NFL Nation: Ford Filed

Fixing the Lions

December, 18, 2008
12/18/08
12:38
PM ET
Posted by ESPN.com's Kevin Seifert

So the Lions are two games away from infamy. Exactly 120 minutes of football time separate them from a perfectly awful 0-16 season. It's one record no NFL team wants to reach, and we're here to help.

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As part of ESPN.com's Thursday Hot Read on the topic, we hereby offer 16 suggestions for fixing the Lions:

1. Dispatch the denial. Stop counting the near-misses and lamenting the "few plays here and there." Admit you're broken in a fundamental way. With few exceptions, the NFL's competitive model puts most teams relatively close to one another. There's a reason you hear so much about "any given Sunday." For one team to start 0-14, and lose 21 of its past 22 games, indicates an overhaul -- not a tweak -- is necessary.

2. Start at the top. No one knows exactly how the Lions' ownership runs the team. But we got a glimpse this season when vice chairman Bill Ford Jr. publicly campaigned for the firing of president/general manager Matt Millen. Two days later, chairman William Clay Ford did the deed. All indications are that the elder Ford continues to wield final say, but it's time for Ford Jr. -- whose judgment on Millen far surpassed his father's -- to take over.

 
 Leon Halip/US Presswire
 Rod Marinelli has a 10-36 record in his three seasons in Detroit.

3. Put Rod Marinelli out of his misery. Marinelli might be a good football coach, but no one can lose so many games in a such a short period while maintaining credibility inside or outside the organization. I know, Marinelli hasn't been blessed with the NFL's best personnel. But it's hard to convince anyone you're moving forward with a coach who has lost 36 of 46 games over a three-year tenure.

4. Before hiring the next head coach, settle on a front-office structure that provides checks and balances to avoid a repeat of the unchallenged mistakes Millen routinely made. Most people assume that chief operating officer Tom Lewand will retain a prominent business role, which is fine. On the football side, however, the Lions need a general manager and coach tandem that understands each other's philosophies and will consider contradictory thoughts. The current model is in Atlanta, where general manager Thomas Dimitroff and coach Mike Smith are said to work exceptionally well together.

5. Thank interim general manager Martin Mayhew for his eye-opening work after replacing Millen. And then send him on his way. This is in no way a comment on Mayhew, who in other circumstances would make a fine general manager for the Lions. But remember our general premise: This is not an organization that needs tweaking. It needs to be rebuilt in a big-picture sense. You can't convince your fan base, free agents or even coaching candidates that you're making fundamental changes if Millen's top assistant replaces him -- no matter who it is.

6. Throw a bone to fans -- not a gimmick or a marketing slogan, but something that genuinely invites their interest. A 10 percent cut in ticket prices might be a start. Or, perhaps, a real barnstorming tour that allows fans to ask unedited questions of the Lions' football decision-makers over the course of the season. Transparency and honesty during the rebuilding process, while not comfortable, will help re-connect to a fan base that has lost faith in the team's ability to operate effectively.

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