Monday, December 30, 2013

2013 Game 16 - Detroit Lions @ Minnesota Vikings


The Lions finish the season with a 7-9 record after losing to the Minnesota Vikings 13-14. If I read a tweet correctly the Lions held the lead in 13 of 16 games this year in the 4th quarter only to finish below .500 for the 4th time in 5 years with the current coaching staff. I believe it's safe to say some changes will be forthcoming in that regard.

The Owners of the Lions are not changing, and it's a matter of some debate as to how much input the owners have in the hiring and firing at the top of the organization. Yes they have all the big decisions run by them, but the hires and fires should be pretty much decided upon prior to that meeting. I will base my following comments on that assumption.

The President of the Lions should be in charge of making sure the front office does it's job, that Ford Field is run properly, that Allen Park is stocked and utilized correctly, and that all matters promotional, legal and otherwise are done to the owners satisfaction. I am not certain if Lewand has failed in any of these matters, but if the team is organized properly then he should have made the decision on whether to keep Mayhew and others in the front office some time ago. If that decision meets or met with the owners' approval then we should know relatively soon what the outcome was if we don't already know.

The GM (Martin Mayhew) as I previously stated is being criticized by some for the talent on the Lions team. Others applaud him for the same talent. It's difficult to judge him since the 2013 draft may just prove to be his best draft ever. Was it a fluke? Is he learning to do it right finally? Can he do it again and again? If your plan is to build the team through the draft you need to draft very very well. With the Lions cap situation being what it is, the need to build through the draft is pretty much the only avenue open to the team now, so once again I assume things are going as planned (finally). Will Mayhew be replaced? I am uncertain if that change will occur. I am also uncertain if I have a problem with that or not... for I did like the 2013 draft quite a bit and think another like it would certainly help the team greatly. Does Lewand still have confidence in Mayhew? Is he even the one making the decisions at this point in time (he should be, so that he is accountable for the results).

The Head Coach (Jim Schwartz) is on the hot seat, and rightly so. There are some matters that perhaps those below him are not handling correctly but he has the job of correcting those before they become an issue, and that oversight has not occurred. The GM above him should be acquiring the talent, he and his staff should be developing the talent and finding ways to win on game day... putting his roster of players into the best situations to win. There are several trains of thought here too, the lesser is that he IS developing the talent and IS putting the team in the best situation to win but due to lack of talent the players are not getting the job done. The next is that the first time head coach is not developing talent correctly or is actually allowing matters to be such that he is in the way of the talent winning games. Yet another is that the talent is there, is being properly developed, is put in the best situation to win, but is not executing for whatever reason. I find the last to be highly unlikely, nearly as much as the first. To keep his job it would seem to me that the 3rd reason is the only one that works... but there is one more possibility, it's actually in excess of 12 million reasons... that is the amount of his salary that the Lions will reportedly have to pay him to fire him... and that doesn't even count all the other coaches under contract who the new coach may not retain... so the actual cost to the Lions (as in to the Ford's) is many millions of dollars more then $12 million. If Jim Schwartz remains the head coach of the Lions I think you can pretty much count the reasons in dollar bills, if you have a lot of time to do the counting.

The Special Teams coordinator I feel did a pretty good job this year. I hope that no matter what happens he is retained.

Gunther Cunningham, the defensive coordinator, hasn't produced a stellar defense and many question the strict use of the wide 9 defensive scheme... I myself like to see the blitzes and when he does blitz it does seem to work better for the team... but I don't know who is preventing the use of blitzes, or who is forcing them to use blitzes, or why the talent level of the defense hasn't been adequately addressed, or if it has, why it is not producing. Oh, I have many suspicions but nothing definite... and truth to tell, neither does anyone else. Just because we don't know for sure who is forcing what issues and why does not mean we can't have our own likes and dislikes, and I like to attack, I hate cover 2, I hate prevent, and I hate not playing man coverage (allowing for more blitzing). If Gunny is retained I surely hope to see some more permanent changes to the defensive scheme.

The Offensive coordinator (Scott Linehan) appears to be the biggest problem with the team. Many question his play calling, others his scheme, some the lack of his usage of rookies unless forced to, then there are the lack of results. I have issues with all of that and more. Since Linehan is also the QB coach, and since the QB is failing to use correct footwork (more on this in a moment) I have no problem at all saying he has failed as a QB coach. I also hate a scheme (or playbook, or whatever you want to call it) that prevents the WRs from stopping in their routes and heading back towards the QB when he is in trouble. The Lions WRs never ever do this, other teams do it all the time. I can only assume the OC does not allow for this fire drill type of route(s). I also do not approve of running 80% in the shotgun (or more). I have issue with clock management when the team has the lead, and I have issue with the scheme being totally ineffective unless both CJ and Bush (or similar weapons) are healthy and playing. Lastly, I have issue with the Lions never attacking a found weakness during a game, adjusting during the game to players injured or to opposing defenses adjustments. In fact, I have so many issues with Linehan as the OC I truly hope he is unemployed within the next 24 to 48 hours.

The quarterback (Matthew Stafford) is wildly inaccurate. I do not care about his sidearm throws. I do not care about his gunslinger attitude. What irks me to no end is his complete and total irregard for proper footwork. When he steps into his throws, and his feet are more or less pointing towards the WR, he is as accurate as any QB in the NFL. When he overthrows by many feet if you replay in slo-mo and concentrate on his feet you will usually find he is backing up, moving sideways, or has his front foot pointing ANYWHERE but at the intended target. He will never be accurate enough to be an elite QB while doing this. It is his QB coach's responsibility to work with him on this issue, and I'm not talking about one time, but ALL the time, every day, every week, every month, every season. No elite QB ever stops working on his footwork and thus his throwing accuracy. Ball placement is responsible for the loss of many a Lions game in 2012 and 2013, even if not the reason for the loss its'self then surely for the inability of the team to overcome whatever the reason for the loss turned out to be.

The WR corp has issues with drops, and fumbles. I attribute this to frustrated players trying to do too much. I don't know who they are frustrated with though, the QB, the coaching, both, themselves? Whatever the real reason(s) the coaching staff has proven not to be able to fix it (other then benching said problem makers, well, benching most of them but not all of them, another coaching issue I have).

I can go on and on, and I probably will, but until I see what decisions are made as far as retaining coaches and front office personnel in the next few days I won't know if I am wasting my time. I could easily write a very long blog about each brief paragraph from above, so I think I shall save all that for future weeks of blog material.

I'll wrap up this entry with this quick summary, the one change I am most keenly awaiting is the removal of Linehan from the Lions organization. If for any reason Schwartz doesn't do that then he should go forthwith, but after seeing his behavior after regulation time in game 15 I think his time as head coach is likely over with anyway. I assume a new coaching staff will interview all the other existing coaches before dismissing anyone to see who they wish to retain saving the Lions a lot of money and keeping some continuity perhaps speeding up the hoped for turnaround of the team. I can live with the front office for another year but if their 2014 draft isn't as good as or better then 2013 then I feel changes will need to be made there too... if those changes are about to happen now, I pray the new front office is at least as capable as the old one, going backwards now is just too much to take.

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