Such a successful 2011-2012 season doesn’t exactly make any Lions fans want to revert their memories to five or six years ago. Nonetheless, two former Lions announced their retirements today, and even though they were key components during the Dark Years, I’m glad they had their shot to try and turn it around in Detroit and thank them for their services.
Most recently Chicago Bears offensive coordinator and former Lions Offensive Coordinator Mike Martz has announced he plans to retire.
Former quarterback Jon Kitna will also be hanging up his cleats after being placed on the Injured Reserve last season. Kitna struggled with back injuries in his final season with the Dallas Cowboys. Kitna began his career in 1997 with the Seattle Seahawks, went to Cincinnatti, and had a stint with the Lions before heading to the Dallas Cowboys in a trade for Anthony Henry.
With the Lions, Kitna started and played in 36 games. He threw for 4,000+ yards in 2006 and 2007 and only played in four games in the notorious 0-16 campaign in 2008.
Interestingly enough, as both of these men announce their retirement on the same day, they were also both brought in before the 2006 season to compliment each other. Martz, who had been with the St. Louis Rams from 1999 through 2005, was regarded as an offensive scheme mastermind, focusing on big-gain plays. Notably, he coached during St. Louis’ “Greatest Show On Turf” era.
Jon Kitna was also brought in to start for the struggling Lions after he had proven himself as a high-flying, albeit very risky, player in several years with the Bengals.
Unfortunately, the pieces weren’t all there for Martz and Kitna. While Martz saw success as a coach that passed the ball the majority of the time for the Rams, he found it difficult to succeed without a competant running back (unlike having Marshall Faulk at his disposal in St. Louis). Similarly, Kitna found it near impossible to move the ball down the field with a palty offensive line (he was sacked 63 times in 2006, 51 times in 2007) and only one big-play receiver in Roy Williams in 2006 or Calvin Johnson in 2007. Because of the lack of supporting cast due in part to several poor Millen draft picks, cough Mike Williams cough, Martz’s system wasn’t adopted well as demonstrated by Kitna’s 44 TDs and 47 INTs while in Detroit.
As frustrating as it was to watch, I still find it tough to blame either Kitna or Martz for Detroit’s lack of success during their tenures here. They are two talented and classy men of the game whose philosphies/abilities didn’t match up quite right. Sure, Kitna was the one who made the decisions and threw the ball; Martz drew up the plays and abandoned the run game in the first quarter of every contest, but at this point in the decade, there really wasn’t anyone else to blame besides Matt Millen.
Thanks for trying Jon and Mike. No hard feelings coming from my end.