an open letter

>> 4.16.2009

Messrs. Mayhew and Lewand--

You, gentlemen, are fully cognizant of the task you have at hand.  You figuratively hold the keys to an NFL franchise, the Detroit Lions--an organization worth, perhaps, a billion dollars.  You literally have hundreds of people in your employ, and many thousands of people indirectly rely on your success for their family's meal ticket.  On an even broader scope, millions of people over the past seventy-five years have invested their time, emotions, and money in following and supporting your organization--season tickets, single-game tickets, club and luxury suites, parking, concessions, hats, shirts, jerseys, flags, banners, stuffed animals, etc.  Of course, none of this is anything you aren't keenly aware of.

As you also know, hosting the Final Four in Detroit--with Michigan State in it to the finish line--was not only a great psychological boon to the people of Michigan, it provided a tangible economic boost to the city of Detroit.  However, as many pointed out, this was fleeting; a wonderful moment in time that can be hung on a wall--but won't pay the bills.  You, gentlemen, hold the power to generate that same kind of goodwill and rejuvenation on an ongoing basis.  With the on- and off-field renaissance of the Detroit Lions, you can bring that celebratory atmosphere back to Ford Field from autumn through winter.  You can create joy, create jobs, and create a legacy for yourselves as foremen of the rebuilding of a city.

The first overall pick of the NFL draft becomes, for good or for ill, the avatar of that franchise.  For years, the success or failure of the franchise that selects first will be chained--on the field, in the ledgers, and in the mind of the public--to the success or failure of that player.  In interviews and commercials, on the field and off, whomever you choose with that first overall pick will wear the first face anyone pictures, and speak with the first voice anyone hears, when people think of the Detroit Lions.  This selection is absolutely crucial to your rebuilding efforts; there is no room for error.

When Jim Schwartz was introduced to the media as the new head coach of the Lions, he spoke about finding the "right person", not just the right position, to take first overall.  My heart rose when I heard that, because I believe he spoke the truth.  The franchise you two now control cannot afford to bind itself to the player with the best workout numbers or the most gaudy statistics--not unless that player is also committed to being as impressive in the locker room and in the community as he is on the field.  Of course, you two have each personally investigated every aspect of these young men to a far deeper level than I could.  Between the two of you, you've watched hours of film of these players, sat and broken bread with these players, watched them in public and private workouts, spoken with them many times . . . all I have to go on is their public faces: what their agents would like me know, and what the media have been able to find out.

That having been said, I know I speak with the voice of many, many fans when I say that Aaron Curry should be the cornerstone of the new Detroit Lions.  His heart, his desire, his character, and his selflessness are all well documented.  His bringing a 12-year-old leukemia patient along with him to the draft is a perfect example of what the #1 overall pick should be to this franchise, to this city, and to this state.  His deferring of his NFL dream one more year, with his family facing homelessness, so that he could go back to school and ensure he'll be able to take care of that family for generations, proves that his priorities are in exactly the right place.  His leading a basement-dwelling Wake Forest team to the ACC championship proves he knows exactly what it means to be the heart and soul of a resurrected football team.  His once-in-a-generation combination of size, speed, agility, desire, and intelligence will immediately bolster a Lions' squad that was, just last season, arguably the worst NFL defense ever assembled.

Not long ago, the Lions' players were well known for being great leaders in the community, providers who put down roots in Detroit, and gave back to the city as much as the city had given them.  As you know, Robert Porcher won the NFL's Walter Payton Man of the Year award multiple times; Aaron Curry will surely follow in his footsteps.  Look out the window, gentlemen; read the papers on days when they can afford to be printed.  On the heels of the news that Michigan again leads the nation in joblessness, it would speak volumes about the class, the character, and the priorities of the Detroit Lions organization to ignore the hype.  To ignore the pundits and the shellacked talking heads.  To ignore the common wisdom and the conventional thinking.  To forget value charts and stopwatches, "big boards" and salary slots.  To yoke your franchise to the shoulders of a bold young man who will help Lions fans to their feet, on the field and off, again and again and again.  To restore pride to the Lions.

To draft Aaron Curry.

Forever a fan,

Ty Schalter

http://www.thelionsinwinter.com

16 comments:

Anonymous,  April 16, 2009 at 3:58 PM  

we'll see if they've heard the curry cries come draft day. i just think we need to go LT with that first pick if we're not able to trade out of it somehow.

Jim,  April 16, 2009 at 4:39 PM  

I don't think the Lions will be good this year or perhaps next year. We can always hope.

I think drafting 1.1 is as much about generating excitement as a good player. The fact of the matter is there is no sure thing in the NFL, but if we're going to have a player we can be proud of this upcoming year, it needs to be someone who will immediately make an impact off the field(and hopefully on).

I think that Curry is the perfect sign of this enormous transition. He's a character guy, just like Marinelli would have wanted. He can also play football, which is something Marinelli should probably have been more concerned with.

Draft Curry. Do it now. Press the damned button.

David M April 16, 2009 at 6:34 PM  

Ty, are you planning on actually sending this letter to the team? Would be cool if you did.
I understand why Curry probably wont be the pick, but if we do pick him, then it would have to be for the reasons that you listed above. I also believe that a ray lewis type player is what is needed for this franchise.
It really moved me when I heard about Curry taking the leukemia child with him to the draft. He really is a special person.

David M April 16, 2009 at 6:50 PM  

One last note,

I have a feeling that your sentiments will fall on deaf ears within the organization. Regardless of public opinion, GM's know that winning is all that matters to the fans. You may upset the fans with certain decisions, but they will forget they ever wanted anything else if your decision results in victories. If a GM listen's to public opinion, against his own judgment, they will have his head if the plan fails.
Im afraid to say it, but fans would rather have a team full of winning jerks, than a bunch of honorable losers.
As we saw with marinelli, character alone can only go so far.
Drafting Curry doesnt seem to be a sound football decision. Yes, curry has both talent and character, but Schwartz would have to have a very special role for him (which would be awesome), otherwise it doesnt make sense to draft him first.


Regardless of how we draft, the rest of the league will think we are idiots. If we take Curry for the reasons you mentioned, teams will say we have no eye for value. If we take stafford, he might bust and the pundits will say we are stupid for picking him.

Ty April 16, 2009 at 8:12 PM  

TimT--

Thank you. If it's not obvious, I really poured my heart into this one. It's been rattling around in my head; with all the Staffordness of the past few weeks I'd almost managed to talk myself into being excited about Stafforfd, yet reading about Curry and that boy really crystallized my feelings: Curry is the right pick. Stafford may or may not succeed, but Curry is the right pick.

Peace
Ty

Ty April 16, 2009 at 8:48 PM  

Anon--

I can't scream too loudly if we take a left tackle; it's long been my belief that elite left tackles are only available at the very very top of the draft--so if you're picking up there, and one's available, and you ain't got one, then you take him.

I'm worried that Jason Smith is a fantastic pass blocker, but will be a liability in the run game for at least the foreseeable future. Monroe seems more balanced, but is he that big of an upgrade over Backus? Plus, everyone assumes that good old Jeff will happily slide over, but you're talking about displacing a captain for a rookie . . . It may not be the plug-and-play improvement that everyone assumes.

Peace
Ty

Scotty G,  April 16, 2009 at 8:50 PM  

+1 Ty, +1

Ty April 16, 2009 at 11:08 PM  

Jim--

You and I are in agreement . . . actually you bring up a very interesting point. If Marinelli were still the coach, would Curry be a mortal lock? Given his range and coverage ability, I think quite possibly yes. His body is built very much like Urlacher--though his heart is built more like Jerry Rice. Oh good Lord, why won't they just take the man?

Peace
Ty

5Bakerstreet,  April 17, 2009 at 12:10 AM  

Folks would be hard-pressed to find more loyal and compassionate fans than Detroit Lions fans, we literally bleed blue and silver.

Appreciate that for a second.

And then.

Forget it realizing that whomever we draft at 1 or at 255, the pick cannot be an emotional one.

{I prefer Curry, I'm fine with Monroe or Jason Smith, and I suppose if Stafford is the pick I'd go along with it} simply because I'm a loyal Lion fan regardless if they go 16-0 or 0-16 or anywhere inbetween.

Patience is required as right now as we have no other choice than to trust the new regime's decision making process. We must believe that systemically, Mayhew and Schwartz will draft the players that will most benefit the Lions. We must hope Ford doesn't override the revised decision making process. And lastly we must wait another agonizingly lengthy 8 days for the 2009 draft.

Go Lions

Steve April 17, 2009 at 12:15 AM  

Ty--

The person you need to send an open letter to, if you really want to be heard, is Curry himself.

If Curry, and by proxy his agent, really possesses the kind of character that he seems to have, then he would offer to sign with the Lions at a price that they could not refuse.

The number one overall pick is paid an exorbitant price that is out of whack with the rest of NFLPA. With an uncapped era rapidly approaching, he would eventually get paid down the line, if his performance warrants it.

If Curry signed for a price below recent numer one overall pick contract levels, meanwhile citing the pressure that the failing economy will have on the ability of NFL franchises to meet their bottom lines, not only would he be worthy of your adoration, but his '09 draft cohorts would absolutely hate him.

I think that Curry is going to be a very good player. He will likely be a multiple Pro Bowl attendee. That being said, $35+ M for a linebacker, with Sims and Peterson in tow, would be akin to the Lions adding Mike Williams, after already having recently drafted Roy Williams and Charles Rogers. It would be imprudent.

As the draft approaches, with the Lions front office placing an impetus upon getting their eventual pick signed pre-draft, Curry and his agent should draft a deal that the Lions would be foolish to turn down. Flip the script. Turn the whole draft process on it's ear, meanwhile not making the Lions look like spend-thrift's ala the Bidwill's or Cincy Brown family.

Ty April 17, 2009 at 9:41 AM  

5Bakerstreet--

Of course, you are absolutely right. All my Stafford-y posts over the past few weeks have been me talking with my brain; of course I know that I have to trust the professional talent evaluators. How many times have I said, "Martin Mayhew is an NFL veteran with a law degree from Georgetown; how arrogant to assume we even approach his level of understanding the game"? Like, a lot.

Still, my heart tells me that Curry is meant to be a Lion, that he's exactly what we need, on the field and off.

Peace
Ty

Ty April 17, 2009 at 10:56 AM  

Okay, I forwarded it to Octagon football, the agency that represents Aaron Curry. If anyone out there has any email addresses of actual Lions employees, please let me know at thelionsinwinter@gmail.com !

Peace
Ty

Jim,  April 17, 2009 at 11:19 AM  

@David M,

I agree that at the end of the day winning games is the only thing that matters. But I really do think that this dude has all of the physical tools to be as dominant as Ray Lewis. Whether he has the headspace or the murderous desire (..oops) to do so we'll see.

I think regardless Curry has a persona I'd be happy to see associated with the Lions.

You make a good point about getting Curry to lowball. I think he is in a unique position in that he could slide back to 1.5 just on account of the fact he is a LB and no one wants to pay 1.1 money for him. If he's willing to come in at 1.3 rates and be 1.1 he still comes out ahead.

A LT or QB would probably not make that same concession.

I think if we all knew that Aaron Curry was to be the next Ray Lewis no one would bat an eye drafting him at 1.1. But of course that's the big question, can he be the next Ray Lewis? If we take him I hope he is, if we don't I hope he isn't.

Jim,  April 17, 2009 at 11:29 AM  

In case it isn't clear I'm +1 for Curry. Ty do you have the ability to put up a poll or something so we can quantify if people back this letter without having to comment?

If not do you have a desire to have people say +1 or something so in the very slim chance this letter gets attention from a decision maker, the fan mandate can be expressed?

Joe R the Titan Fan April 17, 2009 at 4:39 PM  

Schwartz's defenses in Tennessee operated out of the nickel most of the time. With Big Albert clogging up the middle, we didn't really need a good MLB, so we made do with Stephen Tulloch, a fourth rounder. The more Schwartz-like thing to do in this draft would be to take Stafford or a tackle at 1.1, a cornerback at 1.20 and Ron Brace from Boston College at 2.1 to play nose tackle.

Of course, he could be changing his strategy, or Cunningham might want an MLB.

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