Monday, June 30, 2008

Broken Ninjas

I was sitting here this evening, performing surgery. It's my weekly "fix broken toys night". My girls have a variety of different toys that they really like, including some of mine that are a bit older from when I was a kid.

Occasionally they break, and of course, they think Daddy is the James Andrews of toy repair, and that they will all be good as new. Some close, some...not so close.

As I was drilling, taping, etc. it occured to me that their toys are like NFL players. They have their favorites, which change on occasion due to passing fancy. However, the one thing that can instantly end the career of any toy (or player) is injury.

Take the dollar-store ninjas. They were a buck each, and they are the favorite toy of my youngest (they are just right to be "tall" guys for her little princess dolls. And to beat up Dinosaurs trying to kidnap the damsel in distress). However, as dollar toys do, they tend to break fairly easy.

When they break, I have two options: Dump em in the trash, or fix them. I usually try to fix them first, but after a while it gets ridiculous. One ninja has one leg at the thigh and the knee taped in place, both elbows, and his neck to keep his head from falling off. I nicknamed him "Kevin Jones" for continually surviving injury.

The Ninjas are not a big deal when they break because they only cost a buck. Thus, I am not as concerned as when, say my nephew's $30 Buzz Lightyear fell apart after a week. Less expensive players that are injury risks, such as dollar ninjas (guys at vet minimum), are a better risk than a Shaun Alexander $30 Buzz Lightyear that has a propensity to look good a first, but break as soon as its used. Much more money down the drain -- in getting it, and trying to fix it. But it sure does look neat coming out of the box!

Also, sometimes they can be repaired as good as new, other times they are still very usable, but a little more limited, other times...well, they are the Kevin Everett of toys. They survive, but they aren't going to be hitting anyone ever again without falling apart permanently.

Once again, Lions players came to mind tonight. Ernie Sims had some minor surgery on his shoulder -- kind of like the ninja whose arm had fallen off, but nothing was broken. I managed to pry it back on, and it works just as well as it always did -- even though, eventually, it will break down.

KJ came to mind when I was taping up a ninja I had previously repaired. First, his knee came off. The first time, I put it back on, good as new (almost) -- but it was a little loose. Then his other knee came off and I tried to do the same thing. That one broke while repairing, so I had to pull out the cool ninja-looking electrical tape. While he didn't have as much movement (only one leg bent at the knee) he still had his arms and his other leg, so while he'd never quite be the same, he was still quite usable. Unfortunately, this same ninja came in second best to an old Godzilla Nemesis -- buzz-saw belly (don't know the real name) and broke off both arms at the elbows. I tried to repair, but the pins were broke, so it was more tape. Oh, sure, he could still do the job, and had a mean stiff-arm now, but he was only an injury or two away from being tossed aside. So what happened today? He was sitting on the counter, and a pot of spaghetti accidentally got set on him. No melting, but his leg (with the bad knee) broke at the thigh, and his head broke off at the neck. Now, since he is my daughters only Green Ninja, here I am tonight, having taped on his head and his leg at the thigh. He has made yet another comeback -- but he is nowhere near the Ninja she had to start with. His right leg doesn't move at the thigh or knee, his other knee is ready to fall off, neither arm bends at the elbow anymore, and he can't turn his head.

He is usable, but barely.

And how much more money in tape am I going to spend on him? If he were the $30 Buzz I might hang onto the the toy longer... say, like through two major injuries and lots of minor ones like a GM does with first round draft picks...but a dollar ninja?

Interesting side note: My nephew got two Buzz Lightyears -- one big one, and one we got him for about $5 bucks. It didn't have a lot of fancy features, just a good solid figure that moved pretty well, and was an off brand that still looked enough like Buzz to please my nephew. "Big Buzz" has wings that fall off his back when you put them away, his arm chop doesn't chop - it falls off when you press the button, and his bubble helmet falls off if you tip him upside down: He is more like a dollar ninja than big money toy now. Not worth a whole helluva lot, but a lot more wasted money down the drain. "Almost Buzz" has been used harder, and is still in perfect shape -- the fake Buzz is going stronger because he was built for using, not for show. Funny...Millen skipped the $30 Buzz that looked good in the box in the draft and went for the $5 Dollar Off-Brand Action Figure that can get the job done. Lesson learned - don't overspend on high-use toys. You're just out more money when they break.

Basically, in the NFL, there are a lot of different injuries. There are the Screw came loose, but it can be replaced and almost as good as new. Then, there's the it needs to be worked on, but it the end it works close to the same. Finally, there are those injuries where the player may be useful, but they are not at all what they once were. And odds on are, the further down the line a player or a toy gets, the more likely it is they will have the last, final injury that sends them to the scrap heap.

Kevin Jones, S. Alexander, and Daunte Culpepper are examples of broken Buzz Lightyears to me: They held promise - but injuries have made them less than what they were -- and more fragile. Sure, they can still be useful to a team -- at a buck a pop; they are no longer $30 Buzz Lightyears, or even $5 Action Figures - they are $1 ninjas: possibly useful in certain situations, plentiful, cheap, and prone to breaking. The only thing I wonder is: Do they know it yet?

Saturday, June 28, 2008

DetFan1979 Defends Lions vs 49ers

Here is an interesting story in which a SF writer predicts that SF will be 2-1 after beating the Lions...and also refers to Boss Bailey as our biggest ifseason loss. Your humble blogger, being a real prick at times, couldn't resist responding. I'll post my response below in case a moderator there decided he couldn't handle the truth, or decides to edit it a bit:

DetFan1979: Not really sure you "know thine enemy" if you are only reading pride of detroit. I write a well respected Lions blog, and there are some good things on Martz's offense you can chew over, and then write about after you find out they're right (unless he has totally changed, which I doubt.)

BTW - Boss Bailey was barely holding his starting job, when healthy (which wasn't very often) and the Lions gladly let him go. If anything, S. Rogers would have to be the "biggest" offesason loss, but one that was made up for with the additions of Fluellen and Darby -- Mentee and Mentor. Half the Dline was injured (Redding and White) in the Denver game, precipitating a dropoff compounded by a much tougher second half schedule than first.

BTW -- if you think Martz will suddenly mold Alex Smith into a passing machine, why don't you take a look at how wonderful he did with Drew Stanton, and all the great ways he helped Dan Orlovsky...or maybe not. If Alex Smith struggles early, be ready for JTO to be starting, not holding a clipboard. But you don't have to take my word for it...just wait and see.

One other point is while it is easy to take pot-shots at Millen, Marinelli is weilding more influence. And have you looked at Nolan's drafts? And your FA pickups? How is Nate Clements, the 80 million dollar man working out? Neither Franchise has exactly been stellar in personnel moves since 2001, in case you hadn't noticed. At least the Lions have improved in that area over the last couple of years. Could be a good game, or really lopsided either direction as the Lions have been very inconsistent on the road the last two years, while building wins mainly at home. However, by that time I'm banking on Martz having the 49ers Offense as confused as he had the Lions Offense. Throw in the fact the Detroit Defense will know how to defend it better than SF knows how to run it, and all signs point to a Lions victory.

The Lions had dismal rushing yards because they were also last in the league in attempts -- but in the top third of the league for YPC. There is no real knowledge of how well the Lions O-Line will run block...because for the last two years, they really haven't.

So get ready to hear about how it's the WR running wrong routes led to the had to keep passing because the game was just a shootout because of the D when the game could have been close...Frank Gore to be ticked at his "role reduction" while he "learns the offense" and loses carries to A. Cason after SF picks him up off the waiver wire when Det cuts him later in the ifseason because "he knows the offense"...lots of 3 and outs keeping the D on the field tiring them out...a huge number of sacks...and a few dazzling plays now and then. (it isn't all bad)

Be ready for your O-line to suddenly drop to "worst" in the league in every measureable category. Don't worry -- If Alex Smith doesn't play his way into JTO (a Martz favorite) starting, he'll likely get knocked there after about his 15th seven step drop in a row, 5 of which will be sacks. Oh, and since your owner isn't as patient as WCF -- at least you can also look forward to a new front office and coaching staff next year. June 28, 6:47 PM

Thursday, June 26, 2008

What is Simple? Complicated!

After commenting on Drunken Radio Show Hosts (Sorry, still pissed at Huge for misrepresenting Cherilus’ situation.) I decided to dive back into some real football talk again for a change. It’s real easy to get sidetracked in the ifseason – especially in this lull before camp.

Before reading this post, be sure you have read (or re-read if necessary) this article on “What is Simple?” AND all the corresponding comments below the story on Schema and base memorization.

CanOpener had an interesting comment on there that segues perfectly into my next block on the Offense:

"Simple" is disguising plays by having a running back out there and not let the opposing team know exactly when you are going to run or throw the ball. Any team in the NFL could tell if we were going to run or pass. My biggest problem with Mike Martz was he should have had the running back out there more often to disguise plays.A running back that can block will help us.
June 23, 2008 2:10 PM

Lets go back to my sales techniques for a moment. We already established that I have basic schema that I use. However, the next step from using one, is stringing them together to lead a conversation to where you want it to go. I also have many phrases that can set me up to go in 5 or 6 different directions, depending on how the customer responds – or keep things progressing while I figure out what the heck to do next if I’ve screwed up, or things aren’t going well for any number of reasons. This is like a standard two back set. There are HUNDREDS of plays that can be run from a simple two back set. And, it your offense is balanced enough, the Defense really doesn’t know what’s coming. In trying to defend everything, they end up defending nothing. And there you have the New England Patriots offense in 2008. 85% of the snaps from a 2 back set. (statistic source questionable, but even if off, a look still shows that they ran a majority of plays from a simple two back set.)

What makes the Martz offense so fragile is that it is too simple and complex. It is simple in that it is made up of a number system, with easy to know routes. IF A, Then B. So Roy knows Kitna is going to throw him the ball. Where it gets hard is the "where"? There are often over a dozen variations of "if" Roy actually gets the ball, and "where" Roy runs, where the offensive line blocks, who everyone picks up, etc. for EACH POSITION that changes based on what the Defense does. The quarterback is not changing plays at the line of scrimmage because the play itself totally changes depending on what the defense is going to do.

So in my example above, all 11 men on the offense, without any communication, all have to predict what the customer is going to do -- and which phrase to use -- in unison. So they all have to make the same read. Now, in the simplest of cases, this can work quite well. Also, if the opposition doesn't know what you are doing, it can work. But it still always, every play, requires all 11 men to be thinking the exact same thing. If they are not -- the play falls apart.

If a defense knows this, which pretty much every defense in the league does now, then they can pretty easily throw the timing and "guesses" of the offense off pretty easily. Not adapting his system is part of why Martz got canned from St. Louis where they "simplified" it a couple of years ago to focus more on the run...and look what happened there. Disaster, right? Oh yeah...that's right, when they had a team (last they had WAY too many injuries to judge) Steven Jackson racked up yards while Bulger threw all over the place at will because teams were killed by the dual threat or them being able to -- offensively -- murder you on the ground or in the air. You had to pick your offensive death -- Air or Ground?

What Martz didn't do toward the end in St. Louis, and didn't do in Detroit, is keep the balance between ground and air -- which essentially eliminated half the defense's job. So they could focus on disrupting pass plays. Add in a QB who 8 of 10 plays was taking a 7 step drop -- and you have a lock on what the "offense" is doing -- but since the defense is changing up looks, the offense has a harder time working in unison. "Rhythm" is very important -- yet missing from the Lions offense were all of the quick, deadly passes that Warner picked apart defenses with to soften them up for the long bombs, or play-action runs -- Martz made like he was playing Madden on the PC and aired it up all the time.

So if it was so flawed, why did it look so good? The answer is this: Say the team thinks exactly the same, or similar enough about a third of the time -- since they are almost always going to for the high-risk big play, there is crap-crap-Dazzle-crap. But what happens when it's not clicking? Just replay the last 7 games last season -- especially Arizona -- and you will see.

The offense had no stock stories or phrases -- nothing they could do to progress, or at least tread water, while hitting the "reset" button and getting back into a groove. Word is the Lions would practice dozens of plays each week -- and then not use those combinations at all in games on Sunday. What is the point, then, of practice?

Quite often, that which is most complicated is easiest to stop, while that which is simplest is often unstoppable.

Martz’s offense was like a finely crafted gigantic Swiss clockwork traditional watch. Sure, the creator is a genius. It works in ways no other man can totally visualize. And all you have to do is screw up one tiny pin and the whole dang thing blows up on you. It was too complicated. Add in that he was using the same make, model, serial number watch on every play, and the offense got easier to predict as the season went on, despite its intricacy.

Rising floodwaters, on the other hand, are pretty simple. Lots of water. Coming your way. By the river. Sure, you know they’re coming - and from where. You think you know about how high they’ll get, and where they’ll go first and how quickly. But you can’t sandbag everything, and the flood can still break the Levies. While you can stop some of it some of the time, you can’t stop all of it all of the time.

The Lions are really going from the Swiss Watch offense to the Flood Offense. Run-Pass-Pretend to run then pass-Pass-Run-Run-pretend to pass then run-repeat. They don’t need to run around in circles on the offensive side of the ball before the snap to confuse the offense (that was not a typo – think a moment and it will come to you) – they just need to come out in the same formation and run 10 different plays to confuse the defense – which spot do you sandbag, and what do you leave open to the floodwaters? Or will their neck-breakin Oline just bust through the levee? (had to throw that one in there because it sounds awesome in a non-bar-brawl-setting)

The problem last year wasn’t that a back was not on the field to “disguise” the play – it’s that everyone knew the back was always a decoy, and thus ignored him.

I think of the fable of the boy who cried Wolf! Only, Martz had “The Back who showed Run!”. For the first 6 games or so, teams saw “The Back who cried Run!” And thought, gee – even though the QB is always taking 7-step drops and passing deep, we better keep guys in place to defend the run, just in case. No one is that stupid. Same as the villagers who came running when the boy cried wolf, time after time. Then, after too many times of “The back who cried Run!” standing around doing nothing (not even being held back to block – so sorry Can, a back who could block wouldn’t have helped last year – they were constantly pretending to run, or sent out on pass patterns, or standing around watching the QB get plastered as if that is the way the play was written) teams figured out the following truth: The Lions offense was that stupid. They figured out that if they just pulled a pin, or stuffed a gear, the Lions Swiss watch would grind to a halt. So screw the levies and turn off the water at the main. (hit the QB in the 15 seconds before the the play "develops" down field) And the offense got eaten alive, just like the boy in the fable when the Villagers figured out he was full of crap.

The Lions offense will have versatility – they can see how the D is reacting and hop out of a bad play, or take advantage of mistakes by the D. And they will run enough balanced plays from their base formations to be able to keep teams honest.

At least, this what think we will see IF things go as planned… IF not…

Just remember, keep in mind the Ifseason is about wondering IF… the season is about proving IF is true. Will the Lions be a flood, a puddle, or another broken watch? Only the season can answer that IF…

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

FFB Update - One Spot Left in Annual League!!

There is just one spot left in the Annual Redraft 12-team pay league. Cost is $15. Email me if you are serious about it -- first come, first filled.

The Dynasty Prize league is currently full. If you would like to be on a waiting list for possible openings next year, or if someone needs to drop out before the season, email me. The current annual cost on that league is also $15.

Thanks all!

Go Lions!!!

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

DUI: Dizon Under the Influence?

As reported in a Colorado newspaper, Jordan Dizon is being charged with suspicion of DUI stemming from an arrest about 6 days prior to the draft. I've seen a lot floating around out there, good and bad, true and not, so I thought I would clarify what I can confirm.

First of all, he was not "driving" the wrong way down a one way street as many articles indicate -- he was parked facing opposite the one way after swinging around and parking to pick someone up. The officers never observed him driving.

No Cedric Benson rampages
No Lance Briggs crashing his Lamborghini and fleeing
No Bills RB lynch fleeing the scene after running someone over and then refusing to speak with police
No Javon Kearse weaving all over creation, running red lights and weaving about the road
No Leonard Little going 90 mph and killing someone
No Koren Robinson leading police on a high-speed chase

Also keep in mind before we judge, that re-tests on samples in Colorado conducted on back-up samples currently have a 15% rate of error -- meaning the original test was incorrect about 15% of the time. However, in Colorado, if you are "drunk" and the police believe that you have driven within 2 hours, you can still be arrested, charged, and convicted of DUI. (from Colorado Law section 42-4-1301{revised})

I also corresponded with a friend of mine who is in law enforcement, and had the following to offer:

47 states are now .08. Michigan used to be .10, but lowered the legal limit as National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), suggested that states do so.

The deal with Mr. Dizon will be in the definitions they use (Colorado) in the legal language. In Michigan, the person behind the wheel of a car is called an operator. If the car is operated and in a place accessible to the public, you are an operator. If you are over the legal limit, you are drunk driving, or OWI (Operating While Intoxicated, used to be OUIL-Operating Under Influence of Liquor or OUID (Drugs))).

Now, drunk on a road-OWI. Drunk, passed out in a drive way - grey area. Did the car leave a roadway? After an accident? Yes. OWI. No? Not OWI as the vehicle wasn't operated. Court cases.

1. Drunk, passed out at a drive thru of a fast food joint, car in drive, but foot on brake. Subject was drunk, place was accessible to general public, and the vehicle had been operated/still operating (or how else would he have gotten there) by the driver---OWI.

2. Drunk, passed out. Car running in a parking lot; subject says it was cold, car started for heat, never operated and he wasn't driving. No OWI.

Now, the big question is what he (DIZON) told police. Police already stated at the Preliminary Exam, they never saw him operating the vehicle. If Dizon said he drove there and parked and hadn't consumed anything since he parked---OWI in Michigan. If they don't have all three things, I'm sure he'll challenge. One, someone else could've drove. Two, he could've been drinking inside the apartment, and was getting ready to go, but never did. Or three, could've drove there, parked the car (sober), then consumed the alcohol while in the car or in the apartment, then got back into the car.

[He also gave a shout out to the Pack and how they're still going to win in Lambeau (can't say I feel confident enough to disagree at this time) along with a reminder that their soon-to-be-hall of fame recently-retired QB was hooked on painkillers for a while, but still showed strong football character and grit -- and said he (unfortunately for the Pack) thinks it was still a good pick on the Lions' part as Indy still would have nabbed him in the 2nd. Pretty smart guy for a cheesehead. ]

Dizon seems to be a pretty smart kid, except that he did what a lot of people do: misjudged how much he really had to drink. Two little margaritas are different than two "monster margaritas" at Red Lobster at Halloween Time. That doesn't make it right, but in my years of seeing the aftermath of how DUI's hit people, I will say they tend to fall into two categories:
  1. Those who only do it once, and are very careful after that. Typically, they are not making excuses, or trashing law enforcement, blaming others, etc.
  2. Those who just keep on doing it over and over. Typically, they have a whole host of excuses, none of which seem to involve cooperating with law enforcement or admitting "perhaps I had more to drink than I should have."

Not really any middle ground from what I've seen. Right now, it appears Dizon is in the first category, which is a good thing.

I do not condone drinking and driving, and think that you should never if possible mix the two. I never have, and probably never will, drink much at all. Not a religious thing, just a personal preference -- so I must admit I find it hard to relate to those who get DUI's; especially multi-millionaire football players like Little, Allen, Robinson, et al who could easily avoid it while still hitting the clubs: Hire a damn chauffeur. You can afford it.

Your Lions...non-sider? personality? BS expert?

Great Comments last few days -- some good back and forth. Decided to do a posting on the thoughts your comments brought to mind. Also, a couple of news items I'd like to take note of as well, with my spin attached of course. (News will be coming in a day or so due to unexpected length of this post and my need for sleep.)

First of all, to Deano -- I can't do a story on the conditioning guys can know as much about them as I can by looking them up on! Unlike a lot of journalists, I do not bill myself as an "insider" for one simple fact: I'm not. I am an insurance man. Who has this hobby where he researches and writes about his favorite NFL team -- publishing it on a blog as DetFan1979.

Essentially I'm doing what I did throughout college: Researching and writing short essays late at night (Not as late as then, but hey -- I have to get up a lot earlier too. And I'm not that young anymore either! Also skip the coca-cola, pizza, and ice cream too. Well, most of the time.) I do my best to be sure that I differentiate between what is fact, what is my opinion, and what is someone else's opinion/ideas. I give direct links to my sources, or name them when a link isn't available, so that you know where my information is coming from -- and also so that you may read it and form your own ideas and opinions -- and hopefully share them in the comments section.

That so many of you enjoy this site, and the sense of community it brings are to me just overwhelming. When I started writing this at Mrs. DetFan1979's suggestion ("Please -- tell it to someone who wants to hear about it. I can only take so much football talk!") I figured if a half dozen people read it, that would be a lot. Now, there are about hundreds of readers daily, even in this -- the slowest part of the ifseason. So let me take a moment here to say thank you to everyone -- you make this Blog a great site for Detroit Lions analysis -- from the big details, to the little. I am humbled, and will do my best to continue to produce quality work. Thanks!!

2 Biggest differences for me writing this blog from my college days of yore are:
  • I actually enjoy writing about the Lions more than I do the gross manipulation of pricing factors for licensed physician services by their trade group, in what is an overlooked monopoly on an imperative service that has been specifically shorted of supply despite increased demand to artificially inflate prices to levels that go beyond mere price gouging. (A 36 page paper I actually wrote during my undergrad, thought I had a link to/copy of but apparently only have on 3.5" floppy written in a word processing program that is no longer used that I no longer own -- assuming that the disc still is good after ten years in boxes in attics/basements/garages without AC next to who knows what. Ahhh... progress.)
  • I don't have to pay to write this blog. I get to do it for free.

Going back to injuries, I'm with Nubsnobber in that these things tend to be cyclical -- and also have a lot to do with ifseason conditioning. Kevin Smith has it right on when he talks about putting on his armor for the season in the ifseason. If you look back, the Lions had the most injuries during the Mooch era of "relaxed" practices and less than intense ifseason programs. Actually, on the whole, the Lions' injuries the last two years have seemed about average for the league. Like most teams they have a tendency to get hit at one position or position group. This isn't typically due to the trainers or coaches -- but the players and the situation. When one guy in a position group is injured, then many times you either have a back-up -- who isn't as used to game contact, or may play multiple positions -- or another starter moving in to take over. Guys see more game action as there is one less person to rotate in. Same for practice. This can lead them to wear down more. If they are playing out of position due to injury, then they can be hesitant, or try to switch directions, or move in ways they aren't used to, which can also lead to injury. That is why Marinelli is so concerned about having quality depth, and not just a solid starter -- if you have a superstar, and then no one, you are one snap away from "no one" starting...

KC Lion -- good thoughts on the Lions. I think 10-6 is a bit optimistic at this point. Based on the dreaded "P" word, I think it is a 7-9 to 9-7 season depending on how the ball bounces, and how soon players progress. However, that being said, I am pretty teed off that the Lions keep getting lumped in with teams expected to win less than a dozen games at best as if they were picking in the top ten last year, while teams like KC, St. Louis, and even the 49ers are being lumped in with "potential" teams... despite as many or more holes as the Lions. The Lions were about as close to middle of the pack as you can get in the NFL -- 16-17 share the "center" spots in this 32 team league. 15 is just barely south of "Top Half" teams... I will do a separate piece after I take a look at teams with similar records last season.

Can - nice to see you here -- let the sunshine in man, and what you say makes total sense -- but it's not something to be depressed about -- yet.

1. White is healthy, and he has shown what a difference he makes. Redding is also healthy again. While I agree it is something we need to see, it will be a total unknown until the season -- and a lot of the defense's fortunes for 2008 and beyond will rest on the development of 3 guys: IAF, Avril, and Fluellen. IAF is the biggie this year -- if he has stepped up to the next level, then the Line will bring pressure. If not...well, then I'll be right there shaking my head and checking out FA and Draft Prospects next ifseason. I say to give him a shot first, as well as the other guys on the line. I want to see how they play when the coaches are dictating who is in the game, not whether or not S. Rogers feels like playing that down.

2. ST who can tackle? I did a bit on that a month or so ago I think during FA. One thing they have done, while improving their depth, is that almost all of the guys brought in are ST juggernauts -- and that is based on performance, not potential. If ST is even half as bad as last year in the first three games, Kwan should be fired on the spot. Last year, talent on the ST unit was a problem (outside the kicking unit). This year, it is not. No excuses Stan -- you're Priefer's disciple -- one of the best ST coaches the league ever saw. Time to show it.

3. The running game is a mystery, as I've said, because they just plain haven't done it. I had no idea how well I would do writing a regular Lions Blog -- sure, I put comments here and there and it seemed to do well -- but could I do it regularly? And maintain it? Never know til you try, and plain fact is that Martz really didn't try to seriously run last year. Add in a revamped Oline, and new blood/healthy guys at RB and what you have is...what we get. (just like this blog) That's why its the Ifseason. IF the line gels, IF Coletto's defensive changes bring balance to the offense, IF 24k is as advertised, then maybe I'm a little low at 9-7 as the top end prediction right now. IF not...then the Lions will be picking middle of the pack again. I'm leaning more towards WILL -- 24k graduates next year, or last year, and he goes no later than top of round 2 -- hands down. The draft was just that loaded at RB this year -- a lot of great seniors, as well as a host of juniors declaring loaded down the draft with talent this year -- and despite what the hypesters said, there was not too much talent-level difference between the first back taken and K. Smith. Really, no matter what offense your NFL franchise runs, there were a couple of backs in the draft this year for you.

So cheer up Canopener! There are good things happening in how the team is approaching things, and the types of players/talent they are picking up. They will still be borderline playoff this year -- just like last season -- but are moving forward with a strong foundation for a change.

I did see your comment on "simple", which I'm not sure many others did since it is an older post, so I'll put it here (hope you don't mind):

"Simple" is disguising plays by having a running back out there and not let the opposing team know exactly when you are going to run or throw the ball. Any team in the NFL could tell if we were going to run or pass. My biggest problem with Mike Martz was he should have had the running back out there more often to disguise plays. A running back that can block will help us.

Right on all three counts -- which is exactly where I was planning on going after schema etc were established. The follow-up article to "simple" will also be forthcoming soon. Martz was so intent on being the "genius" that he was outsmarting himself, and his own players.

Well, didn't get to the news tonight, but I do have a bit to say on Mr. Dizon - (other than looking up "Colorado legal limit" gave me more DUI lawyers than I cared to think existed nationwide, much less just in Colorado.) that will just have to wait.

Friday, June 20, 2008

MUP- Most Undervalued Positions

It seems that when we focus on the most valuable positions, it is those that pundits agree are the "most influential" to a team. We always hear about the QB, or the RB, or the star WR on offense -- we also hear about the star CB, hard-hitting S and LB, or sack-racking DE. We also hear about "building the Lines" - Offensive and Defensive - and even occasionally single out an exceptional lineman like an Ogden.

Stars at pretty much every position are valued, and talked about as "the backbone of this offense/defense". However, as I was reading this article about Jason Hanson on the Detroit Lions' website, I was distinctly reminded of what I consider the 3 most under-valued positions on a football team: Kicker, Punter, Long Snapper -- the backbone of Special Teams.

Most of football is a pure team sport -- you can be Barry Sanders, but if your O-Linemen don't block, you'll look great getting back to the line of scrimmage. No line and/or Run game, and we all know how a QB can get the crap kicked out of him. As well, you can have an exceptional QB, but if the WR doesn't catch the ball, it's wasted. Same with elite WR and no QB. They can't throw it to themselves.

Special Teams is a "unit" that is often known more for its KR/PR than anything else. When a ST unit either allows or gets TD's they get a lot of hate/fanfare, and then are quickly forgotten. However, as far as plays go, ST plays are a huge percentage of your average game. They are responsible for putting both the offense and defense in either good - or bad - situations. Winning the field position battle is essential for victory in the NFL, and while the offense and defense must do their part, it is up to the ST unit to either keep momentum going, or turn the tide.

What is the use of the Defense holding the opposing O to a 3-and-out when the return units are so bad that the team offense starts on the 5 yard line. Same for setting up the defense -- whether it is kickoffs, or punts -- the coverage units are essential for holding the opposing team back. What use is punting the ball 45 yards, if the opposing team returns it 35? 45? 50?? Might just as well go for it every 4th down.

I know, I know -- all this is old hat. But while a PR/KR is great for the return teams, what about the rest of the special teams plays? They rest in large part on three positions: Kicker, Punter, Long Snapper.

Now, I will up-front acknowledge that, like the rest of the game, kicking and punting is a team activity. I'm also not saying their overall role is like that of a QB, or any other key player who is on a majority of snaps on either side of the ball. However, there is more of a loner element to this than any other part of the sport. Their performance also impacts the ENTIRE offense AND defense.

A great kicker can turn "failed" drives into points -- game winning points. They keep opponents starting on their 20 yard line, or worse. If your kicker isn't on his game...then you end up with empty drives, and your defense trying to protect a shortened field against a pumped-up offense.

Punters, too, impact the fortunes of both the defense and the offense. The O just went three and out, or stalled short of FG range. In comes the punter. Depressing, or invigorating for the D? Depends on the P and coverage units. Now, no matter how good or bad your coverage unit is, it all rests on how far and how well the Punter can place the ball. Pinned on the 5-10 yard line with a punt the spins low, fast, and bounces right out of bounds perfectly? One that skitters 15 yards to be downed at the one? How about a punt that is high and short, doesn't allow the blockers time to get to the returner, and leads to a short, or negative, net.

I included the long snapper because if a position is so important that you only notice it when they screw up -- and that the slightest mistake is noticed by everyone, yet is seldom talked about or mentioned without a yawn, that to me is an undervalued position. Snap too low? Too high? Nowhere freakin close? No matter how good your holder, kicker, punter... a bad long snap will lead to more muffed plays, turnovers, missed/blocked kicks and punts than anything else. When done right, it lets the kicker/punter do their job. When done poorly, it is devastating to the whole game. Yet, many teams rotate players at this position, and many pay dearly for it.

Another thing I find interesting is that lack of regard for the kicking team positions stretches even worse into the college ranks -- which makes the position even dicier at the pro level. Many teams go with the best walk-on at kicker. No scholarship, no recruiting, no anything. Even a majority of the top programs.

A powerful kicking/punting tandem can keep teams in the game, and even strike fear into opposing offenses. When teams know your guy pegs it in 75% of the time form 50 yards out, it adds a sense of urgency -- and sometimes, haste and mistakes -- as teams approach scoring range. A skilled kicking team extends that "scoring range" -- giving the offense a shorter field to work with to at least put some points on the board. great punters, by the same token, can keep an opposing offense pinned back near their end zone no matter how poorly the offense played. Great punting kept the Lions in a lot of games last year, and even helped mask some of the coverage unit deficiencies early in the season.

Detroit has also been extremely lucky where its' kickers are concerned. Two of the all-time greats have been lifetime lions -- Murray, and then Hanson. fully 2/3 of the teams in the league would drop their kicker in a heartbeat to pick-up Hanson if the Lions were to cut him today. Harris is an excellent punter, and would also have no lack of teams calling. Even the Lions LS is tops at his position -- in the top 5 in the league.

Kicker, especially, is a very lonely position. There is no lineman to open a running lane to freedom - the air is clear, your aim must be true. There is no WR to adjust to the throw - the uprights won't adjust to your kick, the line-markers to your punt. You and the ball -- succeed or fail. As individual as pressure and performance in football gets.

So hears to the often undervalued, under appreciated, and little talked about -- unless they miss, of course.

Agree? Disagree? What do you think the most undervalued position/player on the Lions is? In general? Let the discussion begin!

Monday, June 16, 2008

Ifseason signings: Roll the Dice!

Everyone saw where I was going with my last post on simplicity, and as I hoped, explained some points I was having trouble with in much greater clarity and more concisely.

If you hadn't noticed, I tend to be long winded on occasion. We all have our flaws.

Before diving back into the offensive schema (yes, there is pages of fun stuff to talk about regarding it) in my next post, I decided to take a peek and relate some current events league-wide to the Lions:

How many soon-to-be-FA-WR coming off injuries are looking at this story on Javon Walker and thinking; If he's hurting now, just wait til I get my hands on him. As more and more players at various positions do really stupid things, or perform very poorly after signing a huge money deal, more and more teams are stepping away from the Free-Agent ifseason frenzy, and opting for a more reserved approach to ifseason signings. If the Redskins have proven anything its that "buying" a championship is nigh-on impossible in cap-era football.

Most teams realize that, due to cap or team need reasons -- and inflated pay -- there may only be one or FA out there who are worth a big money contract. The rest of the top guys are either being traded by their teams (see: Cory Williams, Shaun Rogers, Deangelo Hall, Dwayne Robertson, et al) or re-signed. Very seldom are top tier, game-breaking proven free-agents hitting the streets. Even the Lions have managed to keep their key free-agents (when they have them) locked up ala Redding. (As a side note, his "enormous" deal doesn't look too bad compared to what DT's were getting this ifseason. If plays more like 06 than 07, Lions have a steal.)

The remainder of the free-agent pool breaks down as follows:
  1. Back-ups and Special Teamers who are displaced due to draft picks, team needs, etc. They are good mid-grade pickups as they make serviceable back-ups while improving special teams units -- a constant struggle for teams due to roster limits and risk of injury to important players
  2. Back-ups possibly ready to start. Think Dwayne White or Michale Turner. They've shown a bit of what they have, but there is uncertainty whether they can perform all the time as a starter. These players can be a risk, and those with the most promise are often re-signed by their original team, or traded. those that aren't, however, can be a steal overall for the cap money to production ratio. Dwayne White, for example, is a steal at his salary for a starting caliber DE -- even an average one.
  3. Veterans on the down-side. This is by far the largest group of free-agents on the market in this day and age. Cut for a variety of reasons, including: recent injuries, supplanted by a high-draft pick or younger player, cap number too high and equitable younger or cheaper player available, etc -- they make up the backbone of free agency for good teams. They can be brought in as a stop-gap when injury or contract issues leave a hole, or to mentor a rookie until he can supplant them, and to provide leadership, knowledge, and character to a locker-room. Often times, it is their experience they can impart on younger players along by showing them how its done that is as valuable as their contribution on to the team. Just be sure to pay for what is coming, not what was.
  4. Draft Busts: Otherwise known as the bargain bin, these are players with whom the team what drafted em severs all ties and admits they screwed the pooch on that pick. fairly abundant in recent years, they are a risk to sign -- and often have the same results in their new town as their old. Yet, you still see headlines every year saying: Dallas will Turn Him Around! Will Thrive and Prove doubters Wrong! and will disappear -- cut in camp.
  5. Injury Cuts: Ala Javon Walker, KJ, Bryant, and even Edwin Mulitalo. They are cut after an injury or injuries forces too much missed time for what they are being paid, and can often be had for cheap by a smart team -- who can land a high reward player from a low risk -- such as with Mulitalo.
  6. Everyone else: Not as big as you'd think. Basically, guys who are going to end up camp fodder, or maybe beat out a rookie and make the practice squad.

Most teams draw FA from all 6 groups. It is when you start paying anyone from the 6 groups above franchise-player money that you know your team's coaching staff is in serious trouble, or looking for a media/ticket sales boost from a big name. Oakland gave a guy from group 4 -- Mr. Got-Drunk-Robbed-and-really-injured-in-Vegas-after-signing-my-big-deal. (I do hope he's okay, don't think I'm that cold.) -- Randy Moss or TO money. That makes it high-risk, high-reward instead of low-risk, high-reward (which is what makes teams, theoretically, shop in that category in the first place.) Atlanta paid M. Turner franchise back money -- but is he LT or Shaun Alexander? That is the risk they take.

As we look at the Lions' moves -- based on the categories above, they cut guys like Kennedy (group 3), Bryant (3 & 5), and KJ (definite 5) for pure cap reasons. Bryant is a good pickup for NE -- at the vet min they paid for him, not the 4 mil Det would have owed him. Kennedy was on the downside in Det production wise, and notice he hasn't been picked up. He's a liability in coverage, and only average at stopping the run now. KJ -- again, will be a bargain at vet min or close to it (maybe) if he recovers, but not worth risk-reward for the Lions, as I went through in the past.

The Lions have had iffy luck in the past, but seemed more focused in the past couple of years. We've gone through lots of these analysis (including how they picked up good-priced FA mentors), so I won't re-hash everything. I will say this:

At least the Lions only signed a $5 mil deal with their only FA who's had any pending trouble (Pearson) instead of $55 million. Think the almighty judge Roger G. isn't going to have a few words for Mr. Walker and the Raiders? Think again.

And be thankful it's not the Lions for once making all the bone-headed FA moves by giving franchise contracts to not-so-franchise players. Go see the Jets and Oakland for those. After you recover from your hangover after celebrating your new contract, that is. Not like you'll have to fulfill your end after all the guarantees your agent got you anyways!

Friday, June 13, 2008

What is Simple?

With OTA's mostly closed to the Media Lions news has been on short supply. As Nubsnobber pointed out, the Lions players are also keeping it close to the vest (which I agree is a good sign) and finding out where they are at has been more than a trick and a half. I found out about Bell -- but didn't figure out where CJ was until the news about his father's heart surgery broke -- after the fact. As for Foster, who knows? Nada, info wise. From what I've been able to pick up, Sims and Redding were essentailly told to take it easy and save it for the season -- and allowed the coaching staff to get a better look at players who are competing for roster spots behind them. Now, with OTA's over, comes the dreaded dead-time before camp begins.

Fortunately, I have been stockpiling various ideas since before the draft -- so this is one Lions site you won't see posting Hockey or Baseball stories -- unless of course I can make them relevant to the Lions.

So I was reading this typical bit of June fluff from the freep, and another re-hash on the DetNews, when I got to thinking about something I've been mulling around since Martz got canned:

The "New" Detroit Lions Offense.

What I find interesting is that it's not really a "new" offense per se -- they are just running it a different way. What? That doesn't make sense you say? Different but not?

First of all, I think it should, from what we can tell right now, be referred to as a simplified version of Martz's offense. Actually, the offense he ran as OC when the Rams won the Superbowl would be a simplified offense compared to what he ran with the Lions the last couple of years. Anyone remember Marshal Faulk?

Now, before I hear screams of "but the Lions have no line, no RB last year he couldn't run it!" -- lets remember one simple fact: NO ONE knows how well the Lions could really run the ball consistently last season as part of a balanced offense because THEY NEVER DID. All we can do is look and make inferences and guesses -- but that is all they are -- guesses.

I think that this really comes down to one definition: Simple.

Is "simple" offense a concrete definition, or is it a comparison of one thing to another? For my 7 year old adding is simple in comparison to subtracting. Multiplication is really hard. By the end of the second grade, she will have basic multiplication down - which will be simple in comparison to division, which will then be simple in comparison to long division, fractions, algebra....

So what you know how to do, at what level, in comparison to what is being referred to, defines simple. (Does your head hurt as much reading that sentence as mine did writing it? Good. I'm a big fan of critical thinking.) Sometimes, simplicity can be more complex than complexity. Just easier to execute. After all, algebra merely utilizes adding, subtracting, multiplying, and dividing -- it just moves them around in different ways.

Take what I do, for example. I am an insurance agent. I sell insurance and work to retain customers for my employer. For me, explaining basic auto insurance coverage, complexities of estate planning, homeowners claims, billing issues, underwriting systems and nuances, life insurance concepts, investing basics and concepts, simplifying complex insurance ideas into understandable analogies and explanations for clients, training sales people, training service representatives, setting up office systems -- and much, much more all come easily to me in a split second when required. Why? I've been doing my job and working on my profession for over 10 years.

I am very good at knowing when to pitch a certain product, or how to tell a customer something so they will understand it. It isn't just natural skill -- much of it comes from repetition. I find something that works, and while I tweak it as time goes on to fit either certain circumstances, or changes in regulation, etc -- I've been using some of my stock phrases, stories, examples for over a decade. I've been saying them so long that they no longer sound like memorized platitudes, but spontaneous conversations. They work, and they work well. And they are very "simple" because I can use them without thinking about wording, but focusing on delivery and the impact they are having -- and where I need to go next.

My stock phrases are like the "bread and butter" plays that the Lions are installing and talking about. Take this line that says "the Lions had only 30 or 40 passing plays and maybe 10 running plays. They had more than 200 plays in their game plans last year."

What I feel most people are misinterpreting is meaning they only are going to use 40 or 50 plays total. What they are saying they are going to have about 50 plays that are their variations on my "stock" phrases, explanations, and stories -- what you start with, what you can fall back on when the situation dictates it and know what is going to happen, what you are so good at that it almost always works. This allows the offensive players to focus on how well they are doing a play instead of what the play is. It eliminates doubt and allows them to play at their strongest. While the defense is focusing on where they are supposed to be and what they are supposed to be doing to stop the play -- the Lions offense is focusing on executing it better than the opposition, at full speed and power.

Want to see how well that works? Check out New England's offense last season. Boring as heck (variety wise). Indianapolis' basic underpinnings follow the same principle as well. Sure, they'll switch up the TE, FB, RB, or Slot WR -- but it is still the same play --- just a different guy catching the ball. That leads to the second and third misconceptions about the "simplified" offense: That they will only have a few plays, and that they are predictable.

I will cover those, and more thoughts on this subject, tomorrow. In the meantime, comments? Your thoughts?

Thursday, June 12, 2008

No New Contract, No Problem?

First of all, I appreciate your patience right now. As I am writing this, almost 80,000 in the Lansing area are still without power. My office has been very busy taking care of claims related to the storm and helping people get back to where they were before the damage occurred. However, on top of that, we are still trying to keep up with our day-to-day claims, sales, and service that does not go away just because we had 4 nights of windstorms. Please keep those who were affected in your thoughts, and remember to appreciate what you have.

Important things like family, food, and dry shelter.

Also, not so important things like Internet access, lights at night, and computers.

Now, onto football. I saw a story last night (I'm sure later than everyone here ) about Plaxico Burress holding out of Giants practices until he gets a new contract. He is apparently unhappy with the contract he signed in 2005, and wants a bigger payday. While it's true he is only making about $3.25 million compared to TO and Moss at about 9 mill each per year (based on overall contract average) and Fitzgerald at 10 mil he is not even close to the "highest paid WR" -- but lets also not forget that Mr. Burress also received one heck of a signing bonus in 2005 that is not included in that annual number.

It seems to be the norm these days for players -- WR especially -- to point at their current base salary compared to the annual average compensation on a new deal for a WR and omit the SB. If you take Plaxico's signing bonus into account, then he is "making" closer to 4.5 mil this year. While that doesn't put him with the big boys, it is pretty good compensation for a WR coming off in year in which, although he performed on Sundays, didn't practice the entire season -- and missed game time -- due to a host of nagging injuries.

I also thought of Chad Johnson and his "Oucho-Cinco" ifseseason moves. Even if he does play for the Bengals, his current payscale -- again including a bonus he received for re-upping in 2006 -- just two seasons ago -- is right there with what other top WR who signed contracts then are getting.

That brought me to Roy Williams and this thought:

Lions fans under appreciate what they have in Roy Williams and Calvin Johnson. Especially Roy Williams.

Then, as I was finding articles for this piece, I ran across this article where Roy once again answered inane questions about his contract to the Detroit Media.

All of the negative Roy talk, especially as trade rumors swirled, further reiterates my point. While Calvin Johnson - on the field -- is most often associated with TO or Moss, Roy is always referred to as more of a, well -- Plaxico Burress. While he is a top flite wideout, he is not likely to be a hall of famer. He likes to talk, and needs to work on his concentration at times --- although, with the teams he was surrounded by, the coaching and offensive changes -- not to mention Joey throwing the ball at his feet his first few years in the league -- yet he still remains an optimist.

So what if he likes to celebrate first downs and try to pump up his team? He learned his lesson about tipping the pizza guy when -- after catching flak for the article -- he spent two nights as a delivery driver, giving the proceeds to charity (sorry, my link was broken and I couldn't find the story again in short order -- it was from last year.) He supports his team and his QB, and doesn't talk trash about the organization nor his contract even when pressed by the controversy loving media.

Roy is, despite being outspoken, a very team-oriented buy. Don't look at words - look at actions. TO has always talked about being for the team -- and does the opposite. Same for Chad Johnson. Roy may trash talk opponents, or make brash statements about how good the team is -- but he doesn't dis his team, and is certainly a hard worker for the team. Many players have ifseason residences outside of Detroit (wouldn't you?).

But the media only makes a big deal about Roy going home because the National Media think RW is a great talent, wasted on a team like Detroit. They wouldn't want to play for *snort* the Lions -- why should he?

Don't get me wrong, Roy is far from perfect -- but his flaws, in comparison to the others at his level of talent at his position -- are about as harmless as you get. Roy also understands the business side of the league better than he lets on. The national media and many fans say "they have to sign Roy now. If they don't' sign him to an extension now, he's gone."

Why? He is not complaining about his base salary -- which at 5.4 million is above that of Burress and Ocho-Carpo -- and he knows that next year he is going to get paid -- so long as he plays back to pro-bowl form after his injury last year. The big reason the Lions haven't resigned him is that they can't. They DO NOT have the cap room. Think 4 mil in cap space is enough to resign him, much less make it through the season with injuries, etc.? Roy is too smart not to know this. Both he and the Lions know that they will start negotiating right after the season. They may have to franchise him. If his value is high enough, they may even trade him rather than tie up 9 mil in cap space. Or he could play a year under the franchise tender and go from there. Roy is not the type of player that will needlessly take it personally that he gets hit with the franchise tag and pout -- he sees it for what it is -- acknowledgement that you are so good at your position, you are worth at least two first round picks -- just to start.

What are Roy or the Lions supposed to say differently? "We have so much cap space taken up by screwed up former top ten picks and dumb FA signings that we can't afford to resign Stephen Peterman to a new long term deal, much less Roy. Maybe next year when we're supposed to have gads of cap space it'll get done." Personally, I just want to hear someone say the obvious just to get the media off of their Roy fixation and onto reporting things like how other players are progressing, etc.

Roy may talk -- but if you look back, it's all about the team -- the good of the team. And that is talk he backs up with action. He, despite working off his rookie deal from 2004, has not asked for a contract re-structuring to pay him more. Nor has he staged public holdouts complaining about management, coaching (for the most part excepting after Martz left), his contract, or even his team.

We are very lucky to have Roy in Detroit, and my gut instinct says that he will be here for many more years to come -- and that he and CJ will be the new Harrison/Wayne, Bruce/Holt, Fitzgerald/Boldin combo. And we won't even have to endure workouts in the front yard, bratty whining about being underpaid, holdouts, or attempts to hold the team hostage even if the cap space isn't there.

Roy's making over $5 million dollars this year to play football, play well, and earn the right to get even more dough next year -- At least he is smart enough to know a good thing when he sees it. Are Lions fans?

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

A Tale of Two Cities

Interesting how many Lions-Tampa connections keep popping up. Also, how seriously Rod is taking measures to ensure there are mentors available for each of the rookie/young players that he is trying to develop on the roster.

The latest example of this is Lomas Brown mentoring Gosder Cherilus -- a possibility that was brought up a couple weeks ago in Brown's interview with Philip Zaroo on -- an offer that Marinelli and Brown took seriously enough to implement. Lets not forget, that as a back-up Olineman with Tampa's SB team in 2002, he worked with Marinelli quite a bit since Marinelli -- as Assistant Head Coach-Defense in addition to Dline position coach -- would oversee the defense working against the scout team --- especially the Dline against the scout team Oline. What is obvious from Browns interview is something that appears again and again -- the respect that serious players and coaches who have worked with Marinelli show him.

It was interesting the Freep had one quote I didn't see in the other article -- which was still mostly positive; It is that quote which I have noticed "haters" -- being really the only way to explain them -- latching onto. To me, everything I got from Brown's comments is that he thinks Cherilus has the skills you can't teach, and is willing and able to work on refining those skills he needs to improve in order to be a pro-bowl NFL RT. Will he get there? How is he or anyone else supposed to know? They've only worked together a couple times with Cherilus in shorts in non-contact drills. I'm no expert, but as I've said before: You can't evaluate until the pads go on, and the whistle blows.

Moving more on the mentors-mentees, it is now prevalent throughout the roster.

DE: White is mentoring 50 and now Avril
DT: Darby is there to help Moore, Redding, and Fluellen
LB: Lenon can help Dizon learn the system; remember, it's not that Lenon doesn't know what he should be doing, but he is just not as talented nor does he have the instincts Dizon appears to have.
S: Dwight Smith is a savvy vet who will surely help continue and accelerate the development of Alexander and Bullocks; Pearson also knows the D and could be a factor as well (pending his legal troubles)
CB: Kelly is a great mentor not only for Keith Smith, who is showing continued development into a solid CB -- especially as a dime back covering the deep ball, and special teams contributor. Kelly can also help Bodden to pick up the T2 quicker, as well as Stanley Wilson who has often been the forgotten man this ifseason, even though he earned a starting role before losing it to injury last season.
QB: Just ask Carson Palmer. When it comes to talent, he may have more than Kitna, but he says that his mentorship form Kitna was and still is a big reason for his success. That kind of mentorship should hopefully be helping Orlovsky and Stanton especially
WR: Perhaps the most solid group on the team, CJ is the least experienced but Mike Furrey knows what it takes, and is a good mentor -- again, even if CJ can execute at a higher level at different aspects than Furrey can. Sometimes it's not about knowing what to do, but having the ability to do it.
Oline: Having Brown Mentor Cherilus is just the latest step.

I may have missed some instances, but you can see the obvious trend -- especially considering the number of knowledgeable, solid players on D that were brought in to help mentor the younger guys who will eventually supplant them.

Monday, June 9, 2008


Not the kind of blackout that comes with lack of ticket sales, but rather, lack of electricity. Your Lansing dwelling Lions Blogger finally got his power back just in time to head to the office this morning, after being without almost all weekend.

I will resume my regular blogging tomorrow night after catching up on sleep -- especially as you fellows can imagine how busy the agency is with all of the damage created by this storm. Please keep the 200,000 or so people who still do not have electricity, and those who lost their homes in your thoughts tonight.

I'll be back with more Lions thoughts tomorrow.

In the meantime, I'd love to see some more Lions Haiku's -- awesome!

Friday, June 6, 2008

Missing Voluntary OTA's: Headline News

It's amazing the kind of tripe that is produced in the football ifseason. Yet -- the biggest piles of sh...aving cream are produced now -- when the news times are slow. Teams are closely guarding their OTA's, and no one can really tell anything concrete about the players until camp opens and the pads go on. That doesn't stop people from speculating like no tomorrow, and taking the smallest things to blow into the biggest stories. Apparently, every missed day by every players of Voluntary OTA's is now a major headline. They are also accompanied by more analysis than an Emily Dickensen Haiku would be (had she written one) into what the "meaning" is. How about, they have lives outside of football too? I read on a Denver site Bell missed OTA's because he got married. Now what kind of excuse is that? The nerve of a football player to schedule his wedding for June during the only time he isn't required by the team to be somewhere? I think a lot of writers should A. Lighten Up and B. Research and write the in-depth general analysis pieces that they seem to hint they would write during the season, but claim not to have the time to. How about now gentlemen??

Then there is Roy Williams and his inability to get a flight back into Detroit. I'm sure that the fact that thousands of flights in the last few months have been cancelled unexpectedly, happening again last week as airline companies ground planes to actually check them for safety issues instead of pretending to. Anyone looking for immediate flights last week had lots of competition from other travelers already pinched by reduced flights from all carriers that started earlier this year.

While it was a weak excuse, especially compounded by then scheduling his flight for the 2nd versus the 1st (which I have done before, sad to say.) However, it is obvious he doesn't want to make a big deal out of it, and neither do the coaches. He even indicated he called them to let them know what was up, and spoke with them about it. What did it end up doing in the grand scheme of things? With McDonald and Roy not there, it gave the coaching staff a chance to look at a couple of the young guys fighting for roster spots with the first team. Not quite sold on how it happened, but chances to evaluate talent are not a bad thing either.

Everyone else I can get a reasonable list of that missed OTA's seemed to have a reasonable excuse. Also, I've read that Bell showed up in shape and ready to compete (Would ask what his work-out regimen has been, but considering he just got married - I'll leave that one alone.) -- so that wide-open backfield competition just got even wilder; Especially after I'm catching hints that Cason is worried about his spot, and that Calhoun is going balls-out as well -- and is healthy for virtually the first time since he was drafted -- Ought to be interesting.

I was going to write about Jim Trotter's inane article about how the salaries of top rookies don't really hurt teams...but I'll save that for tomorrow. Bet you all know I'm looking forward to ripping apart that moronic article, and want to do it right.

After all, this is the slowest part of the ifseason -- the best time, in my opinion, to relax and contemplate. Unless of course you're competing for a Detriot Lions roster spot...then it is off to the races - gladiator style.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Last CBA - I promise!

As you know, I often refer to NetRat's wonderful cap spreadsheet and numbers when writing about the Lions. As an addendum and clarification, from someone who has forgotten more about the cap and than I will ever know, regarding our discussion on the CBA, I highly suggest you check out this story that he wrote as it appeared on Hondo's blog regarding the changes in the CBA and how it affects the cap in 2009 as well. Great details, great read!

Love the back and forth on my somewhat hastily thrown together logic chain. Can't wait to see how many more angles we can find on it!

Monday, June 2, 2008

CBA: Parts 2-3-4

First off, great comments on the Otah and CBA pieces.

As I looked at this a bit closer I realized that I'd already said most of what needs to be said. Namely that I think the CBA will be done before the uncapped season, and that the Lions are in the same position they were before: improving, with a journey still before them -- but at least started on trail.

Looking again at Lombardi's article on -- it seems the Lions are, as far as from what we can see -- as close to doing that sort of plan as any other team out there is. So what does that really mean? It means we and the media really know very little about what teams really do and think behind the scenes. Look at all the conjecture (including my own) and come the end, at least 50% is total crap, about another 40% half wrong, and the other 10% gets most of it right. (I was likely being over-generous giving the media 1:10 statements being correct, but they do get people on the roster and coaches right about that often, so maybe that counts)

I like how it is written, but Lombardi's article really just made me, when I re-read it tonight, go "Well duh." All of the things he is talking about other than the draft being eliminated (which I doubt the league will let happen after this many years, I can assure you because I am knowledgeable *wink wink*) are EXACTLY what a team needs to do to succeed with a cap!

Get good young players
Find a QB
The Lines are important - need depth there
keep your ten guys on the roster in the tops of their position
try to keep younger backups where possible instead of investing big dollars in mediocre or aging FA
don't waste money on injury prone vets - spend less on a young guy with more upside.
Have great scouting
develop talent

Seriously folks, that is how you run a successful franchise. How are the Lions doing on those counts? We'll have to see how they do developing their newer draft picks (Marinelli's picks), and this year's draft will be a real bellwether on if the scouting department really has improved. As for FA, the older guys they were signing were not to big dollar contracts, and the Lions, for the most part, are moving to really cap-friendly contracts (assuming there will be a cap). They cut Jones and brought in Smith and Felton. We don't know about QB but they are at least making moves in that direction with Orlovsky and Stanton. As for keeping guys, what exactly do we think the Redding contract was? He'd have been paid Tommy Kelly money on the open market. I still need to see more from the Lions on keeping their players who are tops at their position -- the main reason we don't know is we haven't had anyone who is tops in their position (outside of Redding) have their contract come near to term recently. The Lions have been too busy offloading those injury prone vets and overpaid back-ups whose contracts were expiring...or made to expire. (snip snip)

So all in all, there are some definite progress areas (useful, again in either a capped or uncapped year) -- but that there are still a lot of areas where improvement needs to be seen, or how situations arising the near future (Roys contract, Raiola's Contract, Sims' s contract, Peterman's Contract) will show where they are at. Even in the improved areas, there is still a lot of room to move upwards. However, it does seem for the most part they are at least in the right forest, if not always on the right trail.

As for "that pinhead" (to quote nubsnobber) Clayton...

His article, when I re-read it, was a hack job from one end to the other. In the same paragraph that he bashes the Lions for not improving their running game (?), their oline (??) and says they don't have any future QB's on the roster after Kitna (????) he lost all credibility. Then topping it off by listing Smith, Lenon, Lewis and George Foster -- one of whom is the third safety this season, and at least two of whom I would bet won't be starting by September of 2008, much less 2010, just sent me into gales of laughter. I don't doubt the Lions could possibly draft someone to replace Lenon/Lewis at SLB next year.

Was he serious? Especially when he brushed off Tom Brady's contract potentially coming up during an uncapped season?? Or when he touts the rookies RB and T that Carolina picked up, dismissing that the Lions picked up same? Not only that, but of the "other" (assuming Otah starts at RT) 4 guys on the line -- 3 are playing in new positions, and the center was their backup last year. So in essence, they have an entirely new Oline. How do we know it's good? It is a bigger question mark than the Lions! Even basic logic follows the Lions to having at least a an above average line next year:

1. Lions Oline returns 4 starters
2. 2 of those starters (both G positions) have players pushing for playing time.
3. the LT has a young guy who started at RT taking reps behind him and breathing down his neck
4. Cherilus was considered 2nd best pure RT after Jake Long in the draft.
5. the Lions are moving to a more balanced offense from a 90% passing offense
6. the Lions are going to vary the QB drop so it is not always a 7 step drop, thus actually changing where a pass rusher will need to attempt to get to in order to sack the QB
7. This leads a logical person to believe that the Lions Oline has experience together as a unit, it's weakest point was improved, and the scheme is going to be Oline friendly
8. Thus, the Lions will have much improved Oline performance this season

See, that wasn't so hard John. You get paid to do this stuff -- why are you mailing it in? You even named a guy not on the Lions roster!! (although it was later removed, he named Kennedy at Safety with Smith the first time I read it. Couldn't find a cached version with it though) You checked the end of the season rosters instead of bothering to go to each team's site and check the roster there -- not for starters, but potential starters teams are grooming for two years from now...

I could go on about how the Lions drafted this year or last players to fill each of those positions he mentioned. He basically gave about the same arguments for his teams in the "good" and "bad" categories -- but for one set he put a positive spin saying they will get contracts done and find replacements, while he assumes the "bad" teams won't.

Final analysis on these stories and the CBA? Let the Unions and Owners negotiate and talk about it again when we know something concrete -- and 90% of all national sportswriters are hacks. The other 10% don't even bother pretending.