With apparently nothing left to lose, the Detroit Lions have signed American rugby speedster Carlin Isles.
Wait, take your palms off your faces. It’s not that bad. Though the move is confusing, and maybe even a little embarrassing, there is a logic behind it. Isles is a Trindon Holliday-like specimen with some experience returning kicks in college, and his raw athleticism makes him at least an interesting developmental candidate.
In effect, he’s a former track star whose experience with rugby means he can take a hit. It’s entirely possible that he develops into a solid role player.
But at this point, what difference does it make? An athlete like Isles who needs to learn the game from the ground up is going to require a great deal of coaching and development. Isles is extremely unlikely to play in the final game of the season against Minnesota, so that means if he’s ever going to make an impact, it’ll be in 2014.
The problem is, the Lions are highly likely to have a coaching change between now and then, and is the Lions’ new head coach really going to be excited about coaching up a 5′ 8″ rugby player who might someday be a decent special teamer? Probably not.
So ultimately, this signing is a non-issue. Had Jim Schwartz made this move in June or July, it would have at least been intriguing, in a Kickalicious kind of way. But now? Isles doesn’t have the time to make an impact this year, and will be an easy cut for the new head coach next season.
It’s kind of too bad we’re unlikely to see how this could have turned out. Instead, it seems likely to be the final roster move by a lame-duck coach, and maybe a sad summary of Schwartz’s tenure as head coach.