The Mayhew-Bly connection

I won't spend much time rehashing the news I missed over the last few weeks, but I do think that cornerback Dre Bly's return to the Detroit Lions merits further discussion.

Considering the Lions' near-complete overhaul of the cornerback position -- see the chart on your right -- Bly has as good of a chance as anyone to win a starting job. More interesting, I think, is the insight Bly's return provides us into the methods and thinking of Lions general manager Martin Mayhew.

When the move was announced, the first thing that came to mind was Mayhew's words at his introductory news conference in December 2008. Asked about roster changes that could occur as a result of a coaching transition, Mayhew said:

I think when you make a change like this, I think you look at who you have and the most important thing when you hire a coach is who you can keep. What you don't want to do is scrap or get rid of good players because they don't fit your system anymore. It happened with Dre Bly. We go cover two -- he's not a cover two corner, and you spent money on Dre, and Dre's a good player and he's still playing, but now he doesn't fit anymore. So that's going to be part of our process with these coaches. We're going to say who can you keep, and that's important to us.

Indeed, the Lions traded Bly in March 2007 when coach Rod Marinelli shifted to a Tampa-2 defense, which in theory requires bigger and more physical cornerbacks. Mayhew, the Lions' assistant general manager at the time, clearly didn't agree with the decision.

Bly went on to intercept seven passes over the next two seasons in Denver. No matter his aptitude for the cover-2 scheme, Bly would have ranked as the Lions' top cornerback over that stretch.

Does his return correct the mistake? No. But I don't think you'll see a similar one anytime soon. The Lions won't be trading away good players, especially at positions as difficult to fill as cornerback. It will be up to Mayhew's coaches to develop schemes to use them.