Detroit Lions Jersey Menagerie: Post yours!

>> 7.07.2010

Authentic Matthew Stafford home Detroit Lions jersey Around this time last year, in the football dog days of summer, I threw down the gauntlet: I purchased an authentic Matthew Stafford jersey.  After all the wailing and lamentation, after all the doom and gloom, after the fearful, exhaustive analysis I did in anticipation of Stafford’s selection, I literally “bought in” to him, Schwartz, Mayhew, and the totality of the New Lions.  I said at the time:

As the Flamekeeper, the torchbearer, the self-appointed philosopher king of all true diehard Lions fans, I knew there was only one player I could in good conscience come bearing the livery of: Matthew Stafford. As much as I like Megatron, Kevin Smith, Julian Peterson, Cliff Avril, all those guys, Stafford is the franchise. He’s the quarterback, the field general, the spokesman, and the lynchpin of the entire organization.

Sure, there are a lot of naysayers, a lot of doubters, and a lot of obstacles to his success. But forget that. I’m throwing down the gauntlet. I’m investing my fandom—and my hard-earned jack--in this wunderkind. I said before the draft that if he’s the pick, we fans have got to support him the way we never supported Joey—and I’m not only going to support him, I’m picking up the banner and running. I hope that people see me, hand-in-hand with my wife and three kids, rocking the authentic Stafford, and think, “Wow, that guy must really believe.” And, maybe, possibly, then think “maybe I should, too.”

When Joanna Hunter, of the NFL’s PR department, Tweeted that Ndamukong Suh was #8 in jersey sales since April 1st, I idly thought that was pretty cool.  Then it occurred to me: when was the last time a Lion, any Lion, cracked the top ten in jersey sales?  I asked Ms. Hunter, and she duly answered: save for a brief period heading in to Calvin Johnson’s rookie year, she couldn’t find a Lion in the top ten at any point in her records (which go back to 2001).

This little bit of info is a big blue spark.  Ndamukong Suh is on track to become the game-changing, tempo-setting, franchise-rejuvenating defensive player I’d wailed and lamented over in the runup to Stafford’s selection—moreover, fans who are not me are now buying in, figuratively and literally.  I’d worried the 2-win record, the injury-interrupted rookie campaign from Stafford, and the worthless, sucking, Culpeppery void that was the last few games of the year had driven the casual fan off until the losing spell was broken yet this fall.  Instead, Suh alone has been enough to get fans to open their hearts and wallets.

To this end, I’d like to see how you folks are repping your favorite Lions—past, present, and future.  Blogger doesn’t allow images to be placed directly in comments, but a text description, and/or a link to a picture, will suffice nicely.  Home, away, new, old, replica, authentic, throwback . . . post ‘em up!  I’m really looking forward to what you folks have got.


The Lions Rest, But Do Not Sleep

>> 7.06.2010

Jarrad Page tackles Dennis Northcutt: a future Detroit Lion tackles a current one? According to Chiefs blog Arrowhead Pride, the Lions have inquired about KC’s disgruntled safety Jarrad Page.  Apparently, it didn’t get much past the inquiry stage, possibly due to the asking price.’s Nate Caminata found out from Scout’s Chiefs expert Nick Athan the Chiefs’ valuation of Page ($).  Whether the Page talks develop into a Page trade, or whether they’re not getting any farther than they’ve gotten, this is important.

For starters, it shows the Lions aren’t satisfied with throwing C.C. Brown atop a pile of bodies (Ko Simpson, Marquand Manuel, Marvin White, Daniel Bullocks) at safety.  Brown, nicknamed “Can’t Cover” Brown by Giants fans,  won’t fix the frequent blown assignments we saw from Lions safeties in 2009.  The others . . . well, they’re the same guys from 2009.  So nothing the Lions saw in minicamp gives them confidence that the answer at safety is currently on the roster.

The second, and arguably more, important thing: they’re doing something about it.  Throughout last season, the Lions cycled players on and off the roster at an incredible rate.  Any time they could make a move to improve the roster, they did—and given how much of that roster needed improving, they made a lot of moves.  A commenter, TimT, did a breakdown of last season’s roster churn, showing that 123 different players were Lions (to one degree or another) during the 2009 contract year.

After the free agent bonanza in March, and subsequent draft in April, there was a collective exhalation, as though the mad rush was over.  Outside of a few key spots (RT, OLB, CB, and S), the roster makeover was nearly complete.  Skilled veterans and talented youngsters were all over the starting lineup—and what’s more, they fit what the coaches want to do.  The Lions-observer hivemind was satisfied that with a couple of top free agents next season, and a third solid draft, the Lions would be well on their way to perennial contention.

While the Lions-observer hivemind are satisfied at the progress, the Lions execs and coaches are not.  Rather than call the last 18 months of work good, and head into camp with more answers than questions for the first time in forever, they’re still furiously turning over every stone.  With the signing of Dré Bly, and this move for Page, we see that the Lions aren’t content with improvement in the relative sense, not satisfied with merely being better.  They won’t look on a hard-fought five-win season as a success; they’re not playing for 2011.

Given the brutal division in which they play, and magnitude of the mountain they had to climb just to get to “bad,” and the unknown height yet to climb before “good,” this relentless effort to improve in July won’t really matter, will it?  The difference between Ko Simpson and Jarrad Page won’t be the difference between a winning season and a losing one . . . will it?

Well, even discounting the impact that some of the “minor” additions like Zack  Follett have had on the roster, the greatest impact will be the process of improvement itself.  The phrase “relentess effort to improve” hasn’t been used in association with the Lions since . . . well, it’s been a while.  Just the fact that the Lions are continually adding, improving, changing, looking for more, striving to be better, even when other teams are not . . . it will pay real, material dividends in the W-L column this fall.


The Third Time’s the Charm? Dre Bly is a Lion, Again

>> 7.05.2010

 Detroit Lions Corner Back Dre Bly (32) during pregame stretching at Gillette Stadium where the New England Patriots defeated the Detroit Lions 28 to 21 on Sunday, December 3, 2006

The first time I wanted Dré Bly to be a Lion was in 1999.  Recent top draft picks Terry Fair and Kevin Abrams were on the roster—but neither seemed to be on track for stardom, and the Lions have always needed as much cornerback help as they could get.  Besides, Bly’s resume as a playmaker was absolutely astonishing.  From the Dré Bly Wikipedia entry:

In his redshirt freshman season at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (UNC), Bly received all-American honors. He is only one of five players in NCAA history to achieve this honor as a freshman (Tony Dorsett, Herschel Walker, Bjorn Merten, and Marshall Faulk being the others) [1].

Bly was the only football player in UNC and ACC history to receive consensus 1st team All-America honors three times in his college career. In his sophomore year, he was one of three finalists for the Bronko Nagurski National Defensive Player of the Year Award. Bly held the ACC record for career interceptions (20).

Regrettably, the Lions did not draft Bly.  They traded at least their second- and fifth-round pick (historians disagree) to the Dolphins to move up to the 27th slot.  Once there, they took mountainous right tackle Aaron Gibson of Wisconsin.  Bly and his surprisingly slow 40 time (4.51) slid into the second round, where the St. Louis Rams pulled the trigger at the 41 slot.

The second time I wanted Dré Bly to become a Lion was in 2003, when his four-year rookie deal expired.  After two years straight years of riding the pine for a Super Bowl team, Bly finally got his shot at the big time in 2001, and didn’t disappoint.  In 16 games, and 4 starts, Bly had 6 interceptions, and returned two of them for scores.  Bly also saw extensive use as a punt returner starting in ‘01.

In ‘02, Bly ascended to a full-time starting role—and while his INT numbers dipped to 2, he defensed 18 passes, forced 4 fumbles, and recorded 54 solo tackles.  In short, as they say in the business, he made himself a lot of money.  To be specific, he made a lot of William Clay Ford’s money: a five-year, twenty-four million dollar contract, six million of which came up front.  I’d gotten my wish.

On the surface, Bly’s four years here were a success: 19 interceptions, 38 passes defensed, and two Pro Bowl appearances.  Yet, injury hampered his play; he missed nine games in four years.  Further, his gambling style resulted in negative plays, as well as positive ones.  Here’s a notable one, from his days in Denver:

Of course, before Bly was traded to the Broncos for George Foster and Tatum “Boxer Thief” Bell, he took a stand for recently-fired coach Steve Mariucci:

"If we'd had production on offense, in particular the quarterback position, Mooch wouldn't have been fired.  If Jeff Garcia hadn't gotten hurt, we wouldn't be in this position today.  Mooch wouldn't have gotten fired.  We're all at fault, but I just feel like Joey [Harrington]'s been here four years, and being the No. 3 pick in the draft, he hasn't given us anything.  He hasn't given us what the third pick in the draft should give us."

For this, Bly took quite a bit of heat.  After all, here he was, taking a public and private stand against the team’s quarterback, blaming him for their coach’s dismissal.  Right or wrong (and, in hindsight, he was more right than wrong), that’s something you just don’t do.  He bounced from Detroit to Denver, then from Denver to San Francisco—and, in the words of Eminem and Phil Zaroo, we forgot about Dré.

The third time I wanted Dré Bly to be a Lion, I didn’t even know it; I’d merely been calling for the Lions to add a decent, veteran cover corner.  Well, late on Friday, the Lions announced they’d signed Bly to a two-year deal.  Quoth the ever-quotable cornerback:

I feel like I played my best ball here in Detroit.  I feel like it's home and to come back and have the chance to finish my career where I played my best ball -- where I feel like I'm part of the community -- is a great feeling.

Broncos beat writer Frank Schwab wryly noted on Twitter that having the chance to draw an NFL paycheck must also be a great feeling for Bly.  The results of his stints in Denver and San Francisco were mixed, but unlike here, they were remembered more for the negative plays than the positive ones.

For what it’s worth, Niners fans seem sad to see him go; they see the secondary as a potential problem, and Bly as a good nickel/decent #2.  Top-notch 49ers writer Matt Maiocco said that Bly’s lack of physicality was a poor fit for their scheme—and according to Maiocco’s team sources, Bly’s attitude and declining speed also factored into his release.

What does this all mean for the Lions?  Bly is, by far, the most experienced corner on the roster—and, presuming he hasn’t declined too much, should still be one of the most physically talented, as well.  Jim Schwartz does prefer a more aggressive, jamming cover corner—but all of the Lions’ current corners fit that mold, and they’re either too inexperienced or insufficiently skilled to play deep man coverage.  That may be all that Bly can do at this point, cover a receiver downfield—but it’s the one thing the Lions needed most.

I have no idea whether Bly will enter the season as the #1 corner, or if he’ll be cut before the season starts.  I could believe either scenario, but I’d suspect something in between, leaning more towards “Bly starts at least two games for the Lions by the end of the season.”  No matter what happens, though, this is a halfway-decent attempt at addressing the Lions’ biggest flaw, and in July that’s difficult to do.  Here’s hoping, indeed, that the third time is the charm.


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