Three Cups Deep: . . . It Is Finished

>> 1.04.2010

 The Lions' season is officially over.  Their 2-14 campaign fell just short of media expectations, and well short of fans’ hopes.  For what it’s worth, I believe that if Matthew Stafford had been able to play all 16 games at 100%, the Lions would have won several more—but at this point, that’s completely meaningless.
We saw what Daunte Culpepper’s checkdown mania can accomplish when the game is close, and players are making plays around him: caretaking, game-managing, not-losing.  However, that isn’t enough to keep pace with a team whose quarterback can actually push the ball downfield and make plays.
There was one other bright spot in the game yesterday, besides Megatron’s perfectly-executed fade: Maurice Morris.  Morris had 16 carries for 65 yards (4.06 YpC), and caught 5 more balls for 41 yards.  He looked really effective; he ran with burst and drive.  Aaron Brown also contributed a few very nice plays—the Lions ran for exactly 100 yards with 25 carries.
Unfortunately, the defense made the running game completely irrelevant.  On back-to-back forth quarter drives, they surrendered two ~50-yard plays that precipitated 17 Bears points in the final ten minutes of play.  Culpepper couldn’t cash in from the Bears’ 14, Derrick Williams fumbled a kickoff, and that was that.
These two facts throw two monkeywrenches into the current ‘hot topic’ of the Lions’ fandom: “Which runningback will the Lions pick up to replace Kevin Smith?”  From drafting C.J. Spiller with the #2 overall pick, to kicking a late-rounder to Baltimore for Willis McGahee, suggestions on how to acquire a new starting tailback abound.
Am I missing something?  Kevin Smith was drafted at the top of the third round two years ago, has been very productive in each of his first two seasons, and will be at full speed by midseason next year.  His top two backups are under multi-year contracts, and have looked good in relief.  Further, the Lions have had the worst defense in football for two consecutive seasons!
Here's the ugly truth: the Lions could add a Spiller, a McGahee, Adrian Peterson—last year’s Greatest Runningback Ever—or even Chris Johnson, this year’s Greatest Runningback Ever, and it wouldn’t matter.  In every game this season, the Lions have had to abandon the run no later than the third quarter.  Barry Sanders could walk into Allen Park and ask for his job back tomorrow, and Matt Stafford would still be asked to throw fifty times a game in 2010.
No, the Lions cannot waste a draft pick, or any significant money, on a halfback.  Defensive line (x2), defensive back (x3), offensive guard, and wide receiver are all desperate, red-alert level squeaky wheels—they will, and should, get the grease.
This going to be a very un-interesting offseason.  Last year, from the final gun of the final game, anything and everything about the Lions was in question.  The front office, the head coach, the assistant coaches—all of it, everything.  Even as answers to those questions resolved, everything else got shaken up: the logo, the uniforms, over half of the roster.
This season, though?  There will be no shakeup, no destruction.  The front office is in place, the coaches are in place, and the direction is set: forward.  All the Lions have to do is add talent.  To be themselves, only better.  To learn how to win.  To get bigger, stronger, faster, tougher, smarter.  To grow up.
Oh, and preseason predictions, based on game-by-game breakdowns?  I told you all they’re completely useless wastes of time.


brewers_rule,  January 5, 2010 at 2:16 PM  

Can't say as I agree on KSmith. Guy was great and wouldn't need replacing if not for the ACL blowing out. Prolonged return to prominence after ACL tears hardly EVER happens in the NFL especially w/RB's. I'd say get McGahee cheap if you can, draft Sung (Clausen rumors 2 Rams would B a dream for you guys if true) and see what happens from there. But I'm a Pack fan so if you wanna trust your run game to a blown ACL RB perhaps I shouldn't wanna stop you?

Ty,  January 5, 2010 at 2:26 PM  

First, Smith's a warrior--I know he'll be killing it in rehab. Second, Smith's never been a speedster . . . though obviously, if he did lose a step, it'd be a step he never had to lose.

My argument is that Morris is a solid, well-rounded veteran who still has a lot of tread on his tires; unlike McGahee, he's never taken a 200+ carry pounding. Why not stick with the guy who's been productive?

Moreover, runningbacks are increasingly fungible. Those few that start right away and produce throughout their rookie contracts are usually washed up by the end of their second contract. Morris and Brown are a nice complementary pair, and you can always throw a third- or fourth-rounder at that position--why do it this year?

Blowing a high draft pick and/or huge free agent dollars on a runningback is a really risky move. Doing it when you have a young starter, capable backup, and explosive developmental guy already on the roster seems insane.


Dennis,  January 5, 2010 at 3:04 PM  

You burn fires with that TV up there? :P I agree, it would be asinine to address RB when there are other glaring holes to fill. Smith is a solid all-around RB and Morris showed good numbers. I would be happy with these 2 for another year.

Weston Corbitt,  January 5, 2010 at 3:20 PM  

You can find a relief running back in free agency or later in the draft. If we take a running back early it would be a mistake (we would have taken Beanie Wells over Louis Delmas, by the way, big mistake) since we have good depth to last until Smith is back.

A Lion in ViQueen territory,  January 5, 2010 at 3:53 PM  

Defense, Defense, Defense. Just forget about drafting offense this year - if Daunte "I can't believe I didn't fumble the snap" Culpepper can actually manage the game (like he did on Sunday) with no starting caliber tight-end (BP), no starting running back (KS), no guard (SP), no second reciever (BJ - okay, a cheap shot. BJ did grab a touchdown) then we don't need offense.

Suh or McCoy, then CB or safety help. Then DE, then CB or safety. Then bring back Robert Porcher cause he definitely would've gotten more sacks than Avril, who lead us with 5.5 sacks.


BenderCU,  January 5, 2010 at 6:21 PM  

Gonna have to disagree with u about Kevin Smith, i've wanted him replaced most of the season before he got injured. Since Morris took over starting duties he has proved (behind the same OL) that he should have been starting all along. Smith has good vision but he is to slow and is always one missed/broken tackle from doing anything big.

Having said that, i don't think we should draft a RB, if we could get CJ Spiller in the 2nd round i'd be all about that though. I went to Clemson and i've watched him for years, the Lions could desperately use someone of his talents, he'd easily be the best returner on the roster not to mention he'd be a better change of pace back than Brown. CJ runs well, catches passes well and lets not forgot blocking which he also does well. Though that's all moot cause there's no way he's around in the 2nd round.

Anonymous,  January 10, 2010 at 3:10 PM  

I agree with brewers_rule that RBs with blowed up (thanks Emmitt) knees usually aren't the same player when they return. However, claiming we should take a look at Willis McGahee in the offseason because of K. Smith's torn up ACL is puzzling at best and downright hypocritical at worst. McGahee suffered one of the worst known ACL/MCL/PCL/insert-other-Ligament-here injuries in modern sports memory. He was bonified top 5 but dropped to Buffalo at 23 because of that injury. So to say we "don't wanna trust (our) run game to a blown ACL RB" that would most certainly exclude Smith AND McGahee.

Also, Ty, I agree with you that Mo Morris has some value left. A 4+ yards per carry average and miniscule contract (3yrs 7M) are definite upsides. I wouldn't mind a late round pick on a burner (although isn't that what Aaron Brown was for), but by no means can this team afford ANOTHER high round, big dollar, glamor pick at a skill position. I remember when the Steelers took Rashard Mendenhall and thought, "see, good teams with a solid running back (Willie Parker at the time) have the luxury to build depth." The Lions are NOT the Steelers (perhaps they could've been since a number of former scouts and players are on their team though haha).

This draft MUST be about the lines, sprinkled with a CB, a safety and a wideout. And to be competitive, these picks HAVE to see as much playing time AND be as moderately successful as this past draft. Mayhew and Co. have shown enough competence to warrant another couple drafts and FA periods and the general consensus from what I've read is that Schwartz is the right guy for the job. That said, this past Decade of Futility pushed our collective passions to the brink. For those of us still around, I certainly hope (because hope - and Mathew Stafford's right arm - are all we've got at this point) that the light at the end of this long - painfully long - dark tunnel is bright and promising.

Detrizzle (of Mlive postings)

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