It’s a strange time for football fans in the D. There’s a whirlwind of sports activity in Detroit, but none of it involves the Lions. Read any local message board, check any Detroit sports blog, read the fish wraps, and they’ll be talking about one of the following…
The Tigers, consensus pick to win the AL Central, are collapsing under the weight of their own expectations by starting the season 0-7, sending the city in a panic.
The Detroit Pistons held a ceremony tonight to name their top 50 players of all-time, while readying themselves for the playoffs as the east number 2 seed.
The Red Wings are preparing to start the Stanley Cup playoffs Thursday as one of the prohibitive favorites, and will be the overall number 1 seed.
The Michigan Wolverines are holding spring practice, while their new coach, Rich Rodriguez, installs the spread offense, and gets the lay of the Big 10 land.
With so much going on, the Lions are happily flying under the Detroit sports fan radar. Just what is going on with the Lions? Let’s do some bullet points, and find out.
1. The Lions vehemently deny they are going to trade Roy Williams.
"As he has many times before – as he did as recently as Sunday – Marinelli strongly quashed the trade talk. He wants Williams and Calvin Johnson making big catches on the outside this season.“No,” Marinelli said. “I’ll say it again: He’s not going anywhere. No. There’s no way. Like I’ve said, I want to see those two big trees playing together.”"
As much as I like Roy Williams as a player (He’s slightly overrated, but is a legit number 1 receiver nonetheless), to out and out say “NO!” to even investigating any trade scenarios seems to be limiting your options. Odds are high the Williams is gone after the ’08 season anyway, so I hope Marinelli knows something everyone else doesn’t.
Call me cynical, but since Matt Millen started drafting wide outs by the bushel basket full, we’ve been told the Lions would have a dominant pair of wide receivers. The only year they had anything close was during Mike Martz’s first season as coordinator, and Williams and Mike Furrey both had 1000 yard season. 1 year out of 7 does not give me confidence in a Williams/Calvin Johnson combination.
I don’t deny the talent is there, as Williams, Johnson, Furrey, and Shawn McDonald are as good as any receiving corps in the NFL. But the fact remains the Lions’ offense depends upon Jon Kitna throwing the ball, and he’s proven to be nothing but a turnover waiting to happen. For that matter, until proven otherwise, or given a big time talent upgrade, the running game is still non-existent. The offensive line is without a right tackle, leaving that unit in flux. I’m not even going to go into the Jim Colletto factor.
So once again, we’ll have to pin the offensive hopes on the passing game, and I’m not sure they (Meaning Kitna and the wide outs) are up to it. If you go by their track record, there’s not much reason to believe they will.
2. Mike Martz just isn’t burning bridges, but is taking a scorched earth policy, when it comes to the Lions. What was his latest shot over the Lions’ bow?
"“In Detroit we were not a good football team,” said Mike Martz, who joined San Francisco after he was fired as the Lions’ offensive coordinator. “We were last in the NFL on defense and when you have to throw the football to win, that’s not a good thing. We weren’t good enough on the offensive line to protect him and throw the ball like we did. When I was with the Rams, we were. The number of hits on the quarterback when I was with the Rams near the end of my time there was about the middle of the pack. In the early goings, it was actually very low and we were ranked near the best in the league.”"
This is the line that gets me…
“We weren’t good enough on the offensive line to protect him and throw the ball like we did.”
Martz knew he had some massive limitations talent-wise, yet he threw the ball 90% of the time anyway. Does that make any sense? Any at all? Didn’t think so.
Were the Lions a bad team? Definitely. Was Martz the reason why? When you make JT O’Sullivan your backup QB, you’re one of the reasons. Is Martz deflecting as much of the blame as humanly possible? Hell yes!
Given the right situation, Martz would be a wonderful offensive coordinator, even a head coach. But he needs the proper talent on hand to run his offense, and someone strong enough (Be it a GM or head coach) to get him that personnel, let alone keep him in line. I don’t believe he had either in Detroit. When did Martz have his greatest success? When he had Dick Vermeil, a great head coach with a proven track record, to ride herd over him.
Martz is a legend in his own mind, and if that means he has to spew revisionist history in San Francisco, so be it.
3. Center Dominic Raiola says the Lions will be a run first team.
"“Years past with Coach Martz, there was a pass-first mentality. … I consider him as one of the great offensive minds in this game, from what he did and what he brought here. But this is what Coach Colletto is bringing. It’s just a different mindset of running first – run first, then pass.”"
I’d have more confidence in Raiola’s claims if the Lions’ offensive line could actually run block, or just as importantly, had a decent running back. As of today, the Lions have neither. You can’t run when you get manhandled at the line of scrimmage. You can’t run when you don’t have a NFL quality right tackle. You can’t run when you are the Detroit Lions as currently assembled.
I’ve said it before, I have no confidence in Colletto, and his bastardized version of Martz’s offense. If Martz couldn’t make the Lions’ offense go, why should I think Colletto and “KIPPY!”, with basically the same talent, do any better? It stretches the limits of my credulity to think otherwise.