Neither rain, nor snow, nor sleet . . .

>> 11.05.2009

Hey folks, it’s Mailbag time again.  I’m going to get right to it with a great one from Scott T.:

I was watching SportsCenter tonight, and they cut to a preview segment of tonight's MNF game, with Matt Millen. For the first time, a raw emotion hit me as I listened to MM speak; loathing. I remember listening to Matt Millen, the color analyst, prior to his tenure with the Lions. My thoughts then were "he's pretty sharp, makes good points" etc, etc. Now that he has returned to that position in broadcasting, I am now POSITIVE, that he could make the same statements, prove the same points, and for me, I just want to turn the TV off, or change the channel. His words no longer are credible with me. To be honest, I haven't paid much attention to his return to broadcasting, and have never really listened until tonight. In my mind, and probably my own, Matt Millen, the NFL analyst, is now a joke, and I resent his being on TV passing his opinion on to national and even regional viewers.
This one is tough for me.  I’m always the first to defend Millen’s right to ply his trade—and like you, I enjoyed his analysis work the first time around.  I don’t think that his failure as the CEO of an NFL franchise disqualifies him from a career in broadcasting; certainly there are plenty of great players and coaches who would be terrible analysts, and plenty of mediocre players and coaches (Merrill Hoge) who are very sharp on-camera.

However, I experienced something very similar to what you're talking about a few weeks ago, when Carolina played Dallas on Monday Night Football.  After the game, the talking heads were all taking turns discussing Dallas’ situation, and Millen said “You know, someone who’s got to play better is Roy Williams.”  Within minutes of that admission, he said “You know who I’ve really been impressed with, is Demarcus Ware.”  All of a sudden, I felt an inexplicable rage: YOU DRAFTED ROY WILLIAMS!  YOU PASSED ON DEMARCUS WARE!  ROOOOOAAAAAR!

Bile rushed up my throat, veins popped out of my forehead, and my hands screwed themselves into murderous red claws.  It was a vicious, violent, Pavlovian reaction wholly beyond my control.  After the “Hulk Mad!” moment passed, I was astounded that I could get so worked up over such idle comments.  I’m sure that every NFL executive has dozens of players they wish they could have drafted, including ones they passed on in favor of another prospect they liked *this much* more.  Still, something about Millen making those statements flipped a switch in my brain that I didn’t know I had, especially not in regards to football analysis.

Once we get past the “credibility” angle, the main factor working against Millen is his job selection.  As smooth and insightful as he was in NFL booths, I think he looks awkward and out-of-place during his roundtable work on the MNF pregame/postgame shows.  Also, his college booth analysis, while not awful, lacks the insight of his understanding of the NFL—it’s someone who knows a lot about football in general “reacting” to what’s happening on the field, not an insider “guiding” you through what’s happening on the field.

Now our second question, from my boy Neil at Armchair Linebacker:

Ty, how long can I cry before I dehydrate myself?
Well, we know the human body is about 60% water. According to Wikipedia, symptoms of dehydration begin to set in after losing approximately 2% of the body's water volume, grow severe after 5-6%, and become fatal after a loss of 15%. Given a 200-pound adult male, and accounting for lost water via breathing, sweating, etc., you'd have to cry about five pounds of tears to experience severe dehydration--less depending on how much beer/whisky/turpentine/drain cleaner you've been drinking.

From commenter SomeChoi:

How do you get the energy to keep writing?
I know you're at least partially joking, but I'll answer you seriously: A) my inexplicable love for this team would have me writing on forums and Mlive and the Freep and the News anyway; this just gives all my Lions-y rambling a place to be focused, a place to live and thrive and grow and be useful.  B) I want to be there for other fans like me.  I want to give people a place where they can read and write about the Lions thoughtfully, intelligently, and without fear of mocking laughs or ignorant donkey brays.  I regularly tell commenters and emailers that their kind words give me the fuel to keep driving; I’m not lying when I say that. 
And now a more serious question, what precedent is there to expect Stafford's accuracy to improve? If missing too many wide-open receivers was his problem in college, can we really expect this to be a correctable problem?
First, you'd have to convince me that "missing wide-open receivers" was his problem.  Georgia folks have been constantly telling me that Stafford’s biggest problem at Georgia was actually his total lack of an offensive line . . . in my estimation, Stafford looks fine.  He throws with a lot of velocity, and I think it makes his less-on-target passes look more-not-on-target, if that makes any sense.  I mean, it only follows that receivers have more time to adjust to quails than to rockets. 

Part of this is just his lack of rapport with these wideouts; he spent most of the preseason and training camp running with the twos.  Johnson & Johnson were either starting or hurt throughout most of that time, and Dennis Northcutt missed the entire preseason.  It’s no wonder that they’re not sure where or when to expect his throws, and it’s no wonder that he’s not placing balls right where they need them.

In the second half of the Rams game, Stafford’s body language, throw velocity, ball placement, and facial expressions just screamed that he was trying to execute the offense SO WELL that the Lions couldn’t help but score.  He wasn’t working with his wideouts, he was trying to win despite them—of course, they weren’t doing him any favors either.  On the second-to-last drive, Stafford came to the sideline with a glowering I-can’t-believe-these-guys look on his face that spoke volumes about his opinion of his receivers’ efforts that day . . .

This is both a roster problem, and an experience problem. The Lions will have to bring in better non-Calvin wideouts, and Stafford will have to learn to work with what he’s got, instead of trying to impose his will on his teammates with overexecution.

And now, one from Lopper (which was later seconded by Matt):

Why is it that Killer and others always say that the Lions can't afford another high draft pick because they already have Calvin and Stafford with big contracts?
Well, the answer to this one is pretty depressing: since 2010 is almost certainly going to be an uncapped year, the salary cap actually has nothing to do with it.  It's that the Lions can't afford another Top 5 draft pick.  Like, in terms of money.  Yes, the Fords have a family fortune that we all imagine is effectively infinite.  However, the Lions as a business unit aren't nearly as profitable as they ought to be given their stadium and lease.

Being contractually obligated to rustle up millions every week for game checks to Stafford, Calvin, Backus, and the rest puts a big squeeze on the Lions’ cash flow.  Think about it: 40,000 tickets at their average $67/ticket is $2.68M cash coming in the door each week.  The Lions’ payroll obligations for 2009 are at $120M.  If that’s all paid out over 16 weeks in game checks, that’s $7.5M/wk.  Obviously, this is a MASSIVE oversimplification--but if the Lions are even close to operating from a week-to-week deficit, they’ll be minding their Ps and Qs this offseasons.

If they’re stuck with a Top 5 pick again, they’re probably going to be sideline sitters during this upcoming free agency period.  The focus will be on B- and C-level guys who can fill holes and play roles, instead of young veterans who’d start on a majority of teams in the NFL.  They certainly won't be backing up the Brinks truck to win the Anquan Boldin sweepstakes. On the other hand, if the Fords believe that they're one or two players away from competitiveness--and therefore, a full stadium--they might do as they've (unsuccessfully) done in the past, and spend money to try to make money.

13 comments:

SomeChoi November 5, 2009 at 4:21 PM  

"YOU DRAFTED ROY WILLIAMS! YOU PASSED ON DEMARCUS WARE!"

Boy, it's a LOT WORSE than that. Bonehead Millen drafted MIKE Williams ahead of Demarcus Ware.

Neil November 5, 2009 at 4:36 PM  

I knew I could count on you for answers.

Ryan,  November 6, 2009 at 3:17 AM  

Ticket sales are not the only source of income. If I am not mistaken there are billions of dollars in TV contracts that get split up amongst the teams.

Ryan,  November 6, 2009 at 3:18 AM  

BTW, great site.

Ty November 6, 2009 at 8:32 AM  

SomeChoi--

Ugh, don't remind me. Like I said, I'm sure every GM/personnel guy has fish stories about the ones that got away . . . I'm sure the Lions would have taken half the dudes in the first round this year if they'd had enough picks.

Still, it's infuriating to see Millen pooh-pooh a guy he drafted, and hype up a player he passed on, despite an aching need at that position.

Peace
Ty

Ty November 6, 2009 at 8:34 AM  

Neil--

When it comes to useless info, you know I've got you covered.

Peace
Ty

Ty November 6, 2009 at 8:40 AM  

Ryan--

Thanks! Yeah, there's a lot of revenue sharing going on--look at the Forbes link I posted; the Lions' total revenue is just over $200M. However, player costs alone are $120M, not to mention staff, facilities, debt payments, etc. I'm sure the Lions aren't actually in the red on a year-to-year basis--but during the season, if the cash inflow from tickets and concessions isn't covering the outflow in game checks to players, you're pulling from savings to stay solvent. That's no way to operate an NFL franchise, which even in this economy should be a license to print money.

. . . so, if the Lions are stuck with another $70M #1 pick, they won't be making a big splash in free agency.

Peace
Ty

BenderCU November 6, 2009 at 11:29 AM  

I think i'd rather the lions avoid the big free agency splash regardless of draft status, seems like most of the time u over pay for an average player and they take time to adjust to scheme, other players, etc.. building through the draft is a much cheaper and better way to do things. That is of course assuming u draft well... which i think we did pretty good last year.

BenderCU November 6, 2009 at 11:31 AM  

Oh and about Millen, to me he lost all creditability as an analyst when he couldn't even analyze his own team or the players to bring in.

Matt,  November 6, 2009 at 12:11 PM  

On Millen: I have both the violent gut reaction and the more passive "he has no credibility" reactions to him. Kevin Rattaree of The Huddle said the same thing a few weeks ago and he's not even a Lions fan. He compared putting Millen back on the air so soon to inviting the guy who raped your fiance to the wedding.

SomeChoi: Just have to point out that Millen also drafted Mike Williams ahead of Shawne Merriman, Jammal Brown, Aaron Rodgers, Roddy White, Luis Castillo, Marlin Jackson, Heath Miller, Logan Mankins, (Shaun Cody), Lofa Tatupu, Nick Collins, Vincent Jackson, Frank Gore, Channing Crowder, (Stanley Wilson), Justin Tuck, Kirk Morrison, Trai Essex, Leroy Hill, Nick Kaczur, Sean Considine, Marion Barber, Brandon Jacobs, Kerry Rhodes, and Darren Sproles.

BenderCU: I agree. I think free agency is better used to add that last piece or two, fill out back-up spots with some experience, or take a shot on a guy that might be past his prime (i.e. the Patriots). Trying to actually build your team that way (i.e. the Redskins) doesn't work. The draft is definitely the better way to go. However, this means drafting well in ALL ROUNDS (i.e. the Giants getting Tuck and Jacobs in '05), not simply hitting on Top 10 guys. The Lions getting either right would be a pleasant change from the Millen Era.

Matt,  November 6, 2009 at 12:13 PM  

Adding to SomeChoi section: But, y'know, Mel Kiper said he was the best player in the draft so getting him at #10 was a total steal. sheesh

BenderCU November 6, 2009 at 6:07 PM  

I always wondered how Mike Williams would have done if we had switched him to TE... I remember reading a few analyst that suggested trying it, but i can't remember all the reasons he stunk it up as a WR, those same things could just as easily be bad for a pass catching TE.

Matt,  November 11, 2009 at 12:42 PM  

BenderCU. . .Williams would've sucked at TE, too. The main reason for his failure was simply lack of effort. The guy habitually weighed in heavy and wasn't interested in doing anything but running deep routes. He definitely had NO interest in playing Tight End. Mike Martz certainly didn't help his development/motivation, but it would've taken quite a coach to do so. He was simply a bad draft pick who took his money and ran.

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