Lions should look to the Patriots to find the new king of their jungle
They're a hopelessly outmatched 0-10 this season, have somehow managed to drop 17 of their past 18 games, and once the Arizona Cardinals make the postseason this year, it'll mark an NFC-leading ninth consecutive year that the playoffs will be convening without them.
What then can be done about the Detroit Lions? What does their future hold, and what's the bailout strategy for that other longsuffering Motown entity that can't seem to make itself competitive or relevant for years now?
The human piñata known as
I know where I would start the search for a football savior if my last name were Ford. I'd look around the NFL and attempt to discern whose track record of success is worth banking on, and who might be ready for the league's ultimate makeover challenge. And then I'd take my strongest possible shot at talking three-time NFL executive of the Year
The reasons the Lions should set their sights on the Patriots' vice president of player personnel are at least three-fold:
• There's a recent historical example of why looking in the direction of New England for a hire to head your football operation is the smart way to go. Last offseason, Atlanta, a team in maybe more disarray than Detroit, named little-known Patriots director of college scouting
All Dimitroff has done is to make the Falcons winners again almost overnight. He hired head coach
Dimitroff reported to Pioli the previous six years in New England, and more than anyone else, Pioli deserves credit for molding his approach to personnel and how to build an organization. The Falcons wound up with Dimitroff after deciding he was their next best option if they couldn't land his boss. The desperate Lions, who are the only NFL team to be eliminated from the playoff race after just 10 games this season, need to shoot for the top.
• You win with superior personnel in the NFL, and nobody does consistently better on that front than New England's tandem of
Then Brady went down and the second-guessing really started. But fast forward 10 weeks or so and discussion is now whether or not the Patriots should slap the franchise tag on Cassel next offseason. Not bad for a guy who hadn't started for anyone since high school and was seen as a reach of a seventh-round pick.
The Patriots lost the NFL's reigning MVP in the first eight minutes of the season, and they're in the thick of the AFC playoff chase, a game out of first place in their division. They've lost
• It can't possibly hurt that Pioli is the son-in-law of that master of the organizational turnaround,
Miami went 1-15 last year and hasn't made the playoffs since 2001, the longest drought in franchise history. But the resurgent Dolphins are 6-4 under Parcells and his hand-picked head coach,
From everything I'm hearing around the league grapevine, Lions chairman and owner
But comfort shouldn't be Detroit's top priority. Or second, or third. This search should be all about getting the best man available, and giving him the best possible chance to reverse the Lions' sagging fortunes. After the decade of losing, ineptitude and dysfunction that Detroit fans have endured, Ford should be focused on nothing less.
The assumption in recent years has been that Pioli is happy to remain in New England, and isn't looking to relocate and make a name for himself elsewhere. He knows the good thing he has going in Foxboro, and isn't itching to jump just to run his own organization. While I believe all of that is largely true, I also believe he'd be open to listening to whatever the Lions had to throw at him. Maybe even intrigued by the idea.
Let's face it, there's no bigger job in the NFL right now than making a winner out of Detroit. If you can turn the Lions around, you've really accomplished something. After helping New England win three Super Bowls and produce the first 16-0 regular season in NFL history, Pioli may be ready for the NFL's ultimate challenge.
Lord knows the Lions are certainly ready for him.