Mike Mantalos, a Chicago Bears blogger at Bear Goggles On, and I spent a couple days this week emailing back and forth in preparation of the Lions week one road trip face the Chicago Bears. Give our discussion a read and be part of the banter by using the comment section.
Mike Mantalos: As we look forward to this upcoming season opening this weekend, one glaring “coincidence” clouds the Bears future and clears the Lions skies. Somehow, the debacle that was your winless season has infected our coaching staff and that impression leaves us very uneasy. Nothing like hiring a complete failure to turn around our defense… using the same scheme. Add in the fact that the only capable human on earth that would accept Lovie’s offensive coordinator position was another of your ex coaches and one could surmise that the Detroit Lions have infiltrated the Bears.
As much as we appreciate your generosity, why didn’t you forward us Matt Millen while you were at it? Too obvious to work?
This staff was your nightmare, can you guide us out of this house of horrors?
Zac Snyder: Wow, take it easy Mike. Do you realize you’re asking a Lions fan to talk you off the ledge? Sunday’s game will have a bit of a family reunion feel to it, however Matt Millen is the missing link. Without the proper management in place to systematically dismantle any semblance of talent on the roster Rod Marinelli and Mike Martz might be doomed to succeed.
I have a lot more faith in Marinelli to get it wrong again. He was a first-time head coach with the Lions so he brings some sort of experience to the Bears. Of course, he hasn’t been a defensive coordinator before so he will have plenty of opportunities to frustrate Bears fans. Marinelli’s tenure in Detroit left me wondering if he learned defense through some sort of game of “telephone” when he was the defensive line coach with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Just like the popular children’s game, the message started with Tony Dungy, went to Monte Kiffin, and was received by Marinelli as some sort of jumbled mess that left Rod with nothing more than the ability to talk about pad level. Rod is well versed in coach-speak and cliches. Martz will probably be OK as he has a proven track record and even turned Mike Furrey into a 100-catch receiver. Martz has been known to go on the occasional power trip, watch out there.
There were a lot of Lions fans that wanted the front office to make a play for Jay Cutler when it was apparent his time in Denver was done. I have a hard time believing he is going to be worth the price the Bears paid to get him. Matthew Stafford is still somewhat unproven but he only cost the Lions one first round pick. Is Cutler really going to be the solution or is the deal going to set the Bears back in the future?
MM: I believe in Jay Cutler. There, I wrote it.
Considering how we draft, I consider the two first round picks a discount for such a talent. My overwhelming impression though is that an investment of this type demands another critical investment or else you’ve wasted the entire effort.
How we managed to get to this point…. again, is unbelievable. If you have a true franchise quarterback, you MUST protect him. Shuffling the deck chairs into a different configuration with a new captain of the deck chairs doesn’t address the quality of the deck chairs. And the ship still appears to be sinking every time Jay runs for his life on nearly every snap. It doesn’t matter what you scheme if you can’t execute and that has nothing to do with Jay, his “attitude” or his arm.
Another Chicago concern is our secondary and your Lions certainly pose a credible threat. Calvin Johnson is a beast and we may have to triple team him! How has the rest of your offense looked this preseason and have you developed a complimentary playmaker for Stafford?
ZS: The first team offense looked great through the first three preseason games and then faltered against the Bills in the finale. Jahvid Best didn’t play in the last game for precautionary reasons but has been nothing short of spectacular in the action he saw in the first three games. The Lions haven’t had a dynamic back since Barry Sanders retired and while it is premature to draw comparison’s to number 20, his name has come up on a couple of occasions. Nate Burleson and Tony Scheffler are dependable receivers to compliment Calvin Johnson but it will be the emergence of Jahvid Best that proves to be the biggest help to Matthew Stafford and the rest of the Lions offense. The Lions will score a lot of points this year but their defense will give them right back on most occasions. The Bears secondary may be bad but the Lions secondary is worse.
Speaking of the Bears defense, it seems that they are always better on paper than on the field. Injuries have been a major reason for this phenomenon. You already stated that the secondary is a concern from day one, will Urlacher, Peppers, and company be able to stay healthy enough to make up for the deficiencies in the defensive backfield? How would you attack the Bears defense if you were in charge of Matthew Stafford and his arsenal?
MM: The heath of our defense is key. As I stated with Jay Cutler, signing Peppers requires attention to other positions to allow Julius the room to flourish. In the case of a defensive lineman, that means a compliment on the other side… Alex Brown. With one of our best leaders released (?), we hope that Mark Anderson or Izzy Idonije will step up and balance our pressure.
Our players aren’t our weakness though. Our scheme is archaic and relies on athletes we don’t field. As the defense bails out on every snap, Matthew Stafford can pick the short zone apart and chew up the field. I’m hoping he doesn’t, but it’s a proven strategy that keeps our defensive on the field.
Wow, the Lions are so lucky to get scheduled for Soldier Field in early September… is it a gift from the league offices as compensation for the Millen debacle? Oh wait, that was self imposed, wasn’t it?
ZS: Believe me, the Lions don’t get any gifts from the league office. They were among the teams that got docked OTA time for too much physicality in the off-season. It is nice that the Lions won’t have to travel to Soldier Field or Lambeau outside of the first four weeks of the regular season. A November 14 game at Buffalo could have some dicey weather but we can’t complain too bad considering both December road games are in Florida. Here’s to a sunny season!