That could have been a brilliant six-word headline and one (almost) word of text for my day's work. Some might praise (and be relieved by) the brevity, but the boss wants a proper column. So let's talk.
Each day's MLB standings reveal an unbelievable truth: the Detroit Tigers still lead the American League Central and it's well into September. Sure the Tiger express has slowed in recent weeks and the Tabbies may not even make the playoffs. But, hey, it's September and the Tigers are in first place. So, why not the Lions?
Training camp reports about the Lions were as optimistic as for any other team, which meant very optimistic. (When you read those early reports you could have thought this season's Super Bowl will match the Green Bay Packers and the Houston Texans. Uhh, maybe not.)
We electronically visited the Lions camp and discovered that the practices "were the hardest I've ever had" the hitting was ferocious, the intensity, well, intense.
So is this the year that Fantasy World turns to Detroit and makes a few sharp picks? Is this the year that the Super Bowl is not in Detroit, but Detroit is in the Super Bowl?
Like this column started, nah, and here's the main reason: too many draft picks wasted on wide receivers who can't receive.
Some of those guys have gone from playing wide out to far away. But three wideouts as No. 1 (high no. 1's) in three years also means that there was incredible available talent that Detroit overlooked. You can only be so smart in making first-round picks like Troy Polamalu at No. 16 or Larry Johnson at No. 27 if the guys ahead of you were so dumb as to pick Charles Rogers at No. 2.
So Coach Rod Marinelli has the Lions, playing at an intensity level never seen by the silver and blue. But he has a starting quarterback in Jon Kitna who has made a career out of ordinariness, a promising but often injured RB in Kevin Jones and a top of the depth chart wide receiver in Corey Bradford who was the 150th pick in 1998. For openers on Sunday the defense was fine against the Seahawks but Kitna and the offense showed what we expected--nothing.
Some other reasons for Lions fans to curb their enthusiasm:
- Assistant coaches who know they should be head coaches, among them, Mike Martz, the offensive co-coordinator. You know, he's smarter than anybody. Oh, Mike, come up here and show us all those Super Bowl rings you won as St. Louis Rams head coach.
- Assistant coaches who are busted twice, once for DWI and once for DWN--that would be driving while NAKED. That brilliance was the work of defensive line coach Joe Cullen. But the D-line was a highlight on Sunday, with Marinelli in charge not Cullen. Let's not try to figure out what all that means.
- The Ford family: the only good thing that can be said of their ownership is that they aren't making as big a mess of the NFL club as they have the car company.
- Last and most: Matt Millen. He has been president of the team for six years and his biggest impact was in getting the team fined for not properly interviewing qualified minority coaching candidates. That, and all those wideout washouts.
As long as the current management is in place (with the obligatory new head coach every two seasons) the Lions will not be gridiron Tigers. Everyone knows (well, almost everyone), in the NFL you have to have a quarterback and you can't stockpile over-hyped draft busts. That's the Lions. And that's why come January Lions vacation and Lions' fans hope.