The Detroit Lions finished 5-11 this year. They are 21-59 over the past 5 seasons. They have four offensive players who were drafted in the top ten of the first round who have produced little or nothing. They have a clueless owner, and an in-over-his-head general manager. They don’t have a permanent head coach, and will soon be without a starting or backup quarterback.
Although it would seem that their options are limitless, the truth is the Lions have but one or two choices to make to solidify the direction, or misdirection, of the franchise for the next 5 seasons.
Despite the record, the fans’ protestations, and the obvious on the job training, the Lions ownership will continue to trust Matt Millen to run the organization. On paper, the Lions have talent. They have a speed and power running back in Kevin Jones. There’s talent, underachieving, at the wide receiver spots with high first round picks Charles Rogers, Roy Williams, and Mike Williams. The defense is anchored by a strong, young defensive line (pro bowler Shaun Rogers, and solid James Hall) and quality secondary play (pro bowler Dre’ Bly, up and coming Terrence Holt).
Their roster has a mix of talented youth and grizzled veterans (Dan Wilkinson, Damien Woody, Marcus Pollard) that allows the Lions an opportunity to be extremely competitive whether rebuilding or retooling. So, the number one question for Millen is whether to rebuild or retool.
However, considering the Lions fans have already held a `Fire Millen March’, I’m afraid that any signs of rebuilding will lead to some fan induced pandemonium that’ll result in Millen being hanged, and not in effigy. Millen’s only option is to retool, quickly. He should hire a coach who has proven that he can take offensive talent and make it explosive. The two names that come immediately to mind are Mike Martz (soon to be fired by the Rams), and Bob Bratkowski, offensive coordinator of the Cincinnati Bengals.
Martz’ record speaks for itself. He was ringmaster for the greatest show on turf. Martz’ coaching decisions may be a bit unconventional, but it’s a guarantee that his offense won’t be in the lower bottom half of production, innovation, or excitement. For the past five seasons, with a west coast offense, the Lions have been non-productive, predictable, and extremely boring.
With the career year in 2003 for Jon Kitna, and the breakout year in 2005 for Carson Palmer, Bob Bratkowski has proven that he can coach an offense with various talents. Also, having been an offensive coordinator for a college national champion Miami Hurricane team, and being on the staff that turned around the perennial NFL doormat Bengals, Bratkowski is well schooled in getting talent to achieve to its potential, and he’s familiar with the methods needed to win on the go.
After hiring Martz or Bratkowski, a decision must be made on quarterback Joey Harrington. Big, strong-armed, and talented, Harrington’s progression to a top notch quarterback has been retarded by coaches who either didn’t have the skills to develop him (Marty Mornhinweg), or didn’t have the confidence in him to develop his skills (Steve Mariucci). Unfortunately, it may be too late for Harrington in Detroit. His teammates don’t believe in him, as it was made apparent when they blamed him when Mariucci was fired, and the fans detest him almost as much as they detest Millen.
Jeff Garcia’s definitely not the answer, so the Lions will find themselves with a new starter and backup next season. Since you don’t draft a quarterback when you’re retooling, Millen must carefully select from any number available veteran quarterbacks with a history of some offensive proficiency. Aaron Brooks, Steve McNair, Brian Griese, Patrick Ramsey, and Kelly Holcomb, may all be available. Any of those quarterbacks, with Martz or Bratkowski coaching, can successfully lead the Lions offense.
There is also a decision that needs to be made with their three highly drafted, low producing receivers. A team only needs two great, well potentially great, receivers, and one quality possession receiver. Of the three, Charles Rogers seems to be the odd man out. After returning from his drug suspension midseason, Rogers was inactive for much of the second half of the season. With the Lions trying to recoup signing bonus money, the writing is on the wall, Rogers will be gone next year.
Lastly, for the fifth year in a row, the Lions will be drafting in the top ten of the NFL draft. With the ninth pick in the first round of the draft, the Lions should take the best offensive tackle available in a draft that’s said to be strong for offensive lineman. With the ninth pick in the draft’s second round, the Lions should take the best offensive guard left on the board.
If a trade becomes available, and the Lions can trade the ninth overall pick for two later first round picks, they should make the trade and then draft the best tackle and guard available to them. Shore up that offensive line, so your quarterback can have time to throw the ball downfield, and your running back will have some holes to run through.
Even though the best defense is a good offense, the Lions should still get a defensive coordinator who likes to blitz, and sign LaVar Arrington when the Redskins cut him.
2 replies on “Double Digit Losses Again- What Should The Lions Do?”
LaVar still has plenty of game in him.
I wish… I wish somebody would tell me what makes Jim Haslett so attractive as a coaching candidate. I just read where the Lions interviewed him today. What has he done that warrants an interview with anyone, right now. Surely not those 4 straight underachieving seasons!
I haven’t heard the names I mentioned, yet. But I heard on espn or read it on espn.com that Martz is intrigued by the Lions job. I don’t know why he hasn’t been contacted, but Haslett, Singletary, Gary Kubiak, and Russ Grimm have been said to be on the contacted list.
Millen is absolutely clueless!