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Next year...

Postby stomperrob » Sat Dec 29, 2007 1:40 pm

Saturday, December 29, 2007
LIONS IN WINTER: BUILDING ON SMALL GAINS
Playbook for the new year
Mike O'Hara / The Detroit News

Two months forward, six giant steps back.

That's how the Lions' rollercoaster ride went this season, with a steeper climb than usual, and a heart-wrenching drop.

Two months of winning football put them at a peak at 6-2 -- and a shred of credibility. Then a six-game losing streak plunged them to the depths and shattered a season of hope.

The Lions will remember the extremes -- the rise and fall -- and be haunted by both when they head into the off-season after Sunday's finale against the Packers in Green Bay, Wis.

Team president Matt Millen and coach Rod Marinelli face ongoing issues of building a winner -- shoring up a sagging defense that ranks last in the NFL, adding consistency to an offense that failed to reach its potential, and possible changes in Marinelli's lineup of assistants.

Bigger repairs, however, might be needed for the team's fragile psyche.

"It was in our hands," center Dominic Raiola said. "We had it. You can't get much more 'in' than that, starting off 6-2."

What will Raiola remember more -- the 6-2 start or the losing streak, which reached six games before it was snapped last weekend?

"The six-game losing streak," he answered, without hesitating. "This is the closest we've ever been to doing anything special around here.

"The whole off-season -- it's going to suck, man."

'Sweeping the halls'
No team in Detroit has a future wound as tightly to the past as the Lions.

An attitude change -- a priority for Marinelli -- remains a work in progress. Once in midseason, Marinelli was asked what he was trying to accomplish.

"Just sweeping the halls," he said.

That meant sweeping out the losing culture that continues to shroud the franchise.

Quarterback Jon Kitna questioned this week whether players were fully committed to sustaining success throughout a season.

"Just being a professional," Kitna said. "It's your job. You can't come in the locker room, and it's the only time you think about football. It's got to be about who you are.

"This game, when you're in a season, it's a seven-day-a-week, lot of hours. If you're not putting the time in extra for film study, studying your plays, that's going to show up at some point."

Kicker Jason Hanson, who at 16 seasons in Detroit is the team's elder statesmen, never has seen a fold that compares to this season.

"Even at 6-2, people were asking 'Why is everybody still doubting?' " Hanson said. "Well, that (six-game losing streak) is why. This is as bad as it gets. We're at least a decent football team. We might be pretty good. To just throw away a season like we did, it's pretty bad."

Talent search
Changing attitudes is one thing. Adding talent is another.

And the Lions need more talent.

The off-season will be busy for the Lions, the norm for all NFL teams, with a constant shuffle of players from free-agency and the draft.

Statistics show the Lions improved -- from a 3-13 record in 2006, Marinelli's first as coach, to 7-8 before Sunday's game.

But the record doesn't obscure shortcomings that keep the Lions from being legitimate contenders:

• Millen is finishing his seventh season as president, with a won-lost record of 31-80. In a brief interview recently, Millen said he is not resigning. There has been no indication owner William Clay Ford wants to fire him.

• The failure, or unwillingness, to develop a running game works against offensive coordinator Mike Martz returning for a third season. But starting over on offense, with a new man running a new system, isn't automatically a step forward.

If Martz goes, the question is obvious: Who will do a better job with the offense?

• The defense needs help at cornerback, linebacker and another pass-rushing lineman.

Paris Lenon, the starter at middle linebacker, is likely to be moved to strong-side linebacker. A replacement will be needed in the middle to play between Lenon and Ernie Sims, a tackling machine on the weak side.

Kitna will go into next season as the No. 1 quarterback, but look for a strong push from Drew Stanton, the Michigan State rookie who spent the season on injured reserve.

And a knee injury sustained by Kevin Jones last weekend means at least one veteran running back must be added to an offense that already ranks 30th in the NFL in rushing.

The offensive line improved when Damien Woody was made the starting right tackle with five games left. Woody's contract is up, and there is no assurance he will re-sign. His contract was shortened before this season, and his base salary cut in half, to $2.25 million.

"I don't get personal about it," Woody said. "It's a life we choose. It's all business. That's the way I look at it."

• Shaun Rogers, the massive nose tackle, is the solution and the problem, all in a giant 370-pound package.

His play in the middle is the key to the Tampa Two scheme, which relies on pressure and penetration up front. Rogers was a dominating player the first eight games, but failed to register a sack during the losing streak. Poor conditioning led to poor play in the stretch.

His base salary jumps from $1.25 million to $5 million next season. At his best, Rogers deserves to be paid at an elite level. Marinelli has to choose from several options -- renegotiate Rogers' contract to a lower salary; bring him back for the full $5 million; release or trade him.

If Rogers departs, Marinelli has to find somebody as good.

Fat chance, no pun intended.

Painful lesson
If losing tests a team's character, winning can test its maturity.

The Lions didn't handle the early success, and a playoff berth slipped away during the six-game losing streak.

"To not get at least two of those -- we'd still be in it," Raiola said.

Ron Jaworski, quarterback of the Eagles' 1979 Super Bowl team and one of ESPN's top NFL analysts, spoke about the Lions' maturing process.

He called the Lions "a good football team" that "has to learn how to win."

It's a painful lesson -- one the Lions will feel all off-season.




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Re: Next year...

Postby moochman » Sun Dec 30, 2007 11:35 am

All indicators are that Martz is gone after today. I don't know if Marinelli changing the offense will buy him safe passage through the suckage that will be next year.
I hope not, I really hope that we can fire Marinelli next season and keep this joke of a franchise's carosel spinning faster than the bank teller's head every time they cash another Matt Millen paycheck.
Maybe we could find a coach who can try to answer questions and try to sound intelligent or at least not sound so naively moronic.

I do fear that after the Martz scape-goating* that no smart coach would waste their time considering taking a ride on the circle jerk that is the Lions.



*It's not that I don't think Martz should be fired, he should-he's earned it. But that the blame for this mess will be laid on Martz and not on the Millen and Marinelli is as shameless a scape-goating as you'll ever see. Expect to hear more on how the D wasn't helped by the lack of a running game, blah, blah, blah. All the while nobody will talk of how the D never got off the field against anything resembling a mediocre NFL offense.
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Re: Next year...

Postby latsprewell20002000 » Sun Dec 30, 2007 1:05 pm

Yeah it looks like hes gonna get fired. BUT I dont think that too many people will believe in the scape goating that we are going to see here. Everything thats happened this year is and will be blammed on Martz. The funny thing is if they are saying that Martz didnt do a good enough job to even keep a job then why would Marinelli not be sent on his way cause he is the man in charge, the man to stop the passing every play, the man who is Martz boss. I cant wait to hear what Martz has to say about Detroit if they start pilling on him. As for people or coaches wanting to come here...Yeah nobody with half a brain would touch this mess. Thats why Marinelli will get another year and maybe one after that. This place ruins careers. And now if we didnt have enough to worry about now we have to think about getting another RB. Im starting to think that KJ is going to be this oft injured guy, the only if guy. Oh well time to watch the lions lose another one.
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Re: Next year...

Postby stomperrob » Sun Dec 30, 2007 2:23 pm

And the new OC is ...

Sunday, December 30, 2007
Reports: Martz won't be back
Mike O'Hara / The Detroit News

GREEN BAY, Wis. -- The Detroit Lions will end their season with more focus on the status of offensive coordinator Mike Martz than on Sunday's opponent, the Green Bay Packers.

Martz, whose future with the Lions has been the subject of speculation since midseason, reportedly has been told by Lions management he will not be back in 2008, according to Internet reports.

Martz has one year left on the three-year contract he signed when coach Rod Marinelli hired him in 2006.

Kippy Brown, the Lions' wide receivers coach for two years under Martz and offensive coordinator of the Dolphins in 1988-89, will succeed Martz, according to published reports citing NFL sources.

Lions president Matt Millen did not return phone calls Saturday night.

"We are not commenting on reports or rumors," Lions vice-president Bill Keenist said Saturday night at the team hotel in Appleton, Wis.

Earlier in the week, quarterback Jon Kitna made a strong pitch for Martz to return.

However, there have been rumbles inside the Lions organization for several weeks Marinelli and Martz had butted heads over the team's offensive philosophy. Marinelli wants a stronger running game. The offense has been pass-oriented for two seasons under Martz.

The offense has struggled since midseason and was inefficient and unproductive throughout much of a six-game losing streak. The Lions rank 30th in the NFL in rushing offense and have allowed a league-high 54 sacks.



Sunday, December 30, 2007
Terry Foster
Martz, Lions not a good fit
Terry Foster / The Detroit News

Paris Lenon likes to be Darth Vader.

He wants to be the bad, grumpy guy everybody hates. That's why the Lions linebacker prefers to play on the road.

He wants to be hated. Games like Sunday's are tailor made for Darth Vader and the hated Storm Troopers. He will be booed and jeered. Lenon knows the game at Green Bay will be cold, uncomfortable and it will be an environment in which only the tough can survive.

"I love being the bad guy," he said with a sinister smile. "That's what I like."

There are a lot of guys like Lenon in the Lions dressing room. They might not be very good, but they pride themselves on being tough. Lions players like to run the football, knock people to the ground and let the tougher man win.

That is what coach Rod Marinelli believes in. He placed a giant granite bolder in the middle of the dressing room, with the saying "Pound the rock." There were sayings hung around the practice facility that said players have one more chance to hit somebody.

The Lions' mentality is to grind. Offensive coordinator Mike Martz does not, and that is why he is not a good fit here. He has one way of thinking, and the Lions have another. Right now the two worlds are not working.

Martz must agree to pound the rock more, or he is out. My guess is president Matt Millen, Marinelli and Martz will meet this week to hammer out the future. If Martz is unwilling to bend, then the Lions will hold a nice feel-good news conference at which Martz will say he has decided to retire.

The Lions don't want another messy firing on their hands. They will either try to make it work another season with Martz or give him a grand sendoff where everything appears as if they are walking in lock step.

But we will know better. All you need to do is talk to the linemen to know all is not well with this offense. And then if you study the mentality of Marinelli, you know Martz is the odd man out.

Marinelli and the linemen want to be rougher and tougher. They believe that when you throw out all the trick plays and high-profile players in the NFL that the tougher team usually wins. The linemen are so used to dropping back and playing a finesse game they no longer believe they are as tough as they need to be.

Football 101 is very simple. Teams that run best and stop the run usually win. We are mesmerized by Tom Brady and Randy Moss in New England, but running back Laurence Maroney plays a big role in the Patriots season. In Dallas, Terrell Owens and Tony Romo are more likely to be on the cover of national magazines. However, running backs Marion Barber and Julius Jones move the chains.

This is not to suggest the Lions become the Steelers. However the front-office mindset is to dazzle teams with wide receivers and high-powered offenses. The problem is they got the wrong people to fuel the engine. Joey Harrington, Charles Rogers and Mike Williams do not belong in this league.

They were bad draft picks and set the Lions back.

This season Martz's system put so much stress on the offensive line it could not hold up.

The Lions need to run more if they are serious about winning. Here are some ugly numbers that suggest they are headed in the opposite direction despite a better record. The Lions ran 304 times last season and have run 309 this season. The last time they ran this seldom was 283 times in 1982 during a strike shortened nine-game season.

So far this season opponents have outrushed the Lions, 1,694-1,241. The last time the Lions outran their opponent was in 1997 when Barry Sanders ran for 2,053 yards. They Lions outrushed opponents, 2,464-1,833. Since then opponents have outrun Detroit, 18,819-14,778.

When you run, it keeps the pass rush off your quarterback. When you run it well it keeps defenses off-balance. And when you run it you usually win. The Lions under Martz just want to fling and zing and hope for the best.

You cannot win that way in the NFL unless you have superior talent. And I don't think we are going to be talking about the Lions' superior talent any time soon.

So now the Lions have a decision to make. Do they want to become a team that is all sizzle and no substance? Or do they actually want to play meaningful games and challenge for championships?

Of course the right thing is to fire Millen. But if unlikely story line does not play out then the next-best thing is to do things to make this team tougher and grittier. That way Lenon actually will be Darth Vader the next time he plays in Green Bay.



Sunday, December 30, 2007
Mike O'Hara: NFL picks
One man's opinion: Lions' Martz is gone

One of the toughest bets to call in the final weekend of the NFL's regular season doesn't involve a point spread.

It isn't Saturday night's Patriots-Giants game or any of Sunday's matchups -- Redskins-Cowboys, Titans-Colts or Lions-Packers.

For my money, the toughest call involves a coach -- Mike Martz, the Lions' offensive coordinator -- and whether he will be back.

If I had to bet, I'd lay odds Sunday's game against the Packers at Lambeau Field will be the last for Martz in Detroit. There have been rumbles since early in the season Martz and coach Rod Marinelli disagree on offensive philosophy -- Marinelli has wanted to run more.

The situation will resolve itself quickly, as early as Monday and likely no later than Wednesday.

If Martz takes a fall, it will be largely because the Lions have failed to build a running game. The Lions ranked last in the league in 2006 and are 30th this year going into Sunday's game.

Moving up two notches isn't real improvement. It represents about two more gains per running play per game.

Martz has a reputation for being pass happy, and it has gone to the extreme in Detroit. The split between passes and runs this year is 539-307 with one game left. It was even wider in 2006 -- 596 passes to 304 runs.

No team in the NFL has run less often over the last two years.

But the bigger question regarding the Lions offense is not the percentage of runs and passers. It's whether the Lions really are equipped to be a running team -- whether it's personnel, or game situations in which they have gotten so far behind that running would have been strictly for exercise and film evaluation.

Martz came to the Lions after sevens seasons with the Rams, where he had multiple threats, running and passing, as offensive coordinator and as coach.

Martz was offensive coordinator on the 1999 Rams team that won the Super Bowl and coach of the 2001 team that lost to the Patriots in the Super Bowl. In both seasons, the Rams led the NFL in passing and ranked fifth in rushing.

In 1999, the Rams threw 530 passes and ran 431 times. They ran 44.8 percent of the time.

In 2001, the split was 551 passes and 416 runs -- or 43 percent running plays.

It is not a coincidence the Rams had winning records -- 13-3 in '99 and 14-2 in '01, which let them dictate offensive tempo and play selection. And they had Marshall Faulk as the primary tailback.

In a three-year span, from 1999-2001, Faulk had amazing consistency and production, rushing for 1,310, 1,381 and 1,359 yards. In that same three-year span, Faulk had seasons of 87, 81 and 83 receptions and scored 12, 26 and 21 touchdowns combined receiving and running.

Watching the Lions for the last 31 games, I haven't seen anyone who reminds me of Marshall Faulk. And I haven't seen anything that reminds me of the 1999 or 2001 Rams.



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Re: Next year...

Postby moochman » Sun Dec 30, 2007 8:23 pm

What a bunch of crap. I hate how lazy reporters can be sometimes.
Code: Select all
Marinelli and the linemen want to be rougher and tougher. They believe that when you throw out all the trick plays and high-profile players in the NFL that the tougher team usually wins. The linemen are so used to dropping back and playing a finesse game they no longer believe they are as tough as they need to be.


I think Marinelli should address the lack of roughness and toughness in his D-line instead of the babies in the O-line. Sounds like Rod is trying now to sell us on not only is the Martz the reason the D is so bad, but he is also why the O-line is so bad. Foster should have asked a few simple questions, such as: Hey Rod,(instead of Stooges bit Hey Moe!) I have been watching the tape and I didn't see one offensive player on the field during the Packers first three drives. You know, the one that all ended like this: TD Packers! How was that Martz fault?
Hey Rod, I just checked the film, how many of the 440 points did Martz give up again?
Hey Rod, how did Martz make Kalimba Edwards not respond to your tutoring?
Hey Rod, how did Martz make Big Fatty not respond to your coaching?
Hey Rod, how did Martz make Redding end up with only one sack?, and did he force you to sign Redding to the highest paid contract for an interior D-linemen?
Hey Rod, how in the heck do you justify the job you did this season?

Just a few simple questions, really. Why couldn't someone be able to ask? Or more importantly why doesn't the coach who says "It's on me" stand up and take responsibility rather than sell out his DC last year, and now his OC.

Hey Rod, who's next?
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