Friday, December 26, 2008

Futility for the Holidays: The Detroit Lions

Since I was born in Windsor, Ontario [across the river from Detroit, Michigan] I have been a Detroit sports fan all my life [with the notable exception of hockey, where my loyalty lies with (sigh) the Toronto Maple Leafs].
Since 1966 [when I became an active sports fan] the Lions have veered between a marginal playoff team and contenders for an early pick in the NFL draft. Unfortunately, more often the latter than the former. They have never been thought of as a serious Super Bowl team. This year they are on the brink of seizing the title of "The Worst NFL Team of All Time". They are one loss away from a perfect oh and sixteen record. The last game is in Green Bay against the less than stellar Packers. The Lions have not won in Green Bay in seventeen years.
Thinking about this team and these turbulent times, shows how crucial good management can be for the success of any enterprise or government. The Lions have an owner [William Clay Ford]who is deeply loyal to his managers, but is a terrible judge of people. He is also not very bright or passionate about his teams on field success. The former GM, Matt Millen, seemed to be a younger version of the owner. He was louder and more passionate about what he was doing. He just did not know how to select good football people, either coaches or players. His last coach, Rod Marinelli, is the worst of the worst. He is utterly out of his depth as a head football coach. He is loyal to his assistants and players [that are loyal to him], no matter how poorly they perform, and is utterly inflexible in his approach and planning. If you can, imagine what George W. Bush would be like as a head coach of an NFL team. I happened to listen to a Detroit sports radio show and the discussion was whether Marinelli should be fired. A caller made a great case that he should be kept on until they WON a game. Yes, until he actually won a game. This was about half way through the season and this caller wanted Marinelli to be the coach of record if the 2008 Detroit Lions went 0-16. This view became pretty common in the Detroit area. Now that we are at 0-15 this will most likely be Rod Marinelli's last game as a head coach. Unless, Mr. Ford does the unthinkable [for others] and retains Marinelli. Part of me hopes he does. That will make it possible for me to finally give up on this team and find a franchise that actually cares about winning.
A week or so ago, I became somewhat optimistic that things would change with the Lions in 2009. New GM, new coach, new staff, first pick in the draft, and a good housecleaning might actually point the way to a better future. Now, I'm not so sure. The owner will always be the same and the franchise will never change while he is still the leader.
I will probably watch the last game this Sunday. I hope they win, but a win will be no cause for celebration. The celebration will be in the off season, if changes are made.

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