Detroit Lions' Offseason Thus Far: The Beginning of the Martin Mayhew Era

SBContributor IMarch 20, 2009

DETROIT , MI - JANUARY 16:  Jim Schwartz, center, head coach of the Detroit Lions poses with General Manager Martin Mayhew, left, and Tom Lewand team president after a press conference to introduce him as the Lions new head coach on January 16, 2009 at Ford Field in Detroit, Michigan.  (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)

The 2008 Lions are a team I really wish I could forget.


This was the closing act of the Matt Millen Era.

Detroit began this offseason by cleaning house. General Manager Matt Millen was fired along with head coach Rod Marinelli and almost all his staff. The Lions then introduced the new general manager Martin Mayhew.

Sure, Mayhew wasn't a popular pick but he was one of few who actually wanted the the opportunity to turn the franchise around.

Mayhew's job began with finding a new head coach. The search took nearly three weeks and many names flew around. Some were as ludicrous as Josh McDaniels, Brian Billick, and even the recently fired Mike Shanahan.

But the search finally came down to two coaches: Jim Schwartz or Steve Spagnuolo. As many may know, Schwartz was chosen and Spagnuolo took the St. Louis Rams job a week or so later.

After all the mess Detroit had in 2008, the stepping-stones for a new era began with Mayhew and Schwartz. The two didn't mess around to find the best coordinators available.

They brought in a defensive genius in Gunther Cunningham from Kansas City and former Rams head coach Scott Linehan to be the team’s offensive coordinator.

The Lions brought in small pieces from Tennessee and St. Louis to fill in some of the positional coaches roles.

After bringing in the coaching staff, Mayhew and company began the roster renovation. The Lions let seven players loose, most notably Leigh Bodden.

Bodden was the best cover corner the team had in 2008 but the Lions let him go to avoid giving him his contract bonus. He later signed with the New England Patriots.

Many fans were hoping the Lions would bring in "big name" players like Albert Haynesworth but the team was headed in completely different direction—finding role players.

The team has a good offensive nucleus to build around with rising stars Kevin Smith, Calvin Johnson, and Gosder Cherilus. The defense was in need of a basic overhaul since the only player that produced was Ernie Sims.

The first player signed was Maurice Morris of the Seattle Seahawks. The Lions never really had a successful backup to compliment Kevin Smith and Morris was a back that they believe fills that need.

Detroit signed San Francisco 49ers’ Bryant Johnson to help Johnson out.

Schwartz also began bringing in a few of his old players such as Daniel Loper and Eric King. Mayhew also signed Grady Jackson, Phillip Buchanon, and Spencer Cody.

The Lions have been active traders as well. They almost traded for Ken Lucas but it fell through. They were also in talks to trade for Matt Cassel and have discussed trading for Jay Cutler.

Detroit has completed two major trades thus far. The team traded quarterback Jon Kitna for Anthony Henry and Julian Peterson for Cory Redding and a fifth round pick. The Kitna trade was the best move since they we're going to cut him anyway and they brought in a very good and relatively unknown corner from Dallas.

The team’s biggest move occurred during the season when they traded wide receiver Roy Williams to the Cowboys. The Lions essentially helped themselves by trading a receiver that would unlikely re-sign with the team and received a nice bundle of picks for him.

So far, Detroit hasn’t done anything "spectacular," but they have vastly improved from 2008 and are continuing the process from rags to riches.

The Lions’ next step is the NFL Draft where their No. 1 pick can make or break the team.