So what now? The franchise hit about as rock bottom as possible – except of course for breaking the all-time losing streak (set at 28 games by the expansion Bucs).
Is that the next target on the horizon, or is winning some games going to happen in the near future? For the eternal optimist in me, there are some wins in the future of the franchise this year. How many? Your guess is as good as mine!
Will the team be competitive again? Will it be fun to watch on Sundays? Up until the last few Millen years, the Lions were still a fun, often competitive team to watch. Last year was almost unwatchable.
I see many different signs of hope – from all throughout the Lions organization. Will hope turn to joy, or the bitter ashes of historic ridicule once again? Only time can answer that question.
So what hope do I see?
There is consistency among the actions of the front office and coaching staff. Not all of what they are reaching for could be accomplished in one ifseason, but great strides were made. They did not overpay just to get big-name free agents in here – yet they still managed to get Larry Foote to sign here, creating excitement and filling a major need.
As far as Free Agency, the Lions could have done some things different, but they managed to fill their needs as much as possible via FA and the draft. They didn’t dive into big money contracts with aging veterans like in the Millen years. Short term band-aids were signed to band-aid sized contracts. The Lions have brought in just about every player released by every team to hit waivers thus far who can stand up, see lightning, and hear thunder for a few days to see what they have – keeping a couple, and dropping the rest to look at still more. (I expect this to continue throughout camp, and even the late roster cuts.)
The trades will have to wait to wait to be evaluated until the season gets underway – after all, Rogers for Bodden and a 3rd looked decent, and who can forget Dre Bly for George Foster and Tatum Bell? (though I didn’t really like that trade, and wasn’t too fond of ditching Rogers for less than a 2nd rounder either).
This year’s trades look to be more in favor of the Lions – or at worst fair value. How Williams and Pettigrew work out will determine the Roy trade value. If Henry contributes anything it will be more than the nothing the Lions would have had cutting Kitna – he makes the roster, and makes a handful of plays and you are into positive territory there. (low risk, high reward). The Dline was already a weakness, but getting Peterson for Redding could be seen as one of the best plays of the ifseason – IF Peterson plays to his pro-bowl form of the past few years. We are seeing LBers last longer in the league, and Peterson could very well have enough in the tank to continue to perform at peak levels for another 2 -3 years.
The player acquisitions are by their nature impossible to judge until time unfolds and we see the product on the field. The same goes with the coaching staff – it looks great on paper, but the proof is in the plays. For that, we have to wait.
What can be judged is the attitude toward the fans. I made quite a long comment on the 2nd part of Road to 0-16 (go check it out) for how I felt there are different ways of “not caring what the fans think”. (Millen didn’t seem to care at all, Mayhew was referencing that he wasn’t going to sign big names just for the sake of appeasing the fans in the draft – he was going to take guys that fit the team-building they are doing. Big difference.) The Lions seem intent on undoing the expulsion of fans from connecting with virtually every aspect of the team that has gone on since 2002.
The idea of making training camp more accessible to fans again that is being discussed is one option, as well as more open practices in the interim. In the past, camp was open to all and highly attended. (As per Lewand’s statements, it appears the Lions are going to open up more than the 2 or 3 practices they did last year) Only 700 at a time or so can fit at Allen Park, but if they open up a few weeks worth of camp practices for free that alone says to fans we care about you again – and want you back as part of the team, not just your money. The Lions front office, Coach Schwartz included (he’s made more ifseason appearances than the past three Lions coaches combined already and it’s June), want to bring the fans back. They seem to understand that the fans are the foundation of the team.
Finally, what keeps me optimistic thus far in giving Mayhew the benefit of the doubt is that he doesn’t expect me to. He has approached the team and fans since the beginning from the standpoint that the only support/trust he can expect form fans is what the team he builds earns on the field. No egomaniacal expectations/illusions of I’m infallible (like the poor Browns, Broncos, and Bucs fans are dealing with right now). He said before the draft in a radio interview (paraphrased): Of course fans are skeptical. Why should they think anything is different until they see it on the field? I can tell you we’re doing a great job building til I’m blue in the face, that we are doing things right, things different – but until that vision becomes a reality the fans after what happened, have every right to need to see it. I respect that. Just trust me and support me – sure, I want that. But I have to earn that.
(can’t find the link to a transcript on that one. Basic message as I heard it.)
Yes Mr Mayhew – I will remain cautiously optimistic as I look at the positional groupings this ifseason, as I look over your draft, as I get into preseason, and as I enjoy my favorite team this summer and into the fall. I will remain so until I see something to prove me right – or prove me wrong. But in my gut, I know the recovery has begun. In three years, when the Lions are making a deep playoff run I look forward to writing a more upbeat piece titled “Road to Recovery: Rising from 0-16”. IF…