So that is that. The Lions have officially become the stick by which failure will forever be measured in professional sports.
It is finally over. Thank goodness for that.
When Matt Millen brought in Marty Morningweg at the start of his tenure, one of the more memorable quotes came from the new head coach describing the expectations.
"The bar is high."
Not so much.
What is done is done. As a Lions fan, you are now entering the best part of the season, the off-season.
It is the time of year when, as a Lions fan, you can actually have hope.
So with the season behind us, here are five things the Detroit Lions should do in the off-season (but probably will not)
1. Clean out the Front Office
This seems pretty obvious. If you build a team that is incapable of winning a game, then as management, you are also incapable.
Yes, Matt Millen is gone, but he was just the face of the front office. A football team is not run by just one man. There are player/personnel directors, scouts, public relations folks, and any number of other positions that are required to run an NFL franchise.
Is there any one section of the organization that has done a better than average job? Hell, even an average one?
Is there a team in the league which has more injuries than the Lions? Maybe they should look at their medical staff.
True, they build a top flight stadium, but outside of that, they Lions are a complete disaster. Maybe their accounting is accurate, I do not know. The point is that whoever has been a part of this organization is part of a losing organization.
Losing breeds losing.
The most important thing the Lions could do is clean out the front office of those who created this mess.
Will they do it?
Mr. Ford has already gone on the record that the front office will be back.
Martin Mayhew was Matt Millen's right hand man and he keeps his job.
Tom Lewand was the guy who ran the Lions before they hired Millen to upgrade terrible personnel decisions. He is back.
Welcome to Lions logic.
2. Keep Rod Marinelli
What?!?! Keep the coach that just went 0-16 and that has a 10-38 record?
If there is one place the Lions have not been afraid to make a change, it has been the head coach.
Since the end of the Wayne Fontes Era, the Lions have had five head coaches, with an average tenure of 37.8 games, just over two seasons. That is not the type of consistency you need at a leadership position.
The Lions need to make a youth movement and youth needs a steady hand. If there is one thing that Marinelli is, it is steady. His press conferences are among the least entertaining in the history of the league, but the message stays consistent.
By all accounts, when Marinelli was hired a lot of smart people in the league thought it was a good move. Would a more established coach do a better job? Not likely with the talent that is assembled on the current roster.
Any talented coach you hire now is likely a coach that will fail and that you cannot try and hire again if you were to amass any real talent on the field.
Let Rod stick around and try to keep a steady ship until you are ready to go to the next level. If you want to hire him a press agent, that is okay too.
3. Resist the Urge to go After the Top Free Agents
There are a lot of talented players that are coming on the market that could help the Lions. The Lions also will have some cap space this off-season, although we do not know how much yet.
Even so, going after a Julius Peppers or Terrell Suggs would be a waste of time. No one player is going to make an impact on a team so devoid of talent as the Lions.
Peppers or Suggs are the type of players that make good defenses great. Neither will make an atrocious defense good.
In the Lions case, it is more important to get five or six solid starters than it is getting one superstar. Any time spent chasing after the top talent will take away from efforts in filling the gaping holes in their defense.
Besides, just ask Bill Walsh about how to build a team. You get your core through the draft, not through free agency.
Matt Millen signed several high cost free agents during his time with the Lions. Where did that get them?
4. Draft an Offensive Lineman with the Top Pick
Most Lions fans will cry for a Quarterback with the first pick in the 2009 draft. It is a reasonable request. The last lions QB to sniff a Pro Bowl was Scott Mitchell in 1995, as an alternate.
The problem is, a quarterback is the wrong direction to go at this point in the Lions rebuilding.
For what it is worth, the Lions have four quarterbacks currently on the roster.
Jon Kitna was supposed to be the present. He's turnover prone, but was capable of moving the ball down the field
Dan Orlovsky showed a little more than people expected in his time at the helm this season.
Drew Stanton was supposed to be the future after a successful career at Michigan State.
And then there is Daunte Culpepper.
But the real reason the Lions should avoid a quarterback and draft an offensive lineman has more to do with money and statistics.
First, an offensive lineman will command far less money as the top pick in the draft. If you miss on the lineman (and this is the Lions we are talking about), the financial penalty is not as great.
There is a proposed rookie salary cap potentially going into effect in 2010. Taking a quarterback on the top of that draft will be far less expensive.
Second, a quarterback is only effective, really, on passing plays. Anybody can hand off to a running back (see Trent Dilfer).
An offensive lineman, on the other hand, is vital on every play.
No quarterback can be successful without pass protection. No matter how talented a rookie quarterback might be, he will not be effective laying on his back.
No running back can be successful without holes to run through. If Kevin Smith is going to be something, he needs some help.
Even Barry Sanders, who everyone has said had to make all his yards on his own, had 2 pro bowl caliber linemen in Lomas Brown and Kevin Glover. Right now the Lions have none.
It would not even be that bad of an idea to draft linemen with all three of their picks in the first and second round. In such a case you could land a lot flight left tackle, the top center in the draft (Cal's Alex Mack), and another tackle allowing Godser Cherilus to move inside to guard, or the top guard prospect in the second round.
Suddenly the Lions offensive line would have the talent to eventually be one of the better units in the league. You can get your quarterback next year.
Also, now might also be a good time to abandon Matt Millen's strategy of drafting player with catastrophic injuries. Just a thought.
5. Change Their Name, Move to Another City, and Have the NFL Award Detroit an Expansion Franchise Owned by Mike Illich
We can hope, can't we?