Detroit Lions: Three answers, one question
After Detroit's 42-7 loss to New Orleans, here are three (mostly) indisputable facts I feel relatively sure about:
1. Luckily, the English language allows for different levels of the word "bad." Because while the Lions' offense has been terrible after transitioning from coordinator Mike Martz to Jim Colletto, their defense has been atrocious. And I think atrocious is worse. Ultimately, the Lions' defensive play is a more harmful reflection on coach Rod Marinelli than was his decision to fire Martz and promote Colletto. Marinelli is supposed to be a defensive specialist, but his defense -- led by hand-picked coordinator Joe Barry -- does very little right. The Saints' extraordinary 11-for-12 conversion rate on third down was the latest statistical evidence.
2. I also want to pile on the Lions' defense for this statistic: Four interceptions. Not in Sunday's game. Not this month. Not in the second half of the season. But for all 15 games. Baltimore, the NFL leader in this category, has SIX TIMES that total. The Lions have gone 12 games this season without an interception. That is a criminal lack of pressure applied to opponents' passing games.
3. The best thing Marinelli can do to avoid 0-16 is to find a way to shake things up and have fun. He's coached the Lions this season as if they were close to turning the corner, when in fact they seemed to be slipping further away by the week. Cancel practice on Thursday. Have a paintball tournament. When you do practice, work on every trick play in the book. Promise your players you will leave no stone unturned to win a game. Abandon the belief you can win a game conventionally. It hasn't worked so far.
And here is one question I'm still asking:
Is cash flow playing a part in the decision to retain chief operating officer Tom Lewand and general manager Martin Mayhew? Let's be clear: I have no evidence of that fact. But it's a logical connection of the dots when you consider the financial straits of chairman William Clay Ford's automobile business, which has lost $8 billion this year and is hanging on to cash to avoid taking federal bailout money. You also wonder how much of a hit Ford has taken on the Lions, who sold out only three of its eight home games and was on the books to pay off former president/general manager Matt Millen more than $10 million. Standing pat is definitely the least expensive way to go, if nothing else.