One Forward or Two back? The Detroit Lions Coaching Situation.

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Published on : January 5, 2018

 

 

Here we are again, my fellow Lions fans. This is that old, familiar, dark place we have all been before, if not with a slightly more optimistic hue. Following the Lions 35-11 throttling of the Green Bay Packers, the team parted ways with their head coach of the last four years, Jim Caldwell. During those last four years in the Motor City, Caldwell has managed to become one of the best coaches in the history of the team, amassing a 36-28 record.

 

He inherited a team laden with talent and in possession of a franchise quarterback. His predecessor, Jim Schwartz, had brought the team out of the depths of a 0-16 hell, but it was clear that his fiery attitude and seeming lack of self control was spreading to his players and the act had worn itself out with management. Caldwell was brought in as a man who could harness the intensity of his players but also institute a new level of discipline and take the team to the next level. And he did.

 

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Caldwell ushered in a truly new culture of winning and kept the team in the running for a division title three out of four years. He also led the team to two playoff births and gave the team their first back-to-back winning seasons since the Bill Clinton was in office. All of this makes it sound as though the team must be crazy to part ways with the guy, but if you look a little more closely, it’s plain to see that the writing was on the wall, and this was all but inevitable.

 

Jim Caldwell deserves all of the credit in the world for role in the Detroit Lions long march to legitimacy, but he was hired by the Lions former GM, Martin Mayhew. His success is the only thing that kept him around. He was fired not because he was a bad coach but because he wasn’t as good as the team needs and had he been a .500 or worse coach he would have been jettisoned by current GM, Bob Quinn, much sooner.

 

Though he kept his team in contention for a division title more often than not, he never could get make it happen, even when it was all right in front of him the last two seasons. Most painful is this current season, when Aaron Rodgers played sparingly and the team secured an early win against the eventual division champion Vikings. Everything was in line for the Lions to win the first division title since the NFC North was formed into its current state, but in-game blunders and a lack of preparedness at times kept it out of reach.

 

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So Jim Caldwell wasn’t able to ever win a division title. That’s slightly more understandable when you consider that the Lions have had to deal with future hall of fame quarterback, Aaron Rodgers, maintaining a stranglehold on the division every season (except this one). The team has however made two playoff appearances in four years under Caldwell. He deserves credit for this when you consider just how bad this team had been during the current century. A closer examination gives you one game where the refs robbed the team –hardly Caldwell’s fault — and another where the team got embarrassed to the tune of 26-6 in Seattle. For general manager, Bob Quinn, who was groomed in the New England Patriots organization, that is just not good enough.

 

Don’t think that Quinn made this decision without a plan in mind. If he didn’t already have his eye on a replacement, or if no better replacement was available Jim Caldwell would probably still be leading the Detroit Lions. Caldwell is a decent coach and he is not someone you would throw aside if you don’t have a better option. Bob Quinn has already proven in two years that he is an astute evaluator of NFL talent on the field, but it is now time to use that beautiful mind of his to find the next big thing on the sideline.

 

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Whether is be Matt Patricia, Mike Vrabel, Pat Shurmur, Josh McDaniels, or somebody else, Bob Quinn has the confidence of a majority of the Lions fanbase, and more importantly of ownership. To some it might seem foolish to fire a coach with such a solid win/loss record, but the NFL is a league where teams MUST stay ahead of the curve and continuously adapt. Firing Caldwell, who most likely has plateaued as a head coach, and finding the next great head coaching mind is a step forward. Ownership and fans have put their trust in Bob Quinn to create a champion, in order to do that he needs to find his champion head coach. And I think he will.

 

 


The Next Step: Detroit Lions offseason needs on defense

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Published on : February 1, 2017

 

 

Some people see the Detroit Lions 2016 campaign as a failure. Some people see it as a success. Regardless of whether you think the team needed to win the division or that Wild Card game in Seattle in order to say that the season was a success, you have to admit that they surpassed most everyone’s preseason expectations. Nine wins and a trip to the playoffs is nothing to scoff at, but the 26-6 thrashing that the Lions took at the hands of the Seahawks proved that there is still a way to go before this team is contending for titles.

 

The team has a few very solid pieces in place and has the luxury of some nice depth on the roster, but there are some big holes still. With a few good moves this team could be a dangerous. General Manager Bob Quinn and head coach Jim Caldwell have a chance to solidify this roster and make the Lions legit. Defense wins championships so we will focus on that unit for this first installment about the Lions offseason.

 

The Detroit Lions defense was historically bad in 2016, especially against the pass. Though opposing quarterbacks carved them up through the air, I actually believe that the Lions’ secondary is the most solid unit on the defense. Darius Slay will be a solid number one cornerback for years. Glover Quin is in his prime and has a year left on his contract. Guys like Nevin Lawson, Quandre Diggs, Tavon Wilson, and Miles Killebrew have a ton of potential and provide solid depth. They could certainly use a solid number two cornerback who can turn and run with faster receivers (Logan Ryan from New England?), but I place most of the blame for the unit’s pass defense woes on the front end, especially the defensive line.

 

Defensive Line

 JPP has proven he can still rush the passer. Will the Lions be willing to pay him?

 

The team gambled on returning Haloti Ngata, Tyrunn Walker, and Devin Taylor back to start at defensive tackle and defensive end along rising star DE, Ziggy Ansah. And they lost big time. With Ziggy battling injury for most of the year, the defensive line was not able to get consistent pressure. Kerry Hyder, a guy I had never heard of before 2016, lead the team in sacks (8) and the team only had 26 overall. They must upgrade here if they want to turn this defense around, and though Hyder certainly earned a spot in the rotation with his efforts this year, everyone except Ansah should be on the chopping block.

 

The team may be interested in a guy like Jason Pierre Paul to start at defensive end across from Ziggy, but he may come at a price tag that is far beyond what GM Bob Quinn is willing to pay. JPP would make the Lions’ starting DEs absolutely terrifying but it seems like a pipe dream at this point. There are too many holes to be filled to spend the likely $11-13 million/year that JPP will command. Other guys like Andre Branch out of Miami or William Gholston from Tampa Bay could be more cost effective options in free agency. Defensive ends Taco Charlton out of Michigan or Daeshon Hall out of Texas A&M could be available when the Lions pick in the draft and they have the size and skills to develop into the type of player they like.

 

As far as defensive tackle, it seems likely that the team will release Haloti Ngata unless he takes a pay cut and Tyrunn Walker should allowed to walk out the door. The Lions already have one replacement starter in A’Shawn Robinson, who was drafted in the second round last year and led the line in passes defended with seven. Robinson needs to develop into a force in the interior if the Lions defense is going to get back on track because I don’t see the team spending big money on a free agent stud, if that even exists this year. I think the focus will be on defensive end and they will allow Robinson to develop while finding a band-aid type player in free agency and a more developmental prospect in the draft.

 

Linebackers

 The Lions could certainly use a linebacker who can generate a turnover or two.

 

Linebacker needs some major help too. When he signed a lucrative contract two offseasons ago, DeAndre Levy looked like the future stud playmaker on the Lions defense. Injuries have derailed his career since then and he has played in only 6 of 32 possible games. He may be healthy, but then again he could get injured again. Or he could retire after showing obvious displeasure with the league and the way it conducts business regarding its players and their health. Hopefully he will still be able to contribute and make plays but the team can’t count on it and even if he does, there are other major holes.

 

Tahir Whitehead has been the starting middle linebacker for two years now and it’s clear that it isn’t working. Three years ago, when he was the third best linebacker on the team and was playing on the strong side, he thrived. The team needs to do everything in their power to make that happen again because when he is the best option at LB, the team is in trouble. That makes finding a new starting middle linebacker priority one. In free agency, the two names that are being floated around are Zach Brown from Buffalo or Dont’a Hightower from New England. The two will definitely come at a high price, but if the team wants to spend the money then Zach Brown is the guy for this team. With Reggie Ragland returning from injury, it seems likely that the Bills will let him walk following his 147 tackle effort in 2016. If the Lions can put him in alongside Tahir Whitehead and (hopefully) DeAndre Levy then this unit can be very solid, but it’s going to cost them. I think it would be money well spent.

 

Should the Lions choose to address the need at linebacker in the draft the big name that has been floated is Zach Cunningham out of Vanderbilt. Reuben Foster from Alabama would be amazing but there is very little chance he drops low enough in the first round for the Lions to snag him. Cunningham has the athleticism, size and speed to step into the role in the middle immediately but is a bit of a problem in the missed tackle department. He would definitely have some learning to do and if the Lions are really in win now mode with head coach Jim Caldwell potentially on the hot seat, then they may opt for a more expensive solution in free agency.

 

 Cunningham could be the MLB of the future if he can clean up his tackling.

 

These are just some of the moves that the team needs to make this offseason. In the NFL you can never rest easy and you always need to be looking for upgrades at all positions. Expect the team to make some moves that don’t correspond to anything I’ve listed here. Stay tuned for the list of offensive needs for the coming offseason.

 

 


The first season with Bob Quinn has given the Lions a solid foundation

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Published on : January 4, 2017

 

 

The Detroit Lions are headed to the NFL playoffs this weekend. After finishing with a 9-7 record, they will travel to Seattle this Saturday as the #6 seed in the NFC. Three weeks ago, the Lions were in control of the division with a 9-4 record and looked to be in great position to lock up a home playoff game for the first time in forever. Sadly, the team went on to lose three straight games and after dropping the regular season finale to the surging Green Bay Packers, the dream of a division championship is dead, for now.

 

Losing the division after having such a commanding lead on it a month ago is certainly disappointing, we must remember that this is a team that nobody believed in before the season began. Well, almost nobody. I had them winning 10 games in my prediction for how the season would shake out, and though they narrowly missed that win total, most people had them winning 4 to 6 games and getting a high draft pick. I did, however, have the team pegged as the #6 seed in the playoffs, so that just shows that I know what I’m talking about. But enough about me, this is about the Lions and what this season says about their future.

 

 Matthew Stafford is the leader of this team. Now he needs Bob Quinn to build a winner around him.

 

We’ve established that the team ended the season by going a paltry 1-3 in the final quarter. That is coupled with a 1-3 first quarter of the season that had fans of the team getting out their pitchforks and torches, and calling for the head of coach, Jim Caldwell. Luckily for Caldwell (and his employment status) the team was very strong in the middle of the season. Some timely turnovers by the defense and the incredible play of Matthew Stafford has them heading to the playoffs for the second time in three years. For a team with such low expectations (at least from everyone outside of Detroit) this is quite the surprise.

 

For those in Detroit, there’s a lot to feel good about. Besides the fact that their QB cemented himself as the franchise guy this year, it looks like they’ve finally found the right guy to lead the front office, and his name is Bob Quinn. The current general manager of the Lions was brought over from the New England Patriots, where he was the team’s director of pro scouting. After the Lions relieved their former heads of front office during the 2015 season, the team was determined to bring in someone who had experience building a winner. And there has been no bigger winner in the last decade than the New England Patriots.

 

In year one as the top dog in the Detroit Lions organization, Bob Quinn has shown the ability to add productive players to the roster via the draft and free agency, without breaking the bank on over-priced free agents. After the retirement of Calvin Johnson, Quinn went out and snagged the top free agent wide receiver on the market, Marvin Jones, at what now looks like a team friendly price tag. Injuries in the secondary are making it evident that he probably could have done a little more to add depth to that unit, but his acquisition of safeties Rafael Bush and Tavon Wilson and their relative success has shown that he has an eye for talent where others might not see the potential.

 

If Bob Quinn is truly going to turn the Lions into Patriots 2.0, then he has to find the best value he can in the draft, and with what we have seen out of this year’s draft picks, he seems more than capable of doing that. Six of the team’s nine draft picks have seen extensive playing time this season. First r0und left tackle, Taylor Decker, has started since day one and though there have been the usual rookie struggles, he has held up admirably and has proven that he is the future of that position on the team. Third round guard/center Graham Glasgow has also proven to be a great pick and replaced former first round pick, Laken Tomlinson, in the starting lineup early on in the season and has proven he can hold onto the job. The team has also seen a ton of things to be happy about from second round defensive tackle, A’Shawn Robinson (7 passes batted down at the line). Safety Miles Killebrew, running back Dwayne Washington, linebacker Antoine Williams and defensive end Anthony Zettel have also seen a lot of action.

 

 Taylor Decker (68) and Graham Glasgow (60) were drafted this year and are the future of the left side of the Lions’ line.

 

Having that many players from the top to the bottom of your draft board see extended action says two things. That the team has dealt with its fair share of injuries, and that they have a guy in charge who knows how to find talent. Bob Quinn’s eye for talent has helped to add a ton of depth to this team and is a big reason why they are going to the playoffs. While some may be upset that this trip to the postseason almost surely means that Jim Caldwell will be back for at least one more year as head coach of the team, you can’t deny that this team is trending in the right direction.

 

I fully expect the Lions to get bounced from the playoffs this Saturday when they head to Seattle. They’ve withstood a fair amount of injuries and it’s admirable that they’ve made it this far to begin with. But Lions fans should be very encouraged by what transpired this year. Another year under Bob Quinn should see this roster improve dramatically. By building off what he has already done for the team, and assuming they aren’t looking for a new defensive or offensive coordinator, this should be the worst Lions team we see for years to come. And considering that this is a playoff team, that is a big reason to be excited for the future in Detroit.

 

 


Matthew Stafford and the Lions can overcome the finger injury

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Published on : December 13, 2016

 

The Detroit Lions are 9-4. This isn’t something football fans are accustomed to. The team currently sits in the 2nd seed in the NFC with a chance to have a first-round bye in the playoffs and host a home playoff game for the first time since 1993. It would be the first ever playoff game at Ford Field.

 

Hopes are high in the Motor City and while some of the team’s wins seemed like a fluke two months ago, the fact that they keep winning means that this team is legit. These wins are coming on the back of some amazing play from the team’s quarterback, Matthew Stafford. He has been playing at an elite, MVP level recently. Leading his team to wins in eight of their last nine games and with eight 4th quarter comebacks on the season. That’s the most since 1950.

 

 Could it be a magic glove?

 

With Matthew Stafford playing at this level, the Lions have been competitive in every single game. But during the Lions 20-17 win over the Chicago Bears last Sunday, fans were given cause for concern in regards to their young gunslinger. During the game, Stafford injured his throwing hand and was forced to wear a glove for the rest of the game. He went on to throw two ugly interceptions but ultimately brought his team back from the brink with a late rushing touchdown to take the lead.

 

After the game, news got considerably worse for the Lions. It is now known that he dislocated his middle finger and that there is ligament damage in the hand. Matthew Stafford will have to wear a glove on his throwing hand for the rest of the season in order to deal with the injury, and will almost certainly need surgery in the offseason. The first reaction is to think that the Lions are now doomed. After all, last time Stafford was forced to wear a glove on his throwing hand was in 2011, and he threw 9 interceptions over the course of 3 games. But I say the Detroit Lions will still be successful for the rest of the season and will be hosting a playoff game in January. Here are a few reason why.

 

The Defense

 Teryl Austin has his defense playing great recently.

 

With all of the well-deserved praise being heaped upon Matthew Stafford for his leadership and big play ability this season, the defense hasn’t gotten the credit that they deserve. It has now been seven straight weeks that they have held opposing offenses under 20 points, something the Lions haven’t done since 1961. They seem to come up with huge plays just when the team needs them most.

 

While big names guys like DeAndre Levy and Ziggy Ansah have struggled with injuries, the unit as a whole has performed very well. The secondary has been especially clutch and have sealed games late with big interceptions on multiple occasions. This defense even went to the Superdome and held Drew Brees without a touchdown, while forcing him into three interceptions.

 

Teryl Austin, the Lions defensive coordinator deserves a ton of credit for how the defense has performed. After a poor start to the season, he has his guys buying into the scheme and though they do allow a fair amount of yards, they do not let opposing offenses into the end zone. After interviewing for multiple head coaching gigs over the last two offseasons, it seems very likely that he will land a top job this year. But before he departs, he will help this team host a playoff game by keeping his opportunistic defense one step ahead of the opposition.

 

Special teams

 He may look like Nick Swardson but there’s nothing funny about Matt Prater’s skills.

 

This is always an underrated unit on any football team, but the Lions have been exceptional all season. Returner, Andre Roberts has not only made several clutch catches with the offense this year but also has two punts returned for touchdowns on the year. He routinely puts the offense in good position to succeed and has cemented his role as the team’s returner. As important as Roberts has been to the offense in the field position game, punter Sam Martin has been very important to the defense. He is a former 5th round pick who has consistently ranked among the best at his position since entering the league in 2013. He only has two punts that have gone for a touchback this year, meaning that more often than not he leaves opposing offenses backed up against their own end zone.

 

The real star of the Detroit Lions special teams is kicker, Matt Prater. All this guy does is make big kicks. In the last month he has been named NFC Special Teams Player of the week three times. They should just name the award after him at this point. Prater has hit the game-winning kick in four of the Lions nine wins this season and he accounted for 16 points in the Lions 28-13 win over the Saints a few weeks ago. Along with Stafford, Prater is proving that sometimes two Matts equal a win.

 

Stafford is still the man

 One little finger injury can’t keep this guy out of the end zone.

 

It’s clear that Matthew Stafford was at least somewhat limited by his finger injury during Sunday’s win over the Bears. He even admitted as much to his teammates in the huddle by telling them that they were going to have to bear with him, as some of his throws might not be as spot on as they are accustomed to. While it’s true that he will have to play with a glove for the rest of the year and will almost certainly lose a bit of velocity and accuracy, that doesn’t change the fact that Stafford is playing some of the best football of his life.

 

It didn’t always show in the win over the Bears, but Matthew has improved his decision making greatly this season and because of that the Lions should continue to be a solid team. After throwing an ugly pick-6 he led his team down the field and got them into the end zone to take the lead late. As is the characteristic of any good quarterback, he brushed off his mistake and did what he needed to do. He is the leader of this team and without him they would have very few, if any, wins. He is the man in Detroit and the only one who can lead this team to a playoff birth and a home game.

 

9-4 is nice but this team’s work is not yet done. They travel to play the Giants on the road this Sunday, followed by a Monday Night Football game in Dallas before they close the season out at home against the red hot Packers. Winning one of these games all but guarantees a playoff birth, while two wins gives them the division and a home playoff game. The real prize is a first round bye and the chance to give Matthew Stafford’s finger a little extra rest. Head Coach Jim Caldwell has gone from offseason hot seat to a potential coach of the year candidate. It seems like everyone else is starting to believe in these Lions but they have always believed in themselves. Especially Matthew Stafford, who seems to have this team on a path with destiny. Messed up finger and all.

 

 


The Detroit Lions saved their season, and maybe their coach’s job

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Published on : October 11, 2016

 

 

It was a scene that we are all too familiar with. The Detroit Lions have a lead at halftime and everything seems to be going their way. The offense is scoring points and the defense is holding up. If they can just maintain the momentum of the first half, they should win the game handily. Then the second half rolls around and everything goes to shit. The offense can’t get going and the defense gets torn to shreds. Then the Lions do just enough to make you think they can pull it off, only to screw it up in the end and lose in painful fashion. It’s a story that everyone in the Lions fandom universe knows very well.

 

That’s how it was at Ford Field on Sunday when the Philadelphia Eagles came to town. The Lions scored touchdowns on all three of their first half drives and managed to hold the Eagles to 10 points. The perfect storm of good fortune and the type of scenario that is ripe for another Lions letdown. But this time was different. And for once in this harrowing 2016 campaign, the defense of the Detroit Lions did enough to win, forcing two late turnovers and sending the Eagles back to Philly to drown themselves in tears and cheese whiz.

 

   

Both of those late turnovers were forced by cornerback Darius ‘Big Play’ Slay. The first was a fumble by Eagles RB, Ryan Mathews, and the second was a great interception on an ill-advised deep ball thrown by rookie QB, Carson Wentz. It was the type of deep ball that you can see beating the Lions in your nightmares. Except Slay made a great play on the ball and Nelson Agholor wasn’t even looking for it. This was the first game this season where Slay has shown the type of talent that got him a fat contract extension over the summer. And by finally showing that top-tier talent, he may have saved his team’s season and his head coach’s job.  

 

One of those things makes me very happy. The other, not so much.  

 

If the Lions had lost this one, after once again holding a sizable lead, then that would have been curtains on the 2016 season. The team is still dangerously close to unraveling and there are considerable issues involving injuries, depth, discipline, and overall talent on the roster. But with that win over the Eagles, this team lives to fight another day. And the same goes for their coach, Jim Caldwell.      

 

 Big Play Slay saves the day!

 

Jim Caldwell has underwhelmed as head coach of the Detroit Lions and he seems destined to be relieved of his duties by 1st year general manager, Bob Quinn. The different issues facing this team can and should be placed on the shoulders of Caldwell. Lack of concentration, sloppy play, guys giving up on plays, failure to make adjustments in game. These are things that should be corrected after a few games, yet they seem to keep popping up. When it keeps happening you have to think that it’s systematic. Most would agree that Caldwell should go, but while saving the Lions season, did Darius Slay save Caldwell’s job too?    

 

 

It seems unlikely, but the Lions are great at doing just enough, or just little enough, to fuck everything up. Doing well enough to justify keeping Jim Caldwell would be a typical Lions move that would continue to keep the team mired in mediocrity for years to come. Through five games, it’s obvious that Caldwell is not the guy to take this team to the next level. I would never hope for my team to lose, and while I still hope they can get it together and make a playoff run, I sure hope it doesn’t save Caldwell’s job.

 

This Lions team has proven that they have the talent to win. They have been competitive in every game this season, despite missing some of their biggest playmakers for a majority of the games. They will be getting some of those guys back soon and that should make them better, but this inconsistency will be their downfall in the end. That’s on Jim Caldwell. So while Darius Slay and his teammates may have saved their head coach for the time being, they won’t be able to overcome his inadequacies for the entire season, and eventually he’ll be gone.

 

 


It’s time for Ausmus and Caldwell to go

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Published on : October 3, 2016

 

Last week, I reported that the city of Detroit was suffering from A Case of the Mondays after both the Tigers and the Lions lost their games. It was more of the same today. Both teams disappointed big time and it has me thinking, now more than ever, that it’s time for Ausmus and Caldwell to be shown the door as head coaches of their teams.

 

The Lions lost in a pathetic display of professional football against the Chicago Bears. The loss brings them to 1-3 and the team is on the verge of a complete implosion. In what is becoming an all too familiar early season trend with these Detroit Lions. Chicago was widely considered one of the worst teams in the league. They had 10,000 players on IR and were missing their starting quarterback. Detroit should have come out and gotten right against this team and started to build the foundation of a a potential playoff run. Instead, they fell flat on their faces. Jim Caldwell once again failed to have his team prepared and it was obvious.

 

The Tigers played the Atlanta Braves, with a chance to stay in contention for a spot in the AL Wild Card. Justin Verlander looked a bit off to start, allowing a run in the first before settling down and blanking the Braves for the rest of his six innings. The team went on to lose the game 1-0. As usual, the Tigers bats went to sleep when they were needed most. Despite having a future hall of fame slugger in Miguel Cabrera and a stable of other capable offensive weapons, the team couldn’t muster a single run. It is now the third 1-0 loss this season when Verlander is on the mound. Now the season is over and Brad Ausmus has failed to get his team to the playoffs for the second consecutive year.

 

 

We expect this from the Lions. This team has been breaking hearts in Motown for decades now and fans have seen the team be horrible more often than not. With injuries to the best defensive players and a head coach in Jim Caldwell who can’t get his team ready to compete on Sundays, they were treated to a listless effort.

 

Jim Caldwell was already on the hot seat this year. After making the playoffs in 2014, his first season in Detroit, the team started off the 2015 campaign in pathetic fashion before firing the offensive coordinator and getting it together enough to manage a 7-9 finish. This season saw a changing of the guard in the front office, as the Ford family brought in new general manager Bob Quinn from the New England Patriots organization. Quinn decided to retain Caldwell and give him one more shot to show what he is made of and bring Detroit a contender. Well, he sure showed us what he’s got and the returns are not good. That’s why he should get fired immediately and the team should start preparing to find someone who can maximize the talent on the team.

 

 

Same goes for Brad Ausmus. Say what you will about Jim Leyland as a professional baseball manager, but he brought the Detroit Tigers out of the dark ages and turned them into perennial contender. When he retired, Brad Ausmus inherited a team that had won the AL Central three years running and had appeared in two World Series in the past decade. His inaugural campaign with the team saw the team win its 4th consecutive AL Central title, only to get swept by the Baltimore Orioles in the ALDS. In 2015, the team finished last in the division with a 74-87 record. With yesterday’s loss, the team will miss the playoffs again. With the type of talent on this roster there’s no reason for that.

 

Ausmus and Caldwell have both had three years (more or less) to make a winner. Brad Ausmus came in as a manager with no experience. He was a calculated risk taken by the front office that hurt a team with aging stars whose windows are rapidly closing. Jim Caldwell came in with a solid resume, having taken the Colts to the Super Bowl as their head coach and won another as the offensive coordinator of the Ravens. Their were red flags with him as well, but the team needed someone who could counter the undisciplined culture of the team under former head coach, Jim Schwartz.

 

Neither of the two coaches has worked out. It’s time for the Tigers and Lions to move on from their current head coaches and start looking to the future. If you need to ask why, just watch the games from yesterday. The fans deserve better than what Ausmus and Caldwell have brought to Detroit over the last two seasons. There are teams out there that do a lot more with a lot less. That’s what good managers can bring and it’s time both these teams went out and found a couple of those.

 

 


A Case of the Mondays: Detroit Edition

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Published on : September 26, 2016

 

 

This Monday is a tough one for Detroit sports fans to swallow. The Motor City collectively limps into the week after one of the tougher Sundays in recent memory. Both the Tigers and Lions had big games, and both teams failed to come ready-to-play, leaving fans (or at least this one) wondering why they put themselves through this pain. The Tigers, in the middle of a race for the second wild card spot, played the Royals at home. The Lions, trying to rebound from a painful loss in a game that they should have won against the Titans last week, traveled to Lambeau Field to play the Packers.

 

Both team started off slow and were punched in the mouth by the opposition. Both teams got it together eventually and made a game of it, but lost in the end. It was too little, too late.

 

 The Royals celebrate the Tigers demise.

 

Neither the Lions nor Tigers deserved to win yesterday, yet they had the chance to steal the game away. That should be encouraging, but that doesn’t mean that fans should overlook the fact that these teams are flawed, and aren’t getting a lot of help from the guys that are running the show. That’s right, both of these professional sports teams located in Detroit have coaches or managers that just aren’t very good.

 

It’s already pretty well documented how I feel about Detroit Tigers’ manager, Brad Ausmus. He just hasn’t been all that good during his time with the Tigers. He inherited a team that was in the middle of years-long domination of the AL Central and has had a hand in the teams underperformance ever since. The team started this season with an awful 15-21 record, but somehow managed to hang around long enough to be competing for the second wild card spot. With yesterday’s loss, the team now sits 1.5 games back of the Baltimore Orioles for that last playoff spot. Ausmus deserves some credit for helping the team stick around this long, but also deserves the blame for not getting the most out of a roster with some serious talent.

 

 “Promise me you’ll write after they can my ass.

 

Same goes for Lions’ coach, Jim Caldwell. In his first year with the Lions, he took them to the playoffs with a 11-5 regular season record. After a brutal playoff loss at the hands of the Dallas Cowboys, he followed 2014 up with a 7-9 record in 2015. In this, his third year with the team, he is off to 1-2 start following a game that the team pissed away against Tennessee and the debacle in Green Bay yesterday. He has shown a lack of ability to get his teams motivated and the blame for the sloppy play and penalties almost certainly lies with him. If it’s not the head coach’s job to make sure his team is properly prepared then whose job is it?

 

No one really expected this Lions team to go win in Green Bay, but the fact is the Packers aren’t that good. If the Lions had come ready-to-play and didn’t have to dig themselves out of a 31-3 hole, maybe they could have done it. If the 34-27 final score is any indication of what this team is capable of, then maybe they will be alright. But not if their coach doesn’t get them to come out and play for all 4 quarters.

 

 The Packers came out strong and hung on for the win.

 

No one really expected this Tigers team to make the playoffs. When you start the season like that and then go on to have a 2-13 record against the division leading rival, Cleveland Indians, playoffs seem like a pipe dream. But the Tigers are still in the hunt. Sadly, with only 7 games to play they start a 4-game home series against the Indians today, likely spelling an end to those wild card hopes.

 

Mondays can be rough, especially with Sundays like yesterday. The Tigers season might be wrapping up in similar fashion to how it started, with a whimper. The Lions season is just starting off and has already given fans plenty of reasons to drink. Both teams have coaches that could very well be gone next year. And most fans probably wouldn’t be mad. This Case of the Mondays goes to you Detroit. Hopefully this week will be better than the last.

 

 


It’s not time for the Lions to panic just yet

Written by :
Published on : September 24, 2016

 

 

Last Sunday’s loss to the Titans was a sloppy mess that was brutal for fans of the Lions to endure. There were many factors that contributed to the heartbreaking 16-15 score, and it might be easy for some to give up on the 2016 NFL season. As one of the more battered and abused fanbases in the league, the people can turn against the team on a dime. It’s a defense mechanism that helps fans stop the pain before it gets too bad.

 

I’m here to try and quell that urge and tell you that it’s too early to panic. Last week’s game was bad, but the NFL season is long and even the best team’s have games like the one the Lions had against Tennessee. In a 16 game season, 1-1 after two games isn’t the worst position to be in. There are reasons to be encouraged with this team, and reasons to believe that the team can move on from the loss and still compete. Here are a few of them.

 

This Sunday is a whole new game

The amount of penalties in last Sunday’s loss to the Tennessee Titans was enough to make a Lions’ fans head spin. Same goes for the injuries. It was so Lions that it hurt. Eventually the hurt got so bad that the team lost. They still should have won in spite of all the adversity, and had the chance to do so, but they couldn’t seal the deal, and all the penalties and injuries certainly weren’t helping.

 

 

These teams were playing some very sloppy football, but the refs in this game also had their heads up their own asses on a few occasions. Both teams benefited from some bad officiating at one point or another. The Titans got a gift when an Eric Ebron touchdown was called back on a make believe offensive pass interference call. The Lions got to keep the ball when the refs twice failed to notice Lions fumbles that were recovered by the Titans, instead calling the plays dead. The Lions need to clean their play up to be sure, but fans also need to realize that things like holding happen on every single NFL play. Officials will not normally call the game like this and there will be many crews that will be more apt to let the teams play and decide the game between themselves.

 

As for the injuries, it was a bad, bad day for the Detroit Lions. The worst thing to happen was the Ameer Abdullah injury. He was forced to have surgery on his foot this week and the team placed him on IR. He is eligible to return in time for the Jaguars game on November 20, but the team hasn’t indicated if they believe that is possible and it doesn’t seem likely. The team also lost Ziggy Ansah for an undetermined amount of time with a high ankle sprain, but the real hit was to the linebacking corps.

 

The team was already without DeAndre Levy who missed the game with another mystery injury (quadricep), then they began to drop like flies. By the time Kyle Van Noy and Antoine Williams had gone down with injuries, the only two linebackers left were Tahir Whitehead and a guy I’ve never heard of named Thurston Armbrister. The team was forced to move Brandon Copeland off the line and was obviously hampered by it.

 

 

The truth is that while these injuries are a concern, every team in the NFL has to deal with them and it’s better for some of these to happen now rather than in November or December. If the team can continue to play .500 ball while getting healthy, they can finish out the season and push for a spot in the playoffs. You never want to get injured but luckily it looks like none of them, except Abdullah’s will be too long term.

 

The offense is good enough to keep the team competitive

It was a sloppy game where the Lions left points on the field via penalties or poor play, but still, the offense has looked pretty solid this season. Especially the offensive line. Pro Football Focus has them graded out as the third best line in the league through the first two weeks. I know that doesn’t really mean anything but it sounds nice and I like saying it. But for real, this line has looked pretty good. There have been some shakey moments in pass protection from guys like rookie Taylor Decker, and I’m pretty sure Laken Tomlinson will never be all that good (certainly not good enough to justify a 1st round pick), but the early returns on this group are good overall.

 

 Taylor Decker has been solid in his first year.

 

The big boys up front are opening up holes and keep Matt Stafford upright for the most part (5 sacks given up). The fact that this group is gelling only means good things for the Lions and this offense. With Travis Swanson finally playing up to his potential and Larry Warford and Riley Reiff owning the right side of the line, the run game should continue to excel. Even in Ameer Abdullah’s absence.

 

Aside from the proficient play of the offensive line, another reason to be optomisitic about the offense is the emergence of Theo Riddick as a quality runner. He has always been a threat in the pass game, with his ability to get open and make defenders miss in the open field, but never before has he looked good rushing the ball. He’s seeing the holes that his line is opening up and making defenses pay with agility and speed. The fact that the Lions gave him a new contract on the eve of the season means they believe in his ability as a complete back. You don’t give a guy almost $13 million over three years if you think he is solely a pass-catching back. Theo Riddick will make the the loss of Ameer Abdullah a little easier to deal with and the run game should be decent at worst.

 


With a competent run game and Matthew Stafford continuing to have thrive in Jim Bob Cooter’s system, this offense will keep the team competitive. Eric Ebron has looked great, and was the team’s best receiver last week. Golden Tate and Marvin Jones won’t continue to drop the football and the passing offense should be one of the better ones in the league this year. If the defense can hold it together and be decent, this team will be in every game this year. And if you can get that far, there’s always a chance in the NFL.

 

Especially when you consider my next point.

 

The NFC North is up for grabs

 

As we talked about early, the NFL season is still very young. Nothing is getting set in stone after week 2 and the NFC North is still wide open. The Bears were never really a threat, and with the loss of Jay Cutler that’s even more true. But the two teams that everyone picked to be playing for the division title, the Packers and Vikings, have got some serious issues of their own. Because of those issues, if the Lions can manage to avoid a total implosion, they have a chance to be playing for the division come December.

 

 Did the Vikings season go down with AP?

 

On August 29, the Minnesota Vikings were the favorite pick to win the NFC North. Then things began to seriously unravel. Teddy Bridgewater was lost for the year and the team quickly made a move to acquire Sam Bradford. He may not be the best quarterback but he certainly isn’t terrible and has looked okay through two games. But the injuries have continued to pile up and now running back Adrian Peterson and starting left tackle Matt Kalil are likely done for the year. The defense is great but it’s unclear if the offense can weather the storm of injuries it has faced. Because of that, the Vikings are no longer a lock to take the division.

 

As for the Green Bay Packers, they too have some issues to deal with. In week 1, they almost fell to the lowly Jacksonville Jaguars and in week 2 they lost to the aforementioned Vikings. The offense doesn’t look great. Receivers aren’t getting much separation and Jordy Nelson doesn’t look like he has quite returned to pre-injury form yet. Another person who hasn’t looked quite like their old self is QB Aaron Rodgers. Stretching back to last season, there looks to be something wrong with him. He hasn’t surpassed 300 passing yards in 11 games and has gone 14 straight contests with a sub-100 passer rating. Long story short, this team is flawed, just like the rest of the teams in the NFC North.

 

 If Aaron is on tilt, the Lions have a chance.

 

Tomorrow’s game against the Green Bay Packers at Lambeau field will be an important one. Both the Lions and the Packers are still getting their acts together. If the Lions can pull out a win on the road in Green Bay for the second year in a row, then they will be in a very good position to contend for the division. If they lose, see above. It won’t be the end of the world and there will still be a chance to contend for the division. It’s early in the season and there’s a long way to go.

 

 


Concerns about the Lions defense

Written by :
Published on : September 15, 2016

 

 

In typical Lions fashion, the team gave up a late lead with less than a minute to play on Sunday. In not-so-typical Lions fashion, they managed to drive down the field and win the game with a late field goal. Much like the first game of last season, the team built up a 21-3 lead in the first half, only to watch it slip away as their defense withered against Andrew Luck. If not for superb play from Matt Stafford, and a long lost running game that showed up big time, this team could very well sit at 0-1 right now.

 

The offense was a pleasant surprise. The line held up fairly well (against a weak Colts defense), and the Detroit backs and receivers more or less did as they pleased all day. A win is a win and in the NFL, you have to take them where you can get them. It’s encouraging that the offense seems to be picking up where it left off last season with Jim Bob Cooter calling the shots. But there might be some cause for concern on the other side of the ball. After a strong first quarter, the Detroit Lions defense regressed as the game wore on. The way things unfolded in the second half has me wondering if the Lions defense might be in trouble. Here are some of my biggest concerns at each level of the defense.

 

Piss poor pass rush

Early on in the game, the Colts offense looked lost and the Lions defense looked pretty tight. I was specifically impressed with the play of the defensive line, going as far as to voice my pleasure on Twitter…

 

 

As usual, I was premature in my praise. Early on, the pressure was constant and guys like Kerry Hyder Jr (one of the last players to make the 53-man roster) were making plays. The team was using stunts and disguising the rush in order to confuse the Colts offense. Andrew Luck looked uncomfortable and the pocket was collapsing with regularity, causing some difficult throwing situations for the young QB.

 

About midway through the second quarter that began to change. The Lions had built up a comfortable lead and then it seemed like defensive coordinator Teryl Austin took his foot off the gas. The play calling went vanilla as the Lions switched almost exclusively into a two-linebacker package, after working the 4-3 with Kyle Van Noy early on in the game. The four man rush was inept and the guys looked slow off the ball. Big boys like Haloti Ngata got pushed off the line much more often than they should have been. Devin Taylor wasn’t much of a factor either, giving a bit of legitimacy to my original concerns about him being a full time starter.

 

 Ziggy just couldn’t get there.

 

There just wasn’t much going on up front and Andrew Luck took full advantage of it. Even when there was pressure the boys couldn’t get home. Like on the Colts final drive, when Ziggy Ansah allowed Luck to narrowly escape a sack that could have been a big boost to the defense. By the end of game, hell, by mid-game, the defensive line looked worn down. This is despite a pretty constant rotation of bodies. The defensive line has got to be the heart and soul if this defense is going to thrive. If they play against top level offensive lines like they did Sunday, then there are going to be some painful moments in Detroit this season. Two sacks against that Colts is unacceptable.

 

Linebacker issues

Tahir Whitehead started the game pretty strong. He made some big hits and looked good in man coverage. But as the game progressed, and the team asked him to play more zone coverage, he got exposed. Teryl Austin was clearly asking him to do more than he could handle. There were some suspect coverage hand-offs in zone that left me thinking Whitehead may have been out of place or indecisive about where he needed to be. The team should let him do what he does best and let other players who thrive in more complex coverages do their thing. That’s what we have our other stud linebacker for, right?

 

The only problem is that he didn’t look so great either. DeAndre Levy played a total of 17 snaps in 2015, and only a handful during this year’s preseason, but was on the field for all 70 defensive snaps in week 1. By no means was he a liability (except on that shit head taunting penalty), but he didn’t live up to what we expect from him either. He was solid enough but also much slower to react than Lions fans have become accustomed to with him. It was his killer instinct and quick reflexes that helped earn him a big contract extension before last season, but this was not the same bearded beast we are all used to seeing. It was obvious that there is some rust to be knocked off with Levy, but if by some unfortunate chance his play doesn’t improve, this defense could be in trouble. They need him to be game changer not an average guy.

 

Second(ary) Thoughts

We all know that the Lions have at least one star in the secondary with Darius Slay. They also happen to have one above-average safety in Glover Quin, although he had a bad game against the Colts. In the NFL, that’s the foundation of a pretty good secondary. If those guys do their job and you can get just a few more players to play up to, or slightly above, their potential then you can have some real success. On Sunday that didn’t really happen.

 

It remains to be seen if Tavon Wilson and Rafael Bush can combine to form a serviceable safety tandem, but they sure as hell aren’t going to do it if the defensive line can’t get any pressure. Slay and Quin can only do so much on their own, and without a consistent pass rush the entire unit will be a failure. Nevin Lawson and Quandre Diggs have shown that they can be better than adequate when given a fair shot in a defense that is functioning properly at all levels. When that was not happening on Sunday they couldn’t keep up and they shouldn’t be expected to. This secondary can thrive, but much like the defense as a whole, that is predicated on the defensive line.

 

 Nevin Lawson getting beat for a TD.

 

With all of that in mind, we have to remember that this is only the first week of the season. Many of these issues will probably get resolved as the team plays itself into game shape and the boys knock off some of that rust. With the limited amount of full contact practices during training camp nowadays, many teams need a couple weeks to get back up to speed, and after the last two seasons it’s clear that the Lions are one of those squads. This team seems to come out of the gate in sluggish fashion every year.

 

We often don’t see a team’s true self until they have played a few games. I suspect that may be the case with these guys too. DeAndre Levy had played only a handful of snaps in more than a year before Sunday. Time will tell if he will ever get back to being his pre hip injury self, but I’d be willing to bet that once he gets into shape we will see a better version of him than the one we saw against the Colts. Jim Caldwell and his staff once again has failed to have his football team prepared for 60 minutes of regular season gameplay coming out of training camp.

 

Speaking of the staff, defensive coordinator, Teryl Austin, deserves a big chunk of the blame for how the defense played Sunday. He displayed an unwillingness to play to the strengths of his players and the team suffered. By simplifying his schemes once the team had a comfortable lead, he gave Andrew Luck the window he needed to mount a comeback. It was a repeat of last season in San Diego all over again. This year, they were lucky enough to come out with a win in week 1, but they had better hope they get up to speed soon.

 

 


Champ and Chump Week 13

Written by :
Published on : December 12, 2015

 

 

It’s that time again ladies and gentlemen. Time to see who got their names in the paper and whose stat sheet became crumpled up paper. We had some championship performances as eight NCAA teams took home conference titles, where I correctly predicted seven of the games. But enough about my success, let’s see this week’s Champ and Chump.

 

Champ: Christian McCaffery

32 carries for 207 yards and 1 TD, 4 catches for 105 yards and 1 TD, an 11-yard touchdown pass, and 150 return yards.

Christian and his new hardware

 

As a sophomore, McCaffrey led the Cardinals to the PAC 12 Championship and helped them clinch a spot in the Rose Bowl. The son of former NFL wide receiver Ed McCaffrey, Christian is paving his own road as one of the best. He literally can do it all as Stanford’s “Mr Everything.” Earlier this year he broke the NCAA record for all purpose yards in a game and has earned himself a spot on the Heisman Trophy ballot. While it will be hard to beat Alabama running back Derrick Henry, I think McCaffrey just may be the most exciting player in college football.

 

Honorable Mention:

Blake Bottles and Allen Robinson- Blake finished 24-36, 322 yards with 5 touchdowns and no turnovers while Allen finished with 10 catches, 153 yards and 3 touchdowns in a win over the Tennessee Titans.

 

Cam Newton- The Panthers remain undefeated, led by MVP candidate Cam Newton. He finished with 380 total yards and 5 touchdowns in a come from behind win against the Saints 41-38.

 

Chump: Detroit Lions/Jim Caldwell

Another heartbreaker for Detroit

 

Looking for their first season sweep of the Green Bay Packers since 1991, the Detroit Lions were just seconds away from keeping their slim playoff hopes alive. However, as time expired Aaron Rodgers heaved the ball as high and as far as he could. Turned out to be just enough as Packers’ tight end Richard Rodgers brought down the ball without a Lion defender all that close to him. On the previous play, Detroit tackled Rodgers around the Green Bay 30-yard line after a couple laterals only to have a face mask penalty called on Detroit. A free 15 yards, and one more shot at a miracle, Green Bay made the Lions pay for it and added another chapter to Detroit’s seemingly never-ending tragedy as a franchise.

 

Dishonorable Mention:

ACC Championship refs- I hate to be one to criticize refs and say they cost a team the game but here is another prime example where they absolutely may have. North Carolina had scored a touchdown to get within 8 points with just over a minute left. They recovered the ensuing onside kick only to have the refs flag them for offsides. No North Carolina player was actually offside, nor was it close.

 

Special teams in the Dallas/Washington MNF game- The first 58+ minutes of this game saw a combined 18 points on 6 field goals only to have 17 points scored in the final 90 seconds or so. First, DeSean Jackson runs backwards 20 yards on a punt before fumbling, which leads to an easy touchdown. Then on the kickoff, a Dallas player face masks a non-ball carrier after a 40 yard return. Washington ties the game back up, only to kickoff and allow Dallas to return the ball some 40+ yards and line up for a game winning field goal.

 

 

 

 


NFL Coaches who should start looking for a new job

Written by :
Published on : December 7, 2015

 

Here we sit in the final quarter of this NFL season. The best of the best have distanced themselves from the bums. The Panthers, Patriots, Bengals and Broncos are all firmly in control of their respective divisions and stand no chance of missing the playoffs. Good for them, but that’s not what we’re here to talk about. We are here to talk about the inevitable shake-ups to come with the teams doing badly. That’s right, we are here to talk about which NFL coaches should be getting their resumes ready. The Titans and Dolphins made the bold move of firing their coaches during the season, but most teams prefer to wait until the offseason to make their captain walk the plank. So let’s look at which NFL coaches have bungled their shot at the big time so badly that they will surely be residing in a different zip-code next year.

 

Jim Caldwell- Detroit Lions

This is what defeat looks like.

 

Detroit already started their shake-up during the season by firing their president, general manager and offensive coordinator after an abysmal 1-7 start to the season. This makes it all the more likely that Caldwell will be fired, even if he didn’t necessarily deserve it. Luckily for the yet-to-be-named new general manager the choice will be easy because he does indeed deserve to get the ax. There is a long list of coaching blunders that Lions have had to suffer in the less than 2 seasons that Caldwell has been in charge in Detroit but you need to look no further than the final play of last week’s game against the Packers. The entire world knew that Aaron Rodgers would be throwing a long hail mary pass for the win, but somehow Caldwell didn’t think that the 2-time MVP QB could complete a 60 yd pass (it looked like he could have gone for 80 yds). The coach set up to defend the lateral play and Richard Rodgers went up above all the defenders and came down with the win. Last year the Lions were successful in spite of Caldwell, this year they are losing because of him. He’s gone.

 

Chip Kelly- Philadelphia Eagles

“Oh God, what have I done?

 

The man known as ‘The Genius’ by some people (not me) has really dropped the ball in Philadelphia. After being raised up from the college game 3 seasons ago, he took the Eagles to a 10-6 record, a 1st place finish in the NFC East and a trip to the playoffs. In his second season the finished with a 10-6 record again but narrowly missed the playoffs. In this, his 3rd season in charge in Philly, the team is doing horrible and seem to have quit on their head coach. They got embarrassed in front of the whole world on Thanksgiving by the similarly pitiful Lions, and the wheels really seem to be falling off. What’s worse is that this is the first season that the team has finally been made in Kelly’s vision. Over the last 2 years, he has shipped off the team’s best offensive players in LeSean McCoy, Jeremy Maclin, and DeSean Jackson. Sure, he replaced them with DeMarco Murray and Ryan Matthews but it’s hard to justify that big of a shift when the results are so poor. The Eagles may very well give this Chip Kelly experiment another season, but I could also see Kelly leaving on his own. With so many openings in college football and it becoming clear that his brand of football is not as successful against NFL defenses, Chip might go back to where he made his bones and had his greatest success.

 

 

Mike Pettine- Cleveland Browns

We don’t know why you drafted Manziel either.

 

In his first year as a head coach, Mike Pettine led the Browns to a 7-9 record last season. A pretty good start when you consider how bereft of talent the Browns usually are. Josh Gordon, arguably their best player of the last half a decade, has been repeatedly suspended by the league because he can’t stop smoking weed for long enough to pass a drug test and looks to be gone for good. They also wasted a first round draft pick in 2014 on Johnny Manziel, who might yet become a good NFL qb, but has been so mishandled by the coaching staff that there are some rumors that he may already be on his way out of town. That’s cool because so is the head coach. Pettine has helped the Browns to a 2 win season thus far, and is the 4th head coach that the Browns have had since the 2009 season. That stat is the biggest indictment of the organization. As a Lions fan, they may be the only team in the entire league that I’m not jealous of. They are that bad. May the Lord have mercy on whatever poor soul becomes the next head coach in Cleveland.

 

 

Well there you have it, the guys who will be jobless come February. Sure there are other people who will probably lose there jobs, but these ones seem like veritable locks to have their heads roll. I was tempted to add Mike McCoy, but I feel like the insane amount of injuries that the Chargers have sustained will save him for another year. Sean Payton and John Harbaugh also seem like a good candidates, but having won a Super Bowl means a lot. Those guys seems safe for one more year.

 

 


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