Comes the Turk

>> 9.06.2009

Of all of the many aspects of professional football that we as fans either never see, or overlook, probably the dimension that’s swept the farthest under the rug is this: it’s professional football.  This game, it’s these men’s lives--and livelihood.  Much was made of the heartwarming story of WR Dane Looker, who’d  given up on playing this season, and was working on a new deck when the Lions called.  Nobody’s writing stories about Dane Looker taking a red-eye flight back to his wife and three kids, sitting on his new deck with a cold one, staring at the full moon, and wondering if his phone will ever ring again.

I don’t mean to be maudlin; this, of course, is the nature of the business. Just like law, finance, or medicine, these are the best of the best of the best in the world at what they do.  While there is friendship and family, and there are institutions and traditions, the NFL is a trust—a oligarchy of thirty-two billion-dollar businesses.  From the unspeakably wealthy men who run these teams, to the unpaid interns putting in 90-hour weeks, the pressure on every single member of these organization is unimaginable—and so is their level of performance.   The difference between 16-0 and 0-16, in terms of absolute overall franchise quality, is probably only a few percentage points. 

You know that guy who sucks so bad you keep bubbly on ice for the day he’s sent packing?  He’s an incredible athlete, faster than you could ever believe, ripped to the Nth degree, and probably spent the first seventeen years of his life being the best player on the field, in every game he played.  If you challenged him to a footrace, he’d probably cover twice the distance you do in half the time.  And yet, as soon as they can find a guy that’s a breath faster, his six-figure salary becomes cab fare and a firm handshake.

Many good players, and good men, lost their jobs today.  I’m most depressed about Stuart Schweigert—whose dedication to the fans turned my family’s trip to the open practice event from a total fiasco into a nice memory that might never leave my two oldest children.  From his Twitter feed, you get a true sense of exactly how painful it is to wholly invest your mind and heart—and literally risk your body—for half a year, only to have your dream snatched away from you on the eve of the season.

 However, it’s not all bad news.  Underdogs like Adam Jennings and Landon Cohen have managed to parlay a consistently excellent camp into a full-time roster spot.  The Lions, as anticipated, held four roster spots for quarterbacks, in order to give hometown favorite Drew Stanton time to heal.  And, in terms of what we fans usually concern ourselves with, the wins and losses?  Well, only 19 of the 53 players from the 0-16 team’s opening-day roster remain; an astounding feat by GM Martin Mayhew, head coach Jim Schwartz, and everyone else with a say in assembling the personnel.   

It remains to be seen exactly how much better this year’s iteration of the Detroit Lions football club is than the last.  However, it’s inarguably a dramatically different squad, from the bottom of the roster to the top.  In fact, it’s still in flux---the “final” list of 53 is really just a snapshot in time, a waypoint on the journey from the opening of camp to the conclusion of this season.  The Lions already have their wish list of candidates from other teams; their trash still potentially the Lions’ treasure.  They will certainly use and abuse their #1 waiver priority.  The revolving door will spin and spin—and with each go-round, the roster will get a little better, someone will get a new job, and, unfortunately, someone will be fired.


Joe Willy,  September 6, 2009 at 10:25 AM  

Nice post. One thing that fans find easy to forget when they see their team "improve" in the off-season is that it's designed so every team can improve. What is hard is to know who actually made the right moves to improve compared to everyone else. Yeah, I kind of thought Stu was going to make it this time. He was flying around and making good tackles.

It's hard seeing guys like Follett, Gronko, Davis and a couple others not find room in the 53 and I hate seeing them exposed to being signed by other teams even though I know it's not likely since most teams won't look at a reject from the worst team. It does make me feel good about this team that they cut guys I thought were capable of playing. They cut guys that they'd have been forced to keep in the past because they were so bad.

The Lions mostly got better everywhere and even have a couple positions that are strengths- RB, TE, LB, RDE. Our CBs look decent. OK depth on the O-line with addition of Jansen and Salaam and they an improved push on run blocking. Stafford has showed signs of being spectacular if given enough time. I don't think the WRs are weaker than last year and could actually be much better depending on how Williams develops and what we see from Nothcutt and B. Johnson.

The DT situation is terrible though. I can't believe Smith got cut. If Grady's suspension takes place we're starting a rookie from Stillman next to Cohen, Fluellan or IAF?

DG,  September 6, 2009 at 11:54 AM  

you're too smart for your own good, ty....wish you'd quit using all these 'advanced' words and just write 'normally'....makes you seem like a blowhard....i'm in a pissy mood right now so don't take that the wrong way....just 'dumb' it down some....i'm REALLY worried about davis not making it thru waivers and/or signing with another team....out of all the waivees he's the one i'm the most anxious to see a. he makes it thru waivers and b. he agrees to come to our PS....i'd like to see gron, follet, and murtha clear waivers and sign to our PS too, but none more than davis at this point.

Anonymous,  September 6, 2009 at 2:24 PM  

Ty, contrary to DG, I find it really refreshing to read literary comments about our team. You are erudite but not pedantic (go to the dictionary, DG). Btw, as a trial lawyer for 35 years, although it felt good to read us classified as "the best of the best of the best" there are plenty of us who are not that. But thanks for the props anyway.

I was most disappointed by Gronko and Stu being let go. I feel we may come to rue this day if they are not on our PS. Overall though, after 50 years of being crushed by this team, I am optomistic, even though I am every year at this time.

Keep up the good work, Ty, your blog is beyond excellent!!!!!!

Anonymous,  September 6, 2009 at 11:32 PM  

i know what the words mean you moron.

Ty,  September 8, 2009 at 9:41 AM  

Joe Willy--

Right on; the Lions don't have room for these guys because they aren't reaching for need; on other teams a Ramzee Robinson doesn't make the team his first year just because there was no one else at fifth corner. The Lions are able to stash their "projects" on the practice squad, instead of counting on them to contribute . . . and yes, it's a sign of progress that they're in that position already.

I agree that RB and LB seem to be "set"; i.e., great starters, good backups, a mix of veteran experience and talented youth, set for not just this year but (probably) next year and (possibly) the year after. TE? I think Pettigrew has to be as advertised for 16 games, and then Heller has to grow hands, and then Fitz needs to . . . I don't know, vaguely resemble his rookie season? But yes, Pettigrew has transformed TE from the weakest part of the roster to a possible strength.

I like Henry and Buchanon as two B-plus-to-B-minus starters, but the Lions clearly want slide Henry back to safety, and there's literally no one else on the roster I'm comfortable with getting any significant time. One injury and the situation will officially reach RED ALERT status . . . especially when you consider how aggressive our front seven is going to be. This defense will give up a LOT of long passes.


Ty,  September 8, 2009 at 10:00 AM  

"you're too smart for your own good, ty...."

Oh, DG, if only I had a nickel for every time I've heard that. I know that I tend to wax a little more poetic/philosophical than most, but that's me. There are a hundred thousand million sports blogs that are like "The Lions suck, but Megan Fox is hot, check it out!" That's not me.

I'm also rarely/never going to be "UP TO THE SECOND LIONS NEWS" guy, because my wife and three small kids are the center of my life--and I try to incorporate them in my fandom, not forsake them for my fandom.

My writing is far from perfect. One of the reasons I started this blog is to get myself writing again; challenge myself to improve, to reach for the limits of my potential--and I know that I'm guilty of overwriting far more than underwriting. I'm trying to tighten it up, and reduce some of the excesses--but I'll NEVER dumb it down.


Ty,  September 8, 2009 at 10:47 AM  


Thank you, thank you, thank you for the kind words--and for reading!

Rereading my passage, I wasn't super-clear; in law, finance, and medicine the best of the best of the best are on a different planet than most folks in terms of ability, education, work experience--and oh yes, compensation. Even the "lowliest" of lawyers is smarter, better educated, and better compensated than a huge swath of the American workforce. How's the old saw go? "What do they call the guy who finished last in his class at med school? Doctor."

Same goes for athletes; that guy who "sucks" is probably twice as fast AND twice as strong as the fastest and/or strongest person you know (unless of course you know some pro athletes!). My fastest friend once ran a hand-timed 5.0 40, and he's got a runner's build. In the NFL, there are a couple dozen 320-plus pounders that fast!


Anonymous,  September 8, 2009 at 10:57 AM  

i understand ty....i'll just have to sift thru the 'extras' and make due....=)

Matt,  September 15, 2009 at 5:20 PM  

Megan Fox isn't that hot :-)

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