With their loss to my Packers today, the Lions became the first team to go 0-16 in NFL history.
As a graphic showed near the end of the game, a lot has happened in the world since the Lions' last regular season victory over the Chiefs on December 23, 2007. Over a year has passed on the Earth, other NFL teams have won a combined total of 262 games, Michael Phelps won eight gold medals in the Olympics, and Brett Favre retired, unretired, became a Jet, and could easily retire again before the Lions' next win. After such a poor season, it is obvious that change is needed within the organization - and lots of it. However, the Lions franchise is in possession of a few "building blocks" - people who, in my opinion, could help the team turn things around in 2009.
1. Kevin Smith - In his first year as a pro out of Central Florida, Kevin Smith became the starting running back for the Lions. Despite the team's lack of success, Smith did his part, rushing for almost 1000 yards.
^(Calvin Johson and Kevin Smith)
2. Calvin Johnson - Whenever the Lions needed a big play (and whoever was playing quarterback threw to him) Johnson delivered, catching 78 passes for 1331 yards and a dozen TD's. If Johnson was on any other team, I feel sure that he would have been a Pro Bowl starter.
3. Rod Marinelli - Despite losing every week, the Lions coach did everything he could until the end. Even today, he was "getting into it" with the refs, challenging calls, and cheering his team on. In my opinion, the failure of the team is not his fault. Firing him would be a huge mistake. In the last few years, I've seen several coaches try to turn things around in Detroit, and the franchise needs to build with the coach they have, not keep hiring new ones who don't know what's going on.
4. Jason Hanson - The kickers of a team are usually ignored, but Hanson is something special. The 17-year veteran hit 21-for-22 field goals on the season, including 8-for-8 from 50+ yards.
5. Nick Harris - The Lions' punter had a busy season, but was mostly consistent - consistently good. Although he obviously was getting a lot of game experience, he got the job done, not getting a punt blocked all season (I think).
Last but not least:
6. Ernie Sims - Sims is the buried treasure in the pile of dirt that is the Lions defense. While the rest of the team continued to give up big plays (such as the 70 yard TD reception that sealed their fate today) Sims did his job well, making 111 tackles on the season.
Another key to the Lions' future is making good picks at the draft. They have the first pick plus the Cowboys' pick in the first round (acquired in the Roy Williams trade). High draft picks have mostly been duds for the Lions in recent years. Good draft picks, as well as action in the free agency market, will be required for the Lions to turn it around in 2009.
Good luck Rod. You're gonna need it!
PS: Happy New Year to my blog readers!