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At 1-3 and last in the NFC North, the Detroit Lions are one of the NFL's biggest early-season disappointments. Now, a rival executive has called them "overrated," a label that isn't sitting well with Detroit's players.
A rival general manager told Pro Football Weekly in a story posted Monday that the Lions' talent level has been oversold and called out defensive lineman Ndamukong Suh and Cliff Avril in particular as players who are overhyped. He also said coach Jim Schwartz and general manager Martin Mayhew are "both overrated."
"The one thing that is clear -- they are not as close as people have tried to make it seem," the GM told Pro Football Weekly. "They are a one-dimensional offensive team that if the quarterback (Matthew Stafford) is not on, people are figuring it out. If you take (WR Calvin) Johnson out of the game, who else do they have that can beat you?
"They are not a team that I think is ready. If I am going there to take over the job, I am not thinking that is a quick fix."
The Lions, who ended a 12-year playoff drought in 2011, were expected to be postseason contenders again this season. Johnson, who had 16 touchdown receptions last season and signed a seven-year extension worth up to $132 million this offseason, has just one TD catch so far in the Lions' first four games.
Center Dominic Raiola, in particular, took offense to the GM's comments, telling reporters Tuesday that the executive's remarks were a "coward kind of statement."
"That fires me up. That's taking a shot at the Lions organization. That ain't right. I'm going to say eff 'em. I can't say the word. But I'll say eff 'em," he said, according to Fox Sports Detroit.
"If you don't take that personal, you're in the wrong place. (Schwartz and Mayhew) work hard putting the right talent on the field. They bust their ass doing this," he continued. "It's on us to have their back. The best way to have their back is on the field."
Another anonymous executive said the Lions' problems stem from drafting a lot of "issue guys" such as Nick Fairley, who was arrested twice this past offseason, and the lack of leadership on the team is reflected in their poor start.
The Lions, coming off their bye, will face the turnover-prone Eagles in Philadelphia this week. Avril, who had to leave the Lions' loss to Minnesota two weekends ago because of a back problem, practiced Tuesday and seems fine now.
Avril, who was described as "not that good" by the anonymous GM, said he's not concerned with what people think of the Lions.
"Who cares?" he said, according to the Detroit Free Press. "I don't really care. We don't really care what anybody thinks of us right now.
"It's all about us going out and performing and trying to prove people wrong as we've been trying to do since this group of guys have come together. Us within the locker room know what we have, it's just all about making the rest of the country and the league know what's going on over here."
Schwartz said he refused to "comment on anonymous things."
"Hey, we're 1-3. That's what we are right now. We need to go win," he said, according to the Detroit News. "We're judged on winning. We're not judged on popularity contests or what somebody says under the cloak of anonymity. We are judged by how many wins we get over 16 games. That's enough for us right now."
Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.