Veteran Leadership More Than Just Mentorship for Young, Aspiring Detroit Lions

John Farrier@GriffWings UnitedCorrespondent IJuly 5, 2010

INDIANAPOLIS - DECEMBER 06:  Kyle Vanden Bosch #93 of  the Tennessee Titans looks on during the NFL game against the Indianapolis Colts at Lucas Oil Stadium on December 6, 2009 in Indianapolis, Indiana.  (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
Andy Lyons/Getty Images

The constant goal of many an organization is to do one thing:  create synergy.  Those organizations that are able to cross over the boundaries of ego and submit to the cause of a greater good, an effort where, if united in cause, can create a situation whereby they can produce results greater than that which would be obtained from merely the fruit of one’s own labor.


And so it begins.


“Kaizen Magician” Martin Mayhew has added yet another veteran piece to the defensive puzzle for 2010 in two-time Pro Bowler and former Detroit Lion, Dré Bly.


Although it may seem a little bit premature for some, I’m dubbing Martin Mayhew as Kaizen Magician of the Detroit Lions.  His efforts at continuous improvement, for a team associated among the dregs of the NFL, has been magic to behold.


Now, let’s be honest with ourselves.  Did we really expect Detroit Lions General Manager Martin Mayhew to go out and acquire Kyle Vanden Bosch, Corey Williams, Nate Burleson, Tony Scheffler, and Dré Bly in the off season?


I sure didn’t.


But I’m sure glad he did.


One question I have often heard in discussion among Lions fans is, “Well, who have the younger players ever had to teach them the right way to play their position; the right way to play the game?  Who among them has been the position leader?  Who among them has been the informal leader?  How does the lack of good veteran leadership impact the development of your “green pea” players?


Lack of leadership combined with lack of talent will get the results achieved during the 2008 and 2009 seasons:  pain and misery.


Half of the equation has been solved for, I believe, in the presence of Martin Mayhew, Jim Schwartz, Gunther Cunningham, and Scott Linehan.  Tom Lewand, regardless his recent DUI incident, is still an outstanding contributor to the present and future value of the Detroit Lions.


If you believe you have the right leadership in place, then it becomes a matter of “stocking the pond”.


Marty’s been fishin’.


Has it ever crossed your mind how many times he has to wet the hook in order to catch what he’s trying to catch for the Detroit Lions and their fans?  We’re talking about countless casts upon the water, and in the first year, they weren’t biting too well.


What does it mean to the defensive end position to add Kyle Vanden Bosch to a group consisting of Cliff Avril, Jason Hunter, Turk McBride, and Willie Young?


What will it mean inside at defensive tackle with the addition of Corey Williams to 2010 No. 2 overall selection Ndamukong Suh, Sammie Lee Hill, Andre Fluellen, and “Cohen’s the Barbarian”?


What effect will the addition of Dré Bly have on Chris Houston, Jonathan Wade, Eric King, and Amari Spievey?  Will C.C. Brown’s experience make Louis Delmas a better player in 2010?


At linebacker, Julian Peterson continues on at strong-side linebacker, already mentoring DeAndre Levy and Zack Follett.


One evening while chatting on facebook with Zack, I asked him about the impact Peterson and Foote had on him during his first year.  He said that Foote was a great leader, but Julian Peterson actually helped him more.


That’s a Spartan, my friend.  That’s the nature of every Spartan professor it was ever my pleasure from whom to receive instruction.  Julian is an outstanding representative of the Spartan ethos and how he wants his fellow linebackers prepared for battle on game day.


Within each group, we see quality veteran leadership combined with aspiring young talent that needs to be developed and versed in the ways of the NFL game, developing true NFL savvy as a result of a strong mentorship program.


I recall in the lead up to the 2009 NFL Draft, Daunte Culpepper made it known that he wasn’t in Detroit to be a mentor to anybody, just “stay in his lane” and play his position when called upon.


That type of mentality does not befit the growth of any organization, and when that attitude is present, it countermines the effectiveness of the most critical position on the football field: the quarterback.


How does the addition of a veteran quarterback with recent success aid in the development of Matthew Stafford?  Yes, I expect Shaun Hill to be a far more effective mentor to Stafford than Culpepper.


Who has Calvin Johnson ever had to share a mature veteran presence to help raise the effectiveness of his game?  While Calvin has been trying to grow on his own, how has he been effective at helping other young receivers?  The addition of Nate Burleson speaks to that issue and more, giving the Lions a viable candidate for the legitimate WR2 they covet in the Linehan offense.


How does the addition of Tony Scheffler make the Lions a better team in offensive coordinator Scott Linehan’s double tight end set?  How can Tony help teach the group of Lions tight ends to better catch the football and learn better angles to become a better “safety valve” for their quarterback?


How will the addition of left guard Rob Sims serve to solidify the run game while providing Stafford with maximum time for the passing attack?


What we see is an amalgamation of players, each with design and purpose.  Should this collection of players, experienced veteran, young veteran, sophomore, or rookie, quickly gel with each other and the game plan of their leadership, they could offer more than one team an unkind surprise on a Sunday (or Thursday) afternoon in 2010.


The purpose of the mentoring process is to quickly develop talent to maximum performance to truly drive getting those results which are greater than the sum of the parts.


Honestly, I think the Detroit Lions are assembling a great crew of players.  I’m excited about the prospects of the young players on the roster.  Many of the players on the current roster have at one time or another been described as having either a “very high” or “unlimited” ceiling.


Guys like former Miami (FL) LT Jason Fox and NC State DE Willie Young were once considered second-round prospects.  I have a hunch that the department of college scouting has hit again on another couple of good picks.  Both could emerge with surprise contributions in 2010.


What will it mean for these younger players to have guys beside them who have “been there” and “done that”?  I think it will be empowering.  I think it will drive a greater level of confidence.  I think it will inspire the young Lions players to reach deeper within themselves and give more than they thought imaginable, because they will feel internal accountability to the group to perform at a high level.  The fear of failure will drive the competitive spirit of these young Lions through the roof at Ford Field, and we will be surprised to see early returns.


We’ve been through the statistics on each of these players more than once, so there’s no need to rehash.


More than that, there is so much of the game that cannot and will never be able to be measured by statistic.


Which player led the league in desire in 2009?


Who was the league leader in passion during the 2009 season?


Which player was mentally tough enough to believe at the goal line with no time left on the clock and victory within reach?


I spend my fair share of time browsing through the vast wilderness of raw data that exists at any of the plethora of stat-driving Internet sites.  I’ve never seen any of those aforementioned categories in my years.


But I’ve felt every one of them in one way or another.


There it is again:  the will to win.  One of the many ingredients which must be present if the 2010 Detroit Lions are to emerge from the wasteland that was the 2008 and 2009 seasons.


The power of discipleship has been known throughout time to create the best leaders in all of history.  As Socrates begat Plato, and Plato Aristotle, even so did Belichick begat Schwartz.


The sharing of wisdom is a two-way street.


First, the one with whom the wisdom is to be shared must be humble enough, or “coachable” enough, to open his mind to receive the revelation.  Top athletes who are coachable present a particularly difficult assignment for an opponent.


Secondly, I think the “mentor” has to feel that the information he is sharing is wanted, beneficial, and can make that person better at his craft and in the doing, make his team more competitive whether injury strikes or not.  Competent depth that is game ready is a commodity to be enjoyed in the National Football League, and if the Lions can develop what they have into that “good”, fans should be pleasantly surprised with the results by season’s end.


The Lions will have two tough games to start the 2010 season, but both games are winnable.  I looked at the Philly roster today, and they have quite a ballclub.  The home opener will be a solid challenge for Detroit, as beating the Eagles has never been their strong suit.


Without question, fans at Ford Field will be cheering for number 54, regardless the last name, regardless the color of the jersey.  Brandon Graham is coming home.


I’m counting on the newly-acquired veterans to add more than an element of mentorship for the young talent.  If these guys are who I think they are, the roots of synergy will finally catch hold on the Detroit Lions roster, and in 2010, we’ll see the beginnings of the new team every fan is looking forward to seeing:  a winner.


What I think the addition of these veterans means in terms of competitiveness, is that we should see much closer contests.


For me, I consider a good game to be within seven points (generally speaking).  A competitive game is within four points.  A highly-competitive game is decided by three points or less.


I expect to see that evolution of competitiveness display itself over the course of the 2010 campaign.


The true measure of synergistic success will not just be manifested in the win-loss column.  The further measure will be felt when the veterans mentioned in this article are no longer with the team, and the ethic lives on in the better performance of a future team.


It took Payton Manning eight seasons to win it all after selected.  It took Drew Brees and the New Orleans Saints a few seasons before they could put it all together for the ultimate championship, going from worst in the NFC South to first overall.


Detroit Lions fans would be happy to celebrate the team’s fifth NFL championship at any point along the way.


It will be the tricks of the trade learned in 2010 by young Lions players from cagey veterans that will give them a core of skills upon which to build throughout this decade.


Kaizen Magician Mayhew will get long-lasting results out of the 2010 off season moves; we just won’t see the full effect for some time. 


J Wesley HäMM ë R


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