but competent. Rod Marinelli is the very definition of an immovable stubborn old prick, and if he says he wants to run the ball then BY GOD THE LIONS ARE GONNA RUN THAT FUCKING BALL. Once more into the breach, and once more the Lions will be picked apart by enemy machine guns, mere cannon fodder misused by befuddled and obsolete generals too fucking scared to try anything different because they are old and pathetic.
Which brings us to the sad conclusion that the Lions are unlikely to snap out of their perpetual funk this week. The defense goes up against a coach in Mike Martz who knows everything that it is going to do. If anyone can find even bigger holes than were already there, it is Martz. And he has a quarterback who was with him in Detroit last year in JT O'Sullivan. This does not bode well for a team that is petrified of anything the least bit dynamic. But there's more. With this team there always is. Marinelli and Martz hate each other. I mean, if they could charge across the field and slit each other's throats without the threat of a fifteen yard penalty and I suppose imprisonment, then I am positive that they would. They are at completely opposite ends of the spectrum. Marinelli is safe, conservative, boring to a fault. And Martz is wild, dynamic, always looking for the next big play, someone who forgets the little things that Marinelli obsesses over. And again, it is to his own detriment. And so what we have here is a battle of philosophies. Neither man is going to change his game plan to beat the other, because to them that would defeat the purpose. They have to win their way because that's the only way to humiliate the other man and win an argument that no one else really gives a shit about anymore. Both coaches are flawed, but Marinelli is more flawed. It's that simple really, and when he tries to prove that the Lions can win through a carefully controlled ground game, Mike Martz's offense will have blazed out to a monster lead on them and that will be the ballgame.
Look, I can scream all I want about how bad the Lions always are. I can fuss and I can cry and I can rant and I can rave about Matt Millen, but right now, this year, the team's biggest and most fatal flaw is a complete and utter lack of inertia. There is no forward progress. Rod Marinelli is a dead coach, a shitty caretaker who wants everything done his way. He is a petty drill sergeant who cares more about making sure that his players walk and talk the right way, wear their colors properly and spin their rifles when they are supposed to than he does about actually storming the field and defeating the enemy. He is woefully miscast as a general. That might be alright if he had dynamic advisors around him developing strategies that could allow the team to swoop in and, despite its lack of talent, somehow win the battle. But he doesn't. Instead, all he has are people just like him around him, people who care more about the proper way to look and act than about winning, people who are married to a philosophy more than they are to the naked greed for winning that is necessary to be a big time football coach. Real coaches go with what works. Real coaches do what it takes to win. They aren't out there trying to make some bullshit point about the proper way to do things, about winning with class or any of that horseshit. They just win. And sadly, as long as the Lions continue to care more about philosophies, the only philosophy they will be able to claim an expertise in is the philosophy of failure.
Predicted Final Score: 49ers 31, Lions 21
Wednesday, September 17, 2008
Oh Jesus, it just never ends, does it? On the heels of the Lions disastrous start, the team has decided to bolster the running game, an area that anyone with half a clue knew would be a disaster before the season even started. Of course, that means that Matt Millen and Rod Marinelli had no fucking clue. So, how are they addressing this? By scheming so that they could find their running backs more room? By trying to shore up the blocking of the woeful offensive line? No, of course not. Those would be the logical solutions. But Matt Millen is determined to outsmart logic. He's too sharp for that witches' brew. Fucking logic, always trying to put one over on him. Fuck that shit. Logic is Matt Millen's bitch and he will continue to strangle the shit out of it until it respects him, sits in the corner and shuts the fuck up.
So now that logic has once again been firmly put in its place by the Great Failure, how exactly does Millen intend to fix the running game? By throwing even more shit in the backfield and hoping it sticks. I mean, obviously, the problem must be that there aren't enough worthless bodies back there. Kevin Smith's problem is not the blocking, it's that there isn't some washed up piece of shit lingering behind him on the depth chart. Rudi Johnson and his freeballin' ways aren't struggling because he's new to the system and past his prime. No, it's because he doesn't have some other old ass refugee from another franchise there to keep him busy.
Well fuck, come on down Cedric Benson, you drunk ass fool. Never mind that aside from being incapable of driving without being properly loaded before he hops behind the wheel, Cedric isn't any good at playing football. Sounds like a winner to me! The Lions will surely be averaging 300 yards per game on the ground if they bring Cedric into the fold. I mean, so what if he's never been any good at the NFL level? And so what if he has probably just been sitting at home, drinking Natty Light and wiping Cheetoh dust all over the front of his wifebeater? I'm sure if we just throw him in there tomorrow he will magically float above the heads of our shitty offensive line, turn around and moon walk right into the endzone. Problem solved!
Oh wait, you mean there's more? Oh hey, look, it's Shaun Alexander! Hey, he hasn't been any good for the last two seasons, and ever since Steve Hutchinson stopped blocking for him he has looked like a washed up shell of a running back. I'm sure behind the Lions' dynamic offensive line he'll put up 2,000 yards easily. Not to mention the 40 TD's which will surely follow. Well holy shit, things are really looking up now! So what if Seattle threw him the fuck out of town? Obviously those liberal hippies up there with their Starbucks and their Rain and their Sonics(oops) just can't appreciate a hardworking talent like that. His yards per carry going down is just proof that he isn't relying on his talent anymore and now is just trying to get by on sheer determination and the sweat of his brow. We can respect a man like that in Detroit. Bring us your old, bring us your worthless, bring us your broken down. As long as they have a whiff of former greatness to them they'll fit right in with the Motor City.
We're on our way now motherfuckers. If it were 2004 we'd be all set. I bet Matt Millen is proud as hell, just sitting there in his office, feeding Old Man Ford his applesauce. He's got some prime talent coming in. Yes sir. Maybe if we are lucky he can convince Eric Dickerson to come out of retirement. Or hell, maybe now is the time that Barry Sanders will finally reconsider. He's only, what? 40? No big deal. Put him in that Lions uniform and watch him spin and twirl his way to the endzone. Hopefully, he doesn't break a hip, but that's just a minor concern. Shit, why not see if Jim Brown wants to give it another go? He left the game too early. It's his time to show everyone what they've been missing out on all these years. Bo Jackson is around. Give him a call. I'm sure his artificial hip is just as good as new. I mean, he never gave the NFL a fair shot after the surgery. Maybe he's still got it. Come on Matt, make the call! We're only a running back away from greatness.
Clearly, we're finally on the right track. SEE YOU ALL AT THE SUPER BOWL.
Sunday, September 14, 2008
Or just plain mean anyway. How else to explain what happened today? The Lions and Packers game unfolded as one would expect, with Green Bay jumping out to a sizable lead while the Lions fumbled around and jacked off for the entire first half. Dropped passes, stumbling defensive backs, Lennie Small getting abused by Aaron Kampman, you name it and it happened in the first half. In fact, the comedy of errors was so total that I began to take a certain sort of comfort in it. Basically, I stopped caring and I told myself that at least this team didn't get my hopes up this year.
But then a funny thing happened. The Lions came out in the second half and actually overcame a 21-0 deficit to take a 25-24 lead with about seven minutes to go in the game. It was bizarre and completely unexpected and I found myself rallying to my team's side and I thought, at least for a flicker of a moment that maybe the first game and a half of the season was an abberation, that the Lions weren't so bad after all, and that if everything worked out right they might make a magical run to the playoffs, shocking everybody, including all their fans, just when they had been written off utterly and completely. Of course, this was merely the result of my native optimism, and over the course of the next five minutes, brutal reality reigned supreme once again. It was almost awe inspiring really, the way that fate toyed with my head and then laughingly crushed me in a stunning and massive display of its power, and when it was all over and the Packers had won 48-25, all that was left to say was fuck it, same old Lions, same old shit.
But exactly how did this strange and ridiculous journey unfold? Well it started as a sort of inverted version of last week's game against Atlanta. Instead of having the ball run down their throats as I suspected they would the Lions were absolutely manhandled by Aaron Rodgers. For fuck's sake, they made the dude look like John Elway and in the process no doubt sparked roughly a million different articles and blog posts this week proclaiming that the Packers are just fine with Aaron Rodgers and that Green Bay did the right thing by telling Old Man Farve to fuck off. It was devastating really. The Lions looked equally inept against the passing of Aaron Rodgers as they did against the running of Michael Turner last week, and when the two images were thrown together visions of a house of horrors of unparalleled scope began to run through my head and I began to wonder if these assholes might be as bad as the 2001 team that started 0-14.
Meanwhile the offense looked as out of sync as I have ever seen it in the Rod Marinelli era. The new commitment to the power running game remained as inept as it did last week, maybe more so, but more troubling was that the passing game seemed just as big a mess, which seems like it should be almost inconceivable given the Lions talent at receiver. But here's the thing, the Packers corners, Al Harris and Charles Woodson, might be the most physical tandem in the NFL. This wouldn't seem to be an issue because the Lions have a physically dominant pair of receivers in Roy Williams and Calvin Johnson. However, neither is really the shifty type of receiver who is capable of immediate acceleration. Once they get going they can be almost impossible to stop, but they aren't quick off the line and when they are being jammed by a physical defensive back they are even slower to get going, a real problem when Jon Kitna only has a nanosecond to throw before Aaron Kampman sends him to meet Jesus.
So when the second half started, I watched like someone would watch a car wreck. This was a catastrophe, a brutal display of human frailty and incompetence, but damn it, there was just no way that I could look away. But then a funny thing happened, and the Lions actually looked like a functional and complete football team. On defense they looked quick and aggressive, playing with passion and energy and miraculously they even looked pretty damn good against the run. They hectored Aaron Rodgers just enough to force some incompletions and gave the Lions offense a chance to get back into it. And the offense actually responded, as they began to attack the middle of the field on slants and quick cuts designed to negate the physical style of the Packers corners. And once they started doing this, Calvin Johnson further revealed what we all knew: that he is an absolute fucking beast. Twice he caught balls over the middle and then just simply ran away from the defense on his way to the endzone. It was glorious and exciting and new and I couldn't believe how lucky we were in getting a player like him in Detroit.
But it's Detroit and these are the Lions and so of course a big play by Greg Jennings followed by a field goal put the Lions in the hole once again. And then it was Jon Kitna's time to shine, and Jon Kitna came through in his own unique style, tossing two touchdowns. Unfortunately they were both for the other team and came back to back. And of course those only came after another interception which set the Packers up for the score which ultimately put the Lions away. Same old Lions, same old shit.
So, what does this weird, weird game tell us? It's simple really. Calvin Johnson is really, really good and will probably end up being fucking great and he alone might be able to get the Lions in some games. But while he might drag the Lions kicking and screaming into competitiveness, the rest of the team is fucking atrocious and will kill the Lions dead just like they have so many other times before. They can't run the ball, and can't really pass with any kind of consistency. Roy Williams looks like he is getting shittier instead of better and the offensive line is still getting Kitna murdered every week while Kitna makes the same dumb decisions and mental errors in every game. The defense can't stop either the run or the pass and what's more, the Packers return man, Will Blackmon, looked like he was ready to break one on every return. So the offense sucks, the defense sucks, and the kick coverage sucks. SOUNDS LIKE A WINNER TO ME. I wish I could say that I think they could get better, but they aren't talented enough, don't care enough, and seem like they are barely coached. It's the same old song. Same old Lions, same old shit.
Well, right now, we've got the Packers. Which means the Lions are probably heading to 0-2. The reasons are pretty simple. The Lions can't stop the run and can't rush the passer. This tends to limit success. I foresee Aaron Rodgers having the sort of efficient game that Matt Ryan had against the Lions. He won't be asked to do much other than make safe throws and occasionally stick a dagger in the Lions with a well timed deep pass or two that their pitiful DB's can't stop. Greg Jennings up top at least once is a virtual formality. But where the Lions are going to lose this game is the same place where they lost the game last week: up front. Michael Turner fucking abused these turds a week ago and Ryan Grant should rip them apart too, especially since he put up 92 yards on only 12 carries and a bad hammy against a hellacious Minnesota run defense. That is not a good omen. No sir.
Offensively, the Lions should be able to do some things. Should being the key word here, as when it comes to the Lions there is pretty much an equal chance that they will light someone up for 35 or that they will end up with Jon Kitna weeping on the Ford Field turf like he was just told that Jesus was just arrested as a serial rapist. Look, they could be good, Roy Williams might care, Calvin Johnson might build on last week's ass kicker of a performance and Kevin Smith and Rudi Johnson might pound the ball with authority. But none of those are givens, just mere hopes in the land of the perpetually hopeless. What is a given is that the Lions usually disappoint, and even though they have historically had success against the Packers in Detroit, that always seemed more like an "Oh shit, Bret Favre can't play indoors" kind of hangup for the Packers than anything else. And now that the Ol' Gunslinger has packed up his wife, the lovely John Madden, and whisked him away to New York, there is every chance that Aaron Rodgers becomes man #85691756 to make the Lions his eternal bitch.
There is one particular matchup that lends creedence to that scenario playing itself out: Aaron Kampman vs. my beloved Lennie Small. Oh Lennie, you are too big, too dumb and too innocent for this world and I fear that Aaron Kampman will abuse your big dumb ass all day long as he beats down Jon Kitna much like you Lennie do your poor, poor rabbits. Yes Lennie, Aaron Kampman is going to pet Kitna too hard and it will be all your fault. It is okay though, as you are still my boy.
Predicted Final Score: Packers 27, Lions 17 and after the game the Fords will give Matt Millen a ten year contract extension and a duffel bag filled with cash and exotic drugs.
Tuesday, September 9, 2008
Apparently, George Foster has already lost his starting job again after only one week. Gosder Cherilus is being given the job, but you know what? I kinda feel bad for Big George. Sure, he sucks and all, and I know the Lions aren't going to win shit with him in there. But hey, fuck it, it's not like they're gonna win shit anyway, you know? Big George in my mind has become a sort of sympathetic figure, a real life Of Mice and Men character, a Lennie Small for our dumbfuck times.
And really, who among us doesn't want to root for a loveable old retard every now and again? I know I am just making my own storylines up and inventing a dude who basically doesn't exist, but sometimes that's what it takes to be a Lions fan. From now on, Big George will be known as Lennie Small to me and I am going to root for that big dumb bastard to get in the game whenever he can and hope that he doesn't fuck anything up too badly. And even if he does, so what? The Lions suck and he's a retard. The least they can do is let the poor, lovable oaf have some fun out there. Come on Marinelli, the boy just wants to play. Let him go, and if he ends up petting Kitna too hard then so be it. It is the price that must be paid.
So, now I have yet another reason to keep watching. The list is now this:
1. See how bad the Lions can really get
2. See if they solve the mystery of Rudi Johnson's missing drawers
3. Lennie Small
It isn't much, but as a Lions fan I'll take what I can get and if that means I have to start inventing character traits for these dudes, then so be it. Lennie Small, may you run long and run hard, may you have as many rabbits to play with as Ernie Sims has lizards and may the day come when society can accept a man of your childlike innocence and brutish strength. You, my friend, are a Detroit Lion and I salute you.
Sunday, September 7, 2008
As hard as it might be to believe, I am by nature an optimist. No, I really am. I bitch and I moan and I howl at the moon but in my heart of hearts I always think that maybe, just maybe, despite absolutely no evidence to the contrary, that everything will work out.
I began this season with the thought that although the Lions would likely still be bad, maybe they would surprise me. I didn't really want to admit this to anyone as the thought is kind of preposterous, but I thought that maybe if they cut down on their turnovers and maybe if the supposedly vaunted coaching caused the defense to rise up and play with some intensity that the Lions might finally build on the progress of the first half of last season. Then I started the season preview.
The deeper I got into the preview the more I felt like Martin Sheen in Apocalypse Now disappearing further and further into the jungle. The longer I went down that river the more fucked up and insane everything seemed to be, until I finally reached the end and there was Col. Kurtz staring back at me, whispering "The horror...the horror." I could fine no real hope for the Lions season as everywhere I looked there were holes and weakness. But still, I told myself, and only myself, that while the Lions were bad, surely they could beat a Falcons team in Week 1 that was starting a rookie quarterback in his first game, behind an inexperienced line on a team that had been a disaster the year before. Then the game started, and one long touchdown pass to Michael Jenkins later and I knew that there was no hope, that this season was just another epic failure in the making, and that the river I was traveling down towards Col. Kurtz was a river of shit.
It was disheartening to see everything that I was worried about play out in the first game of the season. In my preview I mentioned that I figured the Lions defense would struggle against the run now that Shaun Rogers had been publicly executed, but JESUS CHRIST, I never thought it would be this bad. Michael Turner just DESTROYED the Lions defense today, and the Falcons as a whole rolled up well over 300 yards on the ground while the rookie quarterback, Matt Ryan, was scarily efficient against a secondary that looked just as sad as it always has. From the first touchdown bomb to Leigh Bodden getting abused on the sideline it was clear that the Lions defense couldn't stop the run or the pass. Excuse me while I swallow this bottle of pills and then go dance naked in traffic.
Meanwhile, the offense couldn't really run the ball, which was again something I expected, but what was even worse is that despite their ill fated commitment to running the ball, John Kitna still was under pressure too often and still made too many stupid decisions, the worst of which was an interception early in the third quarter while the Lions were driving to somehow tie a game that they had fallen behind 21-0 in the first quarter. Same old shit, different day.
But there was one bright spot. Calvin Johnson looks like he is well on his way to being an absolute beast of a receiver. If it wasn't for him, things could have been much, much worse, which is really fucking scary considering things were pretty fucking bad as it was. Meanwhile, Roy Williams looks like he is pretty content to just say fuck it and play out the string. Always good when it's still the first game of the season. And shit, already the team has started to mutiny. Jon Kitna spent most of the first half screaming at everyone, his teammates and coaches, all of whom just stood there like castrated little bitches and accepted the abuse of a Jesus freak with an awful haircut and a dumbass Gumpish face. That was followed up by Calvin Johnson basically blowing off his position coach on the sideline, making it obvious that everyone involved in this shit storm has already decided that every man for himself is the only way to go. And, again, it's only Week 1 for fuck's sake. My only hope is that Rod Marinelli will miss next week's game with diaper rash.
The only compelling subplot left now is the fate of poor Rudi Johnson's drawers, and I guess sticking around to see how awful things can really get. Look, I've been through it all before, seen this team become an absolute farce, watched and laughed with my friends, wondering if we would see someone's pants fall down during a play or someone shit his pants in the middle of the field. So I can take it. I'll continue watching in the hopes that the mystery of Rudi's manpanties is solved, and I suppose I can always take perverse pleasure in seeing that Bible thumper Kitna get annihilated week in and week out by a bunch of heathen beasts. Maybe Rod Marinelli will finally admit that he wears a diaper. Who knows? So, despite everything else, there is still intrigue and I will still be here to follow it. I am, after all, an optimist. I just hope that river of shit doesn't drown me.
Saturday, September 6, 2008
Welcome to Part 5 of my season preview for the Detroit Lions. This installment is just depressing.
This has been the one area where the Lions have had fairly consistent success over the years. Unfortunately, this is a bit like telling a monstrously fat woman that she has nice ears. But as Lions fans we have to take what we can get I suppose, and so I won't complain.
For as long as I've been a fan of the Lions they have only had two kickers, which is really kind of amazing. First there was Eddie Murray, who was always consistently pretty good. He gave way to Jason Hanson and Hanson has held onto the job for the last fifteen years or so. When Hanson came out of college many ages ago he was one of those rare kickers who find themselves drafted. He was a real prospect and that was largely because he seemed to have unlimited range on his field goals. His big leg and his impressive accuracy made him a dangerous weapon for the Lions throughout the 90's. Unfortunately, time and age has weakened Hanson's once thunderous leg, and now he has tried to reinvent himself as a kicker who is virtually automatic from 40 yards on in. For the most part he has been successful, with the notable exception of a blown field goal that is normally automatic for him in the game against Dallas that would have sealed up the game for the Lions. Instead, Dallas came back and won that game and for the first time in his long career with the Lions, Hanson found himself as the goat, which is pretty remarkable given that he is a kicker. Hanson is probably the most popular Lion on the team, which makes sense since he has been here much, much longer than anyone else. But the man is a kicker. A KICKER. And so that is just unbelievably sad. But yet again, it is just one more damning statement which makes it clear what it means to be a Detroit Lions fan. A KICKER.
Punter has always been a fairly reliable position for the Lions, which is undoubtedly helped by the fact that they play all their home games indoors. The punter for the last few seasons, and the man who will hold down the position again this season is Nick Harris. Harris has a decent leg and can probably be considered better than average for the position. But he is also a punter and thus really fucking boring.
The return game was a strength for the Lions for a long time. Mel Gray was possibly the best return man in the league for a number of years and it was always comforting to know that he was back there. Similar comfort was taken in the fact that for a few years Eddie Drummond manned the position, and like Gray he was considered among the very best return men in the game. But Drummond was unceremoniously dumped by the Lions on the eve of the 2007 season and the Lions return game has descended into mediocrity, which sucks because let's face it, it's not like we have a whole lot to be proud of as Lions fans so taking just about anything away from us is a bit like stealing the poor kid at school's lunch money. He doesn't have much, at least let him enjoy his fucking sandwich.
This season, it looks like Shaun McDonald will handle both the punt and kick return duties. McDonald is small and shifty, good attributes to have as a return man, but he's not really all that fast. I look for his numbers to be around average, maybe a little better than average actually, and he likely won't make any mistakes back there, but I doubt that he really breaks any all year. And again, this is massively frustrating because given the Lions' problems on both the offensive and defensive sides of the ball, they need every advantage and break they can get.
The long snapper is Don Muhlbach, but the only time you will hear his name again is if he fucks up, so hopefully I'll never have to type it again. The coverage teams have been reasonably decent for the most part, with the notable exception of being unable to tackle Devin Hester. But really, that's kind of a league wide problem and so I don't really fault the backup linebackers and receivers who populate the kick coverage teams. Look for the coverage to be average to decent but there are certainly no Steve Taskers here or anything.
Grade: B, which is better than every other position than one and that's just fucking sad. But this grade could drop as low as a C or even a C- if Hanson finally gets too old, and there are signs that he may be near the end. But Harris should still be reliable but unspectacular which kind of sums up this unit as a whole this season.
The Lions have had some awful, awful coaches over the years. The biggest laughingstock was also, in a puzzling turn, the one who stuck around the longest. Wayne Fontes was a terrible football coach. Just awful. And he looked like a used car salesman, and not even a good one, or like some low ranking mafia dude who gets sent out to do the easy shit work because no one trusts or respects him because he's always spilling spaghetti sauce on himself. The dude was an embarrassment and everyone knew it but he stuck around for years because Barry Sanders kept the Lions from falling completely in the shitter. The team managed to make the playoffs several times under Fontes but always embarrassed themselves in the first round because it was at that point that coaching acumen actually became vitally important, and there was fat Wayne standing on the sideline, confused with his thumb up his ass, spilling spaghetti sauce on himself at every turn.
After Fontes was finally executed, and the Lions cycled through a few uninspiring coaches, the Lions brought in Marty Mornhinweg, a reputed offensive mastermind who immediately proved that he was in way over his head. If Fontes looked clueless and uninspiring, Mornhinweg looked like he was about to start crying because he was confused as to how he got in the stadium. It was preposterous really, and when he was finally fired, everyone figured that things would quickly turn around. How naive we were. Steve Mariucci came over after being unfairly fired by the 49ers. There was a lot of excitement in the air because it seemed like the Lions finally had a legitimate coach. But, it turned out that Mooch was basically a more advanced version of Mornhinweg. Same busted ass west coast offense which failed partly because it was all too predictable and non-threatening and partially because Joey Harrington sucked about eighteen different kinds of dick. Which leads us to today.
Rod Marinelli constantly looks like he wears a diaper and that he just shit his pants and is both panicked and confused by this development. I know, inspiring, right? Prior to coming to Detroit, Marinelli served as the defensive line coach for Tampa Bay. It was kind of an odd choice, and Lions fans were generally not optimistic, but the book on Marinelli was that he was a hard ass who wouldn't let his team quit. Besides, his defensive lines in Tampa Bay had always been formidable and at the time the Lions had a lot of talent on their defensive line so the thought was at least we would be a tough disciplined team with a tough defense. Yeah, not so much. Marinelli has thus far failed to prove that he can make the tough transition from position coach to head coach. He's not inspiring and constantly looks like he is about fall off the wagon or shit his pants again or both. Seriously, it looks like the man wears a diaper. It is embarrassing.
The offensive coordinator position now that Mike Martz has been thrown out of town is held down by Jim Colletto, previously the offensive line coach. Nothing inspires hope that your offense will be dynamic and successful like having an offensive line coach calling the plays. Besides, the line under Colletto was fucking awful so why is this asshole being given the offense to run? It's because Rod Marinelli wants to have someone around him that thinks like him, that acts like him and who he feels comfortable with. It's just another example of him surrounding himself with both players and coaches who will agree with him, making it so that he doesn't actually have to do anything. He can just do all the same old boring shit he knows is safe, the team will be bad and he'll get fired and go back to coaching the defensive line somewhere. He is a position coach and nothing more.
But that's nothing compared to the stunning bit of nepotism on the defensive side of the ball. After his first year, a year in which the Lions defense wasn't any good but showed at least some semblance of promise for the future the Lions fired defensive coordinator Donnie Henderson and replaced him with that up and coming star, Joe Barry. Who? You know, Joe Barry, yet another former Tampa Bay assistant who also happens to be Rod Marinelli's son in law. HEY IT'S JUST ONE BIG HAPPY FAMILY. Hey Rod, why don't you sign your daughter to be the new quarterback? How about your wife to play linebacker? It's obvious that Marinelli puts a huge premium on using both players and coaches that he is comfortable with, regardless of whether they are actually, you know, any good or not. Fucking unbelievable. I hope Marinelli gets eaten by wolves.
Grade: F. Seriously, these guys are fucking awful.
Excuse me while I go sit in the garage with the car running. Hey, are those razor blades over there? My wrist is just aching for them. Seriously there must be some rope around here that I can attach to the ceiling fan and hang my troubles away. This is an area that is a fucking disaster and everyone knows it. Matt Millen is the most inept, embarrassing executive in all of sports, and that is saying something given the retards who make up half of the front offices in America. The man is worse at his job than Nipsy Russell...oops I mean Elgin Baylor, and Elgin Baylor runs the Clippers. THE FUCKING CLIPPERS. The only man to challenge Millen for the throne has been Isiah Thomas, but even he has been fired now. Besides, that was always a depressing battle because Zeke is my favorite basketball player of all time and no one in Detroit wants to admit that he is a failure. But as for Millen, well, we definitely want everyone to know what a failure and fucking fraud that asshole is. And everybody does. When people say Detroit Lions football, the first name and face that pops into everyone's mind is Matt Millen. How fucking sad is that? The man is so awful at his job that he has come to define the very franchise. He is an embarrassment the likes of which we have never seen here in Detroit and that is fucking saying something. For fuck's sake, if there is one issue that could unite everyone in the state of Michigan it is that Matt Millen is the worst thing to ever happen to the Lions. THE WORST. TO THE LIONS. THE FUCKING LIONS. That is almost incomprehensible. This turd should not even be allowed to clean the shitters in the men's room at Ford Field let alone run the team. Jesus.
As bad as Millen is, he's really just being himself so I suppose you can't get too angry at him. No, the fault for this atrocity lies with the team's owners, the Ford family. Old man Ford and Ford the junior are just clueless. Everyone jokes that Millen must have pictures of one of them blowing a donkey or something but the truth is far more mundane. They don't care. Not really anyway. The Detroit Lions is just a toy for them to own and it's easier for them to just let that nice boy Matt Millen run the team instead of doing the tough thing, rolling up their sleeves and figuring out how to fix this mess. They should just sell the team, but they won't. They're actually proud of how they have run things. In their minds, they caused Ford Field to be built which has helped to revitalize a beaten downtown area. In their mind they are civic leaders who can use the Lions to help build up the community. Well, as noble as that may be, the community really, really wants the Lions to actually be decent, and not just a cash suck for poor suckers still dumb enough to keep caring about the Lions. I...I can't go on about this madness. It is too depressing.
Grade: Z, because there isn't anything lower.
Look, if it wasn't perfectly clear to you before it should be clear now. The Lions are an abomination of a franchise, a horrible sinkhole of suck that has been bad for a long time and will probably always be bad. There is no real hope, no excitement, just the knowledge that another season is here and hopefully it won't get so bad again that Jay Leno starts making shitty jokes and everyone starts wearing bags on their heads to all the games. The offense will be both shitty and boring this year and the defense won't be able to really stop anybody. There are some who think that the Lions 4-0 preseason record somehow presages something good. I am not among them. The preseason is meaningless. They are just glorified scrimmages designed to allow the coaches to evaluate talent. I expect the Lions to get a few wins this year and they could possibly, if everything breaks right, even manage to sneak back to mediocrity, perhaps an 8-8 campaign that sadly allows everyone at Ford Field to pat themselves on the back, another year of job security assured for them. But for Lions fans the story is always the same, never changing, a bleak and hopeless landscape of failure and ennui. Perhaps the day will come when the Lions make a move and become respectable, but that day is probably a long way off, and so for now, we sit in front of our televisions every Sunday or in the stands at Ford Field and we watch with grim determination, hoping against hope that maybe this Sunday, just maybe, things will start to turn around.
Overall Team Grade: D
Six Predictions for the Upcoming Season(Why six? Why not?)
1. Jon Kitna is sacked less and throws fewer picks, but also throws for significantly less yardage than last season.
2. Ernie Sims has a fantastic season which is undone by the relative inexperience and lack of playmaking ability by the other linebackers.
3. The Lions struggle to get pressure on the quarterback and the secondary gets picked apart as a result.
4. Jason Hanson finally is too old to be effective at a high level.
5. Roy Williams is good but remains inconsistent and slightly disappointing while Calvin Johnson makes significant progress towards being a franchise receiver in the NFL
6. And finally, Matt Millen keeps his job after yet another terrible year.
Predicted Final Record: 6-10
Welcome to Part 4, wherein I lose my mind.
The Lions have failed to put a competent group of linebackers on the field for a while now. Since Chris Spielman left town the Lions have been looking for that consistent player in the heart of the defense who could be a steadying influence when everything else began to turn to shit, which, let's face it, is pretty much always happening with the Lions. When he was drafted out of Oklahoma, there were a lot of people who thought that Teddy Lehman could be that player, but a combination of injuries and a lack of athleticism brought those expectations to a screeching halt. But, Lions fans told themselves, at least we have that other young linebacker who will be a stud. Only it turns out that Boss Bailey is just a guy who is too slow and big to play safety but not really strong enough to play linebacker with any sort of consistency. He's a hell of a blitzing linebacker in Madden though.
So with the future of our defense drizzling out like so much else has in the Lions long, sordid, embarrassing history, what are we left with here? One good player who could end up being great and not a whole lot else.
Ernie Sims mans the weak side linebacker spot, and even though he is undersized he is the best player on this sorry defense by a mile, and possibly even the best player on the team, depending on whether or not Roy Williams gives a shit. Sims is too small, and he's not going to have a long career, but he has great instincts, is athletic as hell and hits like a fucking bus. But the best thing about Sims is that he is quite possibly insane. Aside from his frenetic playing style, he is renowned for having a world class collection of lizards. He has turned his house into a cross between a zoo and a jungle habitat and it is clear that he doesn't really give a fuck about much else. He's a crazy fucker who will probably have a hard time walking once he hits his forties, but he'll always have his lizards to keep him company as he grows old and that is fucking awesome. If I am proud to be a fan of anyone on this Godforsaken team it is Sims.
Jordon Dizon was drafted to take over the middle linebacker slot, but, like Sims he is undersized. It is easier to get away with this on the outside than it is in the middle, and if he remains at MLB and isn't switched to the strong side Dizon will have problems taking on and shedding blocks. But, like Sims, he is also a terrific athlete. It remains to be seen though whether he's Sims or he's Boss Bailey. Since he is a Lion chances are he ends up being a Bailey. Adding to these fears are the fact that Dizon was unable to win the middle linebacker spot in training camp. Instead, starting the season in the middle for the second straight season will be Paris Lenon. Lenon is a terrific special teams player, but that is not exactly a glowing endorsement for a starting middle linebacker. Chances are he will struggle again this year, unable to make a lot of plays that the Lions really need him to make. On the flip side Lenon won't make a lot of mistakes and won't cause the defense to completely fall apart. The ugly truth though is that the Lions desperately need a playmaker at this position and unless Dizon turns out to be a true beast the team is likely to be disappointed yet again this season. Oh well, at least we are used to it.
Alex Lewis is slated to be the strong side linebacker and again the book on Lewis is that he is undersized but athletic, which is the mold favored by Marinelli and company, but there comes a point where the players are just too fucking small and will end up getting pushed around. Lewis was never a real prospect and, like Lenon, worked his way up from the bottom. It's fine to have one of those types on your team, but it's a pretty big problem when they make up two thirds of your linebacking corps. It is possible that Dizon ends up here, and frankly, at least for this season, that is kind of what I expect to happen. He is probably a better alternative than Lewis, but again his inability to win the job outright in camp is troubling and I wouldn't be surprised if he ends up being a bit of a bust.
Really, what will end up happening here is the same sorry story that takes place every year for the Lions. The linebackers aren't big enough, and with the exception of Sims who operates as sort of the Derrick Brooks of this defense, they aren't really talented enough either. I don't dislike any of them really. They play hard, they know what they're doing, but they just lack the ability to really get it done. Against teams that want to run the ball up the middle the Lions will likely be in big trouble, with the middle of the defensive line being weakened with the loss of Shaun Rogers and the linebackers not being nearly rugged enough to stand up to the blocking of a power running game. Look for them to be barely adequate, with Sims dragging them on occasion into the territory of just good enough.
Grade: C, if they play like I expect them to, B- if Sims gets even better and if Dizon does end up emerging as a playmaker on the other side, C- if Dizon is a bust and the Lions lack of size and true playmaking talent becomes apparent.
I am starting to sound like a broken record, but yet again here is another position group that has been a major problem area for the Lions for a long time. How is it possible for one team to have so many consistent areas of weakness but to never do anything to improve them? You got me. Then again, I am not the genius that Matt Millen is and I am sure he is just biding his time until his fifty year plan comes together and the Lions manage to eke out a Wild Card birth in 2051. But the defensive backs have been a particular problem area for a long time now, and Millen has not once attempted to fix this through the draft. Then again the last highly rated defensive back that the Lions drafted was Bryant Westbrook and that didn't exactly turn out all that well so I suppose I can't blame them too much for being incredibly shook here. On the other hand, it is not like they have been all that successful drafting at other positions either, so what the fuck, you know? Just draft a dude here already.
What we are left with in the meantime is a defensive backfield which is almost entirely new this year. That could be a good thing as it's not like things could get any worse than they have been back there, but it's definitely possible, and probably likely that the Lions have just replaced shit with even more shit. It's a good thing that Lions fans are used to having shit shoveled onto them.
Brian Kelly is the biggest name of the newcomers in the secondary. A very good cornerback with Tampa Bay for a decade, Kelly fits the Tampa 2 defense favored by Marinelli like a glove. He has long been considered the ideal corner for this type of defense. He's smart, athletic and physical. My God, how did the Lions luck into him? Well, he's also old as dirt and has missed nineteen games over the last two seasons, so put away the party hats my friends, because what we've got here is the typical vet at the end of his career desperately trying to get one last payday while Rod Marinelli rubs himself on the sideline as he watches as all these former Buccaneers take the field. Seriously, the man has a fucking fetish. It is disturbing and I am just waiting for him to try to coax Warren Sapp out of retirement.
Coming out of the preseason the other starting cornerback is Travis Fisher. Fisher has been a fringe sort of starter for a few years now, first with St. Louis and now with Detroit. Last year he wasn't very impressive and there were more than a few people who figured he was probably done in Detroit. But here he is, ready to start against Atlanta in Week 1. Now, I don't know about you, but I am not exactly excited at the prospect of a guy starting who everyone figured would be forced to turn in his playbook by the end of training camp. I mean this is pretty terrifying. What it says about the other corners vying for the starting spot is pretty damning.
One of those other cornerbacks is Leigh Bodden, who the Lions picked up in the trade that sent Shaun Rogers to Cleveland. Bodden was expected to step right in and start opposite Kelly, but he has been unable to win the job. Again, I think this says a lot about Bodden's ability, or lack thereof. If he can't beat out Travis Fisher for a job then I think it's pretty safe to say he will merely continue the Lions long tradition of utter shit in the secondary. Bodden did have five interceptions a year ago with Cleveland but he was also picked on a lot in a defense that itself wasn't very good. The verdict? Pain. Lots and lots of pain.
Also in the mix at cornerback are Keith Smith who has been a disappointment since being a mid round draft choice by the Lions(I know, SHOCKING), and Ramzee Robinson, who was Mr. Irrelevant a year ago, which means that he was the last player chosen in the draft. He got a parade out of it and everything, a bunch of goofy shit that they do every year for Mr. Irrelevant to try to take his mind off the fact that he sucks as a football player and will likely be selling real estate or something within a couple of years. Ramzee's not there yet, but I don't see him sticking around too long either.
Dwight Smith is yet another newcomer in the secondary, and still another ex Buccaneer. I mean, come on Rod, just move back to Tampa already, rent a room across from wherever they practice and make love to yourself until you are dragged kicking and screaming out of the building by Tampa Bay security. You are just embarrassing yourself here man. Of course, Dwight Smith is probably best known for being the only man to return two interceptions for touchdowns in a single Super Bowl, which he accomplished against the Raiders a few years back(Sorry Harpo). He has also been arrested a couple of times during his career. Once for getting in a traffic dispute and pulling a gun on some poor driver who probably pissed himself and once for getting a little too handsy with some poor lady in the stairwell of a nightclub. Oh, and there was the time that he was arrested AGAIN for pulling a gun on another motorist. Only this time he pulled a fucking BB GUN which is just shameful. If you're going to do that shit, at least go all out. There is also the time he got busted in a Minneapolis nightclub smoking weed, but really that could happen to the best of us. So, chances are that Dwight gets hauled off in cuffs before the opening coin flip some game. But he is also a native of the fine city of Detroit and I trust that Lions fans everywhere will rally to this fine gentleman's defense should the need arise. On the field, Smith is a pretty decent safety, a guy who can hit and is a decent ball hawker, but he has been released by two different teams since leaving Tampa Bay so call me skeptical. He is already one of my favorite players though.
At the free safety spot is Gerald Alexander, who was forced to start as a rookie when injuries took out Daniel Bullocks. Alexander was a sleeper pick out of Boise St. and managed to not fuck up too badly his rookie season. It wasn't like he was any good or anything, but he wasn't terrible either. He could be decent down the road, but everyone expected him to take a backseat to Bullocks now that he returned this year. Only Bullocks, who was considered a star in the making going into last year, hasn't quite looked the same since coming back and as of now is slated to be Smith's backup at the strong safety spot, leaving the starting job in the hands of Alexander once again. This does not bode well.
Aside from Bullocks, who everyone is still hoping to come back 100%, there is still another Tampa Bay castoff backing up at safety. Kalvin Pearson comes over to join Rod Marinelli's harem of former Bucs, and his primary talent seems to be his knowledge of the system, which is a frustratingly familiar refrain when it comes to Rod's ex Buc players. Here is a novel idea Rod. How about actually trying to teach talented players your system instead of just being a lazy fuckwit who is content to bring in talentless rejects just because they are used to playing in your system. That is just abominable coaching.
Clearly, the defensive backfield looks to be in the same state of chaos that it is always in. Just because the Lions brought in a whole host of new faces it doesn't mean that the result will be any different. I expect the old guys to get older and slower and the young guys to continue to drift away from the team after a season or two just like they always do, until the secondary is overhauled yet again and we go through the same frustrating process that we do every few seasons. I mean, come on, fuck this, this shit is getting really fucking old.
Grade: F, because fuck this shit, that's why.
OVERALL DEFENSIVE OUTLOOK
Shit. It is the one current that keeps running through this preview and here we are yet again. Hello again shit, my dear old friend. Look, things are going to be bad on defense this year because things are always bad on defense for the Lions. It is just the way it is and the way it will be until the end of time. They are going to struggle to stop the pass since they are going to lack a sustained pass rush and the corners are either old or worthless and they aren't going to stop the run because they are soft up the middle and the linebackers are too fucking small. If you can't stop the run and you can't stop the pass you are going to suck. I know, it is a shocking conclusion, but there you have it. Oh well, at least I can cheer for Ernie Sims and his lizards and hope that Dwight Smith flips out and reenacts the scene from The Last Boy Scout when he intercepts a pass and then loses his shit during the return and pulls a gun and starts offing dudes. That will be the best defense that the Lions have all year, Dwight Smith and his arsenal.
Overall Defensive Grade: D for Dwight.
Friday, September 5, 2008
Part 3 of the Lions season preview will focus on the lines, both offensive and defensive. Part 4 will focus on the linebackers and defensive backs. Part 5 will focus on the Special Teams, Coaches, Management and general predictions and nonsense about the upcoming season. So, without further ado, here is Part 3.
It has been years since the Lions had an even adequate offensive line. Really, they've been struggling with the line ever since Mike Utley decided he'd be more comfortable spending the rest of his life in a wheelchair and Erik Andolsek wandered in front of a car while working in his garden. The decade of the 90s saw the Lions have success with the running game despite this. This is because they had Barry Sanders, perhaps the one man who could survive and, indeed, thrive without an offensive line in front of him. The rallying cry for Lions fans during the great Barry vs. Emmitt Smith debate was "Imagine what Barry could do behind that line in Dallas." To be fair though, the Lions did have a couple of decent lineman during this time in Kevin Glover and Lomas Brown, so perhaps Barry had a little more help than we want to admit. But once those guys retired, no one has stepped up to provide even a semblance of blocking prowess. It has been a rough decade. But, the good news here is that it is unlikely to be worse this season than it has been the past several seasons. The bad news is that this will be more attributable to scheme than to the players involved. There will be a lot more max protect looks this year, a marked difference from the EVERY MAN FOR HIMSELF OH GOD WE'RE ALL GONNA DIE protection schemes of Mike Martz.
The tackles were horrible last year, partially because they were too often left on an island, with little tight end help, and partially because, well, they just aren't that good. Jeff Backus is the left tackle and he has always been an adequate sort - for the most part anyway. He's not really big enough or talented enough but he's a decent tactician sort who gets good leverage on his blocks. He also gave up 15 1/2 sacks last year, which is apocalyptic and part of the reason why Jon Kitna will die before his fiftieth birthday due to water on the brain.
George Foster is the right tackle, and, uh, well, George fucking sucks. He came over from Denver last year along with the Underwear Thief for Dre Bly and at the time Lions fans were actually somewhat impressed with the deal. They both seemed like solid players, but that was before it became clear that Underwear Thief couldn't run the ball at all and enjoyed stealing other men's drawers and that Big George couldn't understand the concept of a snap count. The man was responsible for more false start penalties than I think I've ever seen a single player be responsible for. It was embarrassing and it reached the point that the Lions had to bench the big retard even though there was really no one to take his place. And even when he wasn't diving across the line too early, he gave up too many sacks and generally looked like a massive, massive bust and was regarded as someone who the Lions needed to replace immediately. Enter Gosder Cherilus, a rookie out of Boston College who the Lions drafted in the first round. With all their problems, they identified Big George as the biggest problem, which when it comes to the Lions means Big George was a really fucking big problem. Right away Cherilus was anointed the starter at RT, but then training camp started and a funny thing happened: he couldn't win the job from Big George. Okay, so it's not funny ha ha, more like funny OH FUCK I WANT TO DIE, which I guess makes it not funny at all. Anyway, the Lions have tried to spin this as Big George making a ton of progress during training camp, but I am not buying it. No sir. Lions players simply don't improve. They don't. And so I am left to believe that Cherilus is just going to be one more flailing piece of failure on the Lions offensive line. Oh well, at least he will fit right in.
At guard, things remain dicey as well. Starting left guard, Edwin Mulitalo is a big, nasty roadgrader type who had some success with Baltimore before signing as a free agent with the Lions. The hope was that, even though he was getting older, he could open some holes for the Lions running game that haven't been there in years. Of course when the season started he was too fat and too old and generally looked like a saggy pile of shit out there, but hey, if he was too old last year, surely he won't be this year, right? RIGHT???
Starting right guard Stephen Peterman is a player who the coaches seem to love. He's a brawler, a tough hardworking blue collar player who would be a fan favorite if it wasn't for the fact that he's just not very good. His lack of athleticism is too much to overcome and he doesn't have the stamina to be anything more than a substandard starter, especially with his style of play, that mean, grating style which requires a shit ton of stamina.
Backing up at guard is Manuel Ramirez, who is limited athletically but is a hard worker who seems destined to be a career backup in the NFL. Inspiring, I know. The hope was that these guys would be better suited for the power running game than they were for Martz's system. Unfortunately, during the preseason the Lions still couldn't run the ball worth a shit, leading me to believe that these fuckups will continue to suck ass this season.
Starting center Dominic Raiola is a frustrating player. He is one of the most athletic centers in the league, but he is also too small and too weak and gets pushed around by bigger defensive tackles. He seems like he should be better than he is, but he just never is, and the result is always a sort of stalemate between his potential and his lack of strength and what ends up being on the field is a somewhat adequate player who can do well as long as he's not asked to muscle anyone backwards. Unfortunately, that is kind of his job. Besides, the dude is named Dominic. He has a brother named Donovan who is also a football player, and it is just impossible to take a man seriously as an ass kicker when his name is Dominic or Donovan. He sounds like a Franciscan Priest, and unfortunately, that's how he plays too.
The lack of depth on the offensive line is kind of shocking. If the Lions have injuries along the line or if someone sucks ass(IF?) there is really no one there to step in. It looks like it will be another long year. I predict that Kitna will be sacked less, but again that will have everything to do with the change in offensive philosophy and almost nothing to do with the shit pile in front of him. I also predict that the running game will struggle mightily behind this line, especially as teams begin to key on it more now that they know that is what the Lions want to do.
Grade: D if everything works out the way I expect, D+ if Cherilus is somehow not a total spaz, and F if someone gets hurt and we have an Apocalypse Now on our hands.
OVERALL OFFENSIVE GRADE: D+. The Lions should be able to throw the ball still, but the numbers will be down due to the scheme change.(Note: In my first draft of this I spelled scheme as shame and didn't notice until the last minute. Honestly, that should tell you all you need to know.) Unfortunately, I just don't see a corresponding increase in the success of the running game. The line still sucks, and while the offense used to be almost manic depressive, either exciting and high flying or embarrassingly inept, this year it will struggle to achieve a placid consistency, devoid of any highs but probably not having any real lows either. The result will probably be a team that doesn't get blown out too badly, but one that lacks the ability to show up and just ambush a team like the Lions were at least capable of before. Besides, these guys will just be boring now. As Lions fans, we're used to our teams being fucking atrocious, but the one thing we won't abide is a boring ass team. I am not optimistic.
The one constant for the Lions has always been that their defense sucks. Sucks sucks sucks. Occasionally there will be someone who flashes some competency, a Chris Spielman or fatass Jerry Ball, but they are always the exception rather than the rule, talented dudes drowning in a sea of shit. But the defense, like everything else, has been especially bad the last several seasons and I see no real reason why this one should be any different. Sure, there are more players now who fit Rod Marinelli's beloved Tampa 2 defense, but there is a reason why they are here now and not somewhere else. They are castoffs who couldn't cut it anymore in Tampa Bay, who seem to be fine with giving us their spare parts and old junkers. And any improvement the Lions are likely to make will probably be negated by their trading of Shaun Rogers to the Browns. Sure, Shaun was fat and lazy, but he was also the one guy the Lions had who could be a disruptive force on defense. Marinelli didn't like him, but then again Marinelli looks like he is only a year or two away from being found wandering down Woodward pantsless and drunk.
With Rogers gone, the Lions are left with a serious void of playmakers along the line, a serious problem since the Tampa 2 system relies on quarterback pressure to be effective. Replacing Rogers at defensive tackle is Chuck Darby, one of the Tampa Bay castoffs who make Marinelli swoon. Darby is undersized and undertalented but is a hard worker, basically the complete opposite of Rogers. Some people think he will be effective now that he is reunited with his old position coach in Marinelli, but others have noted that he is probably only good for 10-15 snaps a game, which, like...WHOAH. That means that the dude will barely be on the field, essentially meaning we have an even bigger hole than the one we thought we did when Rogers was shipped out of town. Man, Rogers' propensity for getting shitfaced and beating on strippers doesn't seem so bad now.
Lining up next to Darby as a starter is Cory Redding. Redding was a below average defensive end for a few seasons before being switched to defensive tackle midway through the 2006 season. Amazingly, he was absolutely dominant after the move, posting almost a sack of game and providing the sort of disruptive presence on the line that Marinelli had in Warren Sapp with Tampa Bay. Of course it was only half a season so odds were that it was probably a fluke. Matt Millen, being an idiot, decided that half a season was enough to make Redding one of the most highly paid defensive tackles in the league. Of course, last year, Redding returned to earth, leaving the Lions with a hole at defensive tackle where Shaun Rogers used to be and an overpaid lump next to that hole. I don't know about you, but I'm sure excited!
Backing them up are Shaun Cody, who seemed like he could develop into a starter when he came into the league but hasn't really progressed beyond that and Langston Moore, a big space eater who broke into the league as an offensive lineman before being moved over to the other side of the football. I predict that Darby will fade away as the year goes on and that Cody will step in as the starter there, but I'm not all that sure that is really an upgrade, and so we are left with a significantly softer middle than we had a year ago, a problem since the Lions absolutely have to stop the run in order to give the secondary a break.
At right defensive end, Dewayne White is solid. Another player who came over from Tampa, the Lions gave him a big free agent deal before last season despite the fact that he had never been a full time starter with the Bucs. Amazingly he performed well for the Lions, getting consistent pressure on the quarterback and generally being a disruptive force on the defense. There were times last season when he was nicked up and when he was out the Lions defense was markedly worse. And now that Rogers and his harem of beaten down strippers have left town, the onus on White is even bigger. He is really the only consistent threat the Lions have on the line and if he has a great season the defense as a whole might rise to barely competent. If he struggles or is injured, the Lions might as well start playing scenes involving Col. Kurtz on the scoreboard during games.
Last year's starter at left defensive end, Kalimba Edwards, was a perpetual tease. He was athletic and fast, and always seemed on the verge of breaking out but he never did and so now he is gone. Unfortunately there really is no one to take his place, a familiar theme when it comes to the players that the Lions shipped out. Jared Devries is a hard worker who never quits, but he is slow, white and shitty. He might get a couple of sacks just because he'll catch a tackle being lazy, but he is a serious weakness on the Lions defense. Ikaika Alama-Francis has an awesome name and awesome talent, but he is raw as hell and doesn't really know what he is doing yet. He is probably another year away from contributing - at least. Then again, he is Hawaiian and a part of me likes to hope that he somehow trains and hangs out with BJ Penn and that he will come out this season as an ass kicker extraordinaire. This will not happen, but still I dare to dream. Also in the mix at end is Corey Smith who has flashed some talent but seems to be destined to remain a quality backup and nothing more.
Grade: D+ if everything works out as I expect it to, C- if someone, maybe Francis, turns into a pass rushing threat, and D- if last year was a fluke for White and Redding continues to be mediocre.
Part 2 of the Lions season preview will cover the skill position players on offense, the backs and receivers we all know and love and count on for our Fantasy Football teams.
In a word? Depressing. Shortly after the season ended amid a staggering collapse that left Lions fans alternating between laughing and sobbing, Matt Millen in his infinite wisdom decided to fire Mike Martz, the one man who had provided any sort of excitement to Lions fans since he blew into town. Sure, his offense lacked a strong running game and he routinely got Jon Kitna murdered, but really, if we are being honest with ourselves here, that was part of the fun of it. The Lions could look like absolute beasts one minute and comically inept goofuses the next. There were times when Yakety Sax could be used as the soundtrack to the Lions misfortunes, but really, we all knew the team would suck, we just wanted to have fun with it. At least Mike Martz provided that. Now though, the offense is in the hands of the painfully boring Jim Colletto, and he has promised to focus on a power running game. Now, everyone knew this would likely fail even before the team lost T.J. Duckett to free agency and told Kevin Jones and his knee injuries to fuck off. This forced them into resigning Underwear Thief Tatum Bell, whose find the seam and go running style is a woeful fit for this offense. Thankfully he has been jettisoned, along with Rudi Johnson's panties, leaving us right back where we started: up shit creek without the proverbial paddle.
The nominal starter as of right now is rookie Kevin Smith. Aside from his unfortunate name which will be the cause of at least one horrible joke by a writer this season, the book on Smith is that he is a slashing type runner, devoid of big speed who will find the whole and get you consistent yardage. He was not on anyone's map prior to last year when he put up staggering yardage and became the first player to seriously threaten Barry Sanders' single season rushing mark in college. Barry Sanders of course is the magic word to Lions fans and so when the team drafted Smith, visions of Barry began dancing in the heads of fans everywhere, which is only going to make his inevitable disappointment that much more hilarious/sad. You see, Smith put up all that yardage at Central Florida, not exactly a school known as a football factory, and while he may be a passable NFL running back, he is never going to be the All Pro that Lions fans desperately want at the position. On the other hand, when he was drafted I was personally assured by no less an authority than DJ Khaled that Kevin Smith was DA BESSSSSSSTTTTTTTTT. So, who knows what we are really going to get?
Also in the mix is the aforementioned Rudi Johnson. Now if this were three years ago, we might have something, but what Rudi has become most known for over the last couple of seasons is being injured and getting his drawers stolen. While his running style seems to fit this new offense, the reality is that he is severely behind the eight ball here in terms of learning the system and fitting in with the Lions offense and so I expect that he will languish on the bench, getting a few uninspiring carries here and there until he fades out of the league after his one year contract is up at the end of the season. But, on the bright side, perhaps life without underwear will be a pleasant surprise to Rudi and who knows, if he decides to freeball it from here on out maybe he will be a sleeker runner. We can only hope.
The third running back is Marcus Thomas, a rookie who the Lions signed after he was cut in training camp. Nothing says optimism like grabbing a rookie who was too shitty to even stick as a roster player with another team. Happy days are here again!
The fullback position is shaping up to be yet another problem area for this Lions team. In Mike Martz's system the fullback didn't exist except in short yardage situations and so The Lions are forced to essentially build from scratch here. The starter will probably be Jerome Felton, a rookie out of Furman. Hey, I wish I had more for you here, but the fact that I don't should be damning enough.
Grade: C if everything breaks right, D if everything breaks as I expect it to.
Ah, now we come to that most famous of Lions positions, the receivers. It is no secret that Matt Millen has some sort of bizarre hard on for those who catch the ball, and many horrible jokes have been made about this predilection, but as Lions fans we just sort of want to move on, willing to accept that Millen hit on at least one of them and maybe on another, and that two of them were colossal busts. Okay, so Mike Williams loves to eat and Charles Rogers likes to get high and break his collarbone. Whatever. They aren't here anymore, and what's left is actually not that bad. In fact, if everything goes right, which let's face it is always a dicey proposition when it comes to the Lions, things could actually be pretty fucking good here.
We start off with Roy Williams, who at times looks like he can do anything he wants to on the football field. Unfortunately, that's the problem with Roy. You see, a lot of the time it is clear that he doesn't want to do anything on the football field. I can understand this though. Life as a Detroit Lion must be enough to make one reach for the razor blades, but things have gotten to the point where now fans are heckling him at practices for being lazy. No, really, the Lions annually invite the fans to a practice every season, and this season a fan actually had to be escorted from the building because he wouldn't leave Roy Williams alone. LIONS FEVER. CATCH IT.
Lining up on the other side of Williams is Calvin Johnson, he of the immense hype and of the gigantic hands which were talked about to the point of creepiness last season. Johnson has all the talent in the world, can catch anything, can get deep against anybody, and is essentially a freak of nature. Don't forget those giant hands. But what I really want to talk about is something that no one wants to acknowledge and why the Lions will never win with these two goofs as their receivers. You see, last season Roy Williams and Calvin Johnson dubbed each other Optimus Prime and Megatron in a stunning bit of nerdery usually only seen between pale fifteen year old, pudgy white kids. I mean, come on, really guys? Look, Detroit is a city that likes its athletes hard and raw as fuck. Think the Bad Boys teams of the Pistons. Those dudes would stab you if you weren't careful enough. And the fans themselves aren't afraid to wander out of the stands and throw hands if they feel compelled. It's mayor is facing multiple criminal charges, including assaulting an officer. This is not a city that has time for Transformers nonsense. The only way to transcend this is to be great with machine like consistency, like Stevie Yzerman or Barry Sanders. There is no room for fucking around like a little kid if you aren't fucking everyone else up on the field at the same time. I mean, can you imagine Jerry Rice and John Taylor pulling this shit? How about Art Monk and Gary Clark? Or better yet, try to imagine Michael Irvin and Alvin Harper calling each other Voltron or some such shit. You can't, and the reason is because in order to be a great you need to be competitive to the point of insanity or a coked out raging beast. You don't talk about your love for cartoons while playing grab ass with your fellow receivers. This is a real problem here my friends.
Behind the two manchildren, there is Shaun McDonald, who actually led the team in receptions a year ago. He's a shifty dude who can excel in the slot, but he can also drop too many catchable balls, such as the one against the Giants that would have given the Lions the win last season. Chances are good that he won't catch nearly as many balls in the Lions new offense this season. Mike Furrey is the Lions fourth receiver. He's a former Arena Leaguer who everyone loves because he is a hard worker(white) who plays the game the right way(white). He led the league in receptions in 2006 but again that was because he was playing in Mike Martz's system where the quarterback chucked the ball approximately a thousand times a game. His numbers will fall off considerably this year, but he should be able to stick around as a possession receiver sort(white). Also, he is white.
Tight End is another position which needs to be rebuilt after the departure of Martz. Thankfully, the Lions have a couple of tight ends who seem to fit the system pretty well in Dan Campbell, the likely starter, and Michael Gaines who came over after underachieving in Carolina. Both are supposed to be good blockers, which the Lions are going to need during this new grim running the ball experiment. Also in the mix is Casey FitzSimmons, who is best known for being a yokel who played a version of college football that only used eight guys a side. He can catch the ball, but as always he remains a project with proverbial upside. Odds are he never does anything worth jack or shit.
Grade: B+ if everyone plays like I think they can, but I will knock it down to a B due to the new offense, with the caveat that this unit could take off and be an A- or even an A if Williams and Johnson drop this Transformers shit and play like men.