The transformation is far from complete, but what Martin Mayhew and the boys in Allen Park have done to turn this franchise around from laughingstocks just three years ago is nothing short of remarkable.
The NFL with its salary cap structure is designed to promote mediocrity; a league where all 32 teams’ fan bases go into every year with visions of playoffs and can conceivable justify those beliefs deep into the season. So how were the Lions able to “beat the odds” and put up a historic donut in the win column?
Well it all started when The Mustache pounded on the podium declaring “I wanna win and I wanna win now.” After that, it’s just a blur as I’d just assume forget the Bill Schroeder and Az Hakim years. Let’s move on from what I soon hope NFL historians will refer to as “The Stache Years” and focus on what Martin Mayhew has done to help turn this franchise around, more specifically, the stud and dud acquisitions of the 2011 season.
CB Eric Wright
The ex-Cleveland Brown was exceptional on Sunday against the Broncos. Pass defends, open-field tackles, but he did miss out on a couple interceptions.
I’ve been lauding Wright for weeks and the budget friendly pick-up he is. He’ll want some Benjamins ($$$) also this offseason but like I’ve said before, if this team keeps winning, his price will come down as other corners envision themselves in Honolulu Blue.
ILB Stephen Tulloch
The ex-Titan played well in Denver and is second on the team in tackles and third in sacks, plus him "Tebowing" was classic. His speed is allowing the defensive front to play aggressive but he has been caught out of position a few times.
He will be looking for a big contract at the end of the season and I’m not so sure he deserves it. He’s played well, but there are many linebackers who would put up good numbers behind the Lions front-four.
He was a major upgrade that allowed DeAndre Levy to slide back outside to replace Julian Peterson, but I want to see the second half of the season before I’m ready for Mr. Ford to scratch a big signing bonus.
OLB Justin Durant
The ex-Jaguar is the type of linebacker Jim Schwartz loves: fast and hard-hitting. His durability took another hit this season with a concussion that put him out for a couple games. Once again, he’s part of a linebacking corps that is infinitely better than the previous year, and if he can stay on the field for the second half, he will have found a home in Detroit.
WR Maurice Stovall
The ex-Buccaneer has only one catch on the year, but has solidified himself as the fourth wideout on this team. Big body with sure hands, he had a great preseason and if called upon will not be a significant drop in talent if either Burleson or Young go down.
S Chris Harris
The Lions claimed the former Bears safety off waivers last week.
Harris, had started 39 of 44 games for the Bears and has 10 career interceptions, but this season had only eight tackles and had been benched after his performance against the Lions a few weeks prior.
He has yet to play a game, but was an NFL starter for your division rival and you brought him in just prior to a bye week that precedes the next game against Chicago. I believe you’ll have one highly motivated safety, and with it being the thinnest of the secondary positions, I considered this a shrewd move by the front office.
RB Jerome Harrison
I feel awful calling him a bust, but there’s a reason why he was getting a physical in Philadelphia. Mayhew was trying to swap RB with the Eagles and bring Ronnie Brown into the Motor City fold.
Fortunately, the MRI on Harrison found a tumor in Harrison and hopefully this botched transaction saved Jerome’s life. Football becomes laughable when compared to the issues Jerome Harrison is facing; I wish him a speedy and successful recovery, as do we all.
C Rudy Niswanger
I really thought the ex-Chief had a chance here in Detroit. He started 15 games for the “Chefs” (that Snickers commercial was great, wasn’t it?) at center, and with Raiola not getting any younger, I thought he was someone they could develop. Evidently, so did the Lions, but it didn’t work out.
CB Anthony Madison
The ex-Steeler was cut by the Lions in early September but re-signed on September 27. Not much more than a body.
WR Rashied Davis
The ex-Chicago Bear is similar to Stovall and has added depth at the WR position and contributes on special teams. Nothing earth shattering and behind Stovall on the depth chart, but an upgrade from Derek Williams whom the Lions cut to make room for Davis. Probably won’t be here next year.
OT Kirk Chambers
The ex-Bengal made it to the final day of cuts, but was ultimately released. He has recently resurfaced and signed with the Atlanta Falcons days after the Dirty Birds beat the Lions. Bet they cackled about that when the contract was signed.
The franchise is in good hands with Mayhew, Schwartz and Lewand re-building this franchise and sticking to their blueprint; unlike the M&M regimes when Mariucci told us “we’re building something good here.” We’ll see if these studs and duds stay true to my classification though the remainder of the 2011 campaign.