Saturday, February 28, 2009

Mayhew Mayhem!

The Lions have traded Jon Kitna to Dallas for Starting CB Anthony Henry. I don't think there were draft picks involved as well, but I will update you if I hear otherwise. See Buffalo, that's called getting value for a guy. Fleecing Dallas must be Martin Mayhew's new hobby.

Anthony Henry is 33, but is still a very solid starting CB who can be a good stop-gap, and fills a glaring need. Add that to the fact that Kitna was going to be cut before they had to pay his bonus Tuesday and I am really liking this new front office.

I also LOVED the stories and information that is coming out on the Cassel deal -- The Lions were trying to get Cassel from NE for #33 or I've also heard both #3's for Cassel and a 3rd. They were also working the phones to trade Cassel and a pick to Denver for Jay Cutler. Call me crazy, but I'm thinking that Mayhew opposed passing on Cutler in the draft. It didn't end up working, but I love the tenacity of the Lions front office in their dealings. While they didn't pull it off, combining it with what they have done/tried -- there is no doubt they appear to be working both smart and hard to bring in the right guys to improve this team.

Wonder how Cutler feels knowing his new bosses were talking trade?

The Lions also signed Bryant Johnson -- he is a great #3, decent #2 guy. I'd still like to see the Lions pick up one more WR in FA to compete for #2 spot, and also negate the need to draft one at all, even in the later rounds. #2 - 4 WR are among the positions that can be picked up effectively in FA versus wasting lots of high draft picks on them, along with #2 RB. I am glad to see Mayhew/Lewand filling these types of positions in FA, as they should be with the team where it is at.

The signing of Eric King to a backup role, along with the trade for Anthony Henry doesn't say to me the Lions are done. They want guys to be competing to start, and all they really had was Keith Smith as a borderline starter. Fisher better not feel like he's got a roster spot locked up. With the Lions looking to sign Chris Carr as a possible starter, and also possibly drafting a CB early the position is far from settled.

I've seen a lot of criticism, but the Lions are going after exactly the types/tier of players they said they would. Their offensive openings are easier to fill in FA, especially this year, so that is what they are doing. They've also turned lemons into lemonade as much as possible in bringing in some CB's. It is still early, but with the exception of Lucas (I'm not a big fan of him, but can see why they were looking) I like what they have been doing. For most of these, you haven't even heard the Lions were involved until after it's over.

This shows how close to the vest they are playing things, including working multi-team trades, and still offloading guys they don't want/need in return for at least something of value.

Keep it up -- Mayhew Mayhem is here!

Friday, February 27, 2009

Buffalo's Dumber than Lions...

Well, it appears that OG Dockery is now a Washington Redskin... again. To fully understand, you must read this article. In a nutshell? The Lions worked a trade for Dockery with Buffalo -- allowing them to get value versus him leaving for nothing. Instead, they didn't turn in the paperwork and just released him...

The Lions had him in already to do a physical and meet with him (as part of the trade). When he found out he could sign with anyone, he took a slightly lower contract amount to go back to Washington where he started his career, and enjoyed playing.

Now, I've already seen a lot of bad vibes for Mayhew on this one -- but what was he supposed to do? When given an open choice, the player preferred Washington as he had played there, knew guys, etc. That is why Mayhew TRADED for him -- so there wasn't an option. Dockery wasn't against playing in Detroit, and would have done fine with a trade. But given the option... Mayhew can't control the fact that the Bills pulled a Millen and dumped him on the market. Seriously, is Millen hanging out with Ralph Wilson and their front office over there?? Letting a guy you have under contract, with no roster bonuses due, just be released when you have a trading partner??? Even a 7th rounder would be better than nothing!!

This one was all on the Bills, not on the Lions. I mean seriously, dumping a player while he is in another city, taking a physical to finalize a trade?? At least Mayhew responded well and tried to get him signed outright, but the cards were stacked against him at that point...

I will give Mayhew credit overall -- he is making the best of a bad situation. Word is, many agents either:

A. Won't even talk to the Lions
B. Talk with the Lions, and when they find out the Lions won't pay double, get pissed off.

I would rather see the Lions field a team of UDFA and rookies than way overpay for older/borderline players. Draft and build slow, and when things start to turn around, then guys will come. Period. Til then, I hope Mayhew says F-U! buy your own damn ticket out of town and don't expect us to take ya anywhere but out the front door when they "demand" the Lions pay double their market value.

Tampa Bay, for instance, has been as blown up as Detroit -- including even more firings among their front office. Will they still continue to be a borderline playoff team? Who knows!!

As I said in my last post, it will be a good gauge as to whose rebuilding is successful as to how well the Bucs and Lions do comparatively in the next few years.

Lions need a really good draft, and BPA all the way -- there are so many holes they were a long shot to come close to filling them in a best case scenario. In reality? It's going to be a couple of years. Best bet? Consider out Lions an expansion team just going into it's second year -- they've got 2 extra high picks (a 1 and a 3) to help fill out the roster -- but form here on out it's all about team building.

My gut says Mayhew is doing things right in who he is targeting, signing, and what for. (Maurice Morris deal) We'll see how the next few days go.

FA - Day 1 Commences...

As day one of Free Agency has unfolded, the money flowed like beer at a frat party -- plentiful, and quick.

Washington, after a prudent year last year went nuts and spent $100 Million ($41 Million Guaranteed) AND resign Deangelo Williams to a 5 yr $54 Million contract with $23 Million guaranteed. Between him, Asmoguah, and Foxworth who signed with the Ravens at 4 year $28 million ($16.5 million guaranteed) the market for CB's is officially into Nate-Clements-Crazy-Land.

Rumor is McFadden is supposed to be meeting with the Lions soon, but hopefully the fact he isn't signed yet means he will come a lot cheaper than the other signed CB's. It also looks like whatever the Lions are going to pay for a CB may be in the range, or below, the contract Bodden is going to get. He is in talks with the Patriots last I read.

Going back to Washington, I noted in one article that stated how Washington was quiet in FA last year after spending big for several years in a row...but, that after going 8-8 "with an aging roster" Washington had to make a big splash. Why is Washington's roster aging so quickly? Because when you build through FA versus the draft, the guys you are getting start 5 - 8 years (at best, typically) than the guys you draft. They just don't stick around at all.

Washington is the poster child for how not to build a team -- through FA.

One of my favorite targets for the Lions - Vincent Fuller - resigned with Tenessee, so he is off the radar. Also, the Lions lost Moran Norris to the 49ers for a 1.5 mil bonus, 3 yrs 5 million. Good contract for a FB who was a street FA and started for the 30th ranked offense on an 0-16 team… At least it will go toward the Lions getting compensatory picks for 2011. Same if DanO signs elsewhere this ifseason, as the Lions tried to retain both.
Kellen Winslow of the Browns was traded for undisclosed draft picks to Tampa Bay. BTW - at least the new Bucs front office was left with a good situation. They are in Florida, where weather helps draw FA. They have 50+ Million in cap space after cutting everyone but Ronde Barber over 32 (literally), and having been decent in recent seasons, they will attract many FA. Mind you, don't be fooled. Tampa Bay is rebuilding as drastically as the Lions are this year, and their records/performance will be a good comparison moving along as to the progress of the Lions.
Bart Scott Just signed with the NY Jets - 5yrs $43 Million and a boatload guaranteed. Vilma re-signed with the Saints for a similar number. Either one would have been a positive addition for the Lions -- but that is too much money on a FA LB for a team that is just starting to build its' roster.
Chris Carr is a guy I wanted the Lions to look to, and he apparently has been contacted by the team, as well as 3 others. I think the Lions will be in on the bidding, but they won't overbid -- if the numbers get to high, they will drop out and focus elsewhere.

Dockery (LG) and Washington (WR) in town today -- though neither is said to have signed. Wash may be close to a deal was reported earlier, but now it is being reported he left town without a contract. Although TJ hoozyamomma would be an awesome #2, he is 31 and I think the price will be too high, even if he did want to come to the Lions. Washington would be good at the right price, but I think he left town because he was asking more than the Lions were willing to pay out. If the other #2 WR candidates get signed, look for them to sweep in on him -- but it is too early to be overpaying, and I like how Mayhew is conducting this so far.
Dockery would be a solid addition and upgrade at LG. It is unclear whether he is staying in Detroit, or left town. Another Buffalo player, Jabari Greer CB is set to visit Detroit this weekend. He'll probably command a little less than Foxworth money, but would be a solid starting CB. Buffalo doesn't really want to lose him, but wasn't able to work out a deal.
There are rumors that Mourice Morris was signed from Seattle to be Kevin Smith's backup, but as of right now it is unconfirmed, though the numbers put out there are 3 yrs $7 million which is reasonable #2 RB money. He's a good all around back, and solid #2 RB. If true, great signing by Detroit. As was so aptly stated by Killer...explains why they hadn't contacted Derrick Ward. Morris is just as good, will be more supportive in a backup role than Ward, and is a lot cheaper.
More on FA as it continues to unfold...

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Eve of Free Agency 2009

You'll note that I haven't yet gotten into my position breakdowns, or areas of need for FA. Mainly, this was just due to so much other news being out there as we have traveled through this ifseason with the coaching search.

Now that the coaches are in place, and FA in starting, it will give a better idea of where the team is headed, and how they intend to get there. I will gather the various "position breakdowns" after FA gets moving, and update changes as well as interpose my own views.

Speaking of, you can find the additional answers to the questions I answered yesterday here.

after an 0-16 season, it stands to reason that even with all the changes, some FA may not even be considering Detroit. For instance, Ken Lucas nixed a trade to Detroit earlier today as it appears Mayhew is out looking to trade for a CB. However, I expect the Lions could go in any number of directions, and I'm hoping that tomorrow morning, we'll all wake up to a flurry of activity!

The Lions did sign Ramzee Robinson to a 1 year deal, and also WR Steven Sanders (I have no idea who he is) to a two year deal.

I do have a basic listing I compiled from chatting with other Lions Fans of some FA the Lions may target tomorrow (not saying I'm in favor of all of all of them -- by far the opposite. But they are possibilities, and all under 30...)

FA targets??

QB: Fitzpatrick (26), DanO (26), Leftwich (29), Grossman (29)
RB: Ward (29), Morris (29), Benson (26), Arrington (26)
G: Kemoeatu (26), Brown (26) or Hangartner (27) (move from center to guard), Willis (27) or Barnes (27) (move from T to G)
T: see above
TE: Baker (29), Pope (25)
WR: Washington (26), Henderson (27), Clayton (26), Williams (26), Jones (26)
DT: Cole (28), Robertson (27), Olshanski (27) or Evans (29)(move from DE to DT)
OLB: Boley (27), Crowell (28),
ILB: Vilma (27), Scott (29), Thomas (26)
CB: Bodden (27, jk), Foxworth (26), Bartell (27), McFadden (27), Williams (26), Miller (25), Carr (26), King (27)
S: Sanders (25), Jones (27),Wilson (29), Doughty (26), Fuller (27)

Carr and Fuller, currently on the Titans, are two good bets. I don't see them bidding high enough to get Scott either. Can't wait to see how it shakes out as the roster begins to take shape!

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

3 Burning Questions from the Rev: O-Line

Each week this ifseason, Church of Schwartz will be asking 3 burning questions of 8 Lions bloggers and insiders from the web. As you'll note, our very own Ty of Lions in Winter will be anwering, along with such notables as Phil Zaroo and Dave Birkett. I have posted the questions and my own response so that you guys can see it first (you are my readers after all). Be sure to check out COS tomorrow for everyone's answers. I may even do a short piece about everyone else's answers on Thursday nights, we'll see. My contributions are in Italics:

First of all Rev, thanks for inviting me to participate. I'm no insider and I'm sure guys like Dave and Phil will have more of that type of information to share, although I'm glad you think my Lions opinions will be of value to your readers.

1. Rank the top 4 tackles in the draft: Michael Oher, Andre Smith, Jason Smith, Eugene Monroe?

I'm not totally familiar with most of the college players at this point, as I watch very little college ball during the year. While I've started digging in and watching game snippets on potential Lions where I can, I won't say I feel I've got a lot of solid expereince to go on with this one. Right now, I would say J. Smith and Monroe are pretty much tied, depending on what you look at. Since he is a converted TE and could have some flexibility in overload packages like the Ravens used last year, I guess I'd lean to the following order:

1. J. Smith -- flexibility is always a bonus, and as a converted TE I'm sure he can run-block, even if he did have to do a lot of pass-pro as a tackle.

2. Monroe -- He seems to be a solid overall prospect of the type you draft and don't have to worry about that position for a while becuase he's a good bet to be solid at worst, pro-bowl at best. Very safe pick says DF79's gut.

3. Oher -- Personality issues aside, he still seems to be a solid choice at tackle. I don't seem to have the motivation issues about him that are brought up, but that is a gut feeling, and goodness knows I've been wrong as much as I've been right.

4. A. Smith -- He strikes me as the guy who has great potential, but never quite gets there due not to bad choices, but lack of focus. If a team can find a way to get him focused in what matters, they will have gotten a phenomenal player at a steal of a spot. If not, he could be the next Gallery or Foster

2. Do you think Goster Cheriulus can be an effective NFL starter for the next 10 years?

I'm not too fond of the "draft him and forget about it for 10 years" phrasing that seems so prevalent around NFL media types these last few years regarding O-Linemen. Didn't they use that phrase endlessly about Robert Gallery? If every guy they say this about actually played at that level for 10 years, no one would be in the market for OT's right now. Obviously, they are -- and it's because not all of them last 10 years due to lack of motivation over time, mental factors, or injuries and some just can't make the transition.

All that being said, I do think that at the start of the season Gosder was about on par with George Foster. By the end of the season, I felt he had left him in his dust and was still improving. It is too early to really judge, especially after last season for Detroit -- but considering the success Kevin Smith had running to that side, I'd say early indications are that if he can keep his head in the game he will be a fixture at RT for the Lions for many years to come.

3. If the Lions draft a tackle #1, what happens to Jeff Backus?

I think that Martin Mayhew has already partially answered this for us: If it is a tackle at #1, then Jeff will be playing OG and competing with Peterman and a draft choice to start at LG. I'm pretty certain he can beat out Peterman, and if the Lions also take one of the great OG/C available in this draft, then I can see a starting line of: Monroe/J. Smith -- Backus -- Raiola -- OG/C -- Cherilus. This would conceivably allow the Lions to carry only 6 linemen on the final roster if they chose due to versatility among the starters, and the signing of Peterman. But if I were Jeff, I wouldn't be practicing my OG skills just yet based on where I think the Lions will end up going with the draft.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Stafford Impressed...with Himself

Dave Birkett talks about an article that is supposed to be in tomorrow's Sports Illustrated. I obviously haven't read the article yet (doubly so because I let my SI subscription run out...) After what I have seen of Stafford both as a player, interviews, clips, articles...I must comment:
Bear Hug from behind? Sounds like he still thinks he’s a frat guy.

Can you see Peyton Manning doing that at a job interview? Ray Lewis? Big Ben? Eli? Yourself?
How many of the guys that you want to be the face of your franchise would do that at the combine, when you’ve had dinner with them once and haven’t even seen the city, or even thrown at the combine?

Sorry. Maybe I’m an old stick in the mud, but I can tell you that from what I’ve seen of the new Lions’ management (Mayhew, Lewand and Coach Schwartz) they like an appropriate light hearted moment, but are old-school in the business sense.

“It was all in fun” is not something you should have to explain… usually, if you find yourself saying that, you are on the defensive and the other party was not amused. Stafford is acting, from what I’ve seen, as if he has the #1 spot locked up. Nothing to prove attitude.

Personally, attitude wise, I like Aaron Curry. His family comes first, and he has been supporting them as best he can. He used the idea that he could, with phenomenal workouts and interviews, combined with his college tapes, maybe convince the Lions to take him at #1. He’s out to prove he is worthy of that pick – through hard work he’s doing, and has done.

Out to prove –as in, it is motivational for him.

Skills wise, he is far and above the best 4-down LB in this draft. The next best are being viewed as 2 down backers in the NFL. He also would grade out well compared to other draft classes at this point. His pieces on SI.Com on participating in the combine are well written and thoughtful. Seems to be a mature kid who knows what is important, and is willing to work harder than anyone else to get there. He won’t tell you – he’ll show you.

People always say the QB is the heart of the offense – well, the MLB is the QB and often the heart of the defense. The Lions have many holes, and Stafford type QB’s are there every year – and most years, when there are better QB’s in a draft, they are available much later on. In 2005, he’s a late 2nd rounder, not #1 overall consideration. It’s only because he is a QB.

Curry is projected to go in the top 3. When you look at last year’s draft, Ryan – at #3 – got more than #1 and #2 picks. The 1 and 2 were very close. It is said Curry may go at 2. So why not #1? It’s need. It’s BPA. It’s an immediate starter impacting the team from day one, and for many years to come. A core player to build upon.

It’s safe on one level – he is talented, and a great bet to be a dominant NFL player. It’s a big gamble on the other hand, because he will be by far the highest paid LB in the league.
So which gamble do you take? The “value” position of QB, or QB of your defense? Or, do you dig the trenches?

McShay and the draftniks think the Lions are in a no-win situation. I say the glass is half full. While there is no "true #1" -- it also eliminates a lot of peer pressure from the mix. Since there is no one person that is "can't miss" they can at least avoid Charlie Casserly's fate after taking Mario Williams (now one of the top DE's in the league) but bypassing the "media" picks of Reggie Bush and Vince Young (how have they worked out, by the way?).

The Lions have chance to blaze their own bold path - in a commanding, not comical way - and for some reason I get the feeling they are going to take full advantage of it.

Finally, a bit of thanks to RIP! I had almost forgotten that today marks the 1 year anniversary of The year flew by, and thanks to all of you who read and contribute here -- both old and new! It's not just my passion for the Lions, but also not wanting to let you down, and to hear what you have to say that I continue this blog. So comment away -- as we enjoy our favorite team together -- from the depths of 0-16 to beyond!

Monday, February 23, 2009

Meat Market Moments

Weekend was busier than I thought. I've just now had time this evening to begin weeding through all of the meat market memos...I mean, combine notes.

I'm sure you've all been reading up on bench press number of reps, and who is .001 seconds faster than who in the 40 yards dash and the ever important measurements like wingspan, hand width, shoulder span, girth...oops. Sorry. Left the DVD player going...

Anyways, you can tell that as far as I'm concerned, other than disasters most of what we get to see/hear about the combine is the stuff that, ultimately, effects it very little. The most important information -- team interviews (or lists of who they interviewed), test results, etc. we never get to see. And that is what teams are after the most at the combine.

Sure, the physical stuff is important. The press conferences are just as important. So are the interviews, and how the athletes interact while at the combine, how they act while just hanging around, warming up, etc. Again, the most important things we don't get to see. Who naturally attracts other people to listen to them? Who seems polished, but is really crass and demeaning to small school prospects (who might be his teammates someday?)? Those types of things can mean as much to coaches and front offices as height and weight.

Especially when looking at the higher slots in the draft, teams need to figure out who that player is. How motivated to work their ass off will they be with 30 million in the bank? (#1 choice) or even 5 million? (20th) What kind of impact will they have on team chemistry? Were they a big fish in a little pond, or were they a tadpole who is just on the edge of going frog and jumping out over the competition?

I still want to take a bit more time to look over the facts coming out, as well as look up some non-highlight reel film on some of the more likely cuts of meat to be Lions.

My initial impressions, though: If Drew Stanton is a stretch to start for the Lions this season, no way Stafford is your opening day starter in Detroit unless Millen freezes over between now and September. Andre Smith made the classic rookie sales blunder: he talked himself out of the sale after believing his own hype. If his pro-day is as bad as his combine "appearance", then he could be there at 20...maybe even 33. Question is, do the Lions want him at that point -- or trade back with someone who wants to "snag a deal" and pick up a 2 and 3? (or 2 2's - this and next?)

Best Guess: Still with Killer, who called the strategy Mayhew admitted when he said they will negotiate with at least three, and take "right player, right price" as Schwartz has been putting it, just as they will in FA. The guys they will negotiate with? Stafford may be in the mix, but I will also jump on the Curry/Monroe/J Smith bandwagon until/unless something major happens to shake things up.

Especially with Mayhew apparently convinced that Backus can be a great LG, it opens back up OT at #1, and would fill a need at OG... Also, looking at what the "top" FA Guards have been getting the last couple of years, re-structuring Backus' contract to be OG friendly may be a lot easier than you would think. Besides, never hurts to have your backup LT playing OG. If they pick up one of the great OG/C combinations that are in this draft, they could end up with an Oline that has:

LT: Monroe/J Smith
LG: Backus
C: Raiola
RG: Mack/Wood
RT: Cherilus

With Peterman as the backup OG you would then have most of your backups on the starting line. With just 6 Olinemen, you would have a backup G,C, and LT. Have maybe one more OT/OG on the roster if need be (who is inactive game day) and you are only taking 6 or 7 of your 53 on the Oline. It also gives added flexibility going forward -- getting another OG in 2010 if you don't keep Backus at OG, or he doesn't restructure -- would leave an Oline that could conceivably be together for 5 years, with only an OG or C, or drafting of another OG/C needed.

This is the time of year to look over those things, and while I would like to see more defensive help, getting a solid long-term fix of the Oline that way would be a great move in year one -- and would pay dividends for quite some time.

I can also see LB at #1. It hasn't been done a lot, but considering that Curry is regarded as being able to play all three LB positions, and it could be possible. While some have called him the safest player in the draft -- it would still be a gamble for the Lions. Cap wise (assuming it is still maintained in the next labor agreement), he would need to be a top 3 LB in the league -- Urlacher/Lewis type LB -- to really make it worth the cap space. It's possible...

I'm still looking up more on these guys, as I said. One thing I did note was that Curry was indicated to have been used in 2 major ways -- as a run stuffer on the line, as well as dropping into coverage. This would make moving inside in a 4-3 a smooth possibility for him... I will look more into it, as I've had a few emails inquiring.

Your Meat Market thoughts? Any prime cuts you saw? Any great bargains pop out at you from the discount rack?

Friday, February 20, 2009

FA Starting to take Shape...

Free Agency in the NFL is slowly but surely taking shape as we have flitted past the deadline to Franchise players. So how did the market change?

First off, good luck finding a good CB as Namndi Asmagouh signed a lucrative 4 year deal in Oakland. Moving to #2 in a FA group with only two top tier playmakers, Daunte Robinson was franchised by the Texans, so unless he is worth a pick 33 to the Lions (which is what I think the Texans will want for him) then we won't see him in a Lions uniform either.

In O-line news, forget your healthiest FA Steelers OG as he was franchised. In related news, Jordon Gross of the Panthers should be sending a big fat thank-you card to Julius Peppers -- his demands forced Carolina into hurrying to get a pretty lucrative contract extension done with him so they had their tag free to use on Peppers so they can retain his rights to trade him.

Seattle also franchised a certain weed-smokin LB, so his chances of coming to the Lions just dropped to nil as well.

In a league wide trend I'm not sure many Lions fans were aware of, premier Kickers and Punters continue to be signed to extensions as well as franchised. Detroit came to a long term extension for Jason Hanson, and punter Shane Lechler was locked up in Oakland. The Bengals and Falcons decided to franchise members of the kicking team as well (kicker and punter respectively). With the kicking game having such a big influence on the outcome of games, more teams are placing an emphasis on keeping and retaining top talent at K, P and LS.

Surprisingly, this is one position grouping in which the Lions are if not the best in the league, darn close to it.

Celebrating a Birthday for one of my Lion Cubs this weekend (spent yesterday getting ready) so I will be on Hiatus til Sunday.

Keep up the great work on the links and thoughts for FA and Combine evaluations. I'll chime in with my first Combine thoughts Sunday, followed by my developing FA thoughts Monday and Tuesday.

Happy Birthday to my middle pick Lion... I know you'll read this. ~ Dad

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

More QB Thoughts...

Even before Killer mused about possible scenarios for the Lions QB situation for 2009, including Kitna's future not being so bright, I was thinking about the same thing -- especially with Donut... I mean, Daunte... making a concession to move his roster bonus back further into the Ifseason. (How far has not been released yet, but I'm guessing either just before camp, or sometime in the month before the season, possibly even during the preseason. But it's all conjecture on my part.)

I agree that Kitna is on his way out either via trade before or during the draft, or he will be cut at some point. Something tells me they pay him the roster bonus if they are going to trade him, and don't if just cutting him is in the plans. Either way, not matter how it is spun or perceived elsewhere, I don't see him on the roster opening day 2009.

DanO, as I stated before, I think will come back if it means a duel-to-the-death with Daunte Culpepper to be the veteran QB on the roster, along with Stanton and a draft pick. However, the Killer scenario of DanO, Daunte, Stanton and a draft pick could play out as well.

If the Lions pick up more than one FA QB I take that as a sure sign that there will NOT be a #1 QB, or possibly anything other than a late round flier who will make it to the practice squad, taken at QB in the draft. It just wouldn't make sense.

Right now, based on comments from the Lewand, I see DanO coming back on a reasonable 1 or 2 year deal -- possibly a 3 year deal with incentives if he can hold the starting job. This makes the QB situation a 4 person competition for 3 spots between DanO, Stanton, Culpepper, and a Draft pick. Draft pick, if high enough, gets one spot so it comes down to three D's for 2 spots...

Only camp will tell who wins that battle. I will say though, I think it will be a lot more fair than the "competition" farce that Marinelli put up last ifseason/season.

Speaking of possible Lions Qb's (since many have already ordered his jersey it seems) here is an interesting article on Stafford I thought you would enjoy. The author is originally from Detroit.

Finally, on a FA note for those of you who hated the Dre Bly trade, Burnt Toast could once again be pursued to fill the backfield holes on the Lions as he was released by the Broncos... Boss Bailey is also out there if we need a LB too! LOL Looking at the cuts, I would take Dwayne Robertson -- for the right price. More on FA tomorrow as more cuts come in with franchise deadline approaching, and as the new coaching staffs begin purging their respective rosters...

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Guest Blog: Shack Attack

As usual with a primarily guest blog, my own comments will be [italics]. JJLions20 sent this to me this right after I publsihed the Harris article, and I thought it fit with the current discussions.

I've been just reading the posts for a while and not commenting too much, but now that the front office is in place the coaching staff is in place I've been listening to the talk shows and reading the papers and thought about what the Lions seriously need to do with the draft, and the best case scenario. So here are the thoughts, taking a segway from the article about James Harris' hiring.

Now that the Lions have the Personnel guy in place in maybe we should call the draft the Shack Attack. But now is the time to come up with….THE BEST CASE LIONS DRAFT SCENARIO:

With the NFL Combine starting this week and approximately 2 months until the draft, this is where all the mis-information and smoke starts (if it hasn't already). I posted a few weeks back what would be best opportunity for the Lions in the Draft. After listening to many sports talk show (and discarding much of the garbage), I've come up with a scenario that is the best and most likely [As of now].

The Lions need to trade down and pick up extra picks, yet still get the best defensive player on the board. In order for this to happen four things have to happen.

1. One player has to rise to the top of the board that is heads and shoulders above the others and destine to be a game changer.
2. There has to be a definitive gap between him and the next player in the draft at his position.
3. He has to be coveted by multiple teams.
4. The Lions have to be willing to take slightly less than market price (based upon the calculator all teams use). [See Magic 8-Ball piece from Monday for my thoughts on this]

I don't believe this will be Mathew Stafford, because when it comes down to it, Stafford did not do well enough in the big college games, and ultimately that will hurt him. The Guy the Lions have to hype and hope he separates himself in the draft is Michael Crabtree. Why? He's a big play guy, he has proven it in big games. He's a lot like CJ as he is the best can't miss prospect in the Draft. After all the hype the QB's will slip way down on the board. That leaves Crabtree, Smith (weight, character issues, and a host of OT's about the same talent level), and then the Defensive players. So If Crabtree can impress the scouts, it becomes a question of how high do you go to get him. A team could trade with the Rams, and then get out maneuvered when somebody else who wants him can deal with the Lions. The key is the Lions can't ask for a kings ransom, they don't need a Hersal Walker deal, they just need an additional fist day pick and maybe a 2nd day pick. [I'd go less than that -- 3rd round is second day, and I would take a top 10 3rd and 1st in a heartbeat for first overall.] If the goal is to improve your team then it's about getting the defensive player you targeted, and more picks, and more possibilities at improving.

The key team here is the Seahawks, who supposedly want Crabtree. What the Lions need to do is stir up enough interest that the Seahawk believe there is no way he slips to 4th so the only way to get him is to move up, and the only spot to guarantee it is the #1 spot. So let's say the Lions get KC's 1st and 2nd rounder. That may not be fair value for the 1st overall pick, but if they wanted that defensive player, wouldn't it be better drafting #4, getting the Defensive player and then still have picks #20, #33, #37, #65, #82. Now I'm not saying the best they could do is the #4 and #37 picks, but it would be enough for me to pull the trigger, because in the end it will make the Lions a better team (given good picks).

[I would take that deal, but without the the #37. Make it #4 and #68 for #1 overall. That is also doable. While getting their 1 and 2 is the best case scenario, getting their 1 and 3 would still be more than enough for me to jettison #1 overall. 3rd round is where good GM's make it or break it, and if the Lions draft well there they will improve. If they don't, it will be more mediocrity. That would still make for the Lions having picks #4, 20, 33, 65, 69, 82. Any GM and fan base should be beyond thrilled with that. One step further would be to parlay #20 to a team looking to move back into the first for an additional 2nd and 3rd. Based on last year, that is also a distinct possiblity. Having pick 33 already, imagine giving up 20 for 47 and 79? Then it would be 4, 33, 47, 65, 69, 79, 82? You could realistically be looking at 6 solid starters, possibly 7 with those picks. Wouldn't that be something?? The IFseason has truly begun...]

[Despite the combine, IMO draftniks make huge changes to the board based on the combine. Teams? Not as much upward movement. Some guys may screw up and drop out of contention/downward on the board (think of in Excel, you delete a cell, and move the rest up. One goes down 12 spots, everyone in between where they start, and where they end up gets bumped up one by default.) Get enough downward movers, and that is where players "moving up the boards" comes from. So look for me to focus more on the roster, posssible FA, and FA strategy and assessments for a while, moving more to a draft focus as we get more into the middle to end of March. Depending on how exciting FA is, of course!]

Peterman, Culpepper, Hanson Return [updated]

According to Dave Birkett, Culpepper and Hanson have both signed re-negotiated contracts to remain with the Lions. They signed Peterman to a 5 year deal yesterday.

While Hanson was locked up for 4 more years, and will retire a Lion now -- Culpepper is still on a one year deal. Rumor is that his roster bonus was either eliminated, or moved back into the end or beginning of training camp (depending on who you are talking to) as a sort of "get in shape and perform" bonus -- also one that would allow them to jettison him if things don't work out leading up to camp with his conditioning, progress, etc.

Lewand also indicated they are still in talks with DanO. My guess? They are going to have an open competition with the loser being told up front they will have the backup job, and Stanton will be either holding the clipboard, or replaced by a rookie pick. Possibly one of the vets may bite it too. I'll look at it closer once more details are available...

Here is a test of DanO's competitive spirit -- given a fair shot for the first time, do you sign with the Lions and possibly be cut before the season if you lose, or do you turn tail and take a 2nd banana job somewhere else?? All or nothing roll of the dice...

So far with these moves, the front office is still exceeding my expectations. More thoughts tomorrow after I have time to look everything over, including the ongoing cuts by other teams and available FA now that Franchise Tags are being applied, and more guys are being re-signed or let go...

To Stafford or To Stanton? [updated]

The Detroit Lions are out there selling QB at #1 overall for all they are worth. Drew Sharp nails it right on the head when he says they are doing a great job attempting to build the market value of #1 overall.

While I am happy they are doing so, there are a number of pros and cons to a QB in the first round, much less #1 overall.

That is not my topic today. (Fooled you, didn't I?) It will wait for later.

Whenever draftniks are looking at players to be drafted, they love to say "he is the next... [insert pro-bowl or HOF player here, despite relevance]" and then throw out statistics to "back it up."

So I decided to have a quick bit of fun with this. See, according to their best year in college only, Matthew Stafford is the next...Drew Stanton.

Stats for each player's best year

Drew 2005
completions 236
attempts 354
yards 3077
completion % 66.7
TDs 22
Ints 12
sacks 24
rating 153.41

Stafford 2008
completions 235
attempts 383
yards 3459
completion % 61.4
TDs 25
Ints 10
sacks 17
rating 153.54


Then, take into account whom each player was surrounded by. Stanton had...ummm... I think there is another player from that offense in the NFL. I think.

Stafford had beyond doubt a much stronger Oline, and supporting cast (including a likely 1st round RB) than Stanton. This isn't to compare them directly, but statistically speaking, a Stafford who did the same with less is already on the roster! And he was never out there covering kicks either...

JJLions20 posted a great overview on "what makes an NFL QB" in the comments of yesterday's story that bears repeating (great comments there - always be sure to read the comments as they are usually very insightful)

In my book, there are four factors to being a Pro QB. You need to have two of the four to get a shot at starting in the pro’s, three of the four to be successful , and all four to be a star. They are as follows:

• Athletic Ability. It first comes with a big league arm. One who can make the throws, and/or the legs for mobility. This is what is easiest measured at the combine and individual workouts.

• Leadership. Some call it the IT factor, or the intangibles. The willingness to work harder than everybody else and lead by example.

• Accuracy. For some reason which I don't understand this is not as easy to evaluate coming from college to the pro's. Somehow supposedly accurate passers in college can't hit a receiver in the pro's. It may be the speed of the game and the small windows to throw into that is the difference.

• Decision Making. The ability to read defenses, go though progressions and make decisions under pressure.

If the Lions are looking at Stafford or Sanchez as the #1 overall pick they better be sure they have three of the 4 factors locked down. A College QB with 2 of the four is not a high 1st rounder. Looking at these two I think they both have the Athletic Ability, and that will prove out in the work-outs. So one down two to go.

The next factor is leadership. It’s a question mark in my mind with both of these guys. Stafford could not lead his team or will his team to victory in the big games. Sanchez may have shown a little more but it’s hard to evaluate being surrounded by a lot of NFL ready players. Lets remember though that USC Players are not known for their work ethic. It’s more of a country club atmosphere at USC.

Accuracy is the next factor to look at. Stafford has shown inconsistency in this area during his college career. He would look bad for a quarter or two then light it up for a while. To me this is a big red flag. The windows are smaller and the players are quicker in the NFL. Typically inconsistent QB’s in college make mistakes and get eaten alive in the NFL. [see Joey Harrington, David Carr] With Sanchez the knock is his talent was so great around him his inaccuracy was hidden.

The hardest of the four factors to evaluate is the Decision Making. College offences are so simplistic compared to the Pro offences, a college QB can not be evaluated by his college play. I don’t think it can be evaluated properly although there are some things that can weed out some players. The Wunderlich test for one. Video games to test reaction times. My problem with Drafting Stafford or Sanchez is I only see one of the four factors so far. It’s up to Schwartz, Harris, & Mayhew to determine if he has two of the other three factors. I just don’t see either of these guys having what it takes for the #1 pick. One last comment, I would agree that Stanton had two of the four factors (Athletic Ability & Leadership) making him a 2nd rounder. But without the accuracy and/or decision making ability he’s not going to be a starter in the NFL. [I think he has accuracy, but his decision making needs to improve. To me, that is the most important of the 4. It's not just about being able to make the throws, but knowing when and where.]

When you look at the technical ratings, etc. Stafford is rated right about where Drew was 2 years ago -- the only difference is who else is available. No Jamarcus Russell. (And how has that turned out for Oakland so far? Keep in mind, Russell was "head and shoulders" above the other QB's the year he came out... and was rated higher in most every category than Stafford is coming out of college...)

In high school, there were two different bands once we entered the concert season. The Symphonic Band was the top players from grades 10-12. The Concert Band was everyone else who still wanted to be in band. So even if you were first chair (top player) in the Concert Band, it still meant you weren't as good as the worst player in the Symphonic Band.

Keep this in mind as draft mania enters full swing, and remember that the hype is just that -- hype. I'll leave you today with a quote from Football Outsiders:

"Stafford was directly preceded at Georgia by the recently retired David Greene; both spent their entire college careers under head coach Mark Richt in similar offensive systems. Stafford's college numbers are actually worse than Greene's, with the latter completing 59 percent of his passes and averaging 8.01 yards per attempt to Stafford's 7.83. If Stafford was really a star in the making, wouldn't he have put up better numbers, in the same system, than a guy who washed out of the NFL without taking a professional snap? If it was our $25 million guaranteed, the answer would need to be yes."

- Bill Barnwell, Football Outsiders

Monday, February 16, 2009

Disco, 8 Tracks, Jimmy Johnson & Caps

The year: 1989. These little shiny things called CD's had just been introduced, but were still rare and expensive. Cassette Tapes were all the norm. 8 tracks were hanging around still, but already relegated to the discount bin. Finally, Jimmy Johnson and his staff devised a tool that is now deader that Disco and Elvis -- though many people still deny all three.

This article is a couple years old, but illustrates at least the edges of what I am getting at, as well as the origins and value of the chart -- at the time.

The problems with the value chart doesn't lie in the numbers, but in how the NFL has changed in the last 20 years. In the late 80's, teams chose the best player available or at a position of need irregardless of where they were picking. This is because there was no salary cap, so teams weren't limited in payroll options. Also, the "first pick of the NFL Draft" also was not even close to it's current days usage as a synonym for "you just won the Lottery!"

Because of the high salaries of the first few draft picks, they become among the highest paid players in the NFL. There could be a pro-bowl, super OG available -- but at #1, if the Lions picked him he would end up with a contract guaranteed at over twice what the highest paid OG in the NFL right now makes. This limits the positions that are available with the first pick to those that warrant the salary.

That limitation alone would be enough to justify some changes to the NFL Draft system. Back in the 8-track days, the first pick in the draft was a reward to the worst teams -- the ability to pick the best college player coming out, or trade away the right to choose that player for some additional picks.

Not so now.

In addition to the limitation on position, there is the other side of the cap implication -- failure. There are so many cap dollars wrapped up in the first pick that a miss there can cripple a franchise's cap situation. You can't choose at 10 year starter at OG, you have to try to swing for the next Larry Fitzgerald or Jared Allen. Unfortunately, this leads teams to take on even more risk. The positions with the highest pay are such because they are harder to find a pro-bowl level player to man them. Conversely, this also means choosing one leads to a higher frequency of failure as well.

According to NetRat, the positions that can justify #1 overall money are QB, WR, DE, LT, RB. Even RB is iffy, as teams have been able to find great backs in rounds 2-3 that have as much, or more, impact than the first round backs. DT is borderline due to their inflating salaries -- would have to be a pro-bowl player to justify it. Is there one in this draft? Lions don't need a WR#1, they need a WR#2. They don't need a RB#1, they need a RB#2...

That leaves DE, LT, QB. Lions could go LT, but that would be upgrading someone who is a reasonable starter, highly paid, and still won't fix the big problem on the line --- the OG positions. As for DE -- is there a Mario Williams in this draft? Besides, White has done decent, and Avril was really coming on last year once he got on the field. So that leaves QB.

Remember, this is just from a cap perspective.

See how easily the salary process of elimination pigeon-holes teams in the #1 spot?

Now, I want to get back to value. It irritates me no end how the same fans who say "we can't trade out of #1, no one wants it." then turn right around and say "but we can't do that trade -- the #1 pick is worth more than that!" -- so which is it?? Not worth anything, or only worth giving up for a couple firsts and seconds??

I have an answer: My House. It has three different values right now -- State Equalized Value, Market Value, and Personal Value.

1. State Equalized value is what the state uses to tax my house each year. It is dependent on a formula of current markets, what past sale values have been, past sales in the area, etc. In other words, it is an abstract value for tax purposes that may or may not have anything to do with the current real value of the home.

I liken this valuation to the draft chart. Back when it was relevant, and still is for later rounds, it allowed a value to be put on the valueless -- a standardized "what if" price that made for a common starting point, but could be altered based on leverage.

2. Market Value: Market Price, simply defined, is the price an individual is willing to pay another for a good or service. In this example, what will someone else be willing to pay me for my house? It doesn't take into account, in reality, what I paid for it. It doesn't matter what I think it's worth. The only thing that matters is how much someone else wants it. What are they willing to pay to take it off my hands? I may make money, or I may take a loss, but the market determines that based on factors such as available comparable housing, the pricing of such, their need, time-frames, etc.

This is the true value of picks traded (and players, for that matter). You can only get rid of a pick for what another team is willing to pay. If my SEV value is your entire draft, but market price is an extra 3rd rounder -- that is it. The pick is worth a 3rd rounder unless some other team decides it is worth more to them. You can point at the chart til you are bluer than the Cadillac Grannie's tuft of hair sticking over the steering wheel and it won't matter.

A draft pick is only worth what another team is willing to give you for it.

3. Personal Value: This is the compliment to market value -- what your house it worth to you. Maybe I can sell my house and break even on what I owe -- but then I would be out my down payment. Or maybe I can sell it for what I bought it for. But do I want to sell? Do I have to sell? Can I afford to sell? Those factors all play in to what my house is worth to me. If I am forced to do something, that will intrinsically lower the value -- I have to get rid of it. If I want to get rid of it, but don't have to, the value will still be low for me (I don't want it) but I won't take a big loss just to be out of here. Finally, if I am happy with my house and don't want to move, then someone will need to offer me a premium. If that premium is high enough, I will take their offer because it benefits me, not because I am unhappy.

The Roy Williams trade is a perfect example of the last line. Jerry Jones really wanted RW. Detroit was fine keeping him, but since they were offered a high enough premium -- they sold. The "personal value" for the first draft pick needs to be dealt with the exact same way.

If the Lions have a couple of guys they like, and are comfortable with what contract they will take, then by all means --- hold out for a great deal and if it doesn't come along use the pick. On the other hand, if they aren't thrilled with the prospect, but will use the pick if they have to -- then try and get what you feel is a remotely reasonable offer, and get out of it. Finally, if they absolutely do not want that #1 overall, get the hell out of dodge. Fire-sale it and do anything but give up your own picks to get out of there. No sense using it for the sake of using it if you don't like any of your options at #1!

This means that what you feel the Lions should get for the first pick is directly related to how you feel the Lions view their options. If you think Stafford is the man (Tomorrow I'll show you that Stafford is already on the roster) then you will only trade out for a big offer (multiple 1's, or 1-2-3 kind of deal). If you like Stafford, but a couple other guys catch your eye. You'd be happy with any number of players in the top ten, then you trade it for a top-ten #1 and a their 2nd or 3rd. If you feel fine being in the teens, do the same thing -- 1 & 2 or 3 for #1 overall.

Finally, if you just hate the #1 spot, and feel it will set the Lions back another 3 years then fire sale out of it. Take #anything in the first and an additional pick to not have to use it. Or move to #2 - 10 for a 1 and a 4,5 or 6. You're still getting something, but avoiding that super-huge payout.

So as we get into the FA and draft talk, keep the different valuations in mind -- especially market and personal value -- as they are what dictates the signings and movings and trades.

As Elvis would sing on his 8-track, "A little less conversation, a little more action..."

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Harris in the Shack?

Wrapping up a couple of pieces on the coaching staff, I thought I'd highlight all the information I found on Shack Harris, the Lions' new Personnel man.

Here is an undocumented excerpt I found, with a little poster-editing, but gives some good information:

..."A veteran with over 30 years experience in the NFL, Harris played quarterback for 12 seasons before embarking on what is now his 20th year in personnel. His personnel career began in 1987, as a scout for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (1987-92). From 1993-96, Harris served as assistant general manager of the New York Jets. Named director of pro personnel for the Baltimore Ravens in 1997, he spent six years with the Ravens where he earned a Super Bowl ring with the Ravens’ victory in Super Bowl XXXV in 2000.
That was one heck of a team Shack put together. Those Ravens absolutely destroyed everyone defensively. Now I grant you their offense wasn't great from a passing perspective... It was adequate though, and their running attack with Jamaal Lewis was devastating. Harris has a very high opinion of JDR's evaluation ability and says as much in an interview.
Q: How's your relationship with Del Rio?It's great. Jack and I go way back to Baltimore. It's good because Jack is a good evaluator. So many head coaches are not evaluators. Jack will watch tape. So many head coaches might watch just a few plays, but Jack will do the detailed tape watching that allows you to make a decision. Jack is a good football guy. He played the game and understands things from a player's perspective and a coach's perspective. So we get along well. We feel that we have an excellent staff.

That relationship has produced quite a bit of fruit and is the core reason for the Jaguars' success. Let's look at some of his picks.Leftwich - Bust [not sure I agree there - solid, but unspectacular qb ala DanO] Matt Jones- Bust [If he stays out of trouble, finally started looking like a real WR last season] Marcedes Lewis - Lookin' Good Reggie Nelson - Lookin’ Good Rashean Mathis - STAR Daryl Smith - STAR-lite M. Jones Drew - STAR Those are only the first two rounds. Players like Clint Ingram (3rd) or Sensabaugh (5th) came in later rounds. Let's not forget about all the un-drafted free agents the Jags sign and end up contributing. Players like that keep your special teams strong, your bottom line down, and your salary cap with plenty of room" - nost3

Mlive had a bit of information on him, and here is his Bio. Interesting that he was named director of pro personnel for the Baltimore Ravens in 1997, he spent six years with the Ravens where he earned a Super Bowl ring with the Ravens’ victory in Super Bowl XXXV in 2000 and that he was Phil Savage's Supervisor.

Nost found an excerpt from another Harris article, but couldn't find sourcing. (If anyone finds sourcing for either article, please post it in comments. I like to ID sources of thoughts not my own whenever possible.)

James Harris is noted for his "Best Player Available" draft philosophy, in which he ignores the team's current roster and simply picks the college player he feels is the best athlete. This is in contrast to Coughlin's draft philosophy, which was based on assessing needs in the current pro roster. James Harris put this philosophy to work immediately upon being hired, drafting quarterback Byron Leftwich even though Mark Brunell, who at the time was in the top ten for best QB rating in league history, was still on the roster. Harris's 2003 and 2004 draft classes are already highly regarded.
The 2004 season, celebrated as the 10th season of the Jaguars' existence, resulted in a winning record of 9-7 with road victories against the Green Bay Packers at Lambeau Field as well as the Indianapolis Colts at the RCA Dome. The Jaguars' defense was a strong suit, as it included the 2 of the team's Pro Bowl players, defensive tackles Marcus Stroud and John Henderson. Byron Leftwich also enjoyed a solid year in 2004, helped by strong performances from holdovers Fred Taylor and Jimmy Smith. Unfortunately, Taylor sustained a season-ending injury at the Packers game. The very next week saw the Jaguars fall to the Houston Texans, which would ultimately eliminate the Jaguars from the playoffs. This denied them an opportunity to play the Super Bowl at their home stadium (the Super Bowl in February 2005 being the first the Jaguars, and Jacksonville, hosted).
The 2005 Jaguars' hoped to challenge the Colts for the division title. However, due to their 13-0 start, including two victories against the Jaguars, the Colts were able to easily clinch the AFC South title. With a 12-4 record (second best finish in team history), the Jaguars easily qualified for one of the conference's two wild card playoff allocations. Among these 12 wins were a 23-20 victory over the Cincinnati Bengals on October 9, 2005 and a 23-17 overtime victory over the Pittsburgh Steelers on October 16, 2005. While the Jaguars managed to win key games in 2005, 9 of their final 10 games were played against opponents with losing records. Though these games were wins, key players Byron Leftwich, Mike Peterson, Paul Spicer, and Rashean Mathis were hurt during this stretch. The Jaguars ended the season losing 28-3 to the two-time defending champion New England Patriots on January 7, 2006 in the 2005 season's AFC wild card playoff round.

This article is a long Q&A with Harris when he was with Jax last December. It is very revealing, to me -- and it also shows he is comfortable in an advisory role, and taking a team based appraaoch to building a team. A must read in order to know more about how the Lions will be approaching FA and the Draft.

This last article on Harris doesn't garner any real new info - but it is Jamie Samuelson, what do you expect? - just a lukewarm recap of what Mayhew and Lewand have done this ifseason.

Finally, lets jump back to the head coaching spot, where the Boston Globe had this great in-depth article on Jim Schwartz.

I had fun spoiling Mrs. DetFan1979 yesterday for Valentines Day. Hope everyone else was able to at least have a little time with family/significant others.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Who's Your Coaches?

I'm sure that most of you have seen at this point some kind of listing on the assistant coaches that the Lions have hired, but who are they? Where are they from? Are they competent, good backgrounds, or were they the guy in charge of laying down tracks for the Lionels?

Never Fear! The intrepid Nubsnobber has some comments, and I did some digging yesterday to find what I could on your "new" Detroit Lions coaches as well.

OFFENSE- Scott Linehan (OC), Todd Downing (Offensive Quality Control) Shawn Jefferson (receivers), Sam Gash (running backs), Jeff Horton (hears a Who) (quarterbacks), Tim Lappano (TE's), George Yarno (O-Line).

DEFENSE- Gunther Cunningham (DC), Don Clemens (assistant DC/quality control), Matt Burke (linebackers), Bob Karmelowicz (D-line), Kris Kocurek (Dline assistant), Tim Walton (Dbacks), Daron Roberts (Dbacks assistant)

SPECIAL TEAMS- Kwan w/ Brad Banta (special teams assistant coach).

WEIGHT ROOM GURUS: Jason Arapoff (coordinator of physical development) and Malcom Blacken (strength and conditioning).

The Lions web site has bios on ALL of the listed coaches.

Don Clemens has been with the Lions for 25 years. I don't like strength coaches (or former ones) who do not look like they have chewed through steel. He looks too happy to be a quality control coach as the Lions had NO quality last year that is worth repeating. He must make good coffee.

Matt Burke (ouch) looks like Schwartz's coffee maker from Tennessee. Comes from the Titans D-staff with little coaching experience; seems more like a film, research, study guy.

Bob Karmelowicz Very good d line coach who is in charge of coaching--D line. After a skip in Houston, he reunites with THE GUN. They coached together in KC from 1997-2000.

Kris Kocurek A young, up and coming coach who has coached at the college level coaching---D linemen. This hire also makes sense even though he doesn't have much pro experience.

Tim Walton is especially impressive for only being 37. He worked with LSU, Miami, and Memphis as a DB coach. Memphis??? What a powerhouse in college football...the Memphis Tigers. But if you look at the turnaround that program has done in one year (all of which was attributed to their pass defense), you can see he's an up-and-comer and has had terrific talent at LSU and Miami. He was at the "U" for three years, and worked with a bunch of pro players.

Daron Roberts is a really weird, Schwartz-like mind bender. Law school grad (Harvard), student body President (Texas), and a want-to-be politician. Spent last two years with Kansas City.

Todd Downing is a closet-Vikqueen fan as he grew up in Minnesota. Followed Linehan over from St. Louis where he was the DEFENSIVE quality control coach. Again, he must really make good coffee and know how to work the opaque projector.

Sam Gash He's back. And Sam will bring good continuity to the young one, Kevin Smith.

Jeff Horton (Sorry, the kids were watching Horton so it fit). He comes over from the Rams as well (past two years), but also taught in college with Wisconsin before that. Maybe a run on Bollinger as a back up???

Shawn Jefferson He's back. Shawn will need to help tutor and mentor someone else for CJ. Glad to see him returning.

Tim Lappano Interesting choice. He has twice worked in the NFL as a backs coach ('Hawks and Niners), but has spent three years in hell with Ty Willingham at Washington. He does have good experience as a coach and is well-rounded. He was the OC when the Oregon State Beavers started claiming big bowl appearances in 2000-2002.

George Yarno was the assistant offensive line coach last year for Tampa. Before that...he coached linemen at various colleges around the country. Yarno looks like a good addition.

Brad Banta former Lions tight end who graduated from USC. He is back this year to hold Stan Kwan's clipboard.

Jason Arapoff very good strength coach, one of the best in the league and a very knowledgeable person.

Malcolm Blacken good to see Malcolm back as well. He and Arapoff have run the Lions strength and conditioning department for 8 years going and do a phenomenal job. [If it ain't broke...]

I think the Lions did a good job hiring a well-rounded staff. There are a few funny, interesting choices but top-to-bottom, this looks like a good staff. Better yet, they appear to communicate well between themselves. We'll see how well they do as the season progresses.


I also found a few tidbits here and there on the Lions' new coaching staff.

Don Banks did a nice overall piece (Lions are at the end) on chances for each new coach this year.

Why is Stan Kwan back? -- Well, other than the reasons I have mentioned before, and essentially without a returner AND a "just get it to the 20" coach -- Check out these links as to why Stan Kwan is still with the team. The Football outsiders had the Lions Special Team ranked #14 and Rick Gosselin had them ranked #19. All things considered, that is a heck of an accomplishment for an 0-16 team, and with the players and limitations he was saddled with. I'm interested to see what he can do when fully backed, and apparently so is Schwartz.

Here is some more information on Tim Walton, who does seem to be bringing a lot to the table, including his Memphis Bio.

Birkett brings up that all of the coaches are bound by some kind of ties -- albeit pretty loosely, especially compared to son-in-law defensive coordinator and his father as a quality coach. Of course, isn't that what you want, at least a little? I mean, coaches don't just magically appear. After I read through this again, it appeared to me that for the most part those ties seem pretty fleeting -- and I'd hazard to say there are a couple hundred coaches active in teh league right now who have closer ties to the coaches than this, and aren't employed by the Lions. Sometimes, when you're looking to prove something, you find ways to prove it. If you're looking to disprove it, you come to that conclusion too...

Finally, here is a great piece from highlighting Scott Linehan, the new OC, and why he thinks that the Lions offense will become a perennial force to be reckoned with having Linehan pulling the strings. One important note, and something I've often talked about, is that not every coordinator has what it takes to be a Head Coach. For some, the coordinator is the niche where they not only thrive, but excel beyond others. Linehan has ALWAYS been a great OC wherever he has been -- he just wasn't so great at being a HC. Another example? Marty Mornhinweg -- anyone want to disagree that he calls some great games for the Philly offense? Cunningham, the new DC has typically done well in that role, not so well at HC. There are other examples as well (Mike Nolan; Norv Turner is a much better coordinator, looking over his career, than HC even if he is currently one -- for now.)

I have to agree that top to bottom, the Lions have put together a heck of a staff! Tomorrow, I'll put a lot more details I dug up on Shack Harris, the new personnel guy. Then it is back into FA and the draft.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Guest Blog; Spring Has Sprung

Here is a guest blog on FA and the beginnings of spring from our very own Nubsnobber. As usual, my meaningless additions are in [bracketed italics].

Gentlemen Today feels like the first day of Spring up here in Northern Michigan and is finding chipmunks popping out of their trees. After a warm weekend, today is about 50F, and is seeing the snow melt hard. The weekend started with 28-32 inches on the level in my yard (yeah, still) and it is now compressed to about 4 inches. A nice, warm rain tonight would insure grass poking through by morning. [Kind of like new life for the Lions Franchise if all goes well the next couple of Ifseasons. Otherwise they'll be paying the nice fellow who drives around with a winch and a credit card machine in his truck 150 bukcs to get them out of the ditch on a Sunday at 2 am - again - and hoping this time the trusty old blind deaf mechanic can figure it out -- he's "almost got it nailed down this time for sure."]

I've heard the Capital City already has green-bite me insurance dude. And a second bite for trumping my team the last game of the season and sneaking past into the playoffs. I was surprised by the "no smack talk" for floudering down the stretch. [I was trying not to rub it in. Especially since in the Annual ReDraft League I folded like the 2007 Lions down the stretch and faded into the playoffs like an 80 year old man with a 20 year old who just can't get it done. No magic blue helpers for me down the stretch there. Oh, and I still have snow where it piled up next to my driveway after I dug myself out time and again. I miss the UP and my front-end loader for a winter like this year was.]

The first day of free agency cuts shows that most teams are keeping the cards closer to their vests than the Lions' telegraphed moves. Only two (2) teams acted like the Lions in cutting salary for FA cash. [I didn't mind the telegraphing in this case - teams knew the Lions would cut them, so trade values were nil on the guys they cut. It showed a classy move, and at least let some info out of Allen Park.] The other teams cutting players, cut an obvious player for obvious reasons. The wake has barely been noticed in the pool. Adam "PacMan" Jones was cut by the Dallas Cowboys. Our Hometown Hairballs cut WR Mike Furrey, TE Dan Campbell, OT Jon Dunn, OG Edwin Mulitalo, CB Leigh Bodden, and FS Dwight Smith. [They also have a very impressive Lionel Train Collection for sale on Ebay.] The Cleveland Browns cut QB's Ken Dorsey and Bruce Gradkowski, OT Eric Young, LB Antwan Peek, CB Terry Cousin, P Mike Dragosovich, and K Jason Reda. The New York (Football) Giants cut RB Rueben Droughns, CB Sam Madison, and SS Sam Knight.

Ineundo exists about several players including Matt Cassel being traded and Edgerrin James getting cut and being re-signed by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, but 1) I like fact over fiction and it hasn't happened yet. and 2) think (in James' case that Tampa probably won't do something like that as they already have a re-tread in Warrick Dunn still on the roster. It just wouldn't make sense. Which is why I prefer going with option #1, believe it when I see it.

Many rumors will pop on the tread mill. So many so, it will be like Curves the week after New Year's. I don't see the new staff wanting to splurge. The problem is...the owner. Always wanting to put a face on things, generate buzz, and make things look new and improved-you may see the QB drafted #1 overall. I think it a huge and tragic mistake unless he is as good as advertised, and I do feel that Linehan is capable of being trusted to make that decision. [Agree]

But Ford forces decisions on people just for the sake of marketing, not necessarily what is best for the team and it's needs. In a down economy, how can you put seats in the stands. Especially when, you are coming off a year that saw your team no sell out 50% of its home games. It's almost as bad as Al Davis coveting the fastest person in the draft, or Millen wanting that perfect choo-choo train for his Lionel set. [Should have read this through before instering additional Lionel joke above -- had no idea you were saving the best for last.] I'm not ruling anything out. Period.


[I do think, for whatever optimistic deluded reasoning, that Lewand has the hypnotic power over Ford to convince him that whatever Mr. Lewand is thinking was oringinally WCF's idea -- which makes it brilliance, of course -- in a very Rasputin-like way. Thus will he gain true power fo the franchise and help turn it around with the ideas gleaned from his cohorts (Schwartz and Mayhew). I also think the Scouts were happy to hear that this year, they would not be presenting their reports to the brick wall at the rear of the Allen Park training facility as they have the past 8 years under that assurance that "yes fellows, of course it's getting through. What was chuck's 40 time again?"]

Monday, February 9, 2009

Lions Cuts - Expect the Expected - For Now...

The Lions announced 6 cuts today, 4 of which were telegraphed by player agents ahead of time. It is nice to see that Lions management at least gave the players who were being let go advance warning, and thus a better chance to get their ducks in a row as far as signing with other teams. The moves, collectively, put Detroit about $35 million under the salary cap.

The players cut were: Dwight Smith, Leigh Bodden, Dan Campbell, Edwin Mulitalo, Jon Dunn, and Mike Furrey.

The article I linked to on Detroit also lists the FA that the Lions can look at re-signing or extending. They have until Feb. 28th to exclusively negotiate with their own FA before the free agency period officially begins. The list is:

RB Aveion Cason 8
DT Shaun Cody 4
WR Keary Colbert 5
T Damion Cook 8
T George Foster 6
K Jason Hanson 17
RB Rudi Johnson 8
LB Paris Lenon 7
C/G Andy McCollum 15
WR Shaun McDonald 6
DT Langston Moore 4
LB Ryan Nece 7
FB Moran Norris 8
QB Dan Orlovsky 4
TE John Owens 6
G Stephen Peterman 4
DE Corey Smith 6
CB Stanley Wilson 4

Interesting how much the article talks about two FA: Hason and DanO. Is that a sign that both will be back? I'd like to see it.

Peterman would be okay for a cheap depth signing at OG if nothing better presents on the market. Same with Corey Smith and "False Start" Foster. Moran Norris is a guy I would like to see them keep -- he was a good blocker. Paris Lenon in a back-up/ST role only.

Anyone you readers would like to see them re-sign? Would like to see them cut yet? Also, looking at cuts other teams are making, anyone you'd like to see the Lions sign from the scraps of other teams?

Captain of your rowboat, or deck-swabber on the flagship? One man's trash...well, you get the idea...

Oh yes, on the Uni watch front, the Lions are dropping the black alternate for good, and going with the throwbacks as their alternate Jersey next season. Still guessing a change will come for 10, but not sure what. Personally, I like the simplicity of the throwbacks. Toss an updated logo (or the throwback logo I have posted here form the 50's championship teams) and I'd love it.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Another little Roundup

Ah yes - the Ifseason. Where the IF is bigger than the IS, the could be more important than the will be.

In keeping with the season (and the lack of concrete Lions news until Monday) here are some more articles you may find entertaining and enlightening.

Oh yes, and throw Campbell on the "to be cut Monday list" as per Dave Birkett.

No Lions were in the top 99 for FA, but apparently that didn't stop the Sporting News from making Mike Furrey #9 on their available FA WR List. Don't get over hyped about the Lions cutting him. He is a #3 Slot/Possession WR who was set to get paid too much for that role next season. He'll be good in that role for some team, or as a #2 for a play-action passing team or a team that does a lot of short throws over the middle into traffic as Furrey has retained much of his ability to catch the ball well, but gets no YAC at this point. Chicago was listed as a possible destination, and as a better-than average blocker, he may work in their run-first and second offense. The revenge factor for him could factor in too as he is just that kind of guy.

On that list Moore, Washington, or Williams for the right price would work for me to fill the #2 slot opposite CJ.

As for Mr. DanO -- he comes in at #10 on the FA QB List. Listen, Dan could go on to a hall of fame career and he will never live down stepping out of the end zone on a piss-poor play call. Take that out of the equation, and then look at the FA QB available. How many are really that much, if any, better for the type of offense Detroit will run -- and how many have the upside of DanO, who steadily improved with each start? I would still like to see him back and under center for the Lions -- in 2009 at least. Matt Cassel (who was franchised) trade rumors are already swirling, and the Lions are being swirled in there as well. #20+2 more picks (2nd and 3rd???) for Mitchell...I mean, Cassell? I'll pass. #1 overall straight-up? I still say resign DanO or a Leftwich type of player, but it makes more sense than many things they could do with #1 overall. Can you tell me Stafford is better than Cassel? At least in Cassel you know he can do it, and can make good decisions plus has upside. He got the ball long to Moss, so he could get it long to CJ.

You'll notice I keep trying to give away #1 overall. I think it is overrated, and is actually at this point a burden to the worst team in the league. You can't trade it all, much less for anything of value, you have to try for a home run on a risky position because of the cap costs, and you end up with a rookie with a huge contract and lots of pressure. The #1 overall can't just work out, they have to practically be on a HOF career track within 3 years or they are a bust to your cap and team. So get rid of it Mayhew! Do what it takes other than giving it away, get something useful, and roll with #20 as your first round pick. Get a top player, or get a high 3rd rounder in exchange. Just let it be known you will use it if you keep it, but that a fire-sale is on and the "trade value chart" (which is a total crock at this point) has already been thrown on the inferno and is deader than disco.

This is a nice Daily Tribune article that talks about how at least this new front office is reaching out to fans, and including us in the team once again. Dare I hope more open camp times?? The insight from Jreffy's trip down there last year was great, and I'd love to see more things like that.

This is another in what is sure to be a long line of articles evaluating the QB class of the draft. Good early reading if nothing else.

This is an interesting scouting report on Andre Smith -- and while the Lions don't have OT on their list of needs, I've seen several places where he is also projected to be a high-caliber player at OG in the NFL, not just OT. A guy you're going to play at OG #1 overall?? Well, I guess it depends on if he is also the present to improve your OG play by a huge margin, as well as your future LT when your current aging guy goes in a couple of years. Worst case scenario, he pushes Backus in competition, and helps his play by having a solid OG next to him. Plus, if Backus is injured maybe the Lions will have a worthy backup on the roster for once instead of trying to live through Backus playing through injury. He was phenomenal in College when Hutch was next to him... about time to find a great OG to play next to him, don't you think? Just tossing it out there...

Friday, February 6, 2009

Another Possible Logo, Other Thoughts...

Here is a shot for a different Logo that's been floating around for a couple of weeks. Personally, I think it combines the best of both worlds -- an updated Bubbles, so to speak. Personally, I like the Lion Head that is grey with the Blue Mane on the plain silver helmet, with the full Grey Lion/Blue Mane on the Honolulu blue and silver simple uniforms.

If you look in the comments section on the last entry, you'll see I hit one right about Kwan coming back. I put my reaction down there, so check it out along with the great comments (as always!)

According to Dave Birkett, Mulitalo is expected to be a goner as well come Monday. On similar topic of free agents, here is a partial Database of potential UFA as of this date broken down by position. Shall we invite Charlie Batch back anyone? I'm sure his knee is healed by now... Heck, Joey Harrington, DanO, JT O'Sully, Garcia and Batch are all UFA this Ifseason. How about keeping Kitna and Stanton -- if they sign all of them they could have a grand Melee to see which ex-Lions QB gets to come "home" to turn around the franchise!

What does it say of the FA QB's when about 18% of the FA QB's are ex-Lions Starting QB's?? Can we say "not a great crop?" Byron Leftwich is probably my top choice on that list, although a healthy Batch was never a bad option (though not a supreme one), but he will be re-signed by the Steelers to continue to back-up Big Ben.

Darren Sproles looks to be the best of the FA RB's IMO but still isn't worth the money he will be paid, although I'd love to see him as a 3rd down back/returner for the Lions. He's going to be looking for "Franchise Back" money, although I don't think that is his most fitting role. Jacobs and Ward both tend to be nicked up all the time, and will get paid more than they should by someone looking for a piece of earth, element whatever the silly pundits nicknamed the 3 headed RB monster of the Giants backfield last season.

Thankfully, the Lions have a feature back in Smith (and I own him in my keeper league in FFB - happy reach in round 2 there that paid off). So they only need a 3rd down back/returner and/or a backup RB to play ST as well. That Marinelli crap about the backup RB not playing ST always gnawed at me. #2 RB SHOULD be a big part of ST -- just like WR#3 and 4, etc.

After what I saw last season the few times they let Felton run the ball (carrying good defenders several yards with him each time) a smart coaching staff will hopefully re-sign Moran Norris as a blocking back, and use Felton in more of the power-back change-up role with Smith --- which is something I thought they should have done way more of last season. It worked almost every time they did it. Run Smith-Smith-Pass to CJ-Smith-Smith-Felton. They did it one about 2 or 3 series, and then went away from it just as quick. Norris and TE Gaines blocking for Felton to the right behind Cherilus was a great play for the Lions all two times they tried it. I'd like to see it more in short yardage as few teams in this league have the ability to stop that play for less than a 2-3 yards minimum when executed well.

as for the WR Lance Moore showed up well for the Saints in several games, and might be a good sleeper type guy to go after for a #2. Standeford is a marginal #2, but very solid #3. Pick up an additional slot WR (technique/hands kinds of guy -- Furrey when he was fearless across the middle in 06) and they would be good with some UDFA/extra WR bodies in camp to compete.

I'd say LJ Smith for the right price at the TE slot, but the Lions already have Dan Campbell to get consistently injured, so no one I can't live without there. A 6th round choice and some FA to come in and compete with Gaines. A little work on ball security, and Gaines was not a bad TE. He was good on ST too, which helps.

At OT, it depends on what their draft plans are. With Peterson and Mulitalo both likely gone at OG the Lions will likely be using at least one round 3 pick there, and possibly a FA depending on how ready/good they feel Man-Ram is when given a chance. Several of the top OG should be there for pick 65, and OG would be a great target there. As for OT you have Backus who will look better with a Herman Johnson/Eric Wood (OG and backup/replacement center) type guy next to him, and Man-Ram on the right will be good with Cherilus already revving up to beat on some defenders. Thus, I'm afraid we won't see the early OT like I would like -- unless, like an Andre Smith he can also play Guard.

Fetish will laugh "I told you so" at this one, but Brandon Albert would have done the Lions good at this point as they could target an OT or OG in this draft, and have a little more flexibility. Okay, on from the woulda-shoulda's. don't know much about the FA O-linemen yet, so after the Lions announce cuts, I'll dig into that more later this ifseason.

Dline and LB depend on what alignment the Lions use, although I'm thinking they stay with a 4-3 -- especially with at least 3 other NFL franchises moving to it this ifseason, which could leave a shortage at some key positions for that alignment that the Lions are short at --- most noticeable, NT.

CB...they have Keith Smith. And...umm...didn't we do this last year?? Once again, the Lions have no CB's as we near FA. Lets hope it gets addressed better this ifseason. Killer highlighted a few players they could target. Early thought: would you trade #1 overall for Nnamdi Asomugha? Plus maybe a 3rd if you can swing it from the Raiders? You'd be getting a pro-bowl caliber CB ---- if you draft a CB at the position, he'd end up highest paid. Why not get a known commodity? My answer: I would to it straight up #1 for him. I'd push like hell for another pick, any pick. a 4th would be awesome but if it came down to it I would to that trade even-steven. Locking him up would cost same/maybe less than #1 overall would be, and you'd know what you're getting. Thoughts on that??

Finally, at Safety as long as Alexander recovers I say ditch Smith, go with Alexander and Bullocks starting and look for a 3rd guy to come in and compete. Keep Pearson as #4 he was great on ST and an adequate backup. Schemed correctly, Alexander and Bullocks have both shown they can play the position, and be a starting safety in this league (when healthy, like everyone else when you think about.).