Sweaty Men Endeavors

The sports blog with the slightly gay name

Monday, December 18, 2006

2-12: Dead team walking

Remember last week, when the Detroit Lions committed five turnovers against the Minnesota Vikings? The frequent mantra spoken in the locker room was, "You can't have that many turnovers and expect to win a game."

Apparently, that logic doesn't apply to the Green Bay Packers. Not when they're playing the Lions, anyway. (Or maybe it's that the magic number for a loss is five. The Pack only coughed up the ball four times.)

For the love of Vince Lombardi, even Brett Favre thought his team was "lucky to win the game," after he threw three interceptions on Sunday.

One of those picks, by 'Dre Bly, gave the Lions the ball at the Packers' 12-yard line. But even after Green Bay virtually handed them a touchdown wrapped up in a Christmas bow, Detroit still couldn't get into the end zone.

A fade pattern to Roy Williams in the corner? A short pass over the middle to Dan Campbell or Mike Furrey? No - how about three straight running plays, capped off by the brilliant call of a quarterback sneak on 3rd-and-6?

Six yards to go, and the play is a QB sneak up the middle? Let me emphasize that point again. There wasn't one yard to go. There were six. How many teams make that call? No wonder Mike Martz doesn't let his quarterbacks call audibles.

(Of course, if someone else wanted to take charge of calling time-outs - I know, Sgt. Marinelli; it's on you, right? - that'd be just fine. Martz was terrible with clock management when he was the head coach in St. Louis. And he clearly hasn't broken those tendencies calling plays for the Sarge.)

Maybe the best part about that play was Jon Kitna's quote after the game: "I can't really tell you what I saw because if I did, I'd be letting our secret out."

Apparently, however, the Packers' Ryan Pickett knew exactly what Kitna was looking at: a wide gap between the defensive tackles. The Lions still managed to grind out three yards (so it might have been a good call, had the yardage been much shorter), but didn't get anywhere near a first down.

Ultimately, it was just another embarrassing play in what's been one shameful display of a professional football season.

And though the Lions have been dead to this town for weeks now, the fans will try to burn one last Yule log for the sake of Detroit next week with another protest/walkout against Matt Millen in their last home game against Chicago.

Last year's "Millen Man March" got some attention, but there was still some outrage and passion to fuel that effort. This year, I don't see it. Yes, the anger is there. Lions fans are seething. But that bile's being diluted with a tall glass of hopelessness, too, so the urge to spit it out just isn't very strong right now.

And that's what the Lions and the Ford family should really be worried about. A year ago, at least they could look at the fan outrage and say, "Hey, they still care." So Millen hired a new head coach, and hoped his teaching and discipline could mold the assembled roster into a respectable football team.

Maybe this is a classic case of breaking some eggs to make an omelette, or taking one step back to take two steps forward, but when you look at Rod Marinelli's face, it seems to convey that he didn't anticipate just how big a project this renovation would be. Meanwhile, Millen is nowhere to be seen; he's just hiding out until it's all over.

Approximately one year later, apathy appears to be setting in here. So what changes will be made this time? What other solution is there?

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  • At December 18, 2006 2:06 PM, Blogger Greg Eno said…


    Has ANY Lions coach ever taken this job and known how truly big a renovation it is? I still wish Millen, when he came on board in 2001, had had the wherewithall to hire several good NFL people to serve under him: a personnel guy, a draft guy, and a small committee to help him hire his first coach.

    He wrongly surmised that the president's job was a one-man gig. The good executives hire their lieutenants and let them do their thing. But now, Millen is so poisonous that you could never attract such good people, unless he's out of the picture.

  • At December 18, 2006 6:58 PM, Blogger Big Al said…

    I agree that the "Walkout" is destined to fail miserably, as the righteous anger that Lions fans had last season has been replaced with apathy and hopelessness.

  • At December 19, 2006 7:11 AM, Blogger Ian C. said…

    Greg - that's a good question. I'd like to think Mooch knew what he was getting into. He was just too incompetent to do anything about it.

    But yes, if we could use the wayback machine, the Fords should've just hired Millen as a personnel guy. Granted, he probably would've turned out to be terrible at it, but at least he would've found his footing faster.

    Unfortunately, the guy who would've served better as club president at the time - Tom Lewand - was largely occupied with the Ford Field project.

    And I have a feeling Lewand will exact your strategy of hiring and delegating to "football people" if he's the one left standing after Millen is broomed out.


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