The Rebuilding Process

Cory SandersContributor IJune 16, 2009

ALLEN PARK, MI - MAY 01: Offensive coordinator Scott Linehan of the Detroit Lions talks with Matthew Stafford #9 during rookie orientation camp at the Detroit Lions Headquarters and Training Facility on May 1, 2009 in Allen Park, Michigan.  (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
Ok, almost everyone nationally agrees that the Lions are rebuilding and they have no chance at anything this year. All the experts will say that the Lions are a 4-12 team at best (No '08 Dolphins Cinderella season here). They are too talent deprived and they didn't do enough during free agency and the draft to sure up the Defense. Stafford's not ready to start and Culpepper doesn't have anything left.

I disagree. The Lions went 3-13, 7-9, and 0-16 in consecutive years - Quite a swing. What was the difference between 7-9 and 0-16? I think you can point at 4 specific changes:

1. Jon Kitna. He did very well during the 6-2 run. If the Lions would have kept him off the IR last year there was a much better chance that the Lions might have won a couple games. He was more capable and/or prepared than any of the QBs that followed.

2. Shaun Rogers. During the Lions 6-2 run  in 2008 he was a major force. The loss of him was one of the central reasons they lost the ability they couldn't stop the run. His absense also showcased the mediocre play of Cory Redding.

3. Roy Williams. I LOVE the trade, but it left the receiving core outside of Calvin pretty empty. Defenses were able to zero in on Calvin more leaving few other options.

4. Mike Martz/Jim Colletto. I agree with the decision to move on without Martz, but Rod needed a proven, successful OC because of his lack of experience coordinating anything. To be kind, I'll just say that Colletto's offense was predictable.

So if we are talking about 4 things, can we go from 0-16 to 7-9 now? Lets address those 4 things and see what that could mean as far as wins and losses:

1. QB - Culpepper still seems to have the upper hand to be the starter. I truly believe that he is in position to have his best year since 2004 (Which actually isn't saying a lot). I think his mobility and long arm will make for some great Pep to CJ highlights now that he is in shape and knows the offense. Oh, and now he has Scott Linehan who has proven that he knows how to use Pep. This year he will have more TDs then INTs. The biggest X Factor in this is that Stafford may beat him out to start, but that would mean that Stafford looked amazing and showing consistent ability and preparation over Pep, so it's a win-win. The improvements at QB should be enough for a win. 1-15.

2. Stopping the run - We added size and a run stopper in Jackson. It would be nice to see Sammie Lee Hill contribute, but that may be a stretch this year. The addition of Foote at LB and even Delmas should also help improve the Defenses ability to stop the run. We are not talking about top 10, but this shouldn't be one of the worst in history - most likely not even in the bottom 10. Being able to stop the run better will keep the team in a couple more games and should least to at least 2 wins. 3-13

3. WR - The combo of Bryant Johnson and Ronald Curry will give us a big boost here. Although a step below Roy athletically, Johnson is a better route runner and Curry does have some big play ability. They should get some good looks now that CJ has really established himself as one of the best in the game. Last year the opposing team's strategy was to take Calvin out of the game. That's about it. This year, with Kevin Smith establishing himself, Bryant Johnson offering a viable second option (probably seeing a lot of single coverage), the addition of Pettigrew, and Curry coming  out of the Slot, we should see a good step forward. And even when you just compared Bryant and Curry to Furrey and McDonald, that should be good for 1. 4-12

4. OC - Scott Linehan. I like him better than Martz. He is more balanced and less crazy. He seems much more flexible to the team than Martz...and a huge step above Colletto 5-11

So based on that, we are at 5-11, right? Lets go a little further:

- Lions had 3 years with HORRIBLE game management. This was where Marinelli was worst. He lost games because poor game management, and then you add that his (and the coordinator's) inability to make adjustments during games. Lets say the Lions get one more win because Schwartz has to be better. 6-10.

- Defensive changes. If nothing else, the Lions will stop the run better. Schwartz and Gunther live and breathe it. I know Marinelli preached it too, but he wouldn't deviate from Tampa 2. Just like the Offense, the Defense was predictable. They didn't have the play makers necessary to make Tampa 2 Work. They had players like Leigh Bodden who were not built for the system. Now they have experienced coaches who are going to scheme around the talent they have. They have the play making safety they wanted in Delmas and experienced corner backs who are proven, a pro-bowl OLB, a Superbowl Winning MLB, a run stuffer in Grady Jackson, and a player like Cliff Avril whom we have yet to see reach his full potential. There is NO WAY this Defense will be as bad as last year. It shouldn't even be close. Worth 2 wins: 8-8.

Now, add to that a Running Back who will progress in his sophomore year and is predicted to have a break out year, a tight end that is a great blocker, a return game in Derrick Williams, and Jon Jensen upgrading the O-Line....

So based on all of this, can you say 'Winning record'?
I know, theirs no way right? The Lions are too talent deprived right? I say again: go back to 2007. How much changed between 2007 and 2008? How much changed between 2006 and 2007 for the Bears?

Don't accept that it can't happen....but there is a difference between saying it can't happen and it will happen.