It puts me in a difficult spot, as a fan. When a player like Shaun Rogers--an impossible beast who can outrun, outjump, and generally out-athlete men half his size--gets drafted by the Lions and sees immediate success, it's hard not to love him. When you see this big doofy mug (thanks, Sports Illustrated):
How can you not love him? When it looks like he's on his way to being one of the best players in the game at his position--maybe even on his side of the field--how can you not love him? How can you not want to drive to Ford Field, buy a Big Baby jersey and an eight dollar beer, and holler like a Texas country boy every time he blows somebody up?
Here's the problem.
As NFL.com's Adam Schefter points out, that big fat lovable tub of badass carries a lot of baggage--and I am neither referring to Samsonite, nor the keg of flesh behind his doubtlessly-melon-sized belly button. Rogers plays hard when he is happy, or feels he has something to prove, and that's it. If he's not happy, doesn't feel like he's under the gun, or just plain doesn't wanna be sweet that day, he goes from being a badass to a lardass, effective purely for his size and nothing else.
We as Lions fans saw plenty of both the unblockable monster, and the wind-sucking goldbricker. Many have correctly noted that the loss of Rogers put a dagger in the heart of a nearly-moribund defense, and the one INT we got out of Leigh Bodden in the one year he was here, can't possibly make up for the every-down impact Rogers had. I concede that removing Big Baby from the middle of the defense created a cavernous hole, and our run defense was horrifyingly bad without him.
However, it was only 'pretty bad' with him--and there were critical times (like the Philly game of 2007) where he was technically present on the field, but got blown off the ball by 100-pounds-lesser men. Moreover, his play on the field is only part of the picture. He clearly buys his own hype, and wants to be treated at all times like the lead dog--regardless of recent production or attitude. Everything I heard while he was here was that the was a literal and physical enormous presence in the locker room, and he more or less ruled it with an iron fist. He, like most other talented players stuck on the Millen-era Lions, grew completely sick of it all and turned the coaches out. His influence became entirely negative; his off-field antics grew increasingly unpalatable. Finally, his on-field play absolutely melted into nothing; he could be counted on nothing more than 20 snaps of 'meh', occasionally punctuated by a big play if the game was still close in the fourth quarter.
The Browns got most of a season of "good" Shaun Rogers, making the Pro Bowl as the rarest and most integral piece of a 3-4 defense: the nose tackle. Now that they're building around him, Mangini has realized--too late--the importance of handling Big Baby with kid gloves. He's seeing the problems that come with making Rogers the foundation of your defense. And he'll find out that Rogers will find the chinks in his armor, and undermine his ability to coach. Good luck, Mangenius, you'll need it.