This will be the first of a series of articles here at the Bleacher Report in which our own Lions writers discuss the state of the team. For those of you interested in contributing, feel free to contact me as the weeks progress.
Dear Mr. New GM of the Detroit Lions,
This is an open letter to you.
You see, you’ve inherited yourself quite a mess, and though you might have heard tales of the dreadful debacles that seem to riddle this franchise, you know little of the true horror unless you’ve lived it.
We have lived it for a very long time, and we’re offering our analysis (such that it is) so that you can hit the ground running and guide our beloved cats to a winning year, a wild-card berth, and hell, maybe even a divisional title? How about a playoff win?
Sorry, we’re getting ahead of ourselves.
It does seem clear that you’re going to get one hell of a chance to turn this thing around. You’ve got an owner that could teach Job a thing or two about patience, and a rabid fanbase hungering, not quite for excellence, but at least some mediocrity, as it so beats decrepitude.
You’ve got a great new field, a handsome new paycheck, and one heck of a chance to resurrect what was left for dead.
And so we got to thinking about the state of the team and thought you’d appreciate our take, recognizing that the best sports reporting is going on in the bleachers.
First off, the Lions have to realize that there is a world beyond Detroit. Tom Lewand is not the answer. I'm not sure how much patience Lions fans have left, but nonetheless, the Lions will have to be patient in their search for a new GM, and the fans will have no choice but to give the new guy time to start a fresh rebuilding process. *groan*
When it comes to the draft, the Lions need to take someone who is going to represent the start of a new era. He should be someone who personifies the vision of the new GM.
The Lions have talent, as hard as that is to believe, so it’s hard to identify their biggest problem area. How do you separate the positions of talent weighed down by apathy and the positions that are just weak?
First of all, Drew Stanton needs to be starting for the rest of the season, so the Lions can evaluate and identify whether or not he is the quarterback of the future.
If Stanton plays well, the draft pick must be a left tackle. Jeff Backus isn't so much a bad player as he is the definition of mediocrity. He might be better suited playing one of the guard positions, while Cherilus Gosder holds down the right tackle.
The left tackle the Lions take has to be particularly adept at run blocking, as Detroit's run game has been M.I.A. since the days of James Stewart, and Barry Sanders before him.
However, if Stanton falters, the Lions will need to go after a quarterback, and I will stress that Chase Daniels seems to be a can’t-miss prospect. He is a passer first and mobile quarterback second, but he can do both equally well, which puts him a notch above guys like JaMarcus Russell or Mike Vick.
No matter what the Lions do, they should think it out patiently. Detroit can't afford to have another first-round pick go bust on them. They need a guy that can make it to his second contract and play at a high level.
Let us assume for this article's purpose that the Lions finish this season 4-12, with the fourth worst record in the NFL. This is, of course, after the Lions presumably start 1-10 and win three out of their last five games just to piss fans off.
Anyway, this still gives the Lions a top-five pick overall, and we're happy because there seems to be a lot of good talent in the 2009 draft class.
So whom do the Lions select?
The Lions need defense. If the first three games are any indication of how the rest of the season plays out, the Lions are going to need plenty of work done on the defensive side of the ball. As cliché as it is, defense wins championships, and the Lions haven't won one since 1957.
It's sad that they've only had five noteworthy defensive players in the past 15 years (Blades?, Spielman, Porcher, Bly, Sims). Therefore, with a top-five pick in 2009, the Lions should seriously consider a defensive stud. If I was the Lions' GM, I would select, with the fourth pick of the 2009 Draft...
Malcolm Jenkins, CB from Ohio State University.
I hate to admit this, but Ohio State produces winners, and in all seriousness, this will be the best defensive player available at pick four, in addition to being a position the Lions need help with the most. Although I really like Tyson "Javon Kearse-esque" Jackson, the Lions will probably miss out on him.
Even so, the Lions have some young guys they can still develop to play the D-line adequately, all while Ernie Sims holds down the LB corps. It doesn't matter if they can or can't stop the run with their D-line and LBs if they can't stop the pass. Jenkins can be the building block to stop that.
Jenkins has size, speed, and the ability to read QBs with the best of them. Not only is he good, but he'll bring an energy and excitement to the Lions' defense that we haven't seen in a long time, if ever.
Since I'm an optimist, and am hoping the Lions will want to win next year, after rebuilding these final 12 weeks of 2008, I am going to drop a few names in the free-agent market that I think the Lions should go after to help them win in 2009.
SS Lawyer Milloy—Atlanta Falcons
Lawyer Milloy, Esq. will probably want to get one last solid contract, and I'm willing to bet Detroit could buy him. Atlanta is in its first year of rebuilding, and Milloy doesn't have too many years left in this league.
If Detroit can sign him to a lucrative two-year contract, I think he could really help stabilize their defensive backfield, while also serving as a good mentor to the younger DBs.
Honorable mention (though long-shots):
DE Julius Peppers—Carolina Panthers
G Chris Snee—New York Giants
Of course, this is all way too soon to be anywhere near accurate. All these players could Brady/Weis their knees, thus shattering not only their knees, but all my hopes and dreams of whom the Lions should get this offseason. I guess we'll all just have to wait and see.
I’m a particular believer in the theory that championship-caliber teams are forged up front and therefore second the notion that the Lions should be looking for help on the offensive line. And like Keith, I also think that the Lions absolutely need to be starting Drew Stanton for the rest of the year.
However, I think it’s too soon to start thinking quarterback in the draft. It would be a horrible situation for a young QB to come into, and he would undoubtedly have to start right away. The Lions are notorious for crushing the spirit and potential of young QBs saddled without an offensive line and limited options.
It seems unlikely that Roy Williams will re-sign with Detroit (who can blame him), so a rookie QB would be stepping into a buzz saw.
That’s why I’m particularly interested in shoring up the offensive line, and I think the draft is a good way to go in this regard. I would also mention that since the Lions need a number of pieces, they should absolutely be looking to trade down if the right opportunity arises. In the absence of that, I like the man from Alabama.
Andre Smith, OT—Alabama
A unanimous All-SEC first-teamer and a starter for his entire Alabama career, we saw what Andre could do on Saturday, when the Tide rolled over a stout Georgia defense. A run-blocking maestro, with solid pass protection skills, this 6'5" 340-pound stud is slotted by many to be the next dominant left tackle in the NFL.
This frees up Cherilus Gosder/Backus to play the right tackle and will offer them great depth up front.
In free agency, the Lions need to bring in a journeyman QB to hold down the fort with Stanton for a year or two, and as crazy as it sounds, I wouldn’t mind bringing back Jeff Garcia, who is in the last year of his contract with Tampa Bay but is inexplicably riding the bench behind Brian Griese.
I also like Brian’s choice of Lawyer Milloy in the defensive secondary, but would like to see a good free-agent signing at the corner. The Raiders’ Nnamdi Asomugha may be looking for a little too much moolah, but the Lions should at least be talking to him.
I would also be interested in talking to some longshots, like Titans DT Albert Haynesworth, or Saints DE Will Smith. They could be a welcomed addition to the defensive front line.
Either way, the 2009 free-agent class is stacked with talent, and I would implore the new GM to a least do something! It’s been a long time since the Lions made a good free-agent move.
So there you have it Mr. New GM.
Three different Lions writers with three different takes on what the team needs. And though it seems that each of us would approach the season a bit differently, we all seem to agree on the basics: a cover man, some O-line help, and a quarterback.
Take our advice for what it’s worth, but for what it’s worth...
We’ll be watching.