Last August, Gunther Cunningham was “flat pissed off” about Lions defenders wimping out on making tackles:
We had four guys on that play last week turn it down. Not miss it, turn it down, in my opinion. You can coach and teach and all that, but it's about building an attitude. It's about an attitude that we're going to build on this defense, or they're going to have to deal with me, and I don't think they want to do that.
Well, there's this: a brilliant, and hilarious, mock Facebook page that savagely lays bare Cromartie’s lack of tackling effort in the AFC playoffs. How could Gunther, a lover of old-school, hard-nosed defense, possibly be okay with trading for a corner whose clean-jersey play is the stuff of Internet legend?
Here’s a scouting report on Cro, at the time of his draft:
We are all familiar with the fact from a personal standpoint that I like big corners. This young man definitely fits the criteria. He’s a unique physical talent. We looked at the opportunity at bringing a guy in here that is going to give us playmaking ability in the secondary. When you watch the tape on him you see his ball skills and it’s very impressive . . .
When you look at the skills and you see the body of work he was involved with you feel very confident and comfortable that the only think that it comes down to is the medical. The medical came back absolutely fine. I’m confident it wasn’t a difficult choice to make. It was very evident that he was the one guy there that was clearly our choice.
Who said that? The Chargers’ then-Head Coach, Marty Schottenheimer. Remember when Gunther built those legendarily nasty Chiefs defenses in the mid-to-late 90s? Yeah, that was with Marty at the helm. Marty is not only a longtime friend and colleague of Gunther’s, they share a passion for old-school football.
In 1997, when Marty and Gunther’s Chiefs had the #1 defense in the NFL, they did it with corners James Hasty and Dale Carter. Hasty was a little smaller, and a little feistier, but take a look at Carter: 6’-1”, 194 pounds, didn’t put up great tackling stats (when they managed to even keep track of his tackles) . . . but picked off 21 passes in his first seven years in the NFL.
These numbers look very, very much like Antonio Cromartie’s career to this point, and I’d think Cunningham would consider Cromartie & Buchanon, with King competing with James and/or a rookie for the nickel spot, a big upgrade over Buchanon, James, and a street free agent. Remember, it wasn’t tackling that Lions corners Philip Buchanon, Anthony Henry, and Will James couldn’t do last season—it was covering opposing wide receivers.
The other thing you have to consider is the price. Tom Kowalski and Michael Schottey are both saying that Cro might be had for as little as a fifth-round pick—and that’s simply a must-do deal. There’s no way that the Lions could add a corner of Cromartie’s physical skills in the fifth round—and, as I’ve said before, cornerback is a spot where rookies almost never provide drop-in upgrades; the learning curve is very steep.
This trade would add a talented veteran at a position of extreme need for a minimal price. Given Martin Mayhew’s penchant for pulling these types of deals off, is it really that surprising? All we can do now is wait for the beginning of the league year (Friday), when Cro’s salary becomes tradable, and hope.