the mock results

>> 4.25.2009

Of course, I'll have PLENTY of stuff coming about the events of the day.  Those of you who followed me @lionsinwinter got a lot of my first-take reactions.  The mock results (with my final mock, as I turned it in, correct picks bolded) were as such:

1 (Lions) Matthew Stafford QB Georgia 

2 (Rams) Jason Smith OT Baylor 

3 (Chiefs) Tyson Jackson DE LSU

4 (Seahawks) Aaron Curry LB Wake Forest

5 (Browns) Michael Crabtree WR Texas Tech

6 (Bengals) Andre Smith OT Alabama

7 (Raiders) Jeremy Maclin WR Missouri 

8 (???) Mark Sanchez QB Southern California 

9 (Packers) B.J. Raji DT Boston College

10 (49ers) Eugene Monroe OT Virginia

11 (Bills) Brian Orakpo DE Texas

12 (Broncos) Aaron Maybin DE Penn State

13 (Redskins) Malcolm Jenkins CB Ohio State

Sanchez @ #5 definitely hurt; still, if the Raiders had not gone completely Al Davis and/or the Jags had taken Crabtree, it wouldn't have stung much. As it was, with the Raiders taking Heyward-Bey a round early, the Jags then snatching up Monroe, and then the Bills passing on Orakpo, My TV turned into a 4-way tie for second place. I lost all the coin tosses, and ended up with the fifth-place prize package. I mean, tickets to both Lions preseason games, an MSU ballcap and T-shirt, a tape measure, a cordless screwdriver, and a drill bit set is nice and everything . . . but the second-place package was a grill, a custom Lions jersey, the same tickets, etc. . . . I was a pick or two away from my TV.


the big day

I'm going to be all over Twitter today, both reading the news and responding to it.  However, I'll be first tailgating for the Green and White game, and then heading out to a local watering hole for the mock draft contest, so I won't be blogging anything until late tonight.  Follow me on Twitter today @lionsinwinter!


daddy needs a new plasma TV

>> 4.24.2009

So it's Stafford--sealed, and soon-to-be delivered (no word on actual signing yet).  The tears have been shed, the teeth have been gnashed . . . please folks, as a personal plea from me to all you fans out there--cheer for this kid.  Support him, root for him, and wish him well.  His fate is now synonymous with the Lions's.

Now, for something a little different.  Tomorrow, I'm participating in a mock draft contest sponsored by a local radio station.  The deal is that I'm to project the first 12 players selected in the draft--teams don't matter, just slots.  Now, I have to get the picks right, so I'm not throwing any big curveballs to make a point or look clever.  I'm tyring to prognosticate, not proselytize.  To the picks:

1 (Lions) Matthew Stafford QB Georgia

2 (Rams) Jason Smith OT Baylor

3 (Chiefs)
Tyson Jackson DE LSU

4 (Seahawks)  Michael Crabtree WR Texas Tech

5 (Browns)  
Aaron Curry LB Wake Forest

6 (Bengals) Eugene Monroe OT Virginia

7 (Raiders) Jeremy Maclin WR Missouri

8 (???)  
Mark Sanchez QB Southern California

9 (Packers) B.J. Raji DT Boston College

10 (49ers) Brian Orakpo DE Texas

11 (Bills) Andre Smith OT Alabama

12 (Broncos) Aaron Maybin LB Penn State

It's long been thought that Curry was going to be the #3, but everything that I've been reading that sounds  smart says that Pioli won't invest that much in the linebackers; he put all his money and top picks up front (think Seymour, Warren, Wilfork, etc.).  I've frequently heard that Jackson's a top ten, even top five guy that hasn't been getting the mocker love because 3-4 DE isn't a glamour position.  Sanchez is a total wild card.  I could buy him going at #2 if the tackle need wasn't so great.  I could EASILY buy the Chiefs moving out of #3 so someone could come and get Sanchez in front of the 'Hawks, but who would move up that far?  Peter King says the 'Hawks Sanchez mojo is a smokescreen, too, and that it's between Crabtree and Curry.  I don't buy that the Seahawks let Peterson walk because of his contract--then make Curry one of the highest-paid linebackers in the game.  So, I've got them taking Crabtree . . .  The Browns flip over Curry at 1.5, and the Bengals are thrilled to see Monroe at 1.6.  I have the Raiders taking the best speed WR on the board--which, by the way, is NOT Darius Heyward-Bey.  Sanchez won't slide past eight, period.  The Packers are thrilled to anchor their 3-4 with Raji at nine, the Niners are pumped to get Orakpo at ten, the Bills replace Peters without having to trade up, and the Broncos take the best available 3-4 defender.

Thoughts, anyone?


the time of reckoning is at hand

Tank McNamara, by Millar/Hinds

By all accounts, the deadline for a signed deal is tonight.  When we wake up tomorrow morning, either Matt Stafford or Aaron Curry is going to be the cornerstone of the Detroit Lions for at least the next few years.  Here's a hint: it's going to be Stafford.

Peter King (@SI_Peterking) tweeted yesterday around nine A.M. that the Lions and Stafford weren't anywhere close--but that a deal "has to" get done.  I'm hearing that safe refrain echoed all over, that the Lions want Stafford and Stafford wants the Lions and it all just makes way too much sense.   That if the Lions really do believe that Stafford is a franchise quarterback, they can't possibly let it come down to money.  That they can't bring in Aaron Curry and tell him "you're our man", when Curry knows Stafford was really their man.  That they can't pass on the guy who'll turn fifty years of rotten quarterbacking around.  That they can't play safe; can't play "not to win".  That they can't meekly lay down a sac bunt when they're down 0-16 . . .

 . . . and of course, it's all true.  I've said before, if the Lions really think that Stafford is a can't-miss franchise quarterback, then they absolutely have to take him.  There's also no doubt that this year is the perfect year to take a quarterback; if the Lions even win a single game, they literally will be infinitely better than last season!  There will be no expectations, and therefore little pressure.  Given a year or two to groom, a year or two to get comfortable, a year or two to mature and grow, a year or two for even more pieces to be put around him, Matt Stafford could indeed be the next Troy Aikman or Peyton Manning.  Were it not for the state of the Lions' defense, and the singular character and quality of Aaron Curry, I'd feel a lot better about it . . . and if it weren't for Stafford's percieved accuracy, poise, and production issues in college, I'd feel great about it. 

And what of Aaron Curry?  It's undeniable that he brings a multitude of incredible qualities to the table: sterling character, protoypical size, breathtaking speed.  The ability to drop back into coverage, roam the field like a safety, and run back picks for touchdowns.  The ability to man up on a recieving tight end, and take him completely out of the equation.  The ability to put a hand down, and come flying around the corner (he didn't do it often, but YouTube proves he can do it) . . . a wealth of seemingly contradictory skills, all rolled up into one.  The problem is that the Lions aren't going to use any of those skills.  Jim Schwartz put it thus:

"We're going to need a big thumper," Schwartz said. "I mean, a strong thumper in the middle for base defense. We're talking -- I don't want to put height and weights -- but a big, strong, physical player that can play between the tackles and that can take on offensive guards, even though (the linebacker) is being outweighed by almost 100 pounds on some occasions."

Can Aaron Curry be that thumper?  Yes, of course.  But the premium the Lions would pay for Curry--we're talking eight figures, guaranteed--over, say, USC's Rey Maualuga, would be buying them all that other wonderful stuff that Curry can do, but wouldn't be doing for the Lions.  In fact, let's look a little harder at Rey-Rey.  Standing at 6'-3", 260#, he's just a little bit bigger than Curry (6'-1", 254#).  While he didn't get a clean 40 off at the combine, thanks to a pulled hamstring, scouts timed Maualuga in the low 4.6 range at his Pro Day.  Maualuga also turned in short shuttle times around 4.25, which puts him right up with the very best.  Many Lions fans have cited the National Football Posts's famous article on short shuttle time being a key indicator of a middle linebacker's success in the NFL; Maualuga clearly shines in that department.  All told, Maualuga boasts a little bit more size, slightly shiftier hips, and all his college experience being at Mike, over Aaron Curry.  LA Times columnist Sam Farmer tweeted with me a bit yesterday about Maualuga; I offered to lay a dollar that Maualuga doesn't slip past the Lions at 1.20, and he said he wouldn't take the bet--because he agrees with me.  Honestly, is Curry's dedication to public service worth an extra twenty million dollars over a player who might even be a better pure MLB from day one?


Okay, okay--no, probably not.  If I'm answering the question honestly; if I'm using my head and not my heart, no.  Matt Stafford and Rey Maualuga would be infinitely better than Aaron Curry and any quarterback that might be available at 1.20 or later.  Will I always pine for Aaron Curry, just like I pine for Patrick Willis and Demarcus Ware and Shawne Merriman and every other monster defender that the Lions have passed up during the Millen era?  Yes, absolutely.  If Matt Stafford is the next great quarterback in the NFL, will it be worth it?


Er, yes.  Yes.  I meant "yes".



sleeping on it

>> 4.23.2009

Okay, so, for those of you still bewildered by the flurry of conflicting stories last night (my poor BlackBerry needed an oil change and radiator flush this morning!), here's where we stand:

* Killer has reported that the Lions have already agreed to contract terms with Aaron Curry; all they need to do is tell him he's the pick and give him a pen.  The deal is expected to be very similar to the deal Jake Long got from Miami last year.

* PFT reported that the Lions have already given Condon/Stafford their best and final offer, and that it remains on the table until late Friday night.  Either Condon & Stafford elect to take the deal by Friday night, or the Lions will simply sign Curry.

* Killer today is reporting that Condon is essentially-- in violation of at least the spirit of NFL rules--shopping the Lions' best offer to the Rams, Chiefs, and Seahawks, to see if he can get more money for his client at a later pick, like Matt Ryan finagled last year from the Falcons at 1.3.  If so, Stafford will simply not sign the Lions' offer, and slide down.

* Dave Birkett, whose report that the Stafford deal was essentially done kicked off this whole mess, is now quoting a league source as saying the deal "has to happen", and Birkett agrees.

As for myself?  I think the Lions have created an outstanding situation for themselves; they now have Condon and Stafford over a barrel, where if they'd simply walked up to the podium and taken Stafford, they'd have no leverage whatsoever.  Of course, it's no secret that I desperately want the pick to be Curry--so if the Rams or Seahawks want to go ahead and top the Lions' offer, I have no problem with that whatsoever.  Also, if Condon wants to grandstand to the point where the Lions call his bluff, that's fine with me too.

Ultimately, though, the Lions will get the Stafford deal done.  Even though Peter King said on his Twitter feed that he's hearing the two sides aren't close at all, Yahoo! Sports said yesterday that Coach Schwartz has been Stafford's biggest cheerleader within the organization.  That's surprising, to say the least--but it confirms what I've said many times before: Mayhew will not take a quarterback just to sell jerseys, just to sell tickets, or just because Ford said so.  The only way Mayhew drafts Stafford is if Schwartz (and via deduction, Linehan) are one hundred percent convinced that Stafford is a franchise quarterback.

In this, we will have to trust the Lions' scouts, coaches, and leadership.  We'll simply have to.


it's stafford -- or not

>> 4.22.2009

Dave Birkett of the Oakland Press has the scoop: the Stafford deal is done, and Lewand's getting the final sign-off right now:

Much, much, much more on this later.

UPDATE: Killer is reporting that the Lions are officially denying this story.

Uh, what?  Did the Lions leak the story to Birkett and then tell Kowalski it isn't true??  I'm offically stunned at this point.

UPDATE UPDATE: Birk sez: "Update at 3:20 p.m.: Keenist finally texted me a back a few minutes ago saying my report is "untrue." But the Lions still haven't returned my calls and I don't know what exactly is being denied. Lewand and Ford did meet today and my sources say a deal is "really close." When I have more, I'll let you know."

 . . . yeah, still completely stunned.


the lines are being drawn

For days, weeks, months even, the storylines have been developing.  All the rumors, the deceptions, the smokescreens, they're all in place.  As the waiting . . . and waiting . . . and waiting . . . finally, excruciatingly, glacially blooms into the beginnings of the first signs of the coming days, when eventually, someday, we will begin to hear word of who the Lions, with the first overall pick in the NFL draft, will select.

After all the posturing, all the stonewalling, and all the innuendo, what we know for sure boils down to this:

1) Matt Stafford is telling people it's all but done, and he's going to make north of $40M guaranteed.

2) Aaron Curry is telling Sirius radio he'd be "more than happy" to take less guaranteed money than Jake Long got last year.

Add to this the fact that the Lions made a great show of publicly hosting Curry's representation last weekend, while secretly meeting with Tom Condon at the same time, and it all leads me to believe the following statement is true:

Matt Stafford will be the pick if he'll sign a reasonable deal.  The Lions are using Aaron Curry as leverage to get Stafford to come down on price.  If Stafford won't get at least within the ballpark before Saturday afternoon, Curry will be the pick.

That's my story and I'm sticking to it.  I can't possibly talk angles on the #1 overall pick any further . . . I'm completely drained.  Either we will be surprised with a signing in the next seventy-six hours, or we'll find out when Roger Goodell takes that little white card up on stage.


mild franchise makeover: detroit lions edition

>> 4.21.2009

It's been pretty disappointing, reading most fans' reaction to the release of the new logos and unis.  I've read and heard a lot of "I can't tell any difference", and "If they were going to change it, they should have changed everything", and even "I liked the old logo better".

First of all, if you can't spot the differences (and VAST IMPROVEMENTS) between these two logos, then you lose all credibility on the subject:

Secondly, to anyone who says a tweaking wasn't needed, I say I was 17 before I realized that the gap between Bubbles's paw and mouth wasn't his cycloptic eye.  Moreover, the last time anybody tried a clean-sheet redesign with a Detroit franchise was the Teal Nightmare that all Pistons fans had to endure.  If they'd listened to all the yahoos out there, today the Lions' logo would be some heinous chartruese-and-black roaring lion, with blood-soaked fangs and a cheerleader riding on the back.  I mean, hey, it'd look great airbrushed onto the side of a Ram Van, but within weeks we'd be groaning at the cheesiness of it all and itching for the next redesign.  The mild refresh that the Lions did was masterfully concieved and executed, and they updated both the logo and the uniforms with a modern, clean, consistently-styled look.  Yet, it honors and carries forward the 75-year tradition and image of the Lions: strong, clean, and classy--win or lose.


a new leaf

>> 4.20.2009

Well the cat's finally been let out of the bag in grand fashion.

Tom Lewand introduced the Lions' new logo, wordmark, and uniforms today amidst chants of "Don't draft Staf-ford" and "Curr-y, Curr-y".  Lewand played with the crowd, asking if they were chanting for Jason Smith, insisting they were chanting "Barr-y, Barr-y", etc.  Tom Kowalski came away from the event thinking the Lions are going to draft Stafford, thanks to some comments he made at the post-event presser.   Me?  Well,  I went out to my local Dunham's and took a look-see for myself:

Personally, I love the look.  Simple, clean, classy . . . from a distance, there's really not been a change.  On TV, the Lions will still look like the Lions.  Note the detailing, though, around the numbers.  The little notches that echo the new "Lions" wordmark--itself incorporated just above the front numbers.  Like the new logo itself, the uniform redux was done with the utmost taste and class.  It's a significant upgrade, beautifully executed, with zero percent of the franchise identity lost.

Unfortunately, all that was available at Dunham's were Kevin Smith and Megatron home unis.  The manager said there were "two different styles of white uniforms still coming" (!), but for now that's it.  There were a smattering of yawn-inducing T-shirts in both men's and women's sizes, and black hoodies with nothing but the new Lion dead center up front.  No hats, no polos (I was hoping to snag one and come back to work), no nothing else, just one rack of clothes.  A very good friend of mine manages the Lids hat store in the same mall, and he says he has the hats--but they are on double-secret probation, he's not allowed to even open the box until after the draft . . .

Once again to Tom Lewand and the Lions' staff, a hearty kudos.  I'll be waiting until Sunday to buy my Curry jersey . . .


The game is afoot

>> 4.19.2009

Well Martin Mayhew, Tom Lewand, and the fine folks at Octagon Football must have gotten my letters, because yesterday the Lions brass flew Andy Ross and Michael Sullivan in to begin talking contract.  Ross and Sullivan were invited onto the sidelines to watch practice, which is interesting.  As Dave Birkett points out in a great wrapup of yesterday's minicamp workouts, what this means is that the Lions want to be seen negotiating with Aaron Curry's representation.  The fact that they are also negotiating with Matt Stafford and Jason Smith's representation, with far less fanfare (Mayhew even declined comment when asked if he was also talking to Tom Condon, Stafford's agent), underscores to me that they know the fans want Curry, and they want them to think there's a chance.  Either that, or they're trying to convince other teams that Curry's candidacy is heating up; pulling the switcheroo I've been postulating for weeks.  Two easy steps to creating a trade market for the 1.1: convince everyone that Stafford is a mortal lock--then shortly before the draft, leak that you've nearly got Curry signed.  A team in the 1.3, 1.4, 1.5 area that was already getting Aaron Curry jerseys printed up will be scrambling, and the Lions can finally slide back a few spots, get a very good player, and save themselves like $8M guaranteed over the life of the deal.

I hate it.  Sign Curry! C'mon Ross and/or Sullivan!  Negotiate like you've never negotiated!  Come in low, make your client the first #1 overall linebacker in 20 years, and reap the marketing benefits like crazy!


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