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Sunday, October 26, 2008

Game 7 Analysis

Perfection. The Lions coaches demand perfect execution during practice. They are striving to get the players to carry those "habits" over into the game. They thoroughly believe that if the players execute perfectly every snap the Lions will win.

Reality. Nobody is perfect. It is not possible to execute perfectly under the best of circumstances all of the time. Making allowances for that and overcoming imperfection by various means begets great coaching (and thus schemes as well).

The Lions are now 0-7. That is reality. Another is that the players are, from simple observation, not going to execute plays perfectly. Not consistently. Maybe not even more then half the time. That last part being a fluid percentage that can change each week or even each quarter of every game. The final reality is that the coaches are not able to overcome this disparity. They do not give in to reality and prepare for imperfection.

Oh, they are trying, albeit imperfectly. They have dummied down the plays. And then went on to dummy them down some more. Believing that getting perfect execution is more important then overcoming reality. The problem is, the coaches have dummied down the game plan so much that they have taken away the ability of guys who are capable of more.

Mike Martz used to challenge even the best player with plays and calls that made players try their hardest. They may fail, but they were allowed to try. He was stubborn that way. But he faced realities and attempted to do what worked at the same time continually challenging the players to make plays. It wasn't close to a perfect system, and despite some success with it, is no more (in Detroit).

Marinelli removes as much risk as humanly possible in an effort to get the most players to execute plays perfectly. In so doing, he is NOT challenging the best players to play better, he is reducing them down to mediocrity by trying to get them AND all the lesser players to execute plays perfectly. He is stubborn that way. The words "the greater the risk the greater the reward" don't exist in the Marinelli game plan. This is all evident from the lack of big play attempts, the lack of willingness to play rookies, the lack of allowing young guys to make mistakes and learn from them without getting benched, even the lack of risky play calling such as no huddle and blitzing (which they are trying to do but even that must be perfect or they don't call it again, regardless of partial success).

Do I blame the coaching for the current standings? Yes, I do. Sure the players need to make the plays, but the coaching is taking away so much from those who could help out the lesser members of the team, that it really isn't going to happen. Like a governor on an engine, the coaches are limiting the entire team by playing down to the lowest player.

Some individual notes then. Raiola rarely (if even at all) bobbed his head just prior to the snap this game. The defense didn't have that tip off to go after Orlovsky and the pass rush was rather weak against the Lions because of it. Unfortunately, both the QB and the OC were playing as if there WAS a heavy pass rush as in the past. They did not adapt to the current reality. The dump offs and the lack of big plays all comes down to the dummy downed play calling and the history of defenders past. So even though Raiola didn't bob his head on nearly every snap this game, he affected the play calling due to prior play… and this situational change was not corrected in game. A side note: This is another factor that drive me nuts… the coaches (and thus the players) can't adjust during the game without hard film analysis after the fact. They are always playing in the past.

The wide receivers still have no faith in Colletto. They are not vocal like Roy was, but the lack of attention and focus is evident in the passes dropped. Have we fans seen this before? When the players lack confidence in the plays they lose focus, and drop catch after catch.

Kevin Smith is a much better running back then Rudi Johnson is, at least, right now in this scheme with these coaches he is. Problem is, he is not perfect. He can not be trusted to execute perfectly. Perhaps his practice habits aren't perfect. I'm not sure why the coaches ignore reality and start Rudi. But they do.

The defense once again looked lost. I guess out of the 26 guys they kept on defense they can't find 11 perfect players. The coaches will continue to try different configurations of starters but you would think that sooner or later the reality would sink in and they would take the stops off and allow the players to play. I'm not going to hold my breath though, for that would be much too radical, way too imperfect.

9 more games. My reality is, just 9 more excruciating games. And then the imperfect coaches who demand perfection at the cost of winning will be gone. I wonder, will the next coaching staff fall into yet another extreme that even I haven't thought up yet? I suppose anything is possible.

Maybe it's just me. I scream at the blog and operating software for not being perfect, knowing full well that no Microsoft product would ever get released if kept until it was.

Then I realize, Bill Gates plays in the imperfect word, he takes chances, he wins more then he loses. Even if things are not perfect. Marinelli and company need to face reality, those that exist after the fact, those that occur during the game, and take a few chances, if they ever want to win.

The game analysis will be delayed today

just as I was about to publish it I see "Internet Explorer has caused a page fault error and must close" and then "POOF" it was gone. There are times when I truly do hate Bill Gates and his software that doesn't work perfectly all the time.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Game 6 Analysis

Another interesting week in Lions land. Roy Williams (and the Lions 2009 7th round draft pick) gets traded to Dallas for their 1st, 3rd and 6th round draft picks in 2009. Then, 5 minutes after the trade deadline Kitna gets put on IR. Then today the Lions once again manage to spot the opponent 21 points and fail to overcome themselves to win the game making them 0-6 so far this season. So what does all this mean?

First, it means that Roy Williams and Jon Kitna won't need to worry about Colletto's offense (or lack thereof) any more. The two were the most outspoken about the offense and now both won't be anywhere near the field (though Kitna is still under contract for 2009, his future is probably dependant on what happens with the front office and coaching staff).

Second, it freed up a lot of cap space. Dallas is now responsible for the remaining 11 weeks of Roy's pay. The Lions made some roster moves with minimum wage guys and are in a better spot then they were before the trade (cap wise). Plus, the 2009 draft will be the best since Y2K or even earlier... since there will be no Millen involved and there will be those extra picks. Plus, there is no one deserving of the franchise tag who will be a free agent in 2009.

Third, it gives valuable experience and evaluation time to the other QBs on the team, and forces Marinelli to play someone other then Kitna after the 0-5 start. I expect within a few weeks that Stanton will get some playing time, even if it's only after the defense gives up another 21 easy points and Orlovsky isn't having any success catching up.

So... do I agree with the moves? I was not for trading Roy, but he wasn't let go for chunk change either. Not that it was a block buster trade (as in two first rounders or a starter and a first rounder, etc). It was okay, not great, but not bad. I can not argue with the decision to accept the offer.

Putting Kitna on IR was not actually a genuine medical decision in my opinion. I don't know if Colletto/Marinelli did it because of his outspoken dislike for the coorindators' scheme... or the front office did it to prevent Colletto/Marinelli from playing the vet over the youth. Kitna, even injured, would've helped the rookie QB (whichever one it was that was playing) from the bench as the #3 QB, so it was a rather drastic move in my opinion.

Okay, now the game against the Texans. The defense didn't play man as much this week, and they didn't have successful blitzes either. They played like they did for the first 4 weeks, and ended up with a score similar to those same weeks. I was afraid they wouldn't stick with the attacking man defense, and they didn't. Maybe they'll learn from this (like they should've learned from last week) or maybe they won't, either way, I have to mark it down as another example of why this coaching staff needs to go.

On offense, I thought Orlovsky did alright for his second start. He didn't go deep enough, but then the blocking is still a joke and the plays to go downfield probably weren't being called. CJ isn't being used correctly, he needs distance to get up to speed, and that means either long slants or deep balls, and it's not happening. The O-Line still can't run block consistantly. False Start Foster can't keep his head in the game. Raiola is giving away the snap count every play by bobbing his head. And Colletto has still not installed a hurry up offense they can use when time is of the essence. That last being another negative mark in the "do we keep these coaches" column. It was refreshing to see some of the youth in the game for a change, and I suppose I would be wrong to assume the front office demanded it of the coaching staff since I have no proof that is the case, but it sure seems like Marinelli just won't play someone and let them make their mistakes and learn without being forced to due to injury or for some other overriding reason. Therefor, I am guessing, pure 100% guessing, that maybe playing the youth was not entirely his idea.

So, what do I take from this game? That I've seen no reason, not one single reason, to keep this coaching staff for next year. In fact, I still maintain that Kippy Brown should be the OC and that Colletto should either be demoted or fired immediately this year, but since the last two players who seemed to think the same thing are no longer on the 53 man roster, I don't want to risk my "12th man on the field" existance (so to speak) suggesting too loudly that Colletto be removed from coordinator duties.

One last note, the refs didn't give this game away, but they sure did blow some more calls. I'm not impressed with them at all, especially after replays. Terrible terrible officiating.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Game 5 Analysis

The curse of Bobby Lane may have ended, but the curse of bad officiating has not. I don't think I've ever seen so many blatantly bad calls (or lack of calls) in my entire life. Were the officials the difference in this one game? Yes, I dare say, they most certainly were. The Lions are not good enough to overcome that kind of thing.

Still, this game was interesting. Orlovsky may not be the next Peyton Manning, but he did okay for his first start... except for that bonehead safety when he stepped out of the back of the endzone. Then again, starting from the 1 yard line and having Colletto call 3 pass plays in a row (one of which CJ could maybe have tried a touch harder to catch) didn't help.

The defense played much much better. Of course they did so only when they were playing man and blitzing. Every time they played a zone (Tampa Two) defense they got yards gained on them. But for most of the game they blitzed and played man and they did tremendously better. Proving my point, it's not ALL on the talent and the players, it IS INDEED the scheme and the coaching as well !!!

Speaking of talent, Lenon still doesn't have much. He really and truly needs to backup Dizon (who got a few bad calls on special teams he shouldn't have gotten). Last week he ducked on a pass that just cleared his head as he was blitzing the QB and this week he was out of position a few key times as well. Not saying Dizon will play better, but even if he's only "just as good" he has much more upside, and when you are sitting at 0-5 you need upside, lots and lots of it.

It did appear the Lions were replacing guys who were struggling for a change. Too bad the coach will not replace ANY player who is struggling, just those he's not too keen on to begin with (or so it would seem).

Colletto and the offense are still a joke. The occasional good block is almost always wiped out by a penalty or sack in the same series of plays sooner or later. Less drops this week so maybe the WRs were a bit more focused... probably trying to help the newbie QB... but I do not believe for a second they have a shred of confidence in Colletto's ability to be the OC. I can't say as I blame them.

Sooner or later they need to play Cohen, Fluellen, and 5-0, as well as Stanton, to see what they have for next year, as DLine and QB will need addressing next year. But with some decent coaching and schemes (as in no! T2 or Colletto O), and with 4 Olinemen and 2 linebackers, this team could actually do something worthwhile on Sundays.

That being said, the Lions need to worry about the next game and it will be most interesting to me to see if Barry / Marinelli will continue to play the much more successful man coverage or if they will try to force feed the T2 to the team once again. As for Colletto, I pretty much figure the offense is a lost cause (as the WRs do) but who knows, maybe someone {cough Kippy Brown cough} can influence him somehow and ... oh man, what am I thinking, Marinelli isn't going to go there, he's put all his and Millen's faith into Colletto after firing Martz. That did succeed in getting rid of Millen however, so if he wants to get himself fired as well, keep up the good work.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Game 4 Analysis

There is only 1 more day until the curse of Bobby Lane ends http://www.curseofbobbylayne.com/ and last week Ford Sr ended the curse of Matt Millen by firing him (or he was asked to step down, not sure how it actually went down). But neither thing was enough to get the Lions to play even half way decently following their bye week. Despite all that has happened, had the Lions won today they'd only be 1 game out of first place in the mighty NFC North. But instead, Orton had a career day (that sure does happen a lot this year during Lions games) and the Lions managed to score only 1 TD before losing 34-7.

What was even worse then the play on the field was the body language of the players during the game. There was a very brief upsurge in energy when the offense went to 4 wide and got play calls that Kitna, Roy and others actually believe in... only to drain away within a few plays. Bodden looked like he was being forced to play in an ugly dress and Redding continually tried to get the Bears fans to get loud when the Lions defense was on the field. (Apparently he didn't recognise all the Bears jerseys in the seats).

The wonderous OC Colletto has totally lost the skilled players on offense. The equally wonderous DC Barry is losing the D players in chunks, and the STC Kwam looks as lost as ever (to be fair, I truly think that he was born that way, but I can not be certain). The best plays on the field involved Avril, or Kevin Smith, or Felton. Does that mean the head coach (and lead idiot in this group of idiots) will play the rest of the rookies next week? No, probably not.

The Lions have lost 11 of their last 12 games (stretching back to last year) and they are still playing 6 of their front seven from last year on defense. They recognized a need, drafted for it, and then proceeded to not play them except grudgingly. Well, that has to stop! If you are not capable of recognizing that fact then do a Bobby Ross and go home.

So here are my suggestions for next week. First, demote Colletto. He is a barely adequate (at the extreme most) offensive line coach. Promote Kippy to OC. Tell Jefferson he needs to have extra study sesssions with the WRs all week (until they learn the plays). Open up the offense so that the players start to believe again. Promote Stanton to #2 QB, give him the last half of the blow out games (all of which might be blow outs depending on what actually changes). Do not inactivate Cohen, Fluellen or Dizon next week. Play them. In fact, Start Them! If they mess up too much, then sit them for stretches at a time. But get them reps in the game and see if they truly are worse then the starters (note: it would be VERY hard to be worse then the starters). Inactivate Moore, Cody, and McDonald or Furrey (you need Middelton for returns, but you only need one slot WR, especially if you can't ever do anything on offense).

Then, blitz more. You don't like to Blitz? Tough! You're a lame duck coach with no chance of ever getting a gig like this again for the rest of your life. Blitz. Attack. Do what you are not doing because what you are doing sucks.

If you're just going to keep pounding your rock you are just going to keep sucking on Sundays (and I'm not talking ice cream here). Change it up. Now. Or forever wish you had done something else.