Monday, March 31, 2008

Smokeless Smokescreen

Interesting articles on the Freep (for once) and Scouting news. The links to both are below, and reading them will save me a lot of typing.

My take: Lets see, Marinelli indicated that the Lions need OT, RB, Dline, and LB -- and scouting news is aghast that he said this out loud. I'm waiting for the shock. Shock? Shock? Shock? Shock? Beuller?

In regards to the positions, which GM's outside of Al Davis (who thinks it's the early 90's and is drooling at the prospect of Barry Sanders maybe falling to him at #4...) DON'T know that's what the Lions' needs are. The BS that coaches spew out this time of year grates on my nerves as a fan.

As for the names of the prospects who have been brought in, seriously -- NFL teams routinely have members of the scouting departments talking with prospects to find out where they have been, know from trying to schedule them, and also check flights and other information to figure out who has gone where. And with local media on hand at the complex all day it takes Patriots Videotaping personnel to be sneaky enough to get a guy in for a private workout/interview and gone again with no one finding out. We may not always read about it, but they, for the most part, know. Many teams specifically don't bring in players to try to convince other teams they are not interested in them.

Before I get further on my take on this, and some analysis, a few things that stood out to me:

1. Marinelli is, as we expected, calling most of the shots for this draft. Millen will be on hand to use his mystical mustache and secure trades up to get men Marinelli wants just before other teams are set to pick them and laugh in evil glee.

2. Marinelli has matured as a coach and in his confidence to begin paying more attention to his gut, which seems to have hit right on when he's followed it, instead of draft value charts and Mel Kiper's hair. (Good buds with the 'Stash)

3. He has turned straightforward into the new smokescreen. (see below)

I disagree when profootballtalk says that he should say nothing at all. In this case, by stating all of his needs, and who he is looking at outright, other teams have MORE reason to be worried that Lions will take "their guy" when they are on the clock. Walk with me here.

At pick 15 Marinelli, who is known as a straight shooter, has essentially said:

We are going to take either a DE, RB, LB, or OT with our first pick. But if we don't like the guys at those positions on the board, I'll take whoever I darn well think is the best pick for that spot no matter what anyone else thinks because I'm Rod Marinelli and when my bad hip says take a guy, by golly, I'm gonna take him -- even if you thought he'd be there at 22 Dallas...or 21 Washington...

Matt Millen preys on fear and ignorance...but how about fear and knowledge. It isn't just Marinelli implying they will take who they please. His "superior" is Matt Millen of 4 top-ten receivers fame...

Other teams now know that the Lions can and will pick anyone of value left on the board at 15 - so when Millen calls to trade down with a team, you can bet they will believe he's willing to take Harvey, or Cherilous, or Mendenhall if he drops, or even Stewart -- and if you want him, you better come get him. He managed to bully Cleveland into moving up for Kellen Winslow when he already knew they were going to take Roy Williams! Lions didn't even throw to the TE in their offense. If the Lions choose to attempt a move down, something tells me there will be a beneficial taker. (for the Lions)

Personally, looking at the list of those in for visits, they all seem to be good prospects, and realistic options for the lions. Especially in rounds 2-3. I also think that, based on who they are focusing on, their real smokescreen is that they do not want to use the 15th pick -- they want to trade to the end of the round, and pick up an additional 2nd rounder.

Please keep in mind that aside from the articles, this is merely my interpretation of what is going on, and what the Lions are thinking based on what we've seen and heard. What do you fellows think?

I can't help but be excited every time I write and analyze the team right now, all things being equal, because of the direction I see them headed in. I agree with the poster who said they are heading toward the "beautiful ending."

Part of a post really got me thinking:

As a bit of an aside, I still hope that they bring back KJ and give him one more chance. I'm not a Bell fan, but he has proven that he can perform with this style of blocking scheme. I believe KJ has the tools and dedication to do a very good job splitting carries with Bell. Lets pick up a DT or an OT in the first, a MLB in the second, and then DT or OT in third. -- Lopper

I need a night or two to sleep on it, but I think I'll do my next "what if?" post soon.

BTW - thanks for posting Lopper -- it is the thoughts of you readers of my Blog that spur new ideas for me, and what makes this Blog so much fun to do (your ideas, and knowing others are reading, critiquing, and enjoying what I write). It is also great to hear/see differing viewpoints from my own - the closed mind is the empty mind; the open mind is always rich with thought.

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Expectations: A Dangerous Thing

Expectations can be dangerous. There are many people who are devastated at great news, a good bonus at work, a happy date, a good vacation with their wife/family, the much improved final season record of their favorite sports team, and more...why? Because it wasn't as "good" as they were expecting.

Often times we as people build events that haven't happened yet up in our mind so much, that really there is not point in doing/watching the actual event -- it will never live up to the dream.

Now, I am not saying that you shouldn't have expectations; The danger is setting them either so low or so high that they lose all meaning. Someone goes to work expecting to lose a dozen customers that day, only to be ecstatic when they "only" lose 8. Conversely, if you expect to add 15, you will be super disappointed when you "only" add 5. Seem silly? It may, but that is what many people do on a daily basis. What is worse is then the guy who expects to add 15 customers loses 8, and the guy who expects to lose 12 adds 5 -- obviously, their expectations were way out of whack with what was going to occur.

While it is great to be excited, sometimes we have to think about what we are attaching expectations to -- and if a neutral party with all the facts would see them as reasonable.

Sometimes, expectations coming in are so far exceeded early that people swing into the complete opposite of where they started.

Example: Flashback to 2006 -- Rod Marinelli was in his first year as a head coach. Very seldom to teams suddenly improve their record enormously with a new coach -- usually they stay the same or go backwards. Since new defensive and offensive systems were going in, this usually means backwards. The Lions won 3 games. About normal for a first time HC installing new offensive and defensive systems for a team on it's 4th head coach in almost as many years. (Morhinweg, Mariucci, Juron). Rod made a lot of changes in his first season, and even more his second off season with the team.

Despite the fact that the team showed improvement throughout the year, and the fact that the Lions addressed some needs in the off season -- it lacked flash in regards to FA, and the draft wasn't a super "now we're unstoppable". The general expectation I saw floated around most often was about 3-4 wins, 5 if they were really lucky. Anything more than that would be amazing considering the entire league knew the Lions had a weak secondary, made weaker when Bullocks went on IR.

Fast forward to game 8 last season against Denver -- the Lions locked up their 6th win with a blowout win unlike any that had been seen for a long time by the Lions. Their record was 6-2. For a fan base who expected 3-4 wins, they were already about double that!! As they racked up the wins, I saw expectations swing from 3-4 to 10 -11 and that the season was a total disappointment if the Lions didn't make the playoffs. This from the same people who looked at the team less than 2 months before and said 6 or 7 wins would be beyond their expectations!!

They were the guy who thought his pay was getting cut because business had been bad, and suddenly sees the company has swung into unexpected positive results and starts thinking he's getting a 20% raise! Then he gets disappointed when things even out, but are still moving in a strong positive direction and he "only" gets a 8% raise -- when a few months before he would have been excited just to keep his job!!

Posted by stickety on 03/30/08 at 9:36AM
Right on DetFan1979:
The average know-nothing fan did backflips when the Lions were signing high-priced free agents like Woody and Bly. They bought in completely when Millen and Morningweg boasted about the "young speed" they were going to bring to the team by drafting guys like Boss Bailey and Kalimba Edwards. They rejoiced when the Lions selected receiver over and over and over again in the draft. I cannot even count how many times I've heard idiotic Lions' fans parrot the crap they hear on the radio from the likes of the "Huge" one, Bill Simonson (last year, he said that the Lions shouldn't draft Joe Thomas because you can always get good offensive linemen in the late rounds of the draft - brilliant analysis).
If you look more closely, you can see that Rod damn near pulled off a miracle last year. The Lions were a few plays away from being a playoff team in spite of fielding a collection of stiffs on defense and a borderline pathetic offensive line. The Lions have had a tremendous off-season so far: they've improved their defense while actually dumping salaries.
Now, they need to seal the deal with a solid draft. I'm not looking for the spectacular. Just fill two-three holes with good players.
Whether they have to trade down or up or stay pat, I don't care. Just do what it takes to fill the holes at tackle, linebacker, and running back.
Do that, and the Lions will be significantly better next year.

Not saying I agree with everything Stickety wrote (specifically, agree Joe Thomas quality OT's are not going to be there in round 3, but I think you can build a solid offensive line with the right 2-4th round picks), but he makes some very good points.

Last season, I expected that the Lions were going to win between 6 - 9 games depending on how the ball bounced, and possibly sneak into the playoffs if they were lucky. They won 7. Pleasantly satisfied. Since they are still a young team (overall), and I don't know who they are drafting, right now I am expecting about the same. If the draft seems about right, I might switch to 7 - 10 games. But only if I think it is a real home-run.

As we start to fall into solidifying in each of our minds either who/what position we want the Lions to draft over the next month (some people are zealously there now), it would be best to remember to temper our expectations - up or down as the need may be. Many of the best player analysts don't do mock drafts -- because even if you know who is going in the top ten, there are 3,628,800 different combinations they could be picked in (10 factorial for those who want to know where I got the number). Factor in 224 picks, plus compensatory picks, plus trades, surprise picks, teams who "reach" (or essentially have a player rated differently for THEIR team than others do.") and you realize that predicting the draft is like predicting the weather -- you can come close in a general way, but it will usually be far from exact.

When I sit down to watch the Lions on Sunday afternoon, or Sunday Night Football, or MNF, I have one expectation: To watch an entertaining game of football. Sure, I enjoy when the Lions are winning -- it enhances the fun, and the odds I will be able to watch my favorite team into the postseason. But it is not the end of my world if they don't.

My expectation while watching the draft (yes, I do watch it. Drives my wife nuts) is that I'll be entertained and informed by doing so. I would like to see the Lions get 2-3 solid starters, and 1 -2 contributing rotation guy in this draft. Preferably at areas I think are needs, but since I don't coach or GM the team -- I don't presume that I know more about football than Matt Millen, and certainly not Rod Marinelli, and the entire scouting department and all of his coaching staff. Sure, they can be wrong but I don't watch the draft to be right, I watch it to see if I know my own favorite team well enough that I was right.
When I'm looking at the Lions, I do a lot of thinking about what they could do, or what I think they should do. But in the end, as the draft nears, I think most about what I think they will do -- taking everything else into account. They often surprise -- but that is part of what makes it entertaining. If I always knew what was coming, it would eliminate the point of watching or analyzing.
So my request is that as we start to get more into looking at needs, what positions will be available when, who will be available, who should be picked, trading up or down, trade partners, etc. -- or as we go into the off season, and into 2008; please keep one thing in mind:
We follow this stuff because it is fun, not because we have any control over the outcome.
Go Lions!!!

Friday, March 28, 2008


First off, a quote that I love about respect from FDR (paraphrased):

When FDR said he had great respect for what his political opponent was advocating, and his opponent himself, the man interviewing him was confused. FDR replied that "I need not agree with a man to respect him and his opinions - even if he is wrong. Of course, I'm positive he would say the same thing about me."

I thought your responses to my last post were, for the most part, of that nature -- and I thank you for that. It was a post I felt had to be written, and it still makes me give pause.

Moving on to lighter fare, Ironic Headline of the Week:

"Raiders bolster pass rush by signing DE Kalimba Edwards"

LMAO-ROTF - still chuckle every time I read it. Anytime you read someone calling Millen the "worst GM ever in all of pro sports" think two words: Al Davis

I had a new customer come in this morning, and he was wearing a Raiders jacket. I asked him:

"You a big Raiders fan?"

"Yeah," he says despondently, "Who's your team?"

"The Lions - I've got a Schelsinger signed helmet over there." I say proudly. (I have a Lions jacket and hat in my office many times as well, especially in spring/fall - I didn't today.)

"Lucky you." he says "At least your team is going somewhere. Man, have you seen the guys Al [Davis] is throwing money at this year? Someone's gotta put him in a home somewhere and take over."

"Well, I hear you signed Kalimba."

"[laughs] - those Lions [busts]* really helped last year." (* - use of an expletive I'd rather not repeat here as I like to run a clean, respectful blog, if possible.)

I sympathized, and immediately moved on to other subjects.

Interesting that there are fans out there who are actually starting to see the Lions as heading in a better direction than their club. Thank goodness for senile Al and the Raiders, eh?

Moving forward, here is an excerpt from an Article from last Friday, 3-21-08:

Big Tuna jumps into free-agent waters, but where's the splash?
By Vic Carucci

Their willingness to buy into the hard-nosed, team-first program that Parcells is putting in place, along with new general manager Jeff Ireland and new coach Tony Sporano, can help make up for whatever they might lack in talent. Finding such players has been a staple of Parcells' philosophy throughout his entire coaching career, which has produced a pair of Super Bowl victories by the New York Giants.

As Parcells once wrote in an article for the Harvard Business Review, "I'm convinced, if you get people onto your team who share the same goals and the same passion, and if you push them to achieve at the highest level, you're going to come out on top.";jsessionid=8D2B948DF5FF05EF62E852846F9C87D2?id=09000d5d8075509c&template=with-video&confirm=true

I've been blasted for uttering Rod Marinelli's name in the same breath with Bill Parcells when looking at how he is rebuilding the Lions, and what their plan is. But that won't stop me from doing so again. Rod prepared to be an NFL HC his whole life. He has been studying what has and has not worked for other teams.

He has cleaned out the Lions Roster at least as thoroughly as Parcells has/will clean out Miami over the next three years. Miami's recent drafts have actually been WORSE than the Lions. Seriously - go look it up. Just plain awful -- they make Millen look good.

Parcells has brought in about a half dozen players from his days coaching Dallas and the Jets even. He's brought in coaches he knows. They've subsequently brought in players they know. Sound familiar yet?

They are patching up a team to take the field for 08 (year 1)and see who among the players left will be able to fit in with the coach's (GM's) way of doing things. In 09 (year 2), they will cut some more, sign some FA from Dallas and the other teams the coaches were on as their contracts come up, and field a mediocre team that could get lucky and sneak into the playoffs, or could garner about 6 wins. (from 6-10 to 9-7, depending on how the ball bounces). In 2010, (year 3) their first couple of drafts will be filling about 10-15% of the roster, with FA patching positions of need until their replacements drafted in lower rounds can develop. Many of the FA will be vets they know, often on the downside of their career, but who buy totally into the program, and can both mentor the younger players and still provide a solid boost to the team -- both in play, and in spirit. They would be squarely in the middle ranks, going at least 7-9 and possibly able to get 9-10 wins each season, and have steady playoff appearances. Over time (years 4-6) they will add til over 60 -70% of the team is draft picks the team has made. In 10 years, they will be a team comprised almost entirely of players they have drafted, and will merely use FA to tweak their roster, and add a missing part here or there for a pick that missed, or a FA that wasn't able to be retained. Most of the cap is used in retaining their own good players, and they use the draft to select replacements for guys who will be leaving in a year, or two, or three - so that the young guys have time to develop. They use the draft to fill future holes, or upgrade positions if they can. As a perennial playoff team, they are always choosing in the latter half of the first round, and even if they miss on a player or two, it doesn't blow up their cap. They choose in value positions, and get solid players who fit their system.

Question: Who can tell when I went from projecting what the Dolphins and Parcells (and Rod and the Lions) are doing to what the Indianapolis Colts actually did?

That paragraph, along with the Parcells quote about only getting the "right" type of guys ("right" meaning those who agree with the Lions way of doing things-- football character, pound the rock, team first, one snap at a time. )

Also notice the time frame Marinelli listed for seeing a team composed "almost entirely of guys we've drafted" -- even if you draft really well, at 5 guys who stick on the roster per year it takes 5 years to get to 50% draft picks, and 10 years to get to the point 80-90% of the team was drafted. It's just simple math. I respect that type of statement more than the bluster of coaches who claim they will fix the team through the draft in 2 years. Umm...yeah....right....

Rod is building his team using the methods that he knows will work, and knows will keep the team competitive for years to come. Last year was the year of improvement, followed by the off season of sweeping out the last of the dust. This year is a winning record and a shot at the playoffs. After that, playoffs are an expectation, not an exception.

So after thinking about all this, I realized -- hey, this is a great time to be a Lions fan!!

Go Lions!!

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Some Last Words for a Man I'll Never Know

An Obituary for a Man we Analyzed, but will Never Know

As we talk about who the Lions should draft, who other teams are looking, etc. etc. as we close in on the draft, we become removed from the reality of it all. The names becomes stats and highlight clips. Cars, or boats, or pieces in the puzzle that either fit "perfect" with your team, or you can't understand where they would go -- people wondering whether an OT piece, a RB piece, or a Defensive Piece is needed, and presenting arguments, stats, and logic to back up their argument.

But what we forget is that these are not just names -- they are people. Men with parents, siblings, cousins, wives, children -- people like you and me.

We've had lively debates about certain players on this board in regards as to how they would fit in with the Lions, and when would be a good time to take them -- would they fit? What round is value to pick them in? Wait or reach? Can they make it in the NFL? Can they help the team?

Today, I read something that brought back to reality that while we talk about pieces of the puzzle, sometimes, puzzle pieces go away.

I wrote a blog about a young O-Lineman that seemed he would fit in with the Lions, as an example of the talent that was available in later rounds. Wednesday evening, that young man's name was sadly erased from every NFL draft board.

As we go back and forth, looking at who we want the Lions to draft, or who we think they will -- please stop and take a moment of silence and prayer for the man whose life was tragically short - the man who was already drafted by a higher power. And as we continue into April, let us stop and remember that we are talking about people, not puzzles, and afford the proper respect to those we are analyzing as such, along with those who are more than Anonymous, BakerStreet, jreffy, chief, paul, streetworm, jjlions, nobsnubber and others.

Rest in peace, Mr. Benedict. This blog at least will keep you and your family in our memories, and in our prayers.


Joshua W. Pung
aka Detroit Fan 1979.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

RB or OT? How about DT!

I've got to be at my office at 6am to get some paperwork ready for an early appointemnt, so I'm just going to leave a quick comment or two tonight.

In response to a comment from last post, I've not looked into who the Lions coaches are, although with the seemingly large number of inuries, I would think maybe the conditioning coaches could be looked at. However, when you look at other teams -- while the Lions seem to have a lot of injuries, they actually are right in the middle of the pack injury wise of IR and guys missing games league wide. What has hurt the Lions in the past is that the starter was average or even above average, but the guy behind him had trouble getting signed form the practice squad, and the guy behind him was selling insurance last week. Teams not only need good starters, but also quality, cost-efficient role-payers for depth.

To me, what a lot of people are missing is all of the depth improvements Marinelli has been making, especially this off season. Good depth players that are also great ST players are the backbone of any contender. Look at the rosters of the best teams, and they all have a core group of 5-6 guys who contribute at varying levels, from a bit of playing time to almost none at their relative positions, but who are the heart and soul of the special teams unit. That is something the Lions didn't really have last year. It was a glaring weakness not a lot of people were looking at (outside of firing Kwan). Marinelli made moves this off season to fix that, while at the same time bolstering the secondary and the LB depth.
I'm actually getting a little tired of the RB-or-OT debate. I have the solution:

DEFENSIVE TACKLE - Kentwan Balmer!!

Kid is a hard working beast, slated to go anywhere from 5-8 picks after DET. Take him at 15 if they can't trade!!

They can still use a 3rd and 4th or 5th to target into the second round (2 2nds) to be sure they get the RB/MLB/OT they want. We may say they need a DE -- I use the "Stanton argument" to say they spent a second rounder on it last year -- IAF will start and a high pick will not be used on a DE in 2008.

Also, judging by team needs -- Mendenhall, McFadden, and all 4 of the top OT (Long, Clady, Otah, Williams) may be gone before the Lions pick at 15. I do NOT advocate moving up -- so, assuming those players are gone, who to pick and why?? Who would be left that a team may want to move up for in exchange for maybe their 1st and a 3rd or a low 2nd? All scenarios I am sure they are running past Millen written on the sides of his Lionel's so he'll at least look at the ideas as they steam by...

Have to go sleep now - keep up the great positive dialogue fellas!

PS - LMAO on the S. Rogers cheeseburger comment last blog. Hilarious. Thanks for the comedy.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Comments Galore!

Here's hoping everyone had a wonderful Easter!

I guess I should go away to family functions and then start working 13 hour days more often - seems to be quite a positive, back and forth dialogue happens when I write a big long post and then shut my yapper.

As I read your comments (21! Apprecaite your readership, and being able to thoughtfully discuss the Lions) I had a few thoughts and tidbits I'd like to add and expand upon.

First off, I specifically stated that I don't think you can really judge a draft until after the third season at earliest -- which means I really don't think you can judge the impact of Rod's first draft (usually one of a coach's worst, by the way) as a HC until after the 2008 season.

I only use the first method as a way to look at the "talent" the Lions got versus where they were "ranked". These same rankers also thought Ryan Leaf was as good as Peyton Manning -- so always keep that huge grain of salt in mind when looking at method one. Also realize the Giants were graded a C+ last season immediately following the draft. Gives you something to think about.

I do think that the Lions, more now than ever, are relying more heavily upon their own draft board, and I think most NFL teams would tell you they could care less about Media rankings.

JJLions - I agree with your first comment that this season will be very telling as it will give us enough information to really begin to evaluate how the 2006 draft is faring. It is 5 seasons, in my mind, before a final evaluation can be made as to the impact, both Short term and lasting, a draft had on a particular team.

5BakerStreet - See above, but I agree it is still too close to the draft's Rod has had a hand in to call whether they were successful or not. What I was trying to do with this exercise was get an idea as to whether what the Lions did the last two years in the draft was consistent with the plan/philosophy that is becoming very clear this off season. I feel very good about the direction the Lions are taking after doing the analysis for that piece, and think that the early indications for the success of those first two drafts is quite good. As long as they keep filling different positions in this same way, we will see a solid Lions team filled with players in their prime that were drafted onto the team, and tweaked with FA additions here or there.

Also Bakerstreet (do you read Sherlock Holmes, by the way? I am currently about halfway through "The Complete Sherlock Holmes" volume 1, and it is quite interesting and entertaining. Good reading once you get into it.) I think that we must also keep in mind that it is very difficult to turn-over a roster in the salary cap era. Notice there are less than a dozen players left Marinelli inherited -- it takes a few seasons to clean out a team as screwed up as Detroit was, and it will take more now to keep building it. At least he took the time to evaluate who could possibly contribute, and gave them a chance. I also like that his attitude is not set in stone on any player. The biggest mistake franchises often make (Seattle and S. Alexander) is letting emotion lead them to paying/keeping a beloved veteran for too much/too long, and it kills them on the cap.

Anonymous on 3/24 at 9:57 talked about GM moves on draft day being panic moves. I agree that panic moves are bad for a franchise, and if I thought Millen's moves last season were such, I would not have given him such high marks. But as nobsnubber pointed out probably better than I will, they were focused moves to get targeted players just before other teams were set to take them. Millen has also shown a knack on draft day for taking advantage of the panic of other teams -- such as getting Cleveland to trade up one spot for Kellen Winslow in a panic, while taking Roy W. and then getting Jones in the first as well, while retaining his second round pick. While I do agree what you describe happens in many draft rooms, Millen seems to be the predator in that regard on draft day, not the prey.

I often see reference to "can't miss players" -- let me give you a hint. At least half of them "miss". See: Ryan Leaf, Robert Gallery, Ki Jana Carter, Tim Couch, et al. As a general rule, about half of the first round either busts or performs at about the same level as the second rounders.

Paul and jreffy -- nice dialogue going there. I can see both sides of the issue. As you'll note, I pointed out that I prefer method 3 -- which looks back at a draft 3 seasons later to see how the draft helped/hurt the team in both the short and long term. I feel that you can only grade a team based on who they picked, not who they didn't. I may disagree with their moves at the time (method 1 focuses on "need" and "ranking"), but you have to look at the whole picture.

It would be kind of like looking back on your marriage and judging it by who you didn't date instead of who you married. Same thing. "What If" dreams or projections are just that -- "What If?". What if I had dated that girl in high school that won the lottery...BUT - if I had, I wouldn't have my kids and being married/dating me would she still have won the lottery since her life, and mine, would be totally different? These types of questions are easy to use to either BASH or EXALT a decision because the alternative is entirely created fantasy that can be whatever the author desires -- postive or negative!

Just one example of how it will drive you mad: If they pick Posluszny (the reason he slid into the 2nd is fear he would be injury prone -- and he went on IR his rookie year...sounds like a normal Millen 2nd round pick to me) or Harris, then they don't get: Alexander, IAF, Stanton. That means they would have a greater need at DE, need a young starting Safety (and have been starting someone like Bashir last season), and would still need to be looking to get a young QB to develop, but have less time to do so because Kitna isn't getting any younger. So instead of just needing a MLB/DT/OT/RB in the first three rounds, they would be looking at needing DT/OT/RB/S/QB/DE in the first three rounds. (notice how I assumed they wouldn't be able to trade for any of those players in the new scenario, thus exalting the original decision. I could also have spun it the other way, as I am sure you can see.)

So while it may not have made sense at the time, in the view of the larger picture it becomes clearer. What the Lions didn't get is usually factored in without thinking what they would have needed to give up -- and thus the additional needs created. Also factor in that this year is VERY weak at safety -- with only one even borderline 1st round, and the rest third (although they will be chosen earlier as at least a half dozen teams NEED safety help. Very glad the Lions are all set there) -- and none of them are projected to be strong starters. This year, however, there should be either Lofton/Goff/Mayo availble in the second to fill the MLB position at least as well as Pos or Harris would have. (Harris is in a 3-4, in which the MLB has much different responsibilities than in the 4-3. That is why the Jets traded Vilma -- he was a 4-3 MLB, not a very good 3-4 MLB. Harris also looked good on a very bad Jets defense -- at least as bad as the Lions. )

So after 2 drafts (07 and 08) the Lions can have their MLB, DT or OT, S, QB, DE and still use their 2 3rds (or 2nd from trading up) on OT or DT (what they didn't get in rnd 1) and RB. So they can fill all of those holes with picks in the first 2-3 rounds, over two years, instead of filling 3 holes they manage to fill 5 or 6. This is why team building needs to be looked at in the long term.

That was just one example. If they would have picked either of those players, the whole rest of the draft would have changed -- and who knows who would have been available when??? Teams usually pick about 7 players in the draft each year. They pass on roughly 217 players plus compensatory picks, plus those who are UDFA. What-iffing can be useful sometimes, but when it comes to evaluating a drafting strategy for a HC and his team, it needs to be done over a period of time taking into account the end result, not the one little snapshot of a round.

I also noticed one comment indicating is Adrian Peterson a bad pick then? My answer based on ranking-need strategy of evaluation would be: YES! The Vikings running game worked about the same whether it was Taylor or Peterson running the ball. The knock on Peterson was injuries -- he already missed 4 games his first year, and parts of others. Their LINE, Hutchinson in particular, is why they run well. Notice what happened to Alexander and Seattle's run game when Hutchinson left? It hasn't been the same since. And in my opinion, the Vikings had much bigger needs. Think Brady Quinn would be an upgrade over Tarvaris Jackson? How would he do with Taylor running behind that line? See, even though I think it was a bad pick, they think it was a good one and only time will tell if picking Adrian Peterson helps the Vikings be playoff contenders or not. (notice how I used a mish-mash of two methods to BASH the Vikings picking Peterson; I could also have picked examples to show how it was the greatest pick since Barry Sanders for a team...what I'm trying to put forth is that all hypothetical scenarios - even mine - are just that -- hypothetical, and are tainted by the prejudices and predispositions of the author and the point they are trying to make.)

Anonymous : "On a different note for DetFan 1979, how about the addition of Owen Schmidt FB,WVU who should be available in later rounds. He fills a need, and could definately be used for short yardage. I'd love to see the offense deliver some blows, thats the type of back KJ was(also why he's hobbling). Is this new system going to require a more traditional FB, I like Bradley but maybe he needs to be in the rotation back on the otherside of the ball." March 25, 2008 3:15 PM

I haven't had time to look up anything on him yet, but I am all for a FB in the later rounds. Sledge was always one of my favorite Lions (still is) and I even have a signed Riddell Mini-Helmet of him on display in my office at work. Even my Chicago-Lovin boss can't find fault with that, which I why I am all for them finding another destroyer to lead crush would be tacklers into dust, destroying face-masks in the process.

I think Bradley did well when used in situations where it wasn't obvious the Lions were going to run up the middle behind the FB (Which wasn't often.) I remember one play where he made like he slipped a block on the LB who rushed past him into the hole and got picked up on a block by the RB (I think Cason) instead of a tackle for loss, while Kitna dropped a shot pass to Bradley over the left middle; Bradley ran through a few guys for a tough 3rd down because he was so freaking big they couldn't stop his momentum -- and he kept his feet quite well. While I want to see competition, and I think maybe they could use Bradley more at DT -- I think he does have the potential (that dreaded "P" word) to be a very serviceable FB - especially in protection schemes - for the Lions.

I saw the Lions news in brief today, but will look to that in a later post, along with my latest draft/FA musings.

Keep up the great rapport! Wonderfully well thought out and managing to be critical, supporting and positive. Go Lions! Go Lions Fans!

Friday, March 21, 2008

Building via Draft Part 2

Before you read this, read "Building Through the Draft?" and all of the great comments.

Part Two: Building Through the Draft? Evaluating 2006 and 2007 and their impact on the current and future success of the Lions.

From our first installment, there were many good points made. First of all, while I agree there were many factors working against the scouting department (as have been pointed out) - I am of the mind they still did a pretty piss-poor job of finding talent at any level. The first round busts, I wouldn't place on just the scouting department. The Coaches/GM's get very involved in evaluating the possible picks for the first two rounds - Especially the first. So I place busts like Joey, C Rog, BMW, et al square on the GM/Coach. Don't tell me the scouting dept didn't inform Millen of C Rog's failed drug test...or point out that Joey had a less than stellar accuracy rating in college, and the last 2 guys from his system/mentor failed in the pros... The GM took that info and made a decision (as they must) and they were bad.

Where the scouting department really comes in is the later rounds - 3-7. Your 6th and 7th round picks rarely contribute their first year, and are not much better off in camp than UDFA's. People will point to examples like Brady, but if you look at 6-7th rounders, most are OOF (Out Of Football) or, if lucky, hanging onto a practice squad somewhere, within 2 years. All 7 rounds of the draft add roughly (with compensatory picks) 240 new players. Add in the 20 or so UDFA for each team, and remember only about 1900 players end up under contract in the NFL, and guys who didn't stick from the prior year looking for a shot...and you know that a high percentage -- especially from the lower rounds who were a low investment -- are not going to make it. But, the 3rd - 5th round is where the solid middle of most teams comes from. You try to add play makers round 1, hopefully starters within a year round 2, and depth for your team with the occasional breakout gem in rounds 3,4,5. It is in those rounds that the Scouts have the biggest impact, and in those rounds that Detroit has done historically awful as well.

In evaluating the first two Marinelli drafts, lets first look at who they took where:

Rd Sel # Player Position
1 9 Ernie Sims OLB
2 40 Daniel Bullocks SS
3 74 Brian Calhoun RB
5 141 Jonathan Scott T
6 179 Dee McCann CB
7 217 Fred Matua G
7 247 Anthony Cannon LB

Rd Sel # Player Position
1 2 Calvin Johnson WR
2 43 Drew Stanton QB
2 58 Ikaika Alama-Francis DE
2 61 Gerald Alexander FS
4 105 A.J. Davis CB
4 117 Manny Ramirez G
5 158 Johnny Baldwin LB
7 255 Ramzee Robinson CB

Let me remind you this is all opinion, and since I am sure you may have different ones, I want you to voice them. That is what makes this stuff exciting!

2006 Detroit Lions Draft

Method 1: The "Ranked" method. Looking at this method, 2006 was a decent draft, but by no means spectacular. Ernie Simms was a "surprise" pick, and the pundits don't like being surprised. The ratings for him were in the lower half of the first, into the second depending on whether his size was an issue or not. Bullocks in round 2 was a solid pick at #40, but was still considered a bit of a reach. Calhoun was a flier in the 3rd -- he fell that far because teams were afraid he might have durability issues. (those of you clamoring for M.Hart, he has the same issues as Calhoun.). Millen took a flier that was viewed as a value pick at the time. [remember, this method is based on how players were ranked for the draft - before they played]. Of the remaining picks, Dee McCann was considered a steal with great upside and listed as the "hidden gem" of the draft.

Method 2: What did the GM do? In 2006, not a whole lot. No real trades of substance, other than not having a 4th rounder due to a stupid earlier trade for a FA (can't remember who off the top of my head.)

Method 3: Player Contribution [for both drafts, this is too early to judge real well, but I will look at what is there] In the first round, Ernie turned out to be a great choice, and it is funny how short memories are for those analysts who seem to remember praising the pick...hmm.... The jury is still out on Bullocks, but only because he was injured early in pre-season and placed on IR. Before that, he had a solid Rookie Campaign and word out of Allen Park was that he was starting and had made great strides when he got injured. The fortunate part about him being on IR is that he has had time to fully rehab the injury without pushing to get back, and re-injuring it. I'll still see him as a solid pick as this will be his 3rd pro year (2nd playing) and he should be starting -- which is what you want to see out of your typical second rounder. Making an impact on the rotation in year one, starting at least half of year 2 and full time starter by three. [when they draft your replacement to repeat the process...]

In the third Calhoun is unknown, but may have run out of chances. He's been injured every year, and this off season is likely his last shot to earn a spot on the the team. So far, it was a risk that didn't pay off. I like Calhoun and hope this is his year...but I doubt it. Jon Scott in the 5th has been a pleasant surprise for the Lions -- playing his way to the starting RT spot midway into his second year before getting injured - again. He needs to prove he can stay healthy so they can feel comfortable with him at the RT, but for a 5th round pick, he is at worst a very dependable backup. That is a successful 5th rounder -- guys who fill out your team, and can step up when needed. McCann and Matua in the 6 & 7 -- The dreaded "P" word again. Never showed up and that "hidden gem" McCann was apparently too well hidden. However, the Lions did pick up a solid special teams player, and good backup for Ernie Simms in Anthony Cannon in the 7th.

Final Analysis: GM didn't do any real maneuvering other than to lose a pick, and it was rated mediocre by the pundits. However, the Lions garnered 1 great starter (Simms), 1 solid starter (Bullocks), 1 adequate starter (Scott) [could be upgraded] and a quality back-up/ST guy late (Cannon). 4 out of 7 staying on, with 3 of 7 picks in the round 6-7 "cast off" range, that qualifies as a successful draft heading into year 3.

2007 Draft

Method 1: Mixed results. Draft guru's had a hard time grading a draft that included 3 picks in the 2nd round...when they all had prepared for the bevy of guys they expected Millen to take in the 5th round ( 4 or 5 picks to start) I think this bitterness led draft pundits to give the Lions an above average grade. CJ was rated as the best talent in the draft. He fell to the Lions at #2 (if that can be called falling) so they took him. The rest of their draft hasn't been evaluated as much about who they took as who they didn't. Seeming to ignore current needs (which they did, much to my and many others' chagrin) the pattern of who they took was hard to figure out. Setting that aside, though, they got good value on most of their picks. Stanton was the #3 QB on most boards (outside of Buffalo, apparently) and they got him with pick #43 overall. While some will call this a reach, #3 QB taken halfway through round 2 when they are all considered very close in overall talent level... I just can't bring myself to call that a reach. Based on his ratings, it was a good place to pick him. (As I said, we're evaluating how the players were ranked and value/reach, not necessarily if they filled what we perceive as need. That is method 3.) As for the other two 2nd rounders, they had quietly moved up draft boards, and teams were targeting them both at the beginning of round 3. Alexander's strength was his almost CB worthy cover skills combined with a hard hitting safety. Perfect for the T2, and one of the top 10 S in the draft. IAF was/is considered raw, but again top of round 3 talent. Now, while both were chosen in the second -- they were picks 58 and 61 -- which is still a slight reach, but not by more than 4 or 5 spots. The rest -- Davis was considered a 4th rounder, so right on by Ramierez was projected at the end of the 3rd, so was a value at the end of the 4th. Baldwin was projected to be gone by the 4th, so getting him in the 5th was also a value proposition. Ramzee Robinson was the last pick of the draft. How do you put value on that?? I say NA. On the whole, a handful of reaches early, but some value picks in the 3-5 rounds got them an above average grade.

Method 2: Saying anything short of spectacular would be lying. I've talked about this before, but Millen's moves in the 2007 draft were a thing of beauty. He has a knack for trading around the board at value. He managed to garner 3 2nd rounders -- 2 of them targeted to players the Lions wanted, and were aimed about 4-5 picks at the most ahead of where they would definitely be off the board. All that while retaining 2 4ths, a 5th and a 7th. A+ for GM influence on where they picked in this one.

Method 3: This is really tough, because these players have only had their Rookie year, and that makes it tough. But I'll give it a good go, and you can rip me a new one when I'm done. Round 1: CJ was hurt, and underutilized. I'm worried the "hurt" will become a habit like KJ, but for some reason, I'm not getting that vibe. Just a hunch, but I'm thinking Roy and CJ both have monster a monster 2008. CJ is still a starter, and an upgrade over Furrey who is a great #3 and slot receiver. So that pick has to be termed a success.

[At this point a quick aside -- I would have liked to see Joe Thomas. And I'm also sure there are more than a few teams who wished they had picked Barry Sanders, or Jerry Rice, or Tom Brady...the list goes on. Looking in hindsight at guys who turned out better than expected, for another team, is impossible to include in looking at your subject team. Would that player have developed the same? Been trained the same? Utilized the same? Etc. Cannot all be realistically looked at. Plus it just gives me a headache, and isn't this analysis long enough as it is? So please -- no coulda shoulda's -- I'm looking at how the players the DID pick turned out for them, not the players they didn't. When it comes to analysis, I prefer to look at the reality of the "now" instead of some dream scenario that didn't happen. I probably didn't say that too well, but I hope you understand what I'm saying. Maybe another time, but not in this analysis]

Round two had an unbelievable 3 picks. Remember, my second round criteria is at least in rotation (if applicable) rookie year, seeing time by mid 2nd year, and better be starting by year 3. Stanton is an unknown. There is an established starter and we will get a view fo how developing under a savvy veteran leader can help when we see how Aaron Rodgers does this year after a few seasons on the bench. No doubt they took Stanton to develop, learn under, and eventually replace Kitna. Kitna is a serviceable starter in the interim, and only has one or two at the most seasons left before he will not be able to handle starting. Most likely, one. He will make a good backup for a couple years after that, if he stays -- which seems likely right now. However, right now I have to place Stanton in the negative column as he was on IR and saw no time in his rookie year -- not what you want for a 2nd rounder. If he sees time this year, that will start to tip toward the positive. Alexander is easy. A+ -- well above average starter his rookie year, and will continue to get better as he learns to maneuver within the system, and with the veteran guidance of Smith. IAF - right now, based on the Det Lions official assessment - I am neutral. Even playing injured, I saw great flashes when he did play his rookie year. But he will need to either earn a starting spot, or a spot in the starting rotation to keep from slipping into the negative category. The Lions have too many holes to focus on DE, and he really needs to step up this season. The pick made sense as Marinelli was intent on giving Kalimba one last shot, so a DE that needs some development makes sense. Class is over now, and he needs to show up big time, or the Lions D will suffer greatly.

In the 3-4 range, the Lions had 2 4ths and a 5th. I really truly believe that the Scouting department, and the coaches, screwed up these 3 picks. Ramierez is the sole bright spot, and only pick still on the team. He served as a backup to Mulitalo last season, and if he wins that job again, and develops into a starter by year 3 or 4, he will be a success. Davis in the 4th was just awful scouting. He didn't fit a T2 corner profile, was not known as a return specialist, and was not even a mediocre ST player. He had speed of feet but not of mind and that is about it. Bad Bad pick. Baldwin was a good pick, screwed up by a rookie HC mistake. He was a solid pick, great ST player, showed he could push for playing time as SLB and then...they cut him in a routine move to put him on the practice squad, and the risk backfired as KC signed him off waivers. Rod and Joe learned the hard way that sometimes you need to take up a roster spot for someone who is being developed, or you will lose the chance to develop them. I will say that Baldwin looked pretty good, but got injured just a few games into the season and went on IR. I think if he gets cut loose, the Lions would be wise to look at picking him back up. Ramzee Robinson didn't show anything special, but he did seem to be learning well -- he is on the roster for now, though I seem him back on the practice squad this season with one more shot to stay on with the Lions. So far, just one season in we have: 2 above average starters (Alexander, CJ- 3 if IAF starts), 2 backups (Stanton, Ramierez) and that's really it. So 5/8 picks at best were solid after just one season -- and it could go as high as 6/8 or as low as 3/8 depending on how players continue to develop.

Final Analysis: Early indications are good, but still too close to call. I am still at the too much "P" hanging out there stage to tell. It ranks average player rank wise, and while the GM moves around the board were great, what they garnered is thus far average as well. In other words, it could still go either way folks, and this season will determine a lot of that.

Sum Total: Taking into consideration the lack of draftees remaining from the drafts prior to Marinelli, I am actually quite excited about Rod's progress in building through the draft. Instead of having a "core" of players with potential, he has already in 2 drafts built a "core" of players who are showing they will make a solid foundation.

* Bullocks and Alexander combine to form a young, positive base at safety that has moved that position to a place of strength from one of total weakness.
* CJ is a great starter opposite Roy, and they will stretch defenses for whoever they actually get to pound the darn rock.
* Scott has helped stregthen the Line
* I think IAF will step up this year, and prove to be good enough to play opposite Dwayne White (with IAF on the right, moving White to his natural position on the left...or the other way around, but you know what I mean...)
* Ernie Simms is a LB to build around (say by adding a nasty MLB in the 1st or 2nd this year)

Add in the backups/contributors, and this is just two drafts in...and already, I can see the impact. I can see a team, 5 -10 years down the road filled with talented, motivated players (like those listed above)...and the Lions as perennially playoff contenders. Pardon me, I think my coffee is done brewing.

I'll be gone for a lot of the Easter Weekend, especially, at Family Functions. I may or may not have a chance to write before Monday evening...but check back, as I can't wait to see your thoughts, and will hop in to respond if I can.

Happy Easter to All from DetFan1979 and the Pink Lions!

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Building Through the Draft?

I was thinking of Rod's vision of an energetic, hard hitting, rock pounding,smash mouth, team full of draft picks while hacking my lungs out and feeling like Ernie Simms just blindsided me from 15 yards out last night, when I had a thought.

How's it going so far with that build through the Draft thing, Rod? This is his third draft. I am of the mind that there are three draft evaluations: Right away, you can do the first two; the third you need to wait at least 3 full seasons for. So, you can't truly judge even his first draft yet.

It also needs to be taken into consideration that the first draft is generally fairly shaky for a new coach -- they do not have a good enough handle on the current players to know who is all going to work out, and who isn't. Who will buy in, who won't? The scouting department also needs to get a handle on what type of players the coach is looking for -- talent, type for each position, character, etc. The second year is a bit better, and the third draft on out is where you usually see the personality if the coach really imprinted throughout as the scouting department has also finally had time and practice at finding the players the coach wants. Generally, there are more good hits in later rounds the longer a coach is with a team, as the scouting department can find gems that fit in that coaches scheme and criteria that will be available in later rounds.

The first method is what I call the "Publication Method" -- this is based solely on how the players are ranked/rated, and how many good ones you got based on where you were picking, reach, value, et al. Also, is whether the team filled positions of need, built depth, etc. I don't like this method as half of the "highly rated" players bust every year, on average. I get disgusted every year when the 3rd or 4th OT, or even the top OT, is always said to "plug in and protect [QB's] blind side for ten years." Why not 9? or 7? or 15? Who knows! Robert Gallery was a top pick, best OT in that draft. Rated just as high as Joe Thomas was last year. Jake Long this year. And he is struggling at G right now. Ryan Leaf and Peyton Manning were neck-and-neck. We all know how that turned out. It also punishes teams that actually do draft to fit their system! The highest rated CB's in this draft would be as useful to the Lions as Dre Bly -- they are the pure cover corners. The good cover corners who play the run better, essential to the T2, are generally to be found in rounds 2-3, sometimes 4. However, as none of those guys have played a down in the NFL, it is really the only way to look at success immediately after the draft.

The second judge of the draft is how pro-active the GM was in moving around the board. Many teams are content to always sit and see who falls to them, and almost never trade. Criteria include looking at what picks they started with and how many, and what they end up with. Did they give up too many picks to move up in a given round? Or did they parlay the often wasted 5-7th rounders into better picks higher up in the draft?

The third is what needs to wait three years, and that is how the players drafted worked out, whether they made the roster and contributed, at what level, did they leave and find success, etc. I don't say Pro-Bowls because that is a popularity contest that half of the people make on reputation, not current performance.

There are two types of GMs: Those who give their coaches what their philosophy will be, give them the players the GM wants, and then say go to it. (or the Owner telling the GM, in some cases.) Examples right now are San Diego, Oakland, and Miami. Then there are GM's that get whatever players their coach wants, such as Atlanta and the Jets. Most are a combination of the two - taking into consideration what the Coach would like, but also what is in the best interest of the franchise.

Millen with Morninwheg and Mariucci got them whatever players they wanted, at whatever price in FA, but also picked his own guys at QB, and other positions. In other instances, WCF made the call, for instance Joey or BMW. With Marinelli, it started out similar -- they gave him Simms and Bullocks in his first draft, but in the second went for CJ and Stanton (Stanton seems like a Marinelli type of guy, but was still, IMHO a Millen and/or Martz pick. CJ definitely Martz influence.) This off season, Millen has been signing the guys Rod wants, but they are not breaking the bank. They would have liked Duckett back, but only up to a certain price (which was exceeded.) Same for Woody, Julius Jones, et al. Marinelli also seems to have put his foot down in a guiding, teacher kind of way to maneuver how the Lions are drafting. While he may not be saying "draft him" -- it seems pretty darn close. WCF, and Millen - to a certain extent - never really had full confidence in Mornhinwhig and Mariucci -- he chose them because he went with what everyone else thought he needed. But it seemed they were on the hot seat from Day 1. Millen is more comfortable with Marinelli, and even WCF can see he is taking the Lions back to what they were traditionally in the 50's -- a blue collar, hard working, bring the hits to you team. He can also see that the Fans are resonating with this. Because of this comfort level, the longer Rod is here, the less they seem to be telling him who to play, and the more they are letting him build the team to fit his vision -- because it is one they (and the fans) share. I think he has also done the near impossible task of convincing the team that they really screwed up, and that fixing it would be painful, and would take a while.

Well, Lunch is over for me right now -- looking at the criteria I laid out, how would you rate Millen/Marinelli for their first two drafts? I'm going to use what we've seen of each player to rate them on all 3 criteria later hopefully today. In the meantime, give it some thought. I know that you will all have different, but equally valid and interesting ideas. Remember, this exercise is based on opinion, so is not the be-all-end-all fact of the issue.

Those of you home "sick" on the couch today, just hoping to find SOMETHING on TV...think of those of toiling away at work, and down a beer and some hot wings in our honor.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Instant or Percolated?

Long day at the office again (boss is out of town - guess who gets to fill in?) - so my apologies on the hour, and no clue as to what the length will be.

Saw this post on Mlive this evening and thought it was great:

Posted by stickety on 03/18/08 at 3:16PM
Rod went 7-9 with Matt Millen as his GM.
That's the equivalent of a 14-2 season with a competent GM.
That explains the LOVE for Rod...

Considering Millen's history, just struck me as hilarious and a perfect explanation as for why Rod is getting so much respect around the league still.

On to the title: Instant or Percolated? Rod's comment on coffee has the Lions fans abuzz about the fact that Rod doesn't expect the Lions to be good for 5 -10 years, with many dropping the 5 and just going with 10 -- and then asking why he thinks he'll be around that long. I was an English and Communication double minor in college, so I thought it would be fun to examine the quote in question, and logically examine the overall meaning and intent of the statement. Seriously good stuff in there.

First off, lets examine his analogy as that - a way to simplify and explain a complicated topic by comparing it to a familiar one. First, I will start with the actual quote. (I know that is not considered proper journalism in this day and age, but I'm not a journalist, and I'm more than a little old-school at times.)

"It might seem crazy, but I'm looking at this team five or 10 years down the road, and it is filled with good young players from the draft," he said. "I'm percolating coffee here. I'm not making instant."

False assumption #1: He does not say, or even infer, that the Lions will not win for 5 -10 years. He just says that in 5 -10 years he is envisioning a team that is mostly comprised of its own draft picks, versus mostly comprised of free agents. For current examples, it would be like Indianapolis versus Denver (draft picks vs FA roster), or GB versus Wash.

He prefaces the first phrase "it might seem crazy" because Lions fans are used to seeing draft picks leave to fail elsewhere either before or after their initial contract is up. My interpretation of this is "Listen, your drafts were total crap for 5 years before I got here (and it could be argued 5 years before that), so while you're not used to seeing intelligent drafting, it can be done in Detroit and I know what kinds of players I need to draft in order for them to be successful here for the team in the long term picture to become and remain competitive."

This also inherently implies that the Lions are going to do a better job of drafting to fill the positions of both current and future need on the team, so that they have not only a core, but the majority of their roster filled with players they have drafted and developed specifically for the Detroit Lions. If this seems to be the way Indianapolis does things, it's because IT IS. They draft for a need a year or two before a hole will appear, so a guy is there ready to step up, and has had time to learn and adjust. This is how Marinelli learned to build a team under Dungy, and that is how he is planning to build his team. Lets not forget that Marinelli has a SB Ring (with Tampa) and knows what it's like to be there, and how to get there.

The implications that the Lions had/were changing their draft strategies first started appearing early in the season, and came out even more during the losing streak, and then heading into the off season. At one point, Millen came out and acknowledged that Rod Marinelli had changed the way they looked at the draft. Essentially, he intimated that WCF (and thus Millen) had placed the major emphasis of research and drafting on who had the most talent and athleticism, and choosing the BPA. But they did not put much consideration into the character traits. Rod has pushed that the first thing is football character, work ethic, and love of football. And then pick the most talented men off that list.

No matter the field, a person with a little less talent and a lot more drive will go much further than the guy with the best talent, but no motivation. It may sound elemental, but looking at the history of the Draft as a whole, you will see teams that make the character mistake time and time again because they are lured by the "what if" of potential. For every character questions guy that succeeds, 3 times as many bust spectacularly, and at least twice that never live up to the dreaded "P" word, and end up at the same or lower level as the less talented, more motivated players.

Now, the second half of the phrase drew more one liner quick jabs, but is less obvious in some of its meanings, and, IMHO, more important than the first. To begin with, if you don't drink coffee, or never have, then you will not understand this at all. Just a warning.

I've been a habitual coffee drinker since the age of 12. (Seriously) I started out with instant coffee because its, well, instant and I was 12. Powder, water, drink, done. Quick, easy. But the quality...well, lets just say that if you don't care what crap you drink so long as it is caffeinated, then Instant is fine. Or in a pinch.

The difference between instant and percolated coffee (done right) is the difference between boxed wines at the grocery mart, and an aged French Merlot...Budweiser in a can and a premium Lager fresh from the tap.

Instant coffee is putting powder in a cup, and trying to get it to dissolve together. If it isn't right, you throw in some more powder, and hope it helps. (it usually doesn't) -- then you try adding things like creamers and sugars, and french vanilla creamers hoping it helps more. In the end, you still can tell that those not-quite dissolved particles are there. It doesn't mesh.

Brewing a good pot of coffee (percolating it) involves getting the right mix of coffee blend(s) in the filter, and then methodically adding the water to bring out the flavoring you desire. It takes more planning, more patience, and more time. But in the end, you have a base that is a cohesive whole, and has a much better, much more directed flavor than instant.

There are other interesting Rod Marinelli beliefs in there as well. A team is made up of individuals, but individuals don't always make a team. A player is like a cup of coffee - a team is like a pot of coffee. How many times have you ever made a pot of instant coffee. It just doesn't work out. To make a halfway decent CUP of instant coffee isn't too hard -- but to fill a pot of coffee - a roster - and get something that is good is a much different proposition. Denver has been using FA to make up for poor drafting for a few years, and it finally really caught up to them last year. Baltimore, same thing. Atlanta as well. Rod knows that making a flash in the pan can be done instantly (maybe) under the right circumstances, but that the team will be worse off in the long run. (salary cap, lack of youth, dependence on overpaying FA)

Oakland went to the Super Bowl on a roster of mostly FA and guys at the end of their career. They have a worse record than the Lions in the time since. It worked one year, and then collapsed. Rod knows that in the salary cap era a team as talentless as the Lions were when he arrived cannot be fixed in one, two, or even just three off seasons. It takes time.

I've seen many comments about how teams "turn it around" from lousy to contender in one or two seasons. BULL. If you look at those teams, they started putting the core pieces in place earlier, and started making the more high-profile moves in the latter stages of the process--when they begin to really improve and other teams and the media finally take notice of what is going on. But they never seem to look back. I am going to look into and prove my point with a post or two on some of these "miracle" teams -- how they got there, how long they stayed, and how they did it.

While to each their own, I'll take a brewed pot of coffee any day. And in case you are wondering, but the time I was 13 I was getting up early so I could put on a fresh pot of coffee every day. I even saved up my own money and bought a 4 cup coffee pot -- because nothing beats a nice fresh pot of well brewed coffee -- and if Rod brews a good team for the Lions, not many teams will beat them either.

Dearborn RIP - Pope Marinelli

Nobsnubber - glad you explained the origin of the choo-choo Jokes on M-live (and here). I like to throw comedy in, and he had a heck of a wit. I looked through my files and found a post he made last July. It rightly summed up the sentiment of many fans about how the Lions would do -- and really highlights how high above expectations they performed last season, when all was said and done. So an after-St.Patty's-Day Pint in honor of Dearborn, and his sharp, creative wit. You are missed.

"Just imagine if Rod Marinelli starred in Liar Liar and had to be totally honest at a press conference:

Q: How do you think the Lions will do this year?
Marinelli: Look, we were lucky to go 3-13 last year, and my best defensive lineman is about to get suspended for mishandling a stripper...How do you even do that? My GM rides a short bus to Ford Field, finger paints with his own poop, and likes to draft receivers because he says "Dey run fast like choo choo!!!" In two years I've tried every offensive lineman outside of Norm from Cheers and they still get pushed around more than all the shopping carts at WalMart combined.
Worse, my best running back is barely able to jog, I can't find a return man, my defensive coordinator has never defensively coordinated a game in his life, and I can't fire him if he's awful because if I do my daughter will break my balls, my speed rushers have no speed, and my secondary made significant improvement in the off-season when we drafted Mr. Irrelevant.
Look, all I've got is one pro receiver and a promising rookie wideout and a 35 year old quarterback that does an above-average job of throwing at them right before getting a good ass kicking. And worst of all, with this pile of garbage I have to keep repeating at every friggin' press conference that we're looking for "character guys" so no one rips the front office for failing to consistently bring in talent.

So you want to know how I think we'll do? We'll bust our asses until we are so busted we have a line halfway to Kansas with guys on the IR list with busted asses, then we'll lose another boatload of games and I'll have to stand up here and pretend we're going in the right direction even though I know I'm going nowhere until my GM gets hit by a train and I can start trying to run a football team for once.

If this team wins 5 games I should be appointed Pope Marinelli. "

Still makes me laugh. Looking at it though, heading into the draft -- Millen may not have been hit by a train, but it does look like he is letting Rod run a football team for once.

Have an enjoyable day fellows! BTW - I did this as a post versus a comment because I cannot post comments at work - only blog entries. Speaking of - Adios til this evening!

Go Lions! Go "Pope" Marinelli! (7-9)

Monday, March 17, 2008

thoughts on your comments...

I have been horrible about commenting on your comments - my apologies. I do read them as they float in during the day, but usually don't have time to respond. (They come to my work email, so they are a nice quick break during the day between appointments.)

First of all, I am glad that pretty much all of you realized that my last post was not what I would do, but a scenario I can see the Lions doing and why, based on what we know their opinions of their current personnel are. Most "mocks" are a mockery - to logic and thought. Especially on fan sites who seem to think the other 31 teams are Morons (which, unless you are a Raiders fan right now, is at least 1/31 correct.)

After reading your comments, developments around the league, etc. -- I thought I'd update a few things. First of all, despite the somewhat negative scouting reports (thanks to whoever posted those - very helpful) I still think a player like Benedict is who the Lions will target in round 3. While it may not be him, it will be a player like him. someone who has the ability to compete for the RT position, but could be a possibility for LT. If not, they target one next year to upgrade over Backus.

Also, remember I assumed Williams and Mendenhall were both gone. Should Williams be there, I would not be against the Lions taking him. HOWEVER -- I think (personally) that DT Balmer and Lofton are two player the Lions want. Balmer will be gone before the end of round 1. If Mendenhall or Williams is there at 15, I think the Lions will be able to find a trade partner.

Trading into the 2nd with their #2 3rd and 5th is a possibility, as well as getting back into the 3rd by packaging their 4th and a 6th.

I was also looking at the latest statements coming out fo the Allen Park Asylum, and think I may have been wrong about the Oline -- the Lions may not even target it until round 4+ again...
I talked before about how they feel the current line can start. I think they also want a season to see how the current line performs when they are not always defending 7-step drops so they can tell where the real strengths and weaknesses are, and what type of O-lineman they need -- and what position(s). Again, just what I'm projecting the Lions may do.

I can see DT, MLB, OLB, RB as their top concerns. They could do this:

1. Balmer DT
2. Lofton MLB
3. RB (forte, rice et al)
3. Woodley OLB

I have seen on recent mocks that with Stewart out of the picture, Rivers has actually been falling toward the end of round one, possibly into the beginning of round 2. So what if the Lions can trade back to say, 22 with Dallas for the 22nd and 3rd. Package the 2nd and 4th to get into the 26-28th pick, then package the second 3rd and a 5th to get a 2nd 2nd again.

1. Balmer DT
1. Rivers OLB
2. Lofton MLB
2. RB (Johnson?)
3. CB

Now I'm dreaming, but even though it lacks an additional O-Lineman, that draft would put the Defense on one heck of a solid footing, as well as filling the need at RB. And those trades are realistic -- think of the Roy W. -KJ year. Millen started that year with only one pick each round, and there is little hope of trading out of the top 5. He still got two ones without giving up future picks, or his 2nd rounder.

Draft scenarios can be fun, but it is still all speculation.

As for the supposed 10 mil in cap space, did anyone else notice at least two of their FA signed the same day the Lions released Kennedy, Kalimba and Jones? Now, I said last week I wasn't sure where they were getting all the cap space from to sign those guys (even though it wasn't a large amount.) Now I think we know. I wouldn't plan on spending that 10 mil yet.

I don think they want to have space to bring in guys that are june 1 cap cuts. While there have been a few years of slim-pickings in that market, there are a few guys who will be formerly too high-priced for their current team (such as KJ) out there on the market to be had this off season. I think June 1 is getting to be a better time because of the stupidly huge contracts being given to mediocre guys who don't turn into above average players, just stay average players with fatter wallets.

Good quote I like to see:
The Detroit News, March 17: "None, zero – he is here," Marinelli said when asked about the possibility of trading Williams.
Marinelli expects Williams and Calvin Johnson, the Lions' first-round pick last year, to be one of the league's best receiving tandems.
"I think of them being elite players in the league," Marinelli said. "I see those two guys taking off."

In the past few years, it seems like the Lions (and their fans) figured everyone under contract who was any good would leave Detroit. This sends me the message that Rod is serious about winning, and knows that other teams have managed to keep two top receivers on their Roster, and that the Lions can too. If they progress like I'm thinking and have a shot at the playoffs, they will not only want to keep Roy, he will be more inclined to stay.

I hope they at least start negotiating with him soon, even if they don't get the deal done til later into the season, just so he knows they care and so that he is still contract-year motivated.

I did see the ridiculous article indicating over "20 teams" interested in KJ. I have posted my opinion on Mlive, but will briefly do so here: 20 teams may look at him...for the Veteran minimum. Oh, maybe a few voidable (by the club) years thrown in, with lots of playing time incentives that will never be earned, or -- if he looks like he is recovering well, will be renegotiated. Basically, a contract that pays KJ the minimum unless he fully recovers and becomes the back he showed flashes of in Detroit in the half dozen or so games he played in uninjured. Period. Numbers do not mean dollars. There will be no "bidding war" for his services. Obviously, the Lions looked at what he would produce, knew he would be at the end of his contract next year, what he was costing and made the right call for once regardless of where he was drafted. It's about the team now, not the draft in the past.

I also agree with nobsnubber who indicated (I think rightly so) that they used KJ on the roster to drive down Bell's price, even though they knew they would be cutting KJ in a day or two. For once, they bargained to their advantage, and then dropped him.

At 2.4 mil a year and not being able to pass a physical -- no team was trading for him. Not even a 7th.

I'm not surprised they couldn't trade Kalimba, but I was a bit taken they didn't try to peddle Kennedy. My guess is they did and there were no takers, and not enough interest to warrant keeping him til draft day. Millen has done well with draft day trades, and getting picks for marginal players -- so if there was anything to be gotten, I do actually think the Lions would have done it rather than get nothing in return.

Well, This post was kind of all over, and I'm not sure how many of your comments I really hit. I'm still a bit tired (as I'm sure you can tell.)

Lots of good thoughts on possible players to fill holes on the Lions for their draft slots, so I have been re-reading those. Good thoughts on Marinelli and his approach and personality. Think I'll write a bit more about "the plan" sometime this week. As soon as my super-secret Lionel from Allen Park arrives with the documents...(I'm not an "insider" - that was purely a joke, just like this Blog is purely fact-based logical speculation. Something I am told is being introduced into Allen Park with varying degrees of success by this guy named Rod...)

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Which came First: the Backer or the Line?

The obvious answer is: the line, of course. Now, consdering the discussions on differing fan forums, and in articles the last few days, you may think this means I am advocating taking an OT in round one. I'm not.

So, you say, you hath joined the forces of Glitz and are gunning for a RB? Ummm...Wrong again.

Hey there buddy, if you aren't advocating a RB or an OT in round one, then what the heck is up with the title? You teasing? Work too darn many hours on Friday and Saturday (thus no blog yesterday)? Glare from those Pink Lions hoodies makin ya loopy?

The answer: Probably all of the above. Actually, I think they should take an OT and then a the 3rd round. This is an idea in its early stages, and it depends on how the draft plays out.

Let me elaborate, and you'll see what I mean. First of all, lets look at the Lions need areas:
MLB, OT, RB, Dline

At pick 15, the top DE are projected to be long gone, but Harvey may be left on the board. Possibility, but DE rarely start their first year -- and didn't they draft Alama-Francis in the 2nd last year to do just that -- learn the D for a year while they gave Kalimba his final shot at starting? If it weren't for a hamstring injury, and the fact that they took it easy bringing him back in so they didn't damage him long term, he would likely have seen a lot of playing time last season. He is already, if I am correct, penciled in as the starter at end opposite White. So even if the Lions draft a DE, he wouldn't start unless he beats out either White or 5-0, which isn't likely. I don't like the idea of a 1st rounder a on guy who won't contribute much year one.

Next, MLB -- the only real 1st round MLB is...umm...well, really, even Connors isn't one. He is projected to be able to play MLB in the NFL, but hasn't, really. End of the First to mid-round one is where the best MLB prospects - Lofton and Mayo, with Goff likely in the late second, poss early third, are projected to go. None of the teams drafting before Detroit in the 2nd has a real need at MLB; in fact, the Lions are one of the few teams running the 4-3 that Lofton/Mayo seems to fit that are looking for a MLB in the earliest rounds at all. So one of the top two is likely to be present when they make their second pick. So put down MLB for round two. Well, that still leaves the Lions with round 1.

How about RB? The glamor pick. I think either someone will be stupid and either A. Trade ahead of the Lions for Mendenhall, since they rightly believe Millen is stupid enough to take him after releasing KJ, or B. Will trade WITH Millen after he convinces them he will pick him if they don't. I'm hoping scenario B., but since I don't want to throw trades into this mix, I'll go with A. Even if B occurs, I feel (and hope the Lions do) that there will be quality RB who can fit their needs in round 3 -- including the following names I've heard such as Rice, and so far my favorite, Matt Forte RB out of Tulane. (I'm still reasearching this, so feel free to throw in your own suggestions.) He is likey to be there in round 3 for either of the Lions' picks. So I'm going to thow him on their first pick since they really do have to get a RB by the end of the third.

Umm...that still leaves the Lions with that pesky 1st rounder. Whatever to do? Keep on trucking down the list of needs I

Oline -- this is an interesting one. The Bears are as slow or slower than the Lions to admit mistakes. They have Cedric Benson, are paying him lots of dough, and if they draft antoher back would have to admit they both made a mistake drafting Benson AND practically giving Thomas Jones to the Jets a year ago. As you know, My boss is a huge Chicago fan and while he'd like to see them take a RB or QB, he thinks the Bears are convinced (likely rightly so) that what they really need is...a young OT to shore up the line. They feel an improvement on the line will make Benson look a lot better, as many of their Oline are getting long in the tooth (for the record, he feels they're going with a WR in round two because they just plain don't have any outside of Marty Booker [yes that Marty Booker of Chicago past.]) Why the long Bears dialogue? Because what I've been seeing looking at not only mock drafts, but team fan sites says that Williams or Otah will be there at 14 -- but not both. And whoever is there, the Bears will take. They prefer Williams. Otah, from what I've seen and read, is a little less than motivated, has trouble with his weight, and well...take Aaron Gibson's career description, swap out the names, and that's what I'm coming up with so far. While this sounds like a perfect Millen 15?

we could take a look at other OT names I've seen bandied about but the one that seems to intrigue me the most is..Heath Benedict. Redshirted at Tenn, had elbow surgery (related to when he was a pro-pitching prospect) and was played at DT, OG, and OT. Transferred to Newberry where he was an outstanding RT. I've seen some unverified reports (I'm not an ESPN, Scouts Inc etc insider, so if anyone knows where to get good profiles, eval on guys, I'd appreciate. Without the dough.) that he was drilled at LT at the combine, and did pretty well. He seems to be a hard worker, and also seems to be pretty smart. I advocate the Lions targeting him with their second third round pick, or trading up in the 3rd to get him if necessary. (Gotcha, didn't I? How many didn't catch on that I wasn't talking about 1st round prospects anymore. Seriously, I'm not that crazy.)

The Lions current starting lineup at Oline of Backus-Mulitalo/Ramierez-Raiola-Peterman-Scott, with the new offensive schemes, seems to me that it could hold up for this year. Although, I can see Benedict pressing Scott to start at RT with a healthy competition between the two, resulting of them winning the LT position from Backus as his skills continue their steady decline from good lineman, to decent, to medicore, to hope like heck one of those guys beats him out before then!! Scott was a 5th round pick with lots of potential, and I think he was really starting well before the thumb injury last season. After what he went through with a 7-step drop long developing pass play every down his first season, RT or even LT with a running game and some 3-5 step srops should be a breeze.

Now, remeber before calling me a complete idiot that this is just one idea. I'm the kind of guy who likes to look at things form all angles. Sometimes, you come up with ideas that seem crazy at first, but the more you look at them, the more the line between "crazy" and "genius" disappears. And if you are Mike Martz, you forget the distinction exists and get last year's Lions Offense.

What about that first pick? Have you forgotten all about it? Right now our first three rounds are:

1. ???
2. Lofton/Mayo
3. Benedict
3. Forte/Rice/Other RB who can break tackles with halfay decent speed
4+ not the point of this post.

I would dearly love to see the Lions trade back either later in the first round, but not past 23 or do the following. Even if they stay at 15, and yes, it would be a reach, I would like to look at one last position:

DT -- Right now they have Moore, Cody (who is more a DE/DT hybrid), Redding and Darby. Now, assuming they do NOT draft a DE as proposed above, move Cody back into the rotation at DE with Cory Smith, White, 5-0 -- and you have an opening for a starting (I see there being 3 starting DT in the T2, as rotation is necessary to keep them fresh enough to provide pressure.)

And the winner is...Kentwan Balmer. What I've read on the kid, his stats seem low because he is a run stopper, and was taken out on 3rd and long or other passing downs his first three years. He seems to be a big run stuffer, and would be the type of guy you'd need to guys to block if he tries to go up the gut. He's big (not Rogers big) at 308 and would be the perfect type of guy to learn from, and eventually replace Darby and play hard next to Redding. And as a 1st round pick, he would contribute his first year by rotating in on the line and spelling Darby, who plays all out but, as he is getting up in age, and will need to be rested a bit. (as if the coaches aren't used to that with S. Rog, minus age and planning.) He is rated as the third best DT, but isn't expected to make it past Carolina, who desperately needs a DT to replace the oft-injured and recently traded Kris Jenkins.

So if you fill him into the equation, the Lions would:
  1. Be starting IAF at DE
  2. Have an additional young starting DT to pair with Redding and learn from Darby
  3. Have a 3rd starting caliber OT to create competition, and give the Lions a stronger Oline due to the competition, and the increase in talent and youth. Have Benedict and Scott as starting OT within 1-2 seasons, or see improved play from Backus to hold them off. (as Rod showed with KJ, no one is safe.)
  4. Have a stud young RB to compete with Bell, Calhoun, and Cason and likely win the #2 role early, and possibly unseat Bell as starter by midseason -- if an injured KJ can do it, I have no doubt a 3rd rounder in this draft (which in weaker years, I am told, would be rated as low 1st early 2nd round talent) can do it.
  5. Have a solid young MLB who, yes, will have growing pains early -- but could be solid in the middle of line for years to come. We may even see Paris Hilt..I mean, Lenon in the MLB for one more year, or more likely, half a season as the rookie rotates in and learns, before he (Lenon) moves to his natural position at SLB. The Lions can then upgarde over him as a starter next draft, and keep him on as a backup to the SLB and MLB positions.

Okay, I'm ready. Bash away at this long-winded, but well thought out scenario. One thing you will see I go for is A. Feasability of the Lions doing it, and B. Reality of the players and/or trades being available.

Rod is a Dline guy at heart, and he knows that it takes a year or two to learn the position well. Darby may have just barely that much left in the tank, so he needs to get a starting possibility at DT in this draft. White is younger, so he can look for another DE later this draft or more likely next year.

You saw it here first. And possibly only here, and no where else again.

Didn't I promise fun draft sceanrios? Let me know what you think of my idea here, and other players you would pick at positions I outlined, etc. Or, place your own sceanrio here, but please try to keep in within the realms of possiblity. And just one more request: NO senario involving Roy W. trades. They are going to try to sign him long-term, or franchise him. Their offense is (still) going to be centered around the downfield threat opening up the run, play action, and slant routes, and for that to work in this NFL you need 2 top receivers, not 1. I've seen some pretty silly ones out there. (RW Trade speculation/suggestions) I'm sure you have too.

As I've said before, I'll try to poast nightly, but this is just a hobby for me, so sometimes I won't be able to. Glad everyone seems to be enjoying this blog, and appreciate all of you taking the time to read my ideas -- whether this is your first visit or your 30th. Keep up the great comments and critique.

Favorite Catch Phrase (from pitbull78 on Mlive): "If you build it, they can run."

funniest thing I've read in a long time: (In reference to Jon Kitna's shirt in his recent interview) "Posted by MHip on 03/14/08 at 6:38PM --3:16...obviously a reference to the average yards the Lions face on 3rd down."

Go Lions!!