Schwartz: Only Agenda Is Winning

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Jim Schwartz claims he isn't going to let injuries or the team record distract him from gameday, but admits that circumstances have put him and his staff in a position to evaluate a lot of unknown players going forward.

“(Injuries) can force you to have to play certain players,” said Schwartz. “It may be a guy that you didn’t know a lot about. He makes your team, he’s a back-up player – maybe he’s even an inactive player – and you really don’t have a chance to see him in a role.

“What happens is, when somebody gets hurt and he has to play, you find out whether he can or can’t and whether you can count on him as you go forward.”

“We can’t look at anything other than winning that week’s game,” he said. “You talk about long-term improvement and those things; those are things you talk about during training camp and OTAs and the offseason program and the draft and things like that. That can’t be our focus.

“Our focus has to be, ‘What do we have to do to win this game?’ Every game is going to be a different set of circumstances, but that’s got to be our focus. It’s got to be wins and losses; we can’t point to anything other than that.”

As a fan you wonder what the coaches really think and what the coaches really see. Dan Gronkowski got called up today. Is he just a body to the staff or is he a guy who can contribute going forward? I doubt you can ever trust the coaches to give a straight answer so instead we just eyeball how a guy is used - or not - and make our best guess about how well he's liked.

So What Have We Learned?

Friday, November 27, 2009

About the Lions? Not too much, other than that they do not match up well with the Packers at all.

Yesterday's game was eerily similar to the 26-0 loss of a few weeks ago. The Lions scored a few more points due to some Packer miscues and some solid defense but the offense was equally ineffective.

In the October 18 game Culpepper was forced to play without Calvin Johnson and with injured Brandon Pettigrew and Gosder Cherilus. Green Bay had Aaron Kampman and Al Harris. Before leaving with a "hamstring" (mercy killing by the staff?) Culpepper was simply swarmed under. I don't recall a single pass he was able to step into. Stanton was able to run around a bit and create passing lanes but ultimately he was equally ineffective.

Yesterday Stafford has a bit more time, but he was gimpy, Calvin Johnson still appears to be gimpy and Pettigrew (again) got knocked out of the game early. Green Bay didn't have Kampman or Harris but ultimately they didn't need either.

So we really have no idea whether Culpepper would have done better.

The Lions' run defense was better than the pass defense but that wasn't anything new. Rodgers passed at will against the weak Lion pass defense. It's hard to see how that part of the game gets fixed quickly. Detroit really needs a solid #1 corner, some pass-rushing ends and linebackers and a rangy free safety. Even if they are able to draft all of those players in one off-season (unlikely) it will be a year or two before they reach their potential.

What we maybe did learn is how much better the Packers are than the Lions, and perhaps what makes them a solid sleeper come playoff time. Green Bay's defense is simply ferocious. Better with Kampan and Harris than without, to be sure, but still among the best in the league.

Ted Thompson is probably the best talent evaluator in the division. Since taking over GM duties in 2005 he has drafted Rodgers, Greg Jennings, Nick Collins, AJ Hawk and Jeremy Thompson. He signed Charles Woodson and traded for Ryan Grant. He drafted Johnny Jolly in the 6th round and a 7th rounder from this year - Brad Jones - got his first career start yesterday in place on Kampman. From the 2009 draft Raji appears to be the force that Green Bay expected and Clay Matthews has 5 sacks so far, TJ Lang is the starting right tackle.

and expect Green Bay to get better. They are in their second year in a 3-4 and while they appear now to have the pieces in place to run it, there will still be some maturation and improvement. The offensive line is a shambles but the team is still pretty good. Figure the line gets addressed this winter and at the very least is better in 2010, if not much better. Rodgers probably has the best set of offensive players in the NFC around him with Grant, Jennings, Donald Driver and Jermichael Finley (among others).

So while we might not have learned much about the Lions at all, we maybe did learn how far they are from where they need to be.

Rebuilding Traditions

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Killer writes a story about the Thanksgiving game.

Schwartz has stressed the history and legacy of the Thanksgiving Day tradition to his young players and the rookies have taken note.

"He explained the importance of it and that our backs are against the wall to keep the legacy going. It's a national spotlight,'' said running back Aaron Brown, a sixth-round draft pick. "Coach Schwartz broke down the tradition to us the other day and we know it's a big deal to the Lions family. We're trying to take the momentum we built in the last game and push it on to this game.''

It's still uncertain whether rookie quarterback Matthew Stafford (left shoulder) will play in the game, but he wants to become part of the game's history.

"This game has been going on for such a long time and it's a great chance to be on national TV and it shows the nation what we're all about,'' he said. "It's just something you want to keep around -- you want to play on Thanksgiving Day. It's a great opportunity, it's great fun and it's awesome to be able to say that you're a part of two teams that get to do it every year."

"I've watched the Lions on every Thanksgiving since I can remember and watching Barry Sanders hold that turkey leg (as the game's MVP),'' said rookie linebacker Zack Follett, a seventh-round pick. "Not to lie, I've kind of had my fantasies during meetings of what I've got to do to get that turkey leg. I'm excited.

"There's such history. It's been around since 1934 and a lot of history comes with it. The coaches haven't had to coach effort this week.''

Schwartz isn't doing anything that other coaches haven't done - even as it is great that this is a point of emphasis this week. This speaks more to how complete the rebuild of this team is, they are so far down that even the traditions have to be rebuilt.

The Legend Of Matthew Stafford

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Obviously a lot of buzz surrounding Stafford after his record-setting Sunday. I am partial to Dan Graziano's take (AOL Fanhouse).

Sounds cliche, but if there were ever a time to gauge poise, this was it. The final eight seconds of this game were a frenzy, and Stafford managed to keep his head about him while others (notably Browns coach Eric Mangini) were losing theirs. ~ "We didn't draft him for his elusiveness," Lions coach Jim Schwartz said. "During that play I screamed 'Throw the ball!' about six times, but he just kept on making somebody miss and buying himself time."


"I was content to lay there for a while," Stafford said, continuing his painkiller-aided rambling description of the play. "And then Dom (Raiola) grabbed me and told me that pass interference was called and I was like, 'Really? Come on.' I need to figure out which ref called it, because he's a good man."


"I heard timeout over the loudspeaker and knew that was probably my only chance to get back in," said Stafford, an NFL rookie who apparently knows a rule that an NFL head coach does not. "It was my left shoulder and I don't really need it to throw."

Armed with such rock-solid logic, he raced over to offensive coordinator Scott Linehan and told him, "I can throw." Stunned, Linehan sent him back onto the field for the final play, which was a touchdown pass to Brandon Pettigrew. The extra point won the game.

"He made a great play to finish the game, but probably his best play was eluding four team doctors on the sideline that were all trying to stop him (from going back into the game)," Schwartz said. "It's a good thing our team doctors didn't play on varsity, because Matt had to work his way back onto the field."

I've been among the more stubborn of skeptics, but at this point any doubt that Stafford will be a very good NFL quarterback has been erased. He will still make infuriating decisions (like the interception into triple coverage on the Lions' preceding drive), he will probably have problems with touch and accuracy for years. But any quarterback who fights his way out of the dirt and throws the game winning TD at 0:00 with a shoulder hanging limply has everything it takes to be great.

Jim Schwartz's thinking man's approach

Friday, October 23, 2009

Good article by Michael Rosenberg at on Coach Jim Schwartz's thinking man's approach to attempting to turn around the Lions.

While in the past the Lions have brought in system coaches -- the West Coast offenses of Marty Mornhinweg and Steve Mariucci; the Tampa Two defense of Rod Marinelli; Schwartz is not wedded to any particular concept that requires forcing players to fit into a particular system. Instead, he makes a study of what it takes to win in the NFL, and seeks out multidimensional players -- physically and mentally -- who can adapt to situations. Schwartz says that's a Bill Belichick trademark. It allows a team to better adapt to injuries and the other team's weaknesses.

There's an interesting passage on Schwartz's interest in football analyst Aaron Schatz's work:

(Schatz) is the founder of, which is sort of a think tank for football. Schatz crunches numbers to ask the same question Schwartz asks: How do you win?

"If you have multidimensional players, now you don't have to fit what you do to your strengths," Schatz said. "You fit what you do to other teams' weaknesses. The more multidimensional your players, and your team, you can go after what the other team can't stop, instead of what you can do well."

Not surprising, Jim Schwartz -- more than any other NFL coach -- has taken an interest in Schatz's work. When Schwartz was the defensive coordinator in Tennessee, he invited Schatz to spend a week with him in Nashville in the off-season, watching film and talking football. Schatz even stayed at Schwartz's house.

"He's the only coach in the league who knows what DVOA is, and he would rather see his team finish first in DVOA than yards," Schatz said.

DVOA is Schatz's biggest and best creation. The full name is Defense-adjusted Value Over Average. Essentially, Schatz matches every play against what the rest of the league does in that same situation, then adjusts for strength of opponent. It is an attempt to show that a 4-yard run on third-and-14 is not as valuable as a 4-yard run on third-and-3.

Schwartz has been preaching that for years. He can punch a hole in any of the commonly accepted stats. The total-yards stat, that drives him crazy. It gives too much weight to garbage time.

A few years ago, when his defense was struggling in the red zone, Schwartz picked up tape of the No. 1 red-zone defense in the league, to see if he could learn something. "I put in the tape, and I started watching," Schwartz said. "I'm like 'Good gracious!' They had two games where they finished games with the offense taking a knee in the red zone. They were losing the game! But that's a red-zone stop on defense. They also had an overtime game that they lost that they gave up a field goal in the red zone. That's a red-zone stop."

He has not looked at red-zone numbers the same way since. He has seen other coaches pile up stats at the end of games, sometimes putting their stars in harm's way to do it, and he is incredulous.

Everything the NFL takes for granted, Schwartz questions. That doesn't mean he disagrees. It means he does not automatically agree.

In Tennessee, he told the offensive coaches they should run more on third-and-short. He knew. He had crunched the numbers.

When the Lions were deciding what to do with their second first-round pick last spring, Schwartz pushed for tight end Brandon Pettigrew. The conventional wisdom was that they had bigger needs than a tight end. Schwartz says "our number one need was talent," and it would have been foolish to ignore the highest-rated player on their draft board.

So far the Lions haven't had a lot of success under Schwartz. But I like the guy's approach. I feel infinitely more confident with him at the helm than I ever did under Marinelli. You get the sense that now it's a matter of bringing talent in -- a massive undertaking post-Millen. And that given talent, Schwartz will know how to win with it.

Talk about it in The Den!

"Have at it” – Fields Suggestions on How to Fix the Lions’s NFC North blogger, Kevin Seifert, threw up a post asking his readership to lay out their blueprint for the Lions’ future.  He received just about every conceivable suggestion, from pumping up the offense, to ignoring the offense and fixing up the defense, and everything in between.  This morning, Kevin collected some of the best answers and supplied his own.

He generally supported the no-job-is-safe approach that Schwartz has taken, though cautioned that sometimes, consistency is a virtue in and of itself.  He also advocated a long-term strategy of addressing both the offensive and defensive lines—something almost every Lions fan can get behind.

Frankly, the most dire situation isn’t the OL, whose play has been somewhere between “okay” and “pretty good”.  Nor is it the DL, where injuries have either felled or limited Jared DeVries, DeWayne White, Cliff Avril, Jason Hunter, and Sammie Hill.  That’s the top two DEs at each position, and three of the four projected starters on the defensive line.  Once the DL gets healthy, the front seven should be moderately stout.

However, the secondary remains a completely unfettered disaster.  Theoretical #1 cornerback Anthony Henry started off solid, but is starting to show why the Lions have wanted to switch him to safety.  Phillip Buchanon has the talent to be a #1 corner, but his play has been wildly inconsistent.  Will James, would be an excellent nickel corner, and an okay complement opposite a true #1.  However, he’s currently the Lions’ best corner, and that is not good.  Ko Simpson has played very well next to Louis Delmas, but Simpson’s been dinged up, and Delmas is playing like the very talented rookie that he is: talented . . . but a rookie.

Don’t forget, Gunther Cunningham’s aggressive blitzes can’t work, and won’t be called, if the secondary can’t hold it down behind them.  As long as the defensive backfield is in such disarray, the Lions won’t be able to run their defense like they want to.  Minimally, the Lions will need to either acquire a veteran starting corner, or spend a weekday draft pick on one.  After that, they’ll have to either settle on Ko Simpson or scout out his replacement.  Finally, they’ll have to rebuild the depth at corner with a mid- and/or late-round pick or two.

Discuss it here, in The Den!

Lydon Murtha Snatched by Dolphins and Other Practice Squad Moves

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Pressure was building, the movement was gathering--fans from Mlive to Scout and around the Detroit Lions Nation were starting to grumble about Lydon Murtha. The 6'7", 315lb lineman from Nebraska was finally healthy and looking like a great addition to the active roster. Certainly he must be better than what is out there now, right?

Then, as the trade deadline passed, each Lions fan breathed a sigh of relief as no milleneque move was performed. No aged veteran on the down slope of his career was added to the roster.

Then the headline came, "Miami Dolphins sign Lydon Murtha off Lions' Practice Squad."


On the bright side, Lions fans, Murtha was just a 7th round pick who wasn't even on the active roster. However, Murtha being coveted by a team with a decent offensive line means that he probably had enough upside to make our lowly line.

Double Doh!

The Lions replaced Murtha with Joe Cohen, a second year defensive tackle out of the University of Florida. The 6'2", 310lbs behemoth was originally a 4th round pick of the San Francisco 49ers but has bounced around due to injury.

In another practice squad move, the Detroit Lions released DT Jervonte Jackson and replaced him with Jahi Word-Daniels. Word-Daniels is a rookie cornerback out of Georgia Tech.

Phil Simms: I'd take Stafford over Sanchez AND Ryan, Flacco

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Wow ... who snuck the Kool-Aid into the CBS booth?

Former Super Bowl winning QB Phil Simms appeared on the "Scores Report" last week and talked about a number of NFL-related topics. Most interesting to Lions fans: a few questions about rookie QB Matthew Stafford and how he measures up to other young QBs. Here's an excerpt from the interview:

The Scores report: If you’re starting a franchise tomorrow and you have your pick of these four young quarterbacks, whom do you go with: Matt Ryan, Joe Flacco, Mark Sanchez or Matthew Stafford?

Phil Simms: Am I the coach, too? That could determine whom I choose.

TSR: Yep, you run everything – you’re the coach, the GM, everything.

PS: If I had to take one of those four guys right now and we’re going to start tomorrow, I’d probably take Matthew Stafford.

TSR: Really?

PS: Yes. He’s got the arm and he’s a lot more mobile then I thought he would be when I saw him at Georgia. I’m not saying he’s got Brett Favre’s arm, but he has an arm that is going to last a long time. Of course, Joe Flacco does too, but Stafford would be my type of quarterback.

I think Stafford's already shown he's not going to be a bust. I think he's also shown he's got a lot of upside, as he seems to keep improving week by week.

So I'm not surprised to hear Simms say he'd take Stafford over Sanchez -- and even Joe Flacco (though Flacco was a game-manager type his rookie year and now really seems to be blossoming). But over Matt Ryan? Bold statement there. Not sure if I'd concur.

But Simms was a very good QB, and he's one of the best color analysts out there. So ...

A link to the full story isn't working, so I don't know if there's more. But here's's blurb on it.

They're talking about it in The Den!

Roster Moves for Week Six

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

A bevy of moves coming out of Allen Park this week.

Drew Rosenhaus reported from his Twitter page that John Standeford has re-signed with the Lions. The 6'4", 206lb wide receiver from Purdue has spent time with the Lions, Colts and Redskins in his six year career. Standeford takes the roster spot of Adam Jennings who was placed on IR, ending his season.

The Lions have also taken steps to shore up their secondary by signing CB DeMarcus Faggins. The 30-year-old has 36 starts along with 216 tackles and five interceptions. He is also known as a brilliant special teams player. To make room, the Lions released Chuck Darby.

On the practice squad, John Niyo reports that the Lions have released DeAndre Wright and signed DE Robert Henderson who had worked out with the team on October 6th. Henderson, 6'3", 278lbs was a sixth round draft pick of the New York Giants after playing his college ball at Southern Miss.

Also on the practice squad, the Lions have signed Jervonte Jackson, a 6'3", 300lbs DE from Florida Atlantic a 2009 rookie free agent who has played with the Eagles and Jacksonville. The Lions also signed recent tryout, WR Kole Heckendorf, a Wisconsin native. The 2009 North Dakota State alumni is his school's all-time leading receiver. The Lions released Matthias Askew and Logan Payne.

The Lions have also recently tried out OT Levi Jones, C Melvin Fowler, and rookie free agent CB/S Jahi Word-Daniels.

Secondary worse than last year? Is that even possible?

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Free Press writer Nick Cotsonika has an article pointing it out.

Except for interceptions -- the Lions have three by defensive backs, after one last year -- the stats are dreadful.

Last year, the Lions allowed opponents to complete 68.4% of their passes and post a 110.9 combined passer rating. Those were horrible numbers, worst in the NFL in both categories.

This year, they're worse. The Lions are allowing opponents to complete 73.3% of their passes and post a 119.7 combined passer rating. Again, they're worst in both categories.

Consider the NFL records for individual quarterbacks. The highest completion percentage ever in a season was 70.55 (Cincinnati's Ken Anderson in 1982). The highest passer rating ever in a season was 121.1 (Indianapolis' Peyton Manning in 2004).

In other words, it's like the Lions are facing the best quarterback of all time -- all the time.

The pass rush certainly plays a role. But the Lions have been beaten physically and blown assignments too often on the back end. Pittsburgh quarterback Ben Roethlisberger said he hesitated on a touchdown throw Sunday because he was expecting to see a safety and couldn't believe his receiver was so open.

Schwartz also notes in the article that the long runs the Lions are giving up far too often are also on the secondary.

There's only so much that can be done in one off-season. The Lions certainly turned over the secondary and brought in a lot of new names. But it never seems to matter, even when the coaches and coordinators change. It's the same awful results.

CB and S opposite Delmas seem to need help desperately, and the Lions really need to get a 10-to-15-sack DE in the draft as well.

They're talking about it in The Den.

Polamalu & Parker Doubtful for Sunday's Game

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Jason La Canfora ( reported October 7th that Troy Polamalu has resumed light practicing on a regular basis for the Pittsburgh Steelers but that he is not expected to play week 5 against the Detroit Lions. He is looking forward to a week 6 return against the Cleveland Browns.

Similarly, the AP has reported that Rashard Mendenhall is preparing for a bulk of the rushing load on Sunday. Willie Parker has yet to practice and personally, does not expect to play.

Other Steelers currently banged up: Hines Ward did not practice on Wednesday but expects to play; Andre Frazier (shoulder) and Chris Kemoeatu (ankle) both are questionable.

For the Lions:Matthew Stafford, Calvin Johnson, Gosder Cherilus, Sammie Hill, Kalvin Pearson, and Ko Simpson all missed practice on Wednesday. Keep an eye on their status as all could play but will be late Friday decisions.

Cliff Avril, Kevin Smith, Grady Jackson, and Ernie Sims all practiced on Wednesday and are expected to play.

Lions Activate Follett, Sign WR, Work Out Others

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

This week, the Detroit Lions made a great deal of their fans happy by signing Zack Follett off of the practice squad. The seventh round pick out of California became a fan favorite in the offseason.

Follett should bolster a lackluster special teams corps and back up Julian Peterson on the strong side.

To fill his spot on the practice squad the Detroit Lions signed Logan Payne a third-year receiver out of Minnesota. Payne has spent his career as a member of the Seattle Seahawks filling in when injuries struck their underachieving receivers. In 2008, he was signed to the active roster and responded with a two catch game.

He was injured in his second active game with the club and placed on the IR for all of 2008.

As a senior he was the Golden Gophers' number one receiver.

In addition, the Lions tried out a new list of players this week for their "short list:" RB Jehuu Caulcrick, LB Vinny Ciurciu, SS Vernon Fox, DE Robert Henderson, SS Todd Johnson, OG Kurt Quarterman, and OG Issac Sowells.

Schwartz showing a lack of tolerance for poor play -- how refreshing!

Good article by's Tom Kowalski today outlining that for all of Coach Jim Schwartz's other qualities -- he seems to be an intelligent, confident, forward-looking coach who isn't overwhelmed by his new position -- he also possesses something new General Manager Martin Mayhew has shown as well: ruthlessness.

When a Lions player isn't getting the job done, Schwartz doesn't tell us he'll need to check the film to make sure his eyes worked on Sunday; he makes changes to the lineup. The latest is taking underperforming Aaron Brown off kick return duties and installing fellow rookie Derrick Williams -- and essentially putting Williams on-notice to perform or else.

But that's only the latest such move by Schwartz, Killer notes. Others have included:

* After signing Phillip Buchanon to a 2-year, $8.5 million contract with the expectation he would be a starting CB, Schwartz has replaced Buchanon in the starting lineup with journeyman Will James. James has played solid, consistent football and made it difficult to take him out of the lineup, Schwartz said. But this also has to do with how Buchanon's been performing, and it's interesting that his contract isn't saving him. Writes Killer: "Buchanon didn't just slide to the nickel back position or even the dime -- he's at the bottom of the depth chart. For two games now, he has seen only time on special teams."

*LB Ernie Sims, a first-round pick, could be losing more and more playing time to third-rounder DeAndre Levy; as could veteran Julian Peterson, who was signed in the offseason with fanfare and high expectations. Why? Levy's simply getting the job done better.

*Left guard Daniel Loper practiced with the first-team offense almost all of training camp. He's been replaced as a starter by Manny Ramirez.

*S Kalvin Pearson gave way to Marquand Manuel, who gave way to in-season signee Ko Simpson, as Schwartz continues to look for solutions on the other side of NFL Defensive Rookie of the Month Louis Delmas.

Noticing a pattern here?

There's a fine line between accountability for your play and too much of a revolving door leading to no continuity or improvement. But as Killer points out, a lot of coaches talk tough, then don't back it up. Schwartz seems willing to back up his talk with action.

"I've never been known as a patient person," Schwartz said. "There's a fine line between staying the course and being on the right track and then going the other way and continuing to do the same things and not having results and expecting things to change. It's my job to recognize that.

"We keep putting the same people in the same positions and the job doesn't get done, so we need to make a change. Either put players in a different position, or put different players in the same position."

Talk about it in The Den!


Monday, October 5, 2009

For those of you who were fans of the (mostly) excellent science fiction/fantasy/thriller/suspense show The X-Files, I have an excellent link for you.  A moderator at, a Lions blog and forum site, thought he saw something unexplained in the video replay of Johnny Knox’s gamebreaking 102-yard kickoff return for a TD.

What he saw was no touchdown at all.  Take a look at the evidence for yourself.  Was it a touchdown, or an illusion?  A critical failure of the Lions’ special teams, or a league conspiracy to ensure the status quo in the NFC North goes unchallenged?  Tell me, Lions fans—is the truth out there?

Discuss it here, in The Den!

How long is Stafford out? IS Stafford out?

An ugly loss in Chicago had the potential to become even more nightmarish, with franchise pillars QB Matthew Stafford and WR Calvin Johnson both leaving the game with leg injuries.

Calvin says he'll be fine; Stafford's prognosis is still unclear. He'll undergo an MRI and other tests on an apparently momentarily dislocated knee.

It looks like we'll just have to wait and see, as speculation is all over the place as to how much time, if any, Stafford may have to miss. It ranges from he could be back in next Sunday to he's going to miss a week or two, and it could be "much worse."

Stafford's demeanor on the sidelines late in the Bears loss didn't seem to indicate any long-term injury -- you can often see on a player's face if they're seriously hurt.

They're talking about it in The Den.

Matthew Shepatin On Gunslinging

Friday, October 2, 2009

I have to admit that I am not fond of the term 'gunslinger'. It reminds me too much of bad Saturday afternoon serial westerns from the pre-cable days, and in a way I am sure the word has biased me away from wanting a 'gunslinger' on the team. Call it something else and I would probably be a little more receptive.

That said, Matthew Shepatin had some good points to chew on in an interview posted yesterday at the New York Times.

It’s no wonder that gunslingers like Sammy Baugh, Bobby Layne, Ken Stabler and Joe Namath are all but a thing of the past. Young quarterbacks like Tony Romo, Jay Cutler and Mark Sanchez have the skill and guts to carry on the great gunslinger legacy but I fear that the swashbuckler is being kicked out of them. Did you see Sanchez’s headfirst dive into the end zone Sunday against the Titans? Risky, possibly even stupid, and I loved every second of it. I, for one, hope that Sanchez continues to go out there and play with a free spirit. That’s the way Romo used to play when he first came on the scene. It’s what gave him a dangerous quality. He could strike at any time. He was out there making plays. Having fun. Now I watch Tony Romo and he doesn’t look like he’s having much fun at all. It’s not only sad as a spectator but what Wade Phillips doesn’t seem to get is that it’s counter-productive to getting the most out of him. Simplify the offense and let Romo do his thing. Same goes with Jay Cutler in Chicago.

Romo and Cutler are natural gunslingers. Where they get in trouble is thinking too much out there (worried about the consequences of failure) instead of just playing their game – which is on the edge, with passion, with verve, making plays with their feet and arms. When the gunslinger is allowed to play with abandonment, he’s not only capable of dazzling feats but he also energizes his whole team to make plays (see Vikings receiver Greg Lewis and Catch Of His Life).
It is Shepatin's last point that resonates best with me. How often have we read about Favre's linemen being willing to run through a wall for him - mainly because they know he will run through a wall for them. Going back, same thing with Jim McMahon. I didn't have the privilege of watching Baugh or Layne so I can only assume that they shared those qualities. I don't think we ever read about teammates having that kind of respect for Jon Kitna, even though he had a very competitive attitude when he was here. With Joey Harrington it may have been the opposite.

Obviously I am talking about Matt Stafford here, and the idea that he may be able to energize the team with his play warms me a bit more to his potential. While I still feel that Culpepper would have given the team a better chance to win that point is no longer relevant. They've won, and while the win had its share of dysfunction we also maybe saw some of those qualities from Stafford for the first time. The passes to Will Heller and Bryant Johnson and the 26 yard run on third and long in particular. Oddly this was a quality that Culpepper used to have and seems to have lost. In his prime he made a ton of mistakes but made even more plays.

The Lions' strategies from the last two games in particular had Stafford careful leashed against Minnesota and less carefully so against Washington. It will be interesting to see the playcalling evolve as Stafford grows. I expect that we will be both excited and infuriated, sometimes on consecutive plays.

Louis Delmas named Defensive Rookie of the Month

Thursday, October 1, 2009

For this first time in the 13-year history of the honor, the Defensive Rookie of the Month award has been bestowed upon a Lions player: former Western Michigan safety Louis Delmas.  Delmas, who overcame incredible adversity to be a defensive difference-maker, is on track to continue that success into his Lions career.

Delmas provided one of the few bright spots in the Lions’ opening-week loss to the New Orleans Saints; a fumble return for a TD that briefly got the Lions back in the game.  He also helped bottle up Redskins’ Pro Bowl TE Chris Cooley, holding Cooley to just 3 catches and 38 yards in the Lions’ streak-snapping 19-14 victory.

While a fan vote plays a part in awarding the honor, it’s unknown just how big of a part it plays.  While it’s safe to assume that whoever else had input into the award didn’t grade the finalists on every snap they played, and Delmas’s SportsCenter clip probably sealed the deal for him, it’s still remarkable to have a Lions defensive rookie recognized by the league for his impact playmaking three weeks in.

And all this from a draft where the Lions “didn’t address the defense”!

Discuss it here, in The Den!

Lions vs Skins: Report Card

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Just something from our friends at TSX ...


PASSING OFFENSE: B-plus -- Rookie quarterback Matthew Stafford didn't throw an interception, after throwing five in his first two NFL games. Still, he was aggressive, firing the ball downfield and finishing 21-for-36 for 241 yards. He threw a 21-yard touchdown to wide receiver Bryant Johnson, who caught four passes for 73 yards.

RUSHING OFFENSE: A-minus -- Running back Kevin Smith rushed for 101 yards on 16 carries before leaving the game with a shoulder injury in the third quarter. Had Smith finished the game, he likely would have surpassed his career high of 112 yards as the Lions pounded the ball. Stafford's best play wasn't a pass but a 21-yard scramble on third-and-13 in the first quarter, when he ducked under Albert Haynesworth's right arm, cut past another defender and got the first down.

PASS DEFENSE: B-minus -- Quarterback Jason Campbell went 27-for-41 for 340 yards and two touchdowns. But some of those yards came when the Lions were in a prevent defense late in the fourth quarter, and in classic fashion, the Redskins couldn't turn yards into points. Safety Ko Simpson also intercepted a pass on the first play after he replaced injured teammate Marquand Manuel.

RUSH DEFENSE: A-minus -- The Lions held running back Clinton Portis to 42 yards on 12 carries. Of the Redskins' 65 rushing yards, 21 came on a scramble by Campbell. One of the biggest plays of the game came at the end of the Redskins' first drive, when linebackers DeAndre Levy and Larry Foote stuffed Portis on fourth-and-goal from the 1.

SPECIAL TEAMS: C-plus -- Neither team did anything of note in the return game. Nick Harris had three punts downed inside the 20, with no touchbacks, and Jason Hanson kicked 39- and 26-yard field goals. Redskins coach Jim Zorn respected Hanson's range so much, he didn't decline a penalty that would have set up a 50-yard field goal attempt. He accepted it, setting up a third-and-13. Two plays later, the Lions took a 7-0 lead.

COACHING: A -- In an elevator at the team hotel the night before the game, coach Jim Schwartz told Stafford not to be conservative because he had thrown some interceptions. The next day, Stafford came out slinging and had success. And after the Lions snapped their 19-game losing streak, Schwartz sent the players back onto the field to thank the fans who were left. While he wants the Lions to get to a point where they aren't celebrating regular-season victories like this, he knew what breaking the streak meant to the team and the town.

Salary Cap Forum Updated - PREMIUM

With the win against the Washington Redskins, the Detroit Lions have lost their #1 waiver wire priority. Follow Detroit's salary cap with expert George Ketchman here. (Requires premium membership to

The Thrill of Victory, and the Agony of Defeat

Monday, September 28, 2009

Kevin Smith, the running back who’d just rolled over Albert Haynesworth and the Redskins for 101 yards, was undergoing tests; per the Twitter feed of Will Carroll of Baseball Prospectus, he’d suffered a shoulder subluxation.  Ernie Sims had a shoulder problem of his own, and missed the first of what might be several games.  Starting cornerback Patrick Buchanon was again a late scratch, and his replacements Eric King and Will James were scorched for 340 yards.

The game was played before the smallest Lions home crowd since 1989--and many thousands more were prevented from watching the game at home by NFL blackout policies.  Afterwards, the Lions’ record sat at 1-2; once again looking up at the rest of the NFC North.  So why were all of the Lions’ players out on the field, celebrating with the fans?  Why did owner William Clay Ford say  “we got King Kong off our back”?  Oh yes, that’s right—the Lions hadn’t won a game since Brett Favre played for the Packers.

Center Dominic Raiola perfectly captured the emotions of both the players and fans: "All those people out there have been through a lot more than we've been through. They're fighting for their life out there, buying tickets to come to the game, losing their jobs," he said.  About celebrating with the fans, he said “It's something very little that we did just to show our appreciation."

It’s an important point: Lions fans have continued to support this team, throughout the second-longest losing streak in the history of football—one that capped one of the longest periods of futility in NFL history.  It speaks volumes about the dedication and passion of Lions fans that they came out 40,000 strong to see the streak get snapped.

“It had the feel of a post-season win--the jubilation,” said head coach Jim Schwartz.  “Players went back on the field and wanted to go celebrate with the fans that stayed. I thought that sends a strong statement about the kinship we feel with the city of Detroit."

However, this win is just that: one win.  The first words of Schwartz’s statement to the press were, “We'd like to get to a point where a regular season win isn't celebrated that much,” and he’s exactly right.  If the Lions are to turn the positive momentum of ending this nightmare into anything that will last, that’s the approach they have to take today.  The Lions are 1-2, alone at the bottom of their division, and are sandwiching a game against the reigning world champions with contests at Fields Soldier and Lambeau.

With key starters like Smith, Sims, and Buchanon out, and five rookies starting, the Lions have a mountain to climb just to get to the bye.  But with the confidence of this win under their feet, and the weight of King Kong off their backs, who knows how high this young, talented team can climb?

Discussion here, in The Den!

Now let's do what you're supposed to after one of these win things ...

... analyze where you can still get better.

The last two weeks (Lions losses) I posted lists of positives from the game, despite the result. Now that they've won (wow, strange thing to type) it seems appropriate to go the other way.

It's great that the Lions won, but...

* It came against a VERY flawed Redskins team that doesn't seem to have much heart. As noted here.

* The lack of a consistent pass rush still plagues the Lions. As the Redskins forged something of a comeback near the end, the inability to get to the quarterback was ulcer-inducing. Jason Hunter again looked good at the beginning of the game, but at the end he kept trying to speed rush around the tackle, who simply forced him long and Jason Campbell stepped forward in the pocket. Pass after pass after pass. Make an adjustment!

* The Lions' defensive secondary still leaves you feeling as if it can be gashed for a huge play at any moment -- and again it was. Part of that is a lack of cohesion and playing together; part is the aforementioned lack of a pass rush.

* Stafford played his best -- and smartest -- game as a pro. I absolutely loved the way he protected the ball and avoided turnovers in a game that ended up being close.
But anyone watching the game on Fox who heard Brian Billick's analysis knows that a lot more production was left out on the field by Stafford's continuing issues with accuracy. He seems to be very good with the zipped throw to the sidelines, but still has issues with over-the-middle throws that require some touch.
Calvin Johnson is the team's best weapon. He can make catches if the ball's just in the vicinity of where it needs to be. (Did you see that last catch of his in the fourth quarter? A yard behind him with speed and he snagged it?) But Stafford and Calvin still aren't connecting with consistency. Stafford needs to have confidence to look Calvin's way more, throw the ball over the top and let him make plays over and through smaller DBs.
One hopes that that simply will come with time and repetition.

* The Redskins' drive for their second TD in the fourth quarter was awful from the Lions' perspective. They let the pedal off the floor, went into a "prevent" and didn't prevent a thing. Indeed, it let the 'Skins into a game the Lions had pretty much dominated.

You need to adjust the strategy in those situations, Gunther. That clearly didn't work.

Share your thoughts in The Den!

Thoughts From The Win

Sunday, September 27, 2009

It's still a lot early to process the game and there were a lot of things happening. This won't be the first post on the game and certainly won't be the best analysis but here were a few of my takeaways.

I wasn't at all confident that Washington was a very good opponent for the Lions right now. Not that I think there are very good, in fact the opposite. I think they are terrible and are due for a collapse this year for a number of reasons. Even so, some of those things have already been exposed and that team was circling the wagons. I expected the Lions to break the streak by catching a team napping. This was far better, they caught a team fully prepared and whipped them.

Stafford was fine. Unlike last week, when he hit a lull he didn't go crazy and melt down with a series of bad decisions. While it isn't a cumulative stat, it is notable that his passer rating today was greater than his ratings of the first two weeks combined. I expected that the coaches would beat him up for ignoring Bryant Johnson the first two weeks. Maybe the interception in preseason on the pass to Johnson robbed Stafford of any faith he had in the guy. Regardless of the reason though, Stafford was convinced to go to Bryant repeatedly and it paid off well, even allowing for a drop by Bryant in the first half. The touchdown to Johnson as well as the 2nd down pass to Will Heller in the 4th quarter were the two most important signs of growth in Stafford that I have seen yet. Instead of trying to force the ball in Stafford put it up and trusted his receivers to make plays. I believe that the touchdown in particular would have been an easy interception only two weeks ago. There were a few misses, but overall this was the Big Step I've been expecting from Stafford, and this game restores much of my faith in the decision by Schwartz to start him.

Kevin Smith was brilliant and if he misses significant time it will be a real blow. While the offensive line blocked well the entire game, it is hard to overlook the difference in production between Smith (16/101) and the rest of the running backs (17/21). While the reality of things won't be that dramatic, the numbers do reflect the quality that Smith brings to the position.

The Lion defense was the key to the win. Unlike the first two games, Detroit held the opposing quarterback to a fairly average game. Combined with a run defense that continues to be effective they were able to slow Washington enough for the win. Schemes tend to win on defense, and Detroit demonstrated this today with their relatively anonymous group of contributers. Something called Kevin Hobbs was the Lions' third leading tackler, need I say more?

On the other hand though the game that Detroit played today would not be good enough to win in most weeks. The Redskins did as much to lose as the Lions to win, even going down to the decision in the last few seconds by Zorn to take no shots at the endzone. Washington committed the only turnover and it was unforced, the blocking by their offensive line was very sketchy, their play-calling seemed to lack much cohesion, they committed almost 100 yards of penalties. None of this is to detract from the Lions' accomplishment, they took what the Redskins gave them and did what they had to do. It is, however to point out that this was more the type of win that poor teams are able to nab a few times per year, not nearly the type of win that good teams carve out weekly. There is still plenty of work to do.

Jason Hunter's coming-out party

Friday, September 25, 2009

Watchers of last Sunday's Lions game might have thought, "Who's that guy playing rather well at DE and not named Avril?"

That would be Jason Hunter. Carlos Monarrez at has a nice write-up on the Green Bay castoff, who was undrafted out of Appalachian State in 2006, who had a sack, a pass deflection and hurried Brett Favre throughout last Sunday's game.

Coaches and teammates love Hunter's mean streak.

"Everybody always says, 'Well, Jason doesn't do this and doesn't do that,' " defensive coordinator Gunther Cunningham said. "I said, 'You know, every day, I watch Jason Hunter, and he's tough every day.' I think, when a player plays the way he does, he's going to have success, because he is stone-cold tough."

Added RT Gosder Cherilus, who frequently has to go against Hunter in practice:

"He's not going to try to run around a block," Cherilus said. "He's going to try to run through it. If you're one of those guys who likes to have people go around you and not through you, you're in trouble, because if you're off-balance, not doing the right thing, he's going to bring you right back into the quarterback's lap."

But Hunter admits he was less effective later in the game when the Vikings and massive tackle Phil Loadholt made adjustments. He's certainly in a better situation in Detroit than he was in Green Bay to get playing time. With experience may come adjustments of his own, and a much needed, consistent pass-rushing threat.

Talk about it in The Den!

WSJ: Lions "the NFL's worst defense, ever"

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Football writer Reed Albergotti of the Wall Street Journal (the Wall Street Journal has a sports page?!) explores how the Lions defense got so terrible.

The headline says "The NFL's Worst Defense, Ever: Bad Drafts and Strategic Bungling Have the Lions Bleeding Yards at Record Pace." To be fair, nowhere in the article does Albergotti call the Lions' D the worst ever, and editors, not reporters, write the headlines. Albergotti does note, however:

The team's defense has allowed 1,033 points in 34 games—the most since Lyndon Johnson was in the White House.

Despite a new defensive-minded head coach and a completely re-engineered roster, the Lions lost their first two games this season by a combined score of 72 to 40, putting its defense back in its familiar place at the bottom of the league.

All this presents an enduring mystery: In a league like the NFL that's expressly designed to help bad teams help themselves, how can a defense whose players will earn $45 million this season be so stubbornly horrible?

Albergotti imparts to the nation reasons for which we here are all too familiar (my paraphrases):

1. Committing to, then bungling, the Tampa 2, which can work with smaller, less strong players BUT requires discipline and knowing the playbook and your responsibilities so well as to be instinctive. The Lions got smaller, weaker, less talented and the players never grasped the defense.

2. Ridiculous hires (Rod Marinelli as head coach and The Son-in-Law as defensive coordinator, neither of whom had experience in the job they were doing.)

3. Millen's impossibly bad drafting.
Though he's famous for picking bad wide receivers, Mr. Millen's greatest shortcoming may actually have come on defense. He used a second-round pick in 2007 for defensive end Ikaika Alama-Francis, who is no longer in the NFL, and two third-round picks in 2004 and 2005 for cornerbacks Keith Smith and Stanley Wilson, who are not on an NFL roster. In addition, from 2004 to 2008—when Mr. Millen left the team—nearly all of the players the Lions drafted in the late rounds haven't panned out.

Albergotti talks about how Jim Schwartz and Gunther Cunningham are transforming the defense again. Going bigger and stronger, running a more traditional 4-3. Clearly the transition isn't complete. (Albergotti defends the Lions in this respect, though -- that New Orleans offense also shredded a typically stout Eagles D the following week.)

Albergotti concludes thusly:
Mr. Schwartz hasn't been around long enough to get very much depth on defense, and a season-ending injury to defensive end Jared DeVries was a significant loss.

"What Jim Schwartz took over, in my opinion, was worse than an expansion franchise," says former Baltimore Ravens head coach Brian Billick, who will call the Lions game against the Redskins for Fox on Sunday. "There's only so much you can do in a year."

A fair and accurate assessment? Share your thoughts in The Den.

Tick Tock

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

With a couple of days to sober up from Sunday's game and a little thought into the matter I started to wonder when we could expect to see the corner turn for Matt Stafford. My initial thought was that this would have been an argument for sitting him at the start of the season - and in a way it still is, but that is all water under the bridge. The decision is made and reversing it now would be a pretty bad idea.

Stafford's first couple of games have been pretty bad. So far he is either the worst or second worst starting quarterback in the NFL (Jamarcus Russell is simply awful, despite his game winning drive on Sunday). That isn't good, and if it was predictable then it is really difficult to support the decision to play him this early. On the other hand, these games weren't the easiest for any quarterback on a bad team to handle. Often you see arguments for waiting for an advantageous schedule position to insert a rookie. The Lions chose to ignore the schedule when selecting their quarterback. The results weren't terribly surprising. Stafford was forced into a position where he would have to lead a comeback against New Orleans, and then was put in a spot where he would face one of the tougher defenses in the NFL.

None of this excuses the team for the decision, or Stafford for his play, but it perhaps explains things a bit. Stafford did seem to play within himself a little more on Sunday. As with the prior week, when he tried to go downfield bad things typically happened, but at least this week he was finding open players on checkdowns rather than just locking in on Calvin Johnson and heaving the ball into triple coverage.

But this isn't about that. I got a little curious about when we could expect to see Stafford make that leap. In his case, even an improvement from awful to merely poor would do a lot to reinforce the faith that so many have put in him. While it is impossible to predict when - or if - Stafford will make any kind of sudden improvement, we can certainly look at other quarterbacks as guideposts. The good news is that Stafford's experience is not atypical. He's on the low side of normal, but other than a few notable exceptions most quarterbacks have started out similarly their rookie year:
Player Game 1+2  Att Comp Pct Yds TD INT
Stafford          67  34 50.7 357  1  5

Weinke            63  40 63.5 499  1  1
Carr              47  16 34.0 232  2  3
Harrington        70  35 50.0 449  3  4
Ramsey            67  31 46.3 455  1  4
Leftwich          64  36 56.3 567  3  3
Boller            60  29 48.3 230  1  2
Grossman          32  32 51.6 406  2  1
E Manning         58  23 39.7 228  1  2
Roethlisberger    47  29 61.7 337  2  1
Smith             39  17 43.6 166  0  5
Frye              44  29 65.9 646  3  1
Orton             49  29 59.2 291  1  1
Fitzpatrick       81  47 58.0 398  0  6
Young             50  24 48.0 218  1  3
Leinart           77  46 59.7 485  4  1
Cutler            51  27 52.9 331  4  2
Gradkowski        75  45 70.5 409  4  1
Edwards           59  45 76.2 410  1  2
Ryan              46  22 47.8 319  1  2
Flacco            48  28 58.3 258  0  0
As every circumstance is pretty different it is difficult to peg Stafford. It is very safe to say that guys like Roethlisberger and Cutler and Edwards had stronger starts, tougher to say the same about players like Eli who had both the benefit of a stronger supporting cast as well as several weeks to absorb the game before being inserted into the lineup. Looking ahead to games 3 and 4 we see:
Game 3         Att  Comp Pct Yds TD INT

Weinke         30    18 60.0 160  1  1
Carr           22    12 54.5  99  0  1
Harrington     41    25 61.0 309  2  1
Ramsey         27    12 44.4 204  1  0
Leftwich       42    24 57.1 256  0  3
Boller         21    12 57.1  98  1  1
Grossman       10     6 60.0  31  0  0
E Manning      21     6 28.6 148  0  2
Roethlisberger 21    16 76.2 231  1  1
Smith          24    16 66.7 185  0  3
Frye           32    21 65.6 198  0  1
Orton          39    17 43.6 117  1  0
Fitzpatrick    24    10 41.7  69  1  1
Young          25    13 52.0 161  1  0
Leinart        32    13 40.6 203  0  2
Cutler         31    21 67.7 261  2  1
Gradkowski     26    13 50.0 104  0  0
Edwards        21    11 52.4 153  0  1
Ryan           18    12 66.7 192  1  0
Flacco         31    16 51.6 192  1  0
Game 4          Att Comp Pct Yds TD INT

Weinke          47   29 61.7 275  1  3
Carr            29   16 55.2 188  2  2
Harrington      29   16 55.2 199  0  0
Ramsey          35   23 65.7 213  3  0
Leftwich        27   15 55.6 158  1  2
Boller          26   15 57.7 140  0  3
Grossman        35   16 45.7 227  0  2
E Manning       25   12 48.0 113  0  0
Roethlisberger  25   21 84.0 193  2  0
Smith           22    9 40.9  77  0  1
Frye            39   20 51.3 183  0  0
Orton           26   16 61.5 117  1  0
Young           15    7 46.7  87  1  0
Leinart         35   14 40.0 157  1  1
Cutler          23   12 52.2 179  2  1
Gradkowski      48   20 41.7 139  0  0
Edwards         21   14 66.7 130  0  1
Ryan            41   21 51.2 158  0  0
Flacco          27   18 66.7 153  0  2
Even at this point we don't see much improvement for most quarterbacks. Eli Manning continued to struggle. Ryan remained effective while Flacco was still on the interception streak that marred his rookie year. If this tells us anything it is that it will be quite a while before we can really determine what Stafford will become. Whether it is wise to be playing him at all is a different argument for a different post, but that decision is made. It is very likely that Stafford will continue to produce just about the same as he has for the next few weeks with any improvements incremental and not necessarily reflected in the statistics.

Believe it or not ... more than a couple of positives out of Sunday's loss

Monday, September 21, 2009

There was a lot of ugly and bad as the Lions took their losing streak to an astounding 19 games in Sunday's 27-13 loss to the Minnesota Vikings.

But there were a noticeable amount of good developments, too:

* As pointed out by Carlos Monarrez at "The defense did its job by holding Adrian Peterson to 92 yards, getting good pressure on Brett Favre, sacking him three times, and forcing four three-and-outs. The defense allowed only one touchdown on a sustained drive. The two other Vikings touchdowns resulted from turnovers that gave the Vikes the ball inside the Lions' 28 both times."

Brian VanOchten at noted that even the Lions' halftime lead is progress -- it's only happened five times in the Lions' past 19 games. VanOchten quoted Lions C Dominic Raiola saying, ""I expect all of these guys in this locker room to be motivated by our first-half performance. We need to be that team all of the time. For a half, we were a different team."

As VanOchten also noted, the Lions finished with more rushing yards (129-112) and the same amount of total offense as the Vikings (265 yards).

Yep, it's the NFL. There's only one stat that counts -- wins. No moral victories.

But when you're as far down as the Lions have gotten, those positives can be building blocks toward where they need to get to. A 60-minute effort like the first half of Sunday's game, making your own effective adjustments when your opponent makes theirs, fewer mistakes from Matthew Stafford, and ... is that a 'W' I see off in the distance?

Lions fans -- some, anyway -- are looking for positives in The Den.

Salary Cap Forum Updated - PREMIUM

Sunday, September 20, 2009

AdamJT13 posted the salary cap figures for all NFL teams and had the Lions at $2.34M under the cap. Below are week 2 transactions that effect the Lions salary cap as well as an adjustment to Dennis Northcutt's player cost: Follow Detroit's salary cap with expert George Ketchman here. (Requires premium membership to

Martz: Lions spent too much time dealing with "periphery"

Saturday, September 19, 2009

The New York Times has a nice overview story on the Lions and the changes from last year's horror.

The part I found interesting is this comment from former Lions Offensive Coordinator Mike Martz, now an NFL Network analyst:

“The meat of that organization, of any organization to me, is inside, and that’s been lacking over the years,” said Martz. “There’s just too much time spent on the periphery.”

I've been among the contingent who puts most of the Lions' recent failure on the inability to effectively put together the offensive and defensive lines. And it's interesting, to me anyway, that Martz -- a guy who's perceived as being all about flash and developing high-powered offenses with players others might discard, the Kurt Warners and Mike Furreys of the world -- sees the core Lions problem as fundamentally the same thing.

Talk about it in The Den!

Stafford vs Other No. 1 QB Picks

Friday, September 18, 2009

Pro Football Weekly had a nice analysis of first-starts made by No. 1 pick quarterbacks, providing a clean table with output that might shed nice perspective on Stafford's less than impressive performance.

Here's an intriguing example ...

Peyton Manning 1998 Week One, '98 vs. Miami (1) L, 15-24 21 -of - 37, 302 yards, 1 touchdown, 3 interceptions, QB rating of 58.6


Detroit Lions Injury Report from Friday's Practice

Hot from our friends in the Detroit Lions media relations department ...

The following players have been listed on the Detroit Lions' Injury Report: DE Cliff Avril (hamstring) and QB Drew Stanton (knee) did not practice; DE Andre Fluellen (knee), DT Grady Jackson (knee), CB Williams James (foot), CB Eric King (shoulder) and G Daniel Loper (knee) were limited in practice; CB Phillip Buchanon (neck) and K Jason Hanson (right knee) had full participation in practice today. Avril and Stanton are doubtful; Fluellen and King are questionable; Buchanon, Jackson, James, Loper and Hanson are all probable. Today Buchanon was added to the injury list and Jackson was upgraded to limited practice.

The following players were listed on the Minnesota Vikings' Injury Report today: LB Erin Henderson (calf) did not practice and LB Heath Farwell (hamstring) was limited in practice. G Anthony Herrera (back) and TE Jim Kleinsasser had full participation in practice today. Herrera was upgraded to full participating today. Henderson is out, Farwell is questionable and Herrera and Kleinsasser are probable.


Lions Reach Sellout; Games Will Be Televised

From our friends in the Lions Media Relations Department

Sunday's game will air live in the local television markets; Tickets are still available to purchase

Allen Park, Mich. - The Detroit Lions have reached a sellout for Sunday's home-opener against NFC North rival Minnesota Vikings. By reaching a sellout by today's 1 p.m. deadline, Sunday's game will air live in the local television markets (Metro Detroit, Lansing, Saginaw/Flint and Toledo markets), including WJBK-TV FOX 2.


Why didn't Gun Blitz? He Explains ...

From The Den's SamHayne ...

For those upset about the Non-blitzing last week.

Gun speaks about it here:

He calls out Julian Peterson, Larry Foote, Ernie Sims & Marquand Manuel all for screwing it up in the 1st quarter so the moved away from it.

Quotes from Gunther Cunningham: "Larry Foote played as hard as he could play, but he missed some things and it cost us, it broke us down," Cunningham said. "Julian Peterson did the same thing, and Ernie (Sims) reverted back to doing some things he did last year."(Safety) Marquand Manuel, on the flea-flicker, jumped up, while Louis Delmas was great on his side. Fortunately, Anthony Henry covered him up and intercepted the ball. That's what was happening throughout the game."


Peter King Picks The Lions

You know it's pretty bad if an expert picking your team to win against a 40-plus year old quarterback in your home opener is met with, "He must be on drugs." But that was the sentiment from Denizens after SI's Peter King selected Detroit to upset the Vikings and Las Vegas in his latest predictions.

Said King: "In 2007 at Ford Field, Detroit beat the Vikes on a Jason Hanson field goal in OT, 20-17. In 2008 at Ford Field, the Vikes overcame a 13-10 fourth-quarter deficit to win 20-16; at the Metrodome last year, the Vikes survived 12-10, thanks largely to Lions QB Dan Orlovsky running blindly out of the back of the end zone. This is going to be an emotional game, the Lions returning home and starting yet another new era. Jim Schwartz is going to send the house at Brett Favre, and I think the Lions will get there a few times and force him into some mistakes."


Lions' Family Loses Another Member

Passed along this morning from our friends in the Detroit Lions media relations department ...

Allen Park, Mich. - An ironman along the offensive line for the Detroit Lions from 1966-76 and a pillar in the community has died. Bob Kowalkowski, 65, died last night at Henry Ford Hospital in West Bloomfield (Mich.) after a brief illness.

Kowalkowski was a Lions' starting guard through most of his 11 seasons in Detroit after he was drafted as a future pick in the seventh round from Virginia in 1965. The 6-foot-3, 245-pound lineman immediately stepped into a starting slot at left guard as a rookie in 1966 and was switched to right guard in 1968. He started every game for the Lions for five straight seasons (1972-1976) before being traded to Cleveland in 1977. He finished his career playing four games for Coach Bart Starr and the Green Bay Packers in '77.

Kowalkowski played in 138 games during his Lions' career.

"Bob exemplified the tough, physical player you had to be to succeed in the NFL," praised Pro Football Hall of Famer Charlie Sanders who played nine seasons with Kowalkowski. "When you played with him you knew he had your back, and if he was your friend he was your friend for life."

Quarterback Greg Landry counted Kowalkowski as among the leaders on his offensive line. "Bob was a little undersized compared to most offensive linemen, but he made up for it with hard work and always going the extra measure in the weight room, film room or during practices," recalled Landry. "Also, I will always remember how much Bob loved to hunt and fish. He and teammates Larry Hand and Ed Flanagan took every chance they could to enjoy the Michigan outdoors."

Tackle Jim Yarbrough was another standout on the Lions' offensive line from 1969-1977 and fondly remembers Kowalkowski as "determined to outwork everyone. Bob left everything on the field each Sunday. When I came in as a rookie he told me to be very thankful we had line coach Chuck Knox. Bob told me to keep my mouth shut and learn to do things the right way.

He was always a leader by example and a great role model for the work ethic required to be a real professional."

or 44 years, the Kowalkowski family has been closely associated with the Lions. Kowalkowski was drafted by the Lions in 1965 and, since 1990, Bob's wife Judy has worked in the Lions' front office and is the Lions' manager of accounting operations.

Another football Kowalkowski, son Scott, was signed as a free agent by the Lions in 1994 and was a standout on special teams and at linebacker for Detroit through 2001. Daughter Robin owns her own business in Chicago.

"The entire Kowalkowski family means a great deal to our organization," said Tom Lewand, president of the Lions. "Obviously, the football side of their contributions is well known but, off the field, the family contributes enormously to the Lions and to our entire community. Bob was a special leader on the field and off."

Community involvement is another Kowalkowski family tradition.

Bob Kowalkowski founded the "Kowalkowski Open" golf tournament in 1973 with friends from the Gladwin (Mich.) Lions Club to support Leader Dogs for the Blind. He also was active with the Danny Thomas March and co-chairman for the St. Jude's Children's Hospital Radiothon during his Lions' career. His Bob Kowalkowski Scholarship Award helped enable students with financial needs and high academic achievements attend college. He was voted the Lions' "Man of the Year" for his community involvement in 1975.

In 1991, the Kowalkowski Open grew into what is now known as Kolo Charities, which has helped raise thousands of dollars for a variety of charities in Michigan. Included among them is the Detroit Lions Courage House which benefits the child abuse prevention and treatment program at HAVEN in Oakland County.

Funeral arrangements for Bob Kowalkowski are incomplete and will be announced later.


Former Lions Head Coach Monte Clark dead at 72

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Sad news for the Lions family.

Former Head Coach Monte Clark has died. He was 72.

He died Wednesday night at Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit, the team said Thursday. He had a bone marrow malignancy associated with lung and liver disease.

Clark was the offensive line coach for the Miami Dolphins team that went 17-0 in 1972. He became the Lions' coach in 1978.

"Monte will always be remembered as a consummate football man," Lions president Tom Lewand said. "He knew football inside and out, and had a passion for it. He played the game at a high level and had success wherever he coached."

Under Clark, the Lions went 43-63-1 and made back-to-back postseason appearances for the first time since their three straight playoff runs from 1952-54. The Lions lost both games.

I'll always remember Monte Clark praying on the sidelines as Eddie Murray lined up to kick a very makeable field goal that would have sent the Lions into the 1984 NFC Championship game. Murray's 43-yarder sailed wide right with 5 seconds to go, the Lions lost 24-23, the 49ers went on to a multiple Lombardi Trophy-winning dynasty under Bill Walsh, and the Lions went, uh, in a different direction.

But Monte Clark was a really solid football coach in the years back when the Lions were competitive. RIP.

Lions fans are remembering Clark in The Den.

Favre Passes Along Advice to Stafford

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Keeping with his never-say-quit-even-if-everyone-wants-you-to mantra, Vikings' quarterback Brett Favre encouraged Lions rookie Matthew Stafford to "keeping slinging it," in a conference call with the Detroit media.

According to the Detroit News: "I saw a couple plays he made in preseason, some really good throws," Favre said Wednesday in a conference call previewing Sunday's game between the Lions and Minnesota Vikings at Ford Field. "I mean, he's got all the tools, there's no doubt about it. But there's only one way to get better, and that's play. They drafted him for a lot of reasons, and from what I can tell, I think he'll have a bright future."

Lions cutting it thin on the DL

With John Niyo’s Twitter report that the Lions have released DT Orien Harris to make room for DE Turk McBride, the Lions have only three named DTs on the roster: veteran run-stopper Grady Jackson, fourth-round rookie Sammie Hill, and 2008 seventh-rounder Landon Cohen.  As Jackson is considered a 10-20 snap situational player, the Lions now have, quite literally, no depth at the tackle spot.

Even if Andre Fluellen, who has shifted from DE to DT and back again several times already this season, flips back to DT, both depth and production at the DT spot are alarming.  Jackson is now the only player on the roster who’d started an NFL game at DT before last Sunday.  With true big-bodied DTs always in high demand, and the season already underway, it seems impossible that the Lions could do much of anything to bring in reinforcements--save re-sign one of the veterans they’ve already cut.

Keep an eye on the waiver wire as the week winds on . . . and discuss it here, in The Den!

Lions Claim Turk McBride

John Niyo (DetNews) has announced via his Twitter account that the Lions have claimed DE Turk McBride from the Chiefs in a move which was widely suspected.

McBride, a collegiate DE at Tennessee is still slightly undersized for the position at 6'2" 278lbs and has issues with lower body strength. However, he had decent production in nine games last season before being transitioned to OLB this year in Kansas City's new 3-4.

In Detroit, McBride is reunited with Gunther Cunningham who favored McBride as a prospect and is very familiar with him. Although McBride is young, and a work in progress, he immediately steps in as the Lions 3rd DE.

Check out more possible free agent signings here

New Orleans paper breaks down the game film

New Orleans Times-Picayune football writer Jeff Duncan has an article analyzing the game film from last Sunday's game.

A couple of points were interesting from the Lions' perspective -- though don't tell anybody anything they didn't see with their own eyes:

FRESH MEAT: The Saints ruthlessly attacked Lions cornerback Eric King, a last-minute replacement for Phillip Buchanon in the starting lineup. The first two touchdowns - a 9-yard catch by Marques Colston and a 39-yarder to Robert Meachem - came against King. Brees also victimized King on the 58-yard strike to Devery Henderson and caught him in single coverage for a 20-yard connection with Lance Moore, who made a spectacular leaping grab. The Saints also were trying to set up King on the failed flea-flicker pass, but rookie safety Louis Delmas did not bite and had Colston covered deep, forcing Brees to go to his second option, Devery Henderson. Further proof that Brees, while a nice guy off the field, is a cold-blooded assasin on it. He showed no mercy on King for four quarters.

Get well soon, Phillip Buchanon.

CALL OF THE GAME: The Saints' second touchdown was a perfect example of offensive deception. The Saints had run the ball on their past two first-down calls. On this play, they lined up in a two-tight end set with fullback Heath Evans and Reggie Bush in the backfield. The lone wideout was Robert Meachem, the team's best run-blocking receiver. The personnel package and alignment screamed "run." The Lions responded accordingly, packing nine defenders in the box. Brees faked a hand-off to Bushand was able to buy enough time in the pocket to find Meachem alone in single coverage in the end zone against cornerback Eric King. A tip of the cap to Sean Payton on that play call. Excellent work.

Did I mention Phillip Buchanon should get well soon?

Duncan said the refs blew it on calling Calvin Johnson out of bounds on that long pass that should have been a touchdown. And he did have words of praise for one Lion:

The Lions got a good one in rookie free safety Louis Delmas. He was all over the field for Detroit and showed tremendous instincts and play-making ability. He flashed excellent speed on his 65-yard fumble return for a TD and also laid out Bush, Moore, Bell and Shockey with big hits. The kid can play.

Discuss in The Den.

Paul Spicer Visiting Lions

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

John Niyo reports via Twitter that journeyman defensive end, Paul Spicer is visiting the Lions.

As Niyo also reports, nothing is imminent. I believe (someone back me up on this) that Spicer is a vested veteran and now that week one is over, he is free to be signed for non-guaranteed money.

Spicer, a Saginaw Valley State grad, is originally from Indianapolis and went undrafted in 1998. He jumped from the Seattle practice squad to the Saskatchewan Roughriders to his NFL game debut in 1999 with the Lions.

Spicer had 7.5 sacks in 2005 but now, at 34, is seen mostly as a reserve/rotational player.

Was Culpepper giving Stafford cold shoulder during Sunday's game

Den-izen kb760 is a little fired up at what he/she perceived as a sulking Daunte Culpepper on the sidelines during Sunday's blowout loss in New Orleans.

"If Daunte is going to act like he did yesterday and distance himself from the QB, never helping the rookie (only Stanton talked to Matt) then what good is he?," kb760 writes. "Get him the heck out of here. The one time I did see him, he had his earphones on and just stood around uninvolved. Grow up and impart some wisdom during the game to the rookie."

Others see that as much ado about nothing, that Culpepper is there in case Stafford goes down, and that it's the coaches job to coach the rook; and that a few glimpses of him from TV on the sidelines may not accurately portray Culpepper's involvement; and that it's possible the veteran provides more guidance and pointers during practices.

On the other hand, Culpepper was retired because he wanted a starting job somewhere and couldn't find one. Now, to give it a very good shot but be a backup on the LIONS has got to hurt -- as evidenced by his written statement after Stafford was named starter, that was submitted to the media by the team.

Is it Culpepper's job anyway, to give Stafford pep talks? Is Culpepper sulking, and bringing negativity to the sideline? Does that matter much anyway, with the defense looking as it did Sunday? They're talking about it in The Den!

More positives from the Week One Loss

Monday, September 14, 2009

Matthew Stafford, meet humility

Matthew Stafford is a lot of things. He is talented, composed, charming, and an all-around great guy.

He's not humble.

He doesn't have to be! He's been the No. 1 pick in the NFL since his sophomore year in high school. He has always been the best player on his team, until now.

's biggest vice will always be the trust his has in his arm, his hubris.

That lack of humility is the cause of throws being forced into coverage, the cause for throws way too high or too low because Stafford trusted his arm instead of sound mechanics.

To be frank, Stafford missed horribly on a number of throws. He was, possibly, worse than his numbers suggest. He also seems to have a case of "Kitna-itis", the condition which strikes talented quarterbacks on the most crucial of drives.

The upside, Stafford is down with that sickness (ooh-wah-ah-ah-ah) at the beginning of his career, whereas Kitna was far too old to be taught new tricks.

Stafford, by all accounts, is one of the most coachable quarterbacks ever. Linehan, by many accounts, is a great quarterbacks coach.

This game, however, may have been necessary in the grand scheme of Stafford's career. This game was his Aikman moment. Troy Aikman lost in his first game, also to the Saints, 24-0. Aikman had Herschel Walker at the time.

Eventually, Aikman had to learn that the NFL is not the Pac-10, and he's not always the best player on the field. Stafford now knows that.

How he handles that knowledge over the course of this year is more important than a 45-27 loss to a very good team.

Stan Kwan slept like a baby last night

He had sweet dreams about laughing at all of us who consistently blamed him for all of the Lions' special teams woes.

I'm not making the case that Kwan is the next Frank Gansz, he's not even the next Chuck Priefer. However, maybe he's not as bad as we all thought.

The bottom of the Lions roster is one of the least talented groups in the league. In terms of coverage squads, Kwan doesn't have a lot to work with. In terms of blocking during returns, he has even less.

The purge of talent that took place on this roster after numerous offensive and defensive scheme changes, is why the Lions are where they are.

Yesterday, the Lions contained Reggie Bush and sprung Dennis Northcutt and Aaron Brown on long returns. In addition, Nick Harris and Jason Hanson were both perfect.

Don't start singing the praises of Stan Kwan, but for once, perhaps give him the benefit of the doubt.

Anthony Henry Might Be the Real Deal

If it weren't for Darren Sharper, Henry would have been the best defensive back on the field in New Orleans.

The Saints picked on Eric King all night.

Eric King is who he is. As a nickelback, no one is better against the run. As a nickelback, he is decent against the pass—better in a zone. On the outside, he has some issues. He lacks polish, which may come over time. Right now, this Lions team needs Philip Buchanon.

Henry, on the other hand, locked up Marques Colston for much of the day, which is not an easy task. He had to deal with one jump ball all day and picked it off.

That's not bad for a guy who was judged to be about as good as Jon Kitna.

Not everything was glass-half-full, there were also "teachable moments".

More Over At My Bleacher Report

Positives to take from the rubble pile in New Orleans

Searching desperately for positives from the Lions' season-opening blowout loss to New Orleans, I have this:

1. Special teams looked very good all day, on both coverage and returns. Kind of a surprise, as I didn't think special teams looked particularly good in the preseason. Aaron Brown just basically took what was (I think) supposed to be Derrick Williams' job away from him.

2. Turnovers! Including one for a score! Remember those? Me either. It's been a LONG time.

3. There was a battling back after (again) going down big early that I don't recall from any point last year.

Discuss in The Den!

The Stafford debate starts in earnest

Looks like some of us are better at prognostication than others. Like that wise man who said before the game, "Go to Vegas and bet your entire 401(k) on the over." (Ahem.)

With another blowout road loss and a generally bad performance by rookie QB Matthew Stafford, The Den is afire with debate about whether anointing him the starter for Week 1 was the best move.

"This is not the way to start a season," said Den-izen acmjmm34. "Granted (Stafford) has looked relatively calm in the pocket, his throws to members of our team have been off on a number of occassions. His INTs though have been right on target. The defense didn't do him any favors but in all fairness we needed a far better ball control offense to hang with this team. Daunte would have been a better choice for starting considering our first 6 game schedule. A lot can be said for veteran leadership."

My take is somewhat similar to that posted by ARJANTIS: "Either go through it early this year or go through it next year... Either way you have to go through his lumps sooner or later."

Stafford's the guy. He may become John Elway-like. He may become Ryan Leaf-like. But he has been given the keys to this franchise, and his attempt to grow into greatness and turn this sad-sack team around must now follow its multi-year course. It's clear he needs work on decision-making under adversity, accuracy and recognizing disguised defenses.

But the Lions are going to be a bad team this year with Culpepper at the helm or Stafford. Playing experience through a brutal year for the team and through brutal stats for the rookie QB worked for Troy Aikman and Peyton Manning.

The Lions Will Win

Sunday, September 13, 2009

It came to me like a bolt from the blue. Set it in stone, the book is writ. If a curmudgeon like me can come around then it must be so.

Game over. Flawless Victory.

Okay, so there is still the little matter of 60 minutes of football to be played so let's figure out how it's going to happen.

The Lions have gone through something like a 90% personnel turnover since the last time they won a game, both on the field, in the coaching ranks, and above, so it is not so simple as to look back at prior victories and say 'they'll do it like that!'. But in a sense, this is one of the team's better weapons. We don't really know what they are going to do, and neither do the Saints. But even so, here's how the victory will unfold:

Stafford Those who expect a big day out of Stafford will be disappointed, and that's probably a good thing. If Stafford throws for over 250 yards Detroit will almost certainly lose. Stafford will spend the afternoon practicing handoffs but will also manage to avoid any turnovers. Look for him to turn in an efficient 10/16/150/1 performance.

The Offense The key to this win will be Detroit's new ball control offense. Detroit finished tied for 3rd preseason in rushing attempts and 2nd for rushing yardage with a robust 5.1 yards per carry (tied for 1st). While the latter number is a little bit smoke and mirrors, take away Tristan Davis' 80 yard touchdown and the team was closer to 4.0 yards/carry, the rushing attempts are the true story. Detroit will run and run and run. New Orleans will have no answer for the right side of the Lions line, and when they do overload to stop the run the Lions will snap off screens to Kevin Smith or take shots downfield. Gregg Williams blitzes and pressures get thwarted as he gets outcoached by Linehan and Schwartz in each of their respective debuts.

The Running Backs Kevin Smith will get the most of the work but expect Morris to see about 10 carries and Felton another 4-5. Watch for a single sweep play for Aaron Brown. Detroit rushes 35 times for 150 yards and one touchdown.

Defensive Front Seven This is where the game will be decided. Pro Bowl left tackle Jamaal Brown is out for New Orleans and his absence cannot be underestimated. Watch for Sammy Hill to dominate his gap while the remaining tackle rotation gums up the interior. Julian Peterson and Ernie Sims will shut down the sweeps and off-tackle runs and by the end of the first quarter New Orleans will be forced to abandon the run. Detroit's soft zone will offer plenty of targets to Drew Brees but pressure up front will make it hard for him to breath and he will be forced into plenty of mistakes.

The Defensive Backs It is hard to imagine that they won't be exposed against this prolific passing team, but Detroit winning the time of possession battle and sustaining pressure up front will mitigate the damage. Brees goes for almost 400 yards and 3 TDs but also throws 2 INTs.

The Kicking Games Hanson is back strong. His kickoffs will lack depth but he is smart and will not expose the Lion coverage unit with bad kicks. New Orleans will get good starting field positions but not great. Watch for Lion drives to stall out and for Hanson to come through. On the other end of the field Garrett Hartley is suspended for taking a stimulant and the team signed John Carney to spell him. Carney made the Pro Bowl for the Giants last year on the back of his great accuracy but he no longer has the leg for deep kickoffs or long field goals. Look for Detroit to consistently get great field position with Aaron Brown shining in the return game. Also watch for New Orleans to be put into some awkward situations inside the Lions 40 where they are outside of Carney's range.

The End Game It will be a see-saw game. Detroit will jump ahead early and maintain the lead throughout the first half, going into halftime up 17-14, and will trade scores deep into the fourth quarter when the Saints go ahead 28-26 on Brees' third TD pass. The Lions will mount a clock grinding, back breaking, field-long drive culminated by Hanson's 3rd field goal with less than 0:30 to go for a 29-28 final.

So there you go. Sorry for the big spoiler. Now go cut the lawn.

Live Gameday discussion Here, in The Den

Lions Name 2009 Team Captains

Friday, September 11, 2009

From Detroit's media release ...

  • Lions Head Coach Jim Schwartz announced the team's 2009 captains: LB Larry Foote (defense), K Jason Hanson (special teams) and C Dominic Raiola (offense). Injury Report
  • The following players have been listed on the Detroit Lions' Injury Report: G Stephen Peterman (ankle) and QB Drew Stanton (knee) did not practice today; CB Phillip Buchanon (neck), WR Yamon Figurs (finger), K Jason Hanson (knee), DE Jason Hunter (ribs), DT Grady Jackson (knee) and WR Dennis Northcutt (hand) were limited in practice. Stanton is doubtful; Buchanon, Figurs and Peterman are questionable and Hanson, Hunter, Jackson and Northcutt are probable for Sunday's game. TE Casey FitzSimmons (knee) and CB Anthony Henry (shoulder) were removed from the injury report today and Jackson was upgraded from no practice to limited practice.
  • The following players were listed on the New Orleans Saints' Injury Report today: T Jammal Brown (hernia), TE Darnell Dinkins (foot), TE Jeremy Shockey (ankle) and RB Pierre Thomas (knee) did not practice and S Usama Young (shoulder) had full participation in practice today. Brown, Dinkins and Thomas are out and Shockey and Young are probable for Sunday's game. Shockey was added to the team's injury list today.

Fun with Stafford!

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Many Denizens are finding the utter glee in the Detroit News' rather creative flash presentation. It uses some fancy web-work, along with commentary from reporter John Niyo, in presenting quite the optimistic approach to rookie quarterback Matthew Stafford.

Talk Lions Football in The Den Message Board

Shaun Smith Suspended

Although there has been no word on Detroit's veteran DT Grady Jackson, judgment was carried about for former Lions' DT Shaun Smith, who was among the team's final training camp cuts.

Smith achieved suspension status by violating the league's anabolic steroid policy, and will sit the first four games -- which he might have done anyway, considering he's presently without a home.

The league has yet to determine Jackson's fate, although it is forthcoming.

Discuss This Topic in THE DEN Message Board

Larry Foote on Rome is Burning

Former Wolverine and Lions' middle linebacker Larry Foote was interviewed by Jim Rome, according to a thread in The Den message board. One of the highlights of the interview was Foote's insistence on not just winning a set number of games, but "winning all of them."

Naturally, and as predicted by Lion Mom, we're just waiting for the national media to assume Foote's predicting a Super Bowl win and lambaste him for, you know, having, like ... the audacity to ... like, want to win.

Discuss this in The Den Message Board

Culpepper makes a statement

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Daunte Culpepper has spent most of the offseason far away from the media, rarely making himself available for questions.  In the wake of the announcement that Matthew Stafford is the Lions’ new permanent starting quarterback, Culpepper has issued the following statement to the media, through the team’s website:

“My position is that if you want to be the best you have to beat the best. Coach Schwartz gave me a fair opportunity to compete for the starting job and now the decision has been made that Matt is the best quarterback in Detroit. I support the decision and I am ready to settle into my role.”

It’s an extremely classy statement, and it speaks well of Daunte.  The absolute worst thing that could happen for the Lions now is for Culpepper to publicly challenge the Lions’ leadership, or privately incite mutiny.  Still, it’s no secret that he went all-out in recommitting himself to football, in hopes of winning the job.  That his effort was in vain hasn’t gone unnoticed by the veterans.

Perhaps it’s an unnerving glimpse into the future for these players; a preview of the day when working their butt off ensures only a spot for that butt on the bench.  Perhaps Matthew Stafford under center is a reminder that no matter how hard they work, how well they execute, or how polished their technique, a day will come when a bright-eyed youngster with fresh knees and an explosive bank account balance takes their job away from them.

However, all of that will go away when the kid performs, and the Lions win.  Coaches Schwartz and Linehan have the ability—and responsibility--to ensure that their bold decision looks like a smart decision come December.

Discuss it here, in The Den!