The 2009 Detroit Lions: Paper or Plastic?

Phil HopersbergerCorrespondent IMay 12, 2009

NEW YORK - APRIL 25:  Detroit Lions fans wait for admission to Radio City Music Hall for the 2009 NFL Draft on April 25, 2009 in New York City.  (Photo

You hear it all over Michigan.  

"Give me one good reason not to bag the Lions this year."  

Most Lions fans have moved on.  In the famous words of Ernie Harwell, they're "looooong gone."  But consider four more words, equally gone from our Great Lake state:  Morningwig, Mariucci, Marinelli, and Millen.

Most Lions’ fans would rather chew off the top of a bottle of Stroh's beer than watch another painful NFL season with a bag on their head, but do we have anything to hang our cornbread pan on this year in Allen Park?  

I think so. 

Before the glass crunching begins, consider the pedigrees of our new coaches and see if they sound like a Motown fit (and notice none of their names begin with the letter M).

Jim Schwartz

A smart blue-collar guy, who listens to heavy metal, only owns two suits that fit, loves football so much he worked for free, and learned under Jeff Fisher and Marv Lewis.  He coached at Maryland, Minnesota, Colgate, and North Carolina Central.

A Georgetown economics graduate, “Schwartzie” started out under Bill Belichick in Cleveland as an unpaid gopher and got the tag "stats guy" as a scout.  Statistically speaking, he’s a Jedi Master with numbers and knows what to do in every situation, which probably comes from his father, a Baltimore policeman.

Sitting in front of the TV as a kid, his father would quote stats to young Jimmy as the local news relayed a crime story.  Such and such murders are committed by percentage in such and such a fashion, his pop pronounced.  Jimmy learned the importance of numbers and then went on to earn a numbers degree while playing linebacker for the Hoyas.

After college, he proved himself a tireless worker, impressing even the great Patriots' coach Bill Belichick, which is no small feat.  By the time he moved on to coach a top-notch defense for the Titans for eight seasons, Belichick admitted that Jim was even smarter than he was.

“Schwartzie is one of those guys who you could give him 10 different things to do, and at any point in time you could ask him, 'Where are we on this?'  And he'd have it for you in a second, and then you'd throw two or three more things at him, and say, 'Hey Jimmy could you take care of this, could you take care of that?' 

"Half of the time he would say, 'Hey coach I've already started on that.'  He was part mind reader. Tremendous work ethic and really just extremely intelligent."

We’ll credit that multi-tasking trait to his mother, who raised nine kids.  Suffice it to say, Jim is a successful football coach.

Gunther Cunningham

Do you know anyone named Gunther?  I mean outside of a World War II movie where the guy had a monocle and a horse crop barking at Steve McQueen to “stay avay from deh vire.” 

I didn’t think so.

Another former college linebacker, and known to his friends as Gunner, also a military term for the guy who straps a 50 caliber machine gun on in a plane and pumps hot lead into fighters screaming out of the sun, he’s just about done it all in the NFL. 

With 40 years of coaching experience, including head coach and defensive coordinator for the Chiefs for over a decade, this guy holds the unofficial record for F-bombs in a 40-minute practice.

Now expletives don’t necessarily make you a good coach, but it does make you a coach that players listen to…say, players who jump offside like frogs in spring, for instance. 

Why so tough?  He grew up tough.

Gunner was born in 1946 in worn torn Munich and spent 10 years learning what tough meant to survive with Nazi, Russian, and American soldiers in his backyard.  ‘Nuff said.

Scott Linehan

Another blue-collar story, Scott grew up in a small town outside of Seattle.  A devout Catholic, he said the person he’d most like to meet was the Pope.  His brother-in-law is the actor Jim Caviezel, who portrayed Jesus in The Passion of the Christ.  He likes a hot cigar and a cold Budweiser (good fit with the Motor City crowd, eh?). 

A college quarterback under Dennis Erickson at Idaho, Scott piled up over 7,000 yards in the air and credits Erickson with his attacking offensive style.  Not too shabby for young Stafford’s new boss.

He also coached for 13 years at Idaho, UNLV, Washington, and Louisville.  His NFL coaching stints include the Vikings, Forty Niners, Miami, and eventually the head coach of the Rams for three seasons.

His dad spent four years in the south Pacific during World War II and became a high school principal after the war.  Oh yeah, his Mom raised seven kids in the Linehan home.

These guys are legit.  I think we have three good reasons to give these men a chance to make the Lions' fans bag the bags.