Monday, August 31, 2009

Culpepper Should Be The Man (For Now)

As the preseason winds down, Lions' head coach Jim Schwartz has to decide who his starting quarterback will be against New Orleans: Daunte Culpepper or Matt Stafford.

It's obvious Matt Stafford shows the promise of a bright future for the Lions. But no harm would come to his career if he sat the first few games of the season, let alone all of 2009. It didn't hurt Tom Brady, Ben Roethlisberger, Eli Manning, or Brad Johnson's careers.

For those who bring up the Peyton Mannings, Troy Aikmans, Joe Montanas, and Terry Bradshaws, we must remember there are literally dozens of times over quarterbacks' careers who are littered along the highway to NFL success. Joey Harrington, Akili Smith, Tim Couch, David Carr, Alex Smith, Ryan Leaf, Rick Mirer, and Chris Weinke are all names associated with the word "bust."

All of the above mentioned in the last sentence were thrust into the spotlight before they were ready. Not all of them had the mental makeup for the NFL (especially Leaf), but many of them can be looked on and wonder "what if?" As in, what if we had let them learn the pro game academically before being thrown to the wolves.

The worst thing that can happen to Stafford is to be forced to play when he's not 100% ready. Very few quarterbacks in the NFL have ever recovered from horrendous starts to their careers. As of now, Drew Brees is perhaps the sole exception. Jim Plunkett would count, but he had an exceptional first two or three years and recovered late in his career and retired with a Superbowl victory.

The worst thing Jim Schwartz can do is not trust his instincts. He's shown he's capable enough to be given an opportunity to be a head coach. That isn't saying much for a guy coming into an organization that is notorious for being a coaching graveyard: see Monte Clark, Wayne Fontes, Bobby Ross, Gary Moeller, Marty Mornhinweg, Steve Mariucci, and Rod Marinelli. None of the above have ever landed another job since being fired (Dick Jauron did indeed land a job in Buffalo after 2005, but he was never going to be running the show in Detroit after that debacle).

Schwartz and Stafford have one problem that can't be overlooked either: William Clay Ford, Sr. Ford is not a football man. He owns the team because he likes the status of being an owner of an NFL team. From what I've seen, he doesn't care about the fans. But it's his meddling that has cost many a coach's success here. His decision to make Mornhinweg start Joey Harrington over Mike McMahon in 2002 had nothing to do with the long-term success of the organization; he wanted the cornerstone of the franchise starting the inaugural game at Ford Field.

If Schwartz can show he can resist Ford's meddling, he and the Lions will be a better organization for it. That's why it's critical Culpepper get the go-ahead for Week 1 in New Orleans. The league has a "win now" mentality, even when such teams like Detroit are in the middle of rebuilding. Culpepper gives the Lions the best shot.

It is probable that the Lions will start the season off at 0-6. But that doesn't mean it's time to play Stafford. It won't do him any good with little help around him. The best situation for the Lions in any game is ball control: the longer the defense is off the field the better a chance a victory can be secured. Too many glaring holes on defense makes me think Detroit is a 2-14, 3-13, or 5-11 team at best. I'm still going with 3-13.

If you want Stafford to start, then I think two criteria need to be met. One, the Lions need to have won their first game. Two, he should see some time in mop-up action as a warm-up for when he actually does start. He doesn't have the help on either side of the ball to be going at full speed come September.

Stafford will be the starter, guaranteed, on Week 1 of 2010 barring injury. Until then, let him grow into the position.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Another Knuckleheaded Recall

In a country that as of late has gone absolutely recall-happy, today I found out that State Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-Detroit) is facing the potential of a recall because she opposed the construction of a second bridge to Canada and has voted to turn Cobo Hall over to a regional authority. Interestingly enough, it turns out that the effort isn't being spearheaded by a constituent, but rather Adolph Mongo, a name longtime associated with Detroit city politics. Mongo is apparently working on behalf of Matty Moroun, the owner Ambassador Bridge, and the man who wants to build another bridge right next to it.

Tlaib has come out publicly stating she supports a second bridge - one that would be built 1/4 of a mile away and would end in the Delray district (one of the poorest neighborhoods in the country). The Detroit River International Crossing, or DRIC, would be publicly owned, built, and operated, and would extend into Delray section of Detroit.

What's even worse is the fact that Moroun wants to build his bridge without environmental impact studies and does not have proper permits to begin construction. Tlaib feels (rightfully so) that the negatives of putting a second bridge next to the Ambassador Bridge warrant more discussion than they've received. Even the Canadian government is opposed to it. But that hasn't stopped Moroun from already constructing the ramp.

Perhaps maybe now is the time for people to take another look at the ways and means in which we seek to recall elected officials. Recalls were born out of the progressive era when constituents before had little or no means to punish elected officials other than waiting around until the next election. For some, that waiting could be as little as under two years. For some, it could take close to six years if such person were a sitting US Senator. The point of recalls were to remove those from office who had committed some act or acts of malfeasance. If your elected official, be it from alderman to governor, remained in office for some significant period of time, they still had opportunity to further break the public trust until ousted. It wasn't a guarantee either that a sitting legislator or executive would be removed by his/her peers, no matter how many smoking guns were found.

Nonetheless, In the time since 2000, multiple recall efforts have been made against both prominent and not-so prominent politicians. A recall movement in 2001 in Arizona put Sen. John McCain on the spot for his opposition to the Bush administration's domestic policies - most notably his $10 trillion dollar tax cut. While that movement fizzled (McCain was subsequently reelected in 2004 with over 70% of the vote), another recall effort in California was engineered by a sitting US Congressman, Darrell Issa, a Republican.

Issa argued that then-Gov. Gray Davis (D) had misled the voters about the state's financial situation during an election year. Davis defeated Republican Bill Simon without too much trouble. However, Issa (who actually I've found to have a little more respect for since the recall), thought it was necessary to remove Davis immediately. We all know what happened afterwards, - Governator Schwarzenegger.

In the time since, many politicians (especially here in Michigan) have come under attack for votes they have cast. Legal votes for new taxes has been the most prevalent.

While Tlaib isn't being singled out for tax increases, her support for transferring Cobo Hall to a regional authority and opposition to Moroun's bridge does not make her a corrupted politician. Adolph Mongo disagrees. He argues that she won't listen to constituents who support the new bridge. Even if true, that still is not a crime. There may be political consequences for ignoring constituents, but you can't take Mongo's word at face value, either.

What is obvious is that recall efforts are expensive. With the state and municipalities going for broke, these recall efforts do no one any favor. Moroun and Mongo want to be on the up-and-up with the people of Detroit, they should face her head on. None of these proxy wars by citizens they've recruited to recall her.

To do so otherwise, only makes them look like cowards.

Monday, August 24, 2009

I've Lost All Respect for Sarah Palin

I know it's late in the game, but I'll throw my two cents in anyway. I had been willing to give Palin a fair look. Even after most liberals had already thrown her to the wolves before they knew anything about her. I was even critical of the scrutiny she received for lacking knowledge of foreign policy because governors don't have much time to pay attention to complex foreign matters.

But after rambling incoherently on non-existent "Death Panels," I felt it's time to abandon her once and for all.

It's okay to oppose President Obama's proposals for health care reform, it's another to use the most extreme language to stir up opposition to it.

I'm still not sold on Obama, nor am I supporting a single-payer health care system, but I do support the public option and have supported such an idea for ten years. For once, I feel as though I was ahead of the curve.

Just a few thoughts...

Thoughts on the Lions since last December

Last time I commented on my beloved, err, lowly Detroit Lions, they were on the verge of 0-16. Since they accomplished that feat of ignominy, I have mostly been too aggravated to post anything since there are dozens of things I need to get off my chest.

1. Rod Marinelli - I'm sorry, I learned to respect the man a lot, even kind of liked him. But his lack of gamesmanship was demonstrated a final time at Green Bay last December. The Lions had stalled a Packers' drive in their territory, forcing the punt. Instead of calling a timeout, the Lions let the clock run down, down, down, and finally when Green Bay punted, the ball got a lucky Packer bounce and stopped rolling at about either the 8- or 12-yard line with only a handful of seconds left. No chance of a drive.

His worst quality may have been his hypocrisy. Mike Williams, despite the failure he was, probably was unfairly targeted by Marinelli and then-Offensive Coordinator Mike Martz. Everyone had to "earn their place" on the team, which is why fellow Wide Receiver Charles Rogers was cut before the regular season. But why bench Williams, sign WR Az Hakim and play him immediately.

As hard as he was on Williams and Rogers, why didn't that harshness extend to Shaun Rogers, his "pet project?" Like Williams, he was overweight, lazy, and a poor leader, but apparently he had something to offer (when he felt like it).

Overall, he was overpromoted, and thus, in over his head. He was a position coach, nothing more. He may have been a devout follower of the Tampa-Two system, but everytime you saw him on the sidelines, he was always talking to the D-Line. Maybe the LBs once and again. If he wanted to be a Defensive Line coach, fine. Be one. But don't neglect the other third of the defense (the secondary) and the entire offense.

2. Matt Millen - the man should have been fired long before 2008; but firing him after three games was premature. He, like Marinelli and the rest of the organization should have had to live with it for another thirteen weeks before dropping the ax. The only thing is, Roy Williams was traded before the deadline and Jon Kitna was placed on IR, even though his injury would've only kept him out until Week 7 or 8 at the most. Had they not traded Roy Williams for a 1st Round pick (a deal no sane person could pass up), they might've eeked out a win or two. Thus, Millen might still have a job.

3. William Clay Ford, Sr. - he is 1) a liar, and 2) he does not care about the fans. Example 1: raising ticket prices after six straight sellout years at Ford Field. In this economic climate, you've produced a poor product (with one playoff victory in five decades to show for it) to your customers, and this is the way you repay them. You wonder why you can no longer sell out games and risk having the game blacked out on Thanksgiving.

Example 2: Your fondness for Matt Millen blinds you to the fact that your job as the owner is to oversee a winning franchise, in a league designed to ensure there are no permanent winners and losers. Instead of listening to fans maybe once or twice on sports talk radio, or even reading the sports section once a week, you lend your ear only to the man who needs to mollify you in order to keep his while your customers simply give up. Do the words "conflict of interest" have any meaning to you?

Example 3: Making decisions that should be left to the coaches. An overall problem with the organization is the lack of everyone being on the same page. Millen wanted to draft Joey Harrington; Marty Mornhinweg did not. It was Ford's decision, despite his denials, to play Harrington instead of Mike McMahon at the inaugural game at Ford Field in 2002. Harrington wasn't ready, had no help, then wasn't wanted by Mornhinweg's successor, Steve Mariucci, and thus endures the label "bust."

Example 4: After firing Millen, you had a 13-week headstart on finding his replacement? Any moves, like interviewing former GMs, Presidents, etc.? No, Mr. Ford sat on it. He sat on it while New England's Scott Pioli, went to Kansas City. How many Super Bowl rings does Pioli have? Three (and four AFC titles). How about Floyd Reese? In twelve years, he drafted twelve Pro-Bowlers, and even made a trip to the Super Bowl.

Who did Ford end up hiring? Tom Lewand and Martin Mayhew. Lewand was the Lions' COO, and Mayhew was the Asst. GM under Millen. Lewand is now the president, and Mayhew is the GM. Usually, when a team brings in a new front office, they are met with celebration. Their first press conference was anything but. The mood was subdued. Nobody smiled (except maybe Ford).

If anything Mr. Ford, if you're not going to sell the team, could you at least turn over the reigns to your son, Jr.? He at least seems to be proactive, even if you want to blame him for bringing in Millen in the first place. At least he admitted his bad and Millen would've been gone after 2005.

4. The new uniforms- one word, ugly. The numbers didn't need a makeover. The new "Bubbles" (the leaping lion) has a few lines drawn in him. So much for the overhype. I don't like the additional accents/piping around the V-neck. Makes it look tacky.

And while I'm on uniforms, what was so wrong with the black alternates? They were actually pretty sharp looking. I know I'm in the minority on this one, but they are much more aesthetic than the throwbacks. I get a headache just looking at those.

5. The 2009 Draft - wasn't in favor of Stafford, originally. The defense needed the most attention. Mostly the line, maybe another LB, and definitely the secondary. But you do need a QB to be the cornerstone of the franchise, so I'm reluctantly on board. I just hope they don't rush him in before he's ready to play. Let him sit a few games if not the entire season.

But Brandon Pettigrew at No. 20? You take Pettigrew when Ray Maualaga is still on the board? I don't blame Pettigrew, it's not his choice to come to Detroit, but your defense ranked the worst for two seasons straight.

Louis Delmas was the first pick of the 2nd Round. Good, but Maualaga was still on the board. And they need CORNERS. Delmas though, I liked. But it isn't enough to draft a safety with so many other defensive needs.

More to come...