Saturday, March 20, 2010

Reliving the NFL Draft With the Lions

Now with the Super Bowl over, another NFL season has come and gone. If you’re a Lions fan such as myself, you know this only means one thing: the Lions are now on the clock.

The excessive losses have taken their toll on many a football fans in Detroit. The Lions have missed the playoffs now for ten straight years. They haven’t had a winning season since 2001, but they were 9-7 and missed the playoffs on an account of a kick return by Chicago Bears KR R. W. McQuarters at the Silverdome in December 2000.

Had that game gone the other way, Detroit would have made the playoffs at 10-6, and many of the seasons in the previous decade, we would have probably been sent packing in the Wild Card Round. Instead, Lions’ owner and Chairman William Clay Ford Sr. cleaned house and hired Matt Millen at the urging of his son, Bill Jr. What took place was the worst-run franchise in football for all of the 2000s, culminating in the first ever 0-16 season in 2008. Matt Millen was fired after Week 3 and replaced by then-Chief Operations Officer Tom Lewand and then-Assistant General Manager Martin Mayhew. While Lewand inherited Millen’s role as President and Mayhew promoted to GM, the remaining thirteen games of the 2008 seasons were dubiously credited to Millen’s honor.

In that time, the Lions under Lewand and Mayhew have re-engineered the entire organization from top to bottom. Head Coach Rod Marinelli was dismissed the day after the season ended and was replaced by Jim Schwartz. Schwartz was given his first head coaching job after years as a Defensive Coordinator with the Tennessee Titans.

The Lions made swift personnel changes, signing free agent Linebacker Larry Foote (a hometown hero who played for Michigan), and trading overpaid DT Cory Redding to Seattle for Linebacker Julian Peterson, another hometown hero who played for Michigan State. They also let go of key personnel who didn’t live up to promise, such as Cornerbacks Leigh Bodden, Travis Fisher, and Brian Kelly, Free Safety Dwight Howard, and Right Tackle George Foster.

Of course, the biggest steal the Lions grabbed was a trade that sent their most productive Wide Receiver, Roy Williams to the Dallas Cowboys for a first-round pick and a third-round pick. The Lions, after obtaining the No.1 pick in the draft, selected Matthew Stafford, Quarterback out of Georgia, and then took Tight End Brandon Pettigrew with the No.20 pick they received from Dallas in the Roy Williams trade.

Time will tell whether or not Stafford and Pettigrew will pan out, or whether or not other picks such as Louis Delmas, Deandre Levy, Derrick Williams, and Aaron Brown will turn around. At one point in the 2009 season, it had been reported that if the draft had been done over again, four of the Lions’ draft picks (Stafford, Pettigrew, Delmas, and Levy) all would have gone in the first round.

But what time has told us already is how well past draft picks have done for the organization. These next few articles will feature 25 years of draft futility and utility; how well Lions’ first round draft picks have faired in the last quarter century.

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