I have this awful habit of obsessively reading the comments on the Mlive Lions stories. There lives an opinionated and misguided bunch of Lions fans who are severely damaged by following such a lousy team. This is my response to a lot of what they've written about the Lions recent new general manager and head coach and the draft and everything else.
Let's start with the fired Matt Millen. Even back in 2001, William Clay Ford Sr. was at the back end of the days in pro sports when the charming but over-matched ex-jock is put in charge. While teams like the Oakland A's and Boston Red Sox in baseball were hiring super smart people to create new systems and statistical models to sees things objectively and win with less or spend a lot smarter, the Lions left it up to the wisdom of Millen's mustache and gut. Millen lurched from one cascading poor decision to the next, making mistakes from the get go like firing the experienced coach he inherited and then hiring the first hugeley under-qualified coach he interviewed. He never really ever put a plan or system into place, drafted horrifically and then insisted that his coaches play those players (most famously QB Joey Harrington). After the disaster of the west coast system, they brought in the tampa two but both these systems - practiced by the respective coaches in their purest form were already passe in NFL circles. Needless to say, after Millen was fired, and the team went 0-16, we have hit a monumentally low point. Maybe the lowest point ever.
Of course they should blow it up, fire everybody, yada yada yada. But the Lions kept the promotions in-house and so far I have to say Martin Mayhew, Millen's GM replacement, is doing a good job. First this guy does not appear to have the ego of a Matt Millen. He is not putting this thing on him. He is instilling a system and a philosophy and understands this is going to be a long term rebuild. He has already swung three pretty good trades (which are rare in the NFL) kick starting the rebuilding process with a 1st and 3rd round pick from the Cowboys for Roy Williams, shipping off had it with Motown QB Jon Kitna for secondary help and trading under-performing and overpaid Cory Reding for a much needed all pro linebacker (and former Spartan!) Julian Peterson. I get the feeling that if he makes a decision or is wrong about the player, he will cut his losses and move on. I don't think Millen had this in him.
His coaching hire was top notch and not many fans have complained about Jim Schwartz. He has a bit of a southern everyman charm but I think this guy will always be thinking 3 or 4 steps ahead. Perhaps the most controversial decision was drafting Matthew Stafford #1, the potential franchise QB out of Georgia. To say Lions fans were not happy would be a bit of understatement. We've seen this movie before. (Great, we go from Joey to Matthew) But given that we are starting fresh with a new head coach and offensive coordinator, we can now build our team and system around a guy who did pretty well as a SEC quarterback. I think this has a good chance of working out. Not sure why everybody wants to call him a bust before he starts his first training camp.
We have to draft defense! That's what the angry masses post. And this is true, our defense was monumentally and historically bad last year. We started the season with three straight games of being down 21-0. In the last two years, we've given up 50 points on multiple occasions. That's Oklahoma vs. Slippery Rock stuff. So we are looking at a long term rebuild. It's like a horrible financial position, we need to let this unwind before rebuilding. We need veterans (which they have signed) to fill the immediate holes and we need to have our new coaching staff figure out if some of these young guys who did not play so well did so because they suck or poor coaching.
Rebuild the O-line I was a bit confused by the Lions 2nd selection when it happened. A tight end? I know that position has been a disastor forever for the Lions, but we have such larger needs. But we did get a "stud" here and when you think about it a tight end is an offensive lineman/receiver hybrid. So this guy can help out the line and also help out our new quarterback. Our offensive line - like our defense - is a long term rebuild. I watched some lowlights of the Lions on the NFL network and it was amazing how out of position our offensive line was to make plays. I know we know what we have with Jeff Backus and Domenic Raoila - they will need to be upgraded in the future - but for now they will have to do. Hopefully our first rounder from last year Gosder will put it together and Daniel Loper, the free agent from the Titans who followed Coach Schwartz here, will contribute in a big way. All we got was projects on the offensive line, so that's what it will be, a huge project.
Drafting Another Safety in the Second Round This was the third out the last four years in the draft that the Lions drafted a safety. We already spent high picks on a safety, why do it again? Although, again, the Lions have a lot of needs I like they are building on a strength here. The Lions drafted two young safeties who appear to be working out and now we have third. Let's build on a relative position of strength. Plus, we got the top safety in the draft and one pick after ours New England took a safety. Maybe we do know something now.