Three weeks into the season, the Lions season is officially over. Oh sure, they may still show up...or, maybe not, because they haven't shown up yet...let's just say they will continue to dress some guys wearing a Lions uniform (with that menacing black trim, more genius on the part of Matt Millen). But what is now apparent to all is that the Lions season is over, and rather than the improvement we have hoped for, they have become worse. All that is left to determine is whether the Lions or the St. Louis Rams (if possible, they could be as bad as the Lions!) will get the number 1 pick in the draft. The Lions can start scouting to determine which wide receiver they can't get the ball to to take with that pick.
In game 3, against a mediocre 49er team, one play summarized the Lions season. After scoring a touchdown late in the fourth quarter and knowing they had to recover an onside kick, they instead kicked a ball right to a 49er player that had nothing but daylight in front of him to return the ball to the 10 yard line. Game, and season, over.
What's left? It is probably apparent to you and me, but not so with the Ford's. This team needs to rebuilt, but from the top-down. Fire Matt Millen - now. The bye week gives the Lions a chance to get a new GM in place and working before another game is played. Millen quite possibly is the worst GM of any sports franchise, ever. End the debacle now, and send a firm message that things will change. Second, although I am sure he works hard, fire Rod Marinelli, now. His attempt to remake the Lions in the mold of the average football team he came from must end, now. He was not qualified to be the head coach of a pro football team when they hired him, and it is not possible that he still has buy-in from the players on this team, with even the ever-optimistic Jon Kitna questioning the coaching philosophies. It is difficult to fire a coach mid-stream and implement a new philosophy, but the Lions have the luxury, if you can call it that, of being in a situation where it could not get worse. They need to look forward to next season, now. They should do whatever it takes to hire Bill Cowher. Finally, the players should not be blameless in the mess that has become the Lions, but at this point in the season, what can the Lions really do? Cut a few players, and pick up a few off waivers? Pull some from the starting line-up? They won't be able to make a trade - no team will trade for a Lion, and poison what they have going on with their team. The Lions will have to play the hand that Millen and Marinelli dealt them, which is bad from a player personnel perspective. Player procurement is where Millen's incompetence is most telling. Other teams draft to a team need and mold a team around the strengths of their core players, and also know when a given player's productivity has diminished, which can happen pretty quickly in the NFL. The Lions? They draft a specific position according to the experiment du-juor, without a thorough examination of skill-sets or even a thorough background check, and then force-fit the players into varying philosophies regardless of their compatibility with that system. Other teams constantly ensure that their secondary has the best athletes on the team. The Lions constantly treat their secondary as an afterthought with horrendous implications and results. The Lions too, are only too willing to take on, often at a dear price, players that other teams have determined are no longer productive. If the Lions are to improve, they need to change the coaching and the GM now, so a new management team can evaluate the (lack of) talent that they have, scout the rest of the league and the college ranks, and better prepare for next year.
At this point, I should probably offer that all is not lost with the Lions, that they can make some bold moves and improve. But in truth, that cannot be said. Because, ultimately, what most needs to happen is that William Clay Ford sells this team. The only constant to the Lions decades of inferiority is his ownership. Will it happen? No. He cannot fathom that he should sell the Lions for the good of the fans. In his view, it's his team, and he stubbornly believes he can right the ship - he may even believe that he IS righting the ship. We've been waiting since the fifties, Mr. Ford...and the ship has now sunk.