Green Lenses Turn a Little Honolulu Blue and Look at the Lions

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Detroit Lions Woes: With Rod Marinelli being fired, don’t look for the Lions to be any better next year. The Lions have named Martin Mayhew to be the General Manager, and Tom Lewand was named team President to add insult to injury. Look, Matt Millen can’t take all the heat here. Somebody can up with the brilliant idea of signing Daunte Culpepper with his two bad knees (and Randy Moss nowhere in sight) after Millen left. Are you kidding me? With Bill Parcells and Floyd Reese interested in the Lions, it only makes sense that the Lions are not. At least at this point they are not. If life is like a box of chocolates, why do the Lions always end up with the wrapper?

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Look, this may surprise some, but Marinelli is an excellent football coach, except the problems mounted on top of each other when he was expected to make the personnel decisions that come with the job. In that capacity, Marinelli was a miserable failure. As gracious and professional as he remained through this debacle of a season, he was equally defiant of doing it the ‘same way all over again’ at the end. Look, if you want to build a team to go to war with, Marinelli is your man. He desires a certain attitude, teamwork, and the ability to buy into what he is doing. The problem is, this the NFL, not a covert military operation. Sometimes you have to look at a players personal shortcomings and use his talent. Getting rid of Shaun Rogers was one major gaffe as the Lions were consistently gouged in the running game all year. In fact, getting rid of better players and having no one ready to step in was obvious at not only defensive tackle, but at linebacker and most glaringly, in the defensive secondary as well. Marinelli said at his final press conference that if you can find a player with both talent and the right attitude, you could build something special, and he is right. Except the problem for Marinelli was that he often overestimated the ability of a player when he found an attitude and the cooperative attitude he sought, and it cost him dearly. He clearly will bounce back as one of the best assistant coaches in the game…just don’t let him make any personnel moves.

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As far as drafting, the Lions choice is becoming an increasingly no-brainer for me, which mean the Lions won’t do it. First of all they need a player worthy of that high a draft choice in a position of need. The Lions have two QB’s they can live with in Dan Orlovsky and Drew Stanton when healthy. There is nobody in the draft that can touch those two guys-not

Matt Stafford, or Sam Bradford, or Colt  McCoy. Likewise, there are few defensive players worthy of that high a draft choice on the board.

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Therefore the pick becomes relatively simple. To win in the NFL, a couple positions are critical. Those positions are left tackle and cornerback. Of those two positions, only left tackle provides players that can solidify the blindside of the quarterback, and are worthy of going that high in the draft in Michael Oher of Ole Miss and Alabama’s Andre Smith.

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Is Jeff Backus really that bad? Yes he is. He has no clue against speed rushers and is called for penalty after penalty. I suspect part of the reason fans and the front office has been easy on him is he is a likable guy and went to Michigan. The truth is, the Lions would have a considerable upgrade by picking Oher with their first pick, and perhaps moving Backus inside to a guard position. In that sense, not only do the Lions increase their ability to run the ball, more importantly, they really can make a jump in their ability to throw the football. This is the reason the left tackle has become one of the most important positions in the game today.

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Of those two, Oher to me is the better talent. He is taller, has more wingspan, and has the better athletic ability. He also is mentally tough. He overcame a mom addicted to crack and a lack of a decent high school education to get a degree at Ole Miss. He also was slated for early entry in the NFL draft, but chose to return for his senior year. I know Smith won the Outland Trophy as the nations best lineman, but if awards were golden, then all Heisman winners would turn into Pro Bowl players. Plus, Smith has struggled with his weight and it is a constant battle. If you think the Lions front office was fed up with Shaun Rogers battles with the fork, wait until they get Smith. Still, Smith is still the number two guy I would take. That’s how bad this offensive line is. After all, how many offensive line coaches can the Lions go through before they realize the problem is the players on the team.

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As I was writing this piece, I found out that Andre Smith was suspended for the bowl game. Which tells me again that Oher is the guy the Lions need to take. However, even with all the stars aligning for them to make the obvious choice, and divine intervention apparently happening, the Lions will mess this up, just watch.
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Coaching Replacement? So who do I like of the six proposed candidates being pushed on the Detroit Lions? I don’t like any of them. Not Leslie Frazier of the Vikings, not Jason Garrett of the Cowboys. Not Jerry Gray of the Redskins, not Josh McDaniels of the Patriots, not Jim Schwartz of the Titans and not Steve Spagnuolo of the Giants. Only the last two make even a little sense but none excite me. Probably the best candidate out there right now is fired Jets Coach Eric Mangini. Who went 23-25 with marginal talent in three years with the Jets. His 9-7 record this year was not enough to satisfy fickle owner Woody Johnson, who nearly gave him a contract extension after starting the season at 8-3. Starting any season at 8-3 at this point would be a monumental victory for the Lions at this point.

Apparently the improvement from a 4-12 season to a 9-7 season was not enough of an improvement? Do they think Brett Favre is a miracle worker? His first season he was 10-6 and that 4-12 season included seven losses by seven points or less. Still in his thirties, Mangini is still learning his trade and is by far a better candidate than the other guys listed.

He simply lost his job due to the unrealistic expectations of a front office who acquired a Hal of Fame quarterback. I expect Cleveland to be hot on his trail as well so Detroit would have to act quickly to get his services. Mike Shanahan might also be a valid replacement but I doubt he would want to come here. However, with Detroit, it all begins with personnel moves and that calls for a quality GM and Team President to be in place, and Detroit lacks for quality in both of those departments.

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