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The Pro Bowl is Merely a 2009 Campaign for Teams

With the Presidential election over, and the excitement of primaries, caucuses, and delegates far behind us, some people may be in withdrawl.  Whatever will you do without politicians verbally sparring with each other as they fight for the chance to be the next President of the United States?

2008 Campaign

2008 Campaign

There is, however, a solution.  Afterall, nobody really watches the NFL Pro Bowl.  Though it airs in beautiful Hawaii each year (though this year will be the last for the Aloha state), the actual game is boring.  Players obviously play not to get hurt, and the game itself is, truly, more meaningless than the last exhibition game in the pre-season.

With that said, there may be a few reasons to tune in.  Free agency is right around the corner, and many players playing in this game (Albert Haynesworth, TJ Houshmanzadeh, and more) will be free agents.

On ESPN’s NFL Live, Haynesworth was discussing his future.  He said he doesn’t know what the Titans will do, but that he’s open to seeing what other teams show a strong interest in him.  Haynesworth then picked up a Colts helmet, posed with it, and stated that he could see himself in Indianapolis.

Peyton Manning was soon interviewed and stated that the Pro Bowl really is like a campaign.  Players from a given team will court a soon to be free agent–hanging out with them in Hawaii, going out to eat, etc–and then when free agency rolls around, that player has signed with that team.

Look no further than when Terrell Owens wanted out in San Francisco.  In the Pro Bowl that year, he was getting quite friendly with Ray Lewis and Donovan McNabb.  That off-season, he was traded to Baltimore (temporarily) before landing in Philadelphia.

Oddly enough, Houshmanzadeh has already expressed a potential interest in playing in Philly, as well.

One has to wonder, if this kind of politicking does indeed work, is it any wonder why the awful teams never seem to get better?  Surely, it’s not all about camaraderie–money is the number one motivating factor.  But, if there aren’t a lot of Detroit Lions players at the Pro Bowl to openly campaign to a popular soon-to-be free agent, one would have to assume that he would be less likely to sign there.  Bad teams need all the more representatives present to showcase the organization in a good light.  Afterall, it doesn’t take much convincing to sign with the New England Patriots or Pittsburgh Steelers.  If you’re the Kansas City Chiefs, however, one would probably want to hear from a few players on the team about why signing in Kansas City would be such a wise move.

Manning/Delhomme

Manning/Delhomme

And while it is ultimately about money, no player wants to be stuck in NFL Purgatory–also known as Oakland.

February 8, 2009 Posted by | Features & Opinions, NFL | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

How I Would Fix the Detroit Lions

Lions Fans Incognito

With the season now over and the Detroit Lions having turned in the worst season in NFL history, here are a few steps I would implement in attempting to turn around this downtrodden franchise.

1) I would first bring in general managers who know talent—both of the past and present. I wouldn’t hire immediately, but I would bring them in to evaluate my team. I’d like to know what some of the football minds around the league really think of my squad. Evaluate my players, coaching staff, and gameday strategy. Give me your honest opinion—it would allow this team to not live in the bubble of ineptitude that it has gotten far too familiar with.

2) The second thing I would do would be to reach out to Lions alumni. Get Lem Barney on the phone. Ask Herman Moore to come and talk to the team. And make sure that Barry Sanders gets some sort of advisor role with the team. I would connect the present to the past for both the players and the fans.

3) The third thing I would do is lower ticket prices. In the economically ravaged streets of Detroit, times are tough. Times are even worse when your team has never been to the Superbowl and has been putrid since Michael Jackson sang “Thriller.” I would display some good faith, and lower ticket prices a bit to appease my loyal fan base.

4) The fourth thing I would do is hire competent people. This sounds obvious, but Matt Millen was the GM in Detroit for almost a decade. He had no experience whatsoever for the position, and his team was dreadful year after year. Yet he always kept his job. I would certainly allow my hires to fail because you cannot succeed if you don’t, to some extent, crash and burn. But I wouldn’t tolerate poor play or inexcusable team management. The Ford family enabled Matt Millen—I wouldn’t stand for it.

5) The last thing I would attempt to do is change the losing culture. Losing really and truly is a disease. Ask the Arizona Cardinals, Cleveland Browns, or Houston Texans. When a losing culture infects your franchise, you find ways to lose. You snatch defeat from the jaws of victory. I would do my best to surround my team with winners. Not coaches who talk a good game, but ones who have actually won consistently at the pro level. I would rid my team of lazy, apathetic players and replace them with savvy veterans and young players willing to make an impact (similar to how the Patriots built their franchise). I would constantly reiterate to my team that if the horrendous 1998 Rams can go from the toilet bowl to the Superbowl—and the 1-15 Dolphins of 2007 can go from laughing stock division champs, then there’s no reason that the Lions cannot regain their once mighty roar.

What would be some things you would do to turn around the Detroit Lions? I want to hear from you Sportsfly.com readers!

January 1, 2009 Posted by | NFL | , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

What the Lions “could have” been

Oh, for better or for worse, it is official, we have now had the first ever 16-0 Pro Football team followed up by the less than miraculous 0-16 team, the Detroit Lions.  The images of Brady tossing it up for Moss are contrasted by Dan Orlovsky personally taking it upon himself to extend the End Zone to 15 yards.  Who can carry the blame for creating the worst football team in NFL history?  Well, we know Matt Millen was widely regarded as a bust in the GM role, and yesterday Rod Marinelli took the fall from a coaching perspective, but eventually, when not only the Executive offices and the coaches fail, we must look up top toward the Ford family.

The NFL is a very fair league with salary caps, franchise tags, and a draft system awarding the worst teams.  So, “could” the Lions have actually avoided this miserable fate?  Could this have been a team that would be preparing for next week’s playoff game or even the next weeks by way of a bye week?

Lets take a look at what the Lion’s current roster is:

Offense: QB Dan Orlovsky, RB Kevin Smith, FB Jerome Felton, WR Calvin Johnson, WR Shaun McDonald, TE Michael Gaines, LT Jeff Backus, LG Edwin Mulitalo, C Domini Raiola, RG Stephen Peterman, RT George Foster, Backup QB Drew Stanton, Backup RB Rudi Johnson, Backup WR Mike Furrey

Defense: LE Dwayne White, DT Cory Redding, DT Chartric Darby, RE Jared Devries, LOLB Alex Lewis, MLB Paris Lenon, ROLB Ernie Sims, LCB Leigh Bodden, FS Daniel Bullocks, SS Dwight Smith, RCB Travis Fisher, Backup DL Shaun Cody, Backup LB Ryan Nece, Backup DB Brian Kelly

Take a quick look at how THIS cast performed:

http://sportsfly.com/VideoDetail.aspx?videoid=1230&mediagalleryid=36

Now, with a few minor changes, some better draft insight, and better decision makers in place, this is what “could have” happened:

2002: Oh boy, 2-14, what a year..things can only go up from here, right?  Lets start with the draft.  Joey Harrington, the 3rd overall pick, high hopes but little fulfillment.  Instead, lets just say they go to the other side of the ball and take DT Albert Haynesworth from Tennessee.  In round 2, instead of Kalimba Edwards, lets take Andre Gurode and let him play G, his natural position as seen in college.  Round 3, CB Andre Goodman doesn’t work for me, lets instead take FS Chris Hope from Florida St.  With no 4th round pick, we pass on TE John Owens in the 5th (I know, it was hard to do, but we have to) to take DE Aaron Kampman.  In the 6th round, we feel we have found the steal of the draft and select RB Adrian Peterson, only to find out it is not High School Phenom AP, but Division I-AA player AP.

2003: Finishing 3-13 in 2002, the Lions had glaring needs, none more glaring than WR, defensive pass rush, and defensive play makers.  They were on the right track by taking a WR, but chose the wrong one at #2.  Instead of Charles Rogers, lets say the Lions take Andre Johnson out of Miami.  In the 2nd round they selected LB Boss Bailey, where they “should have” taken the next pick CB Charles Tillman from Louisiana-Lafayette.  And finally in the 3rd round, instead of selecting Cory Redding, DT, they should have addressed the need at TE over the incumbent Michael Ricks and selected TE Jason Witten of Tenessee who went 3 picks later.  In the 4th round, instead of RB Artose Pinner, the Lions select CB Asante Samuel from Central Florida.  5th Round, no to S Terrence “He’s No Torry” Holt, but yes to Boston College C Dan Koppen.  Just as well, in the 6th round, no to WR David Kircus, but yes to OLB Cato June from Michigan.  Finally, in the 7th, pass on T Ben Johnson (Isn’t he banned) for WR Taco Wallace, simply for morale purposes.  Finally we sign two undrafted players, youngster Tony Romo from Eastern Illinois and TE Antonio Gates from Kent St.

2004: OK, the Lions gained a little ground and finished 5-11.  Joey Harrington showed a little life, but the running game faltered and the defense was miserable with a combined total of 28 sacks on the season, no one player with  more than 4.5.  The Lions came in with the 6th overall pick, but traded it to Cleveland, who selected TE Kellen Winslow Jr, and the Lions drafted WR Roy Williams, where they “should have” selected RB Steven Jackson out of Oregon St., the top RB in the draft.  In the 2nd round, they selected LB Teddy Lehman from Oklahoma.  Replace that pick with SS Bob Sanders out of Iowa, and follow that up with a 3rd round selection of T Max Starks from Florida, replacing their actual pick, CB Keith Smith of McNeese State.  Round 4, instead of moving the 4th round pick, lets just say they keep it and pick DE Jared Allen from Idaho St.  Lastly, in the 5th round, the Lions pick OT Shane Olivea of Ohio St. passing on RB Michael Turner…hey, nobody’s perfect.

2005: Alright, we are on the right track, another improvement, 6-10.  Joey Harrington has his best season yet, the running game shows some life, and the receiving corps actually begins finding the end zone…but the defense still sucks.  With the 10th overall pick, the Lions select USC WR Mike Williams, passing up on LB’s Demarcus Ware and Shawn Merriman, going with the next two picks.  Lets say the Lions take Ware.  In the 2nd round, the Lions trade up to take DT Shaun Cody…lets just say they stay put and pick MLB Lofa Tatupu from USC to replace Alex Lewis and his mere 55 tackles from the ILB spot.  In the 3rd round, pass on CB Stanley Wilson of Stanford, and select Justin Tuck, DE of Notre Dame who went two picks later.  Missing on a couple picks, we wait until round 7 where we DO NOT trade this pick, but select DT Jeremiah (Jay) Ratliff who went 1 pick later.

2006: OK, the Lions took a step back to 5-11 after Jeff Garcia flopped and the running game dwindled back down to nothing.  The defense still looked bad and needs some serious help.  So, with the 9th overall pick, the Lions select OLB Ernie Sims, not bad, atleast not a WR. In dire need of a true playmaker, lets instead take Florida St. teammate CB Antonio Cromartie.  In the 2nd round, lets skip S Daniel Bullocks and protect Romo with Pro-Bowl LT Marcus McNeill.  In the 3rd round, the Lions selected RB Brian Calhoun, since nobody is perfect, lets just let this one stay.  But, in the 6th round the “dream Lions” come back to their senses and select CB Courtland Finnegan out of Samford University, who stayed around until the 7th round.

2007: Ugh, that 3rd round mishap on Brian Calhoun really cost the Lions, and they finished 3-13 this year.  Jon Kitna came in and lit up the aerial attack, whereas the running game stunk and the defense was a joke…picking a mere 12 passes all year long!  So, with the 2nd overall pick, the Lions took Calvin Johnson…I will take it!  Although, in the 2nd round, lets not take QB Drew Stanton and look instead at ILB David Harris from Michigan.  OK.  After trading a myriad of picks around for little to nothing, the Lions finally select FB LeRon McClain out of Alabama in the 4th round.

2007: OK!  Now we are talking, 7-9 and things are looking up right?  Kitna passes for over 4000 yards again, but that’s about all…not much else happening.  So lets fix it!  In the 1st round, the Detroit Lions select: OT Gosder Cherilus of Boston College..wait, no, lets try that again, how about East Carolina RB Chris Johnson.  Better.  In the 2nd round, no thanks on LB Jordan Dizon, but yes to WR Desean Jackson out of Cal.   From here, I could explain how Detroit could go on to select Steve Slaton and Tim Hightower, and call their quartet Earth, Wind, Fire and Water, but THAT would be unrealistic.  So what do we got here:

Offense: QB Tony Romo, RB Steven Jackson, FB LeRon McClain, WR Andre Johnson, WR Calvin Johnson, TE Jason Witten, LT Max Starks, LG Edwin Mulitalo, C Dan Koppen, RG Andre Gurode, RT Marcus McNeill, Backup QB Drew Henson, Backup RB Chris Johnson, Backup WR Desean Jackson, Backup TE Antonio Gates, Backup OL Shane Olivea

Defense: LE Jared Allen, DT Albert Haynesworth , DT Jay Ratliff, RE Justin Tuck, LOLB Demarcus Ware, MLB Lofa Tatupu, ROLB David Harris, LCB Charles Tillman, FS Chris Hope, SS Bob Sanders, RCB Antonio Cromartie, Backup DL Aaron Kampman, Backup LB Cato June, Nickel Asante Samuel, Dime Courtland Finnegan

Hey, it “could have” happened.

December 29, 2008 Posted by | NFL, Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment