Lions Have a New King in Their Jungle

Michael MrockCorrespondent IJanuary 17, 2009

On Thursday, the Detroit Lions named Jim Schwartz as the newest head coach to take the role of bringing the Honolulu Blue back to prominence. 

The Lions went 0-16 last season which leaves Schwartz with a team that has reached the rock bottom of the NFL.  As the former defensive coordinator of the AFC South Champion Tennessee Titans, Coach Schwartz just like Rod Marinelli before him will bring a defensive focus to the team.  However hopefully the Schwartz system will not be the nightmare that the Tampa 2 was for the last three years. 

With the announcement of quarterback Mark Sanchez leaving USC coming on the same day of Jim Schwartz’s hiring does create more intrigue on who will be drafted first.  The early favorite is 2008 Outland Trophy winner Andre Smith out of Alabama. 

However Mark Sanchez being a quarterback playing in USC’s pro-style offense is seen as a viable option.   A high-end quarterback like Sanchez is a tempting choice considering the quarterback carousel of Kitna, Culpepper, Orlovsky, Stanton and Henson never established a true sense of leadership on the field. 

In the comments by Jim Schwarz he has declared that the quarterback is the most important player on the team.  The problem though, can the Lions also obtain enough protection up front so that Sanchez can survive as the next Lions quarterback.   Therefore the safer pick is Andre Smith.  It is a better move considering that in the 2008 draft, the Dolphins selected Michigan offensive tackle Jake Long number one whose contribution was far greater than a rookie quarterback could have done in turning a 1-15 team into the 2008 AFC East Champions.

Also quite a few underclassmen did pull their intent to leave their colleges for the draft this week.  It is not a stretch to seriously wonder if Colt McCoy, Tim Tebow, Sam Bradford and Brandon Spikes were worried that the Lions would pick them either at No. 1 or No. 20 in the draft.  Their decision might actually be a great move as whomever the Lions do draft will actually want to play for them and there are still a great deal of talented players to chose from. 

Prior to the draft, Jim Schwartz will assemble a new coaching staff.  These new coaches will face a great task of taking a team that reach the NFL rock bottom and make it relevant again.  Ron Rivera who is the defensive coordinator of the Chargers has been a name widely mentioned to take on the same role in Detroit.  It is easy to attach excitement to a name but to form a quality coaching staff, it is important that those coaches Jim Schwartz hires will be a quality team as well and hopefully for Lions fans not related to him.

The combination of GM Martin Mayhew, Team President Tom Lewand and now Head Coach Jim Schwartz does represent a change after eight years of ‘M’ named coaches and a GM who is already doing analysis for NBC which has angered Lions fans as he will be working the Super Bowl.  The reality of these changes can entice excitement that this a new direction, but where?  

It is not expected that the Lions will compete for the Super Bowl in 2009.  The expectation is for the Lions to be presence in Detroit that will win games and bring the fans back to Ford Field.   To be the brunt of jokes on the “Tonight Show” and having fans masked with paper bags has gone on long enough.  The time must be now to build a new team that achieves relevance to the NFL not just in wins but also in commitment in giving a city that has endured so much off the field something to cheer about.