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Article:Detroit Lions Year End Review (a.k.a. NTSB Train Wreck Investigation)

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That was a fun season, huh? Despite their inability to lose to Kansas City in Week 16 the Lions did manage to finish the year with a run of defeat and futility that will wipe clean any good memories fans had of the first nine weeks of the season. Losing badly to Green Bay’s backups sealed the deal.

7-9 is the best the Lions have done in eight seasons. I guess it’s time to start talking about next year, but before we do that I’ve had two different Lions fans, one a longtime season ticket holder the other a man who can name the various starting quarterbacks all the way back to the late eighties, express the same sentiment to me: that 7-9 may be a peak season. Think about it. Kitna is the best quarterback they’ve had since Erik Kramer, but the Kitna “window”, for lack of a better term, is closing. He’s taken a hell of a beating the last two seasons and the O-line shows no signs of improvement. At most he’s got one or two more good seasons left in him and decent-to-good QBs, which Kitna is, aren’t that easy to come by. Replacing him is going to be difficult and winning now isn’t realistic.

The loss of Roy Williams exposed the offense as being pretty much one dimensional. With Williams out there to create coverage problems the fact that the O-line sucked could be overcome by Kitna’s quick read ability and Martz’s schemes. Martz could put receivers in unexpected locations and Kitna sometimes found them in the 1.5 seconds he typically had before getting hit. Calvin Johnson, as big and as fast as he is, does not demand either a double team or the strict attention of the safety the way Williams does. Maybe he will someday, but not right now and without Williams, no tricks of Martz could confuse the coverage. That the Lions even have a running game would come as a surprise to many casual NFL observers. So there goes the offense, the supposed strength of the team.

Of course Martz has now been fired in favor of coordinator by committee. I didn’t understand this at first. Yes the offense was disappointing but by Lions standards “disappointing” is a smashing success. Then I remembered who the GM is and that nothing can be considered surprising anymore.

Roy Williams is only under contract for one more year and while he’s said he wants to be a Lion for life, that didn’t work out too well for Barry Sanders, now did it? Sanders was as team oriented as any man could be, to say nothing of a superstar, and even he eventually tired of the Lions. He wanted out, the Lions wouldn’t let him, and he retired rather than keep playing for them. He was right to do it. For his own sake, Williams should take heed.

Seven teams finished this season at 7-9, thanks to tie breakers the Lions have the last pick of that group at #15. The two units in need of the most attention are the offensive line and the secondary, but there are holes all over. The linebackers consist of Ernie Sims and the seven dwarfs. The running game is okay in that it isn’t terrible, but Kevin Jones is never going to be a workhorse back and taking other teams failed projects isn’t a good idea either. There are so many holes to fill it’s hard to think that they can be filled.

In short, there isn’t much hope. And if you want to get a little meta with it, there isn’t even much hope for hope. The Lions front office would need to start acting brilliantly for them to even be competitive in division. The Bears need a quarterback, but with one of even Kitna’s caliber they’ll be up there with the elite of the NFC once again. The Packers’ season has been all about Favre in the media, but their defense has been the real reason behind their #2 seed. With a new and decent quarterback either one of those teams could be the power of the NFC North for half a decade, and oh by, the way the Browns are probably dumping Derek Anderson. And let’s not forget that the Vikings have Purple Jesus and an offensive line so large that it can be used as construction equipment. The NFC North, which not that long ago was the most craptacular division in football, is suddenly a tough place to play and the Lions are moving in the wrong direction.

If you follow the Lions or the NFL at all you probably know the conclusion that I’m coming to. He has to go. The longer he is allowed to remain, and if next season goes the way I think it will he might be on his fourth head coaching vacancy by this time next year, the worse it gets. Barring a moment of clarity on the part of William Clay Ford, this spring will be his eighth draft and there’s no reason to think he’s going to get any better on attempt #8 than he’s been on the previous seven. The worst part is that any new GM is going to need to be given three or four years, at a minimum, to turn things around because the cupboard is so completely bare. That clock cannot begin to run until the a new GM arrives and after all the Lions have been through this decade, I wouldn’t be a bit surprised if the current guy is still there five more sub .500 seasons from now.

I’ve been ending these Lions posts with a simple “Go Lions” line. But let’s face it, for a very long time there has been only one phrase…one chant…one idea…that has consistently excited and energized Lions fans and that ain’t it.

Fire Millen.

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