Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Yawn and scratch your balls, here is another Lions commentary

This whole Detroit Lions debacle is really uninteresting.

All over this city there is bitching and whining and complaining. The team is horrible and the numbers are as compelling as they are negative.

The mode of the city right now is solution through blame. Blame the Fords. Blame Millen. Blame Williams. Blame Ford for keeping Millen. Blame Millen for not firing himself. Reading and listening to all this is exhausting. It is just easier to shut them out, shrug your shoulders and wait for draft day when a polyester silver lining is sewn into the Lion's uniform and optimism shines until the following fall. That is the way it happens in Detroit. Mundane and predictable.

It is clear the Lions are deep into a death spiral fueled not only by bad management and the lack of cohesive talent it assembles, but by the fan culture that follows the historical sine wave of optimism to pessimism to anger to apathy each and every year. That glimmer of hope contained in that optimistic sliver fuels the sold-out arena and minimizes the ownership's motivation to change. A pathetic catch-22 to not want to be the one that bails the year they finally get it right. Management's brilliance is their clear understanding that Detroit fans are willing, have been willing and will continue to be willing to tough it out. There is no greater badge of sports honor than to proclaim "I was there when they were 2-14..."

So what could motivate change in Detroit? It is an interesting question and one that has a singular root. Personnel.

On the field there is there is highly uncommon variable of a truly superhuman player. Rare finds are those whose talent can single-handed not only change a team, but the game. A Lawrence Taylor type of a player. You can argue Detroit already has had one with Barry Sanders. That produced one playoff win.

Perhaps it is a coach? More common in his ability to turn teams around, statistically speaking, but completely dependent upon the talent given him, the offensive and defensive systems in place to put the players in a position to succeed and his ability to motivate. Do the Lions have such a man? I do not think so. Wrong place, wrong guy.

The common denominator of personnel is the front office. They are the stewards of orchestrating the symbiotic flow of coaches and players and talent and systems. Matt Millen has clearly mismanaged this franchise into case-study like oblivion. His recent drafts reek of limited homework. Key decisions at key positions have decimated the opportunity to add a core of young talented players. He seems to draft, looking for the next #56. The quick fix...the lottery winner, the secret weapon to deliver him from his woes and allow him to triumphantly stand atop Ford Field and give the world the finger. What he has done is make a series of critical mistakes that have long-lasting, big ticket consequence.

My goodness. He hired a defensive coordinator to his first head-coaching position and an established head coach into the offensive coordinator slot! Take a step back and think about that. What the hell is that all about? What kind of whacked logic was spun to convince the powers-that-be that it would work? However this was all done during the happy slope of the sine wave and Detroit saw (as always) the glass as half-full. He is clearly willing to gamble with concussions and injury but seemingly unwilling to check a players work habits or character.

Millen clearly lacks the one ability a general manager must possess. The ability to assess and mesh personnel. One only needs to look at what Jeff Garcia is doing one year removed from Detroit to see a player in an appropriate system with a good coach and the results that can occur. Millen has not built a team. He has forced a bunch of square pegs and round holes on the coaching staff and roster and provided enough sparkle of names and draft numbers to hide the devil in the details. Character, work ethic, talent, system, attitude, leadership, desire. Detroit has pockets of those virtues spread across the organization. However Detroit as an organization possesses none of those traits.

Leaders lead. The fact that Millen has been invisible to the public, the media and likely his team lends one to assess his real character. He is taking the easy way out, just like he does with draft preparation and coaching decisions. It is not that Detroit deserves better for we have proven we don't really demand anything new. Oh, we can write and complain till' we are blue in the face but in reality we also lack the character to really command something new. Writing a blog or taking your sharpie to a cardboard box is really pissing in the wind and certainly has some form of psychological impact as being part of the solution. The reality is that we are just another component of a predictable and tired theme. The only way a fan base can effect change is to alter the fiscal bottom line. Bitching AND paying clearly does not work.

So is there an answer to the Lion's situation? Not one in my opinion, but many. And we as fans are guilty of pulling a Millen thinking in one fell swoop getting rid of the GM will kick start this team to glory. It is just not that easy. There are so many dependencies when meshing talent and system and leaders and culture. However replacing Millen is the logical (and deserved) first step. He has clearly done a horrible job. However we must also recognize the Detroit reality is that all involved suffer from the same flaw in character. Meaning as fans our bark is worse than our bite. Therefore it is my opinion that this is and will continue to be just a dead and predictable story. If you want it to change then stop barking and start biting. If you are unwilling to do so I suggest you ride a wave of local NFL apathy as you begin 2007.

No comments: