And with the second pick in the 2010 NFL Draft, the Detroit Lions select… To change for the better.
And it’s about time.
For decades the Detroit Lions have had a couple of obvious problems. Problems that were so blindingly obvious, you wondered how they missed them for so many years. The problem is they’ve only been obvious to their die-hard fans.
Let’s take a quick trip back in time. To the mid-1990’s. The Detroit Lions had the best running back in the game in Barry Sanders. They had the second-best wide receiver in Herman Moore. And they unfortunately had Scott Mitchell who had, what seemed like, a 2-to-1 Interception-to-Touch Down ratio. (It wasn’t that bad, he actually threw 79 TD’s to 57 picks while playing for the Lions).
But in the Sanders-Moore Era (1992-1997), they had a winning record four times, and none were dominant. They went 10-6 in ‘93, 9-7 in ‘94, 10-6 in ‘95 and 9-7 in ‘97. And since 1997 they have had ONE winning season.
One… in 12 years.
Now let’s get an embarrassing statement out of the way: Yes I am a Detroit Lions fan. I always have been and I always will be. No matter how many times I’ve beaten myself over the head with a tire iron, I can’t forget that I love this team. And for all the years I’ve been a fan, I’ve said the same thing… Well I’ve said a lot of things. Most I cannot type for you on here. But the gist of it is: “The Lions are miserable in the trenches.”
And they have been for many, many years.
They had the best running back the game has ever seen and they squandered him. Barry Sanders ran for 15,269 yards in 10 years. That’s an average of over 1,500 yards a season. And he did it with virtually no help from the offensive line. If he had had the offensive line Emmitt Smith had in Dallas he would’ve demolished Walter Payton’s record in about 8 years…
Sorry, I’m getting off-track.
The point is, the fans of Detroit have known for years that it doesn’t matter how many skill-position players you have. If you have nobody to block for the quarterback and nobody to make the opposing-team’s quarterback’s life hell… Well you’re going to end up with one winning season in 12 years.
So this is what makes Detroit’s pick of Ndamukong Suh so important. It’s a sign that finally, FINALLY things are changing. And it has to be for the better because it cannot get worse. I’m not wishing. I’m stating a fact. It literally cannot get worse.
Before the last two drafts, the Lions were trapped under the ignorant-grip of Matt Millen. A good football player, a good football analyst… a miserable general manager. The man just has no idea what to do with a football team. And unfortunately for the fans of Detroit, the owner of the Lions, William Clay Ford, was too old and too ignorant himself to notice it. In fact, after five years as General Manager, Millen’s record with the Lions was 21-59. And you know what Ford did?
HE GAME MILLEN A FIVE-YEAR EXTENSION!
You’re joking right? 21-59?! An average of going 4-12, and Millen get’s five more years?
But I digress. We’re talking draft. So take a look at the drafts under Millen’s helm, starting with 2002:
They took Joey Harrington out of Oregon, with the 3rd pick. Nice guy, probably one of the nicest in football. But he was too wet-behind-the-ears to take over a miserable team. And in the end his confidence was shattered and his career was ruined by playing for the Lions.
In 2003, the Lions started with the wide receivers. They stayed at home with the 2nd pick and took Michigan State’s Charles Rogers. The man who beat every one of Plaxico Burress’ records at MSU, also smoked himself out of the league.
In 2004, they stuck with the wide receivers and took Roy Williams from Texas with the 7th pick. This one i’m torn on. I don’t believe it was a busted pick. I think Roy is still a talented receiver. But with no one to protect Harrington, he could barely get the ball to anyone, let alone Roy and his career faltered in Detroit.
In 2005, what a surprise, another wide receiver! This time it was Mike Williams from USC with the 10th pick. Now what happened with Mike Williams is not the Lion’s fault…somewhat. He got screwed over by following in the footsteps of Maurice Clarett and tried to leave as a sophomore. At first he was allowed, and then the NCAA changed their mine and Williams was forced to miss a year of football before becoming a pro. And consequently ate himself out of football. But they should’ve known better than to take a wide receiver who hadn’t played for a year…Oh wait, Matt Millen was in charge. No chance of him knowing any better.
In 2006, the Lions went away from the offense altogether and drafted Ernie Sims, a linebacker from Florida State, who produced somewhat for the Lions, but as of two days ago, isn’t even a Lion anymore as he was part of a multi-team trade that sent him to Philadelphia.
In 2007, with the 2nd pick, another wide receiver, this makes four in five years, Calvin Johnson from Georgia Tech. This one you have to like. The man’s a beast… when he gets the ball. Which is still a work in progress. But at 6’5”, the man has great hands, can leap a small safety with a single-bound and is faster than most on the field.
In 2008, Millen’s last with Detroit, the Lions didn’t pick until 17th, so it doesn’t matter. Mercifully that was Millen’s final year and the Lions are in the process of digging their way out of his hole. But it’s a hole the Lions had been dealing with before Millen came along and added to it.
But now, in 2010, I can see a change. A change for the future of the most futile franchise in all of sports. Last year, I didn’t see it. I didn’t think Matthew Stafford was a good pick. Hopefully I’m wrong. But with the off-season acquisitions of Pro-Bowl defensive end Kyle Vanden Bosch, defensive tackle Corey Williams, wide receiver Nate Burleson and now drafting Suh. It’s a step in the right direction.
Coming into the draft, there were many options for the Lions. The 2nd pick in this years draft was much more appealing than the 1st pick in last years. But a lot of it depended on who was taken first this year. And when the St. Louis Rams took Sam Bradford with the first pick, my heart skipped a beat. And when the Lions actually did the right thing and took Suh, my mind went numb. (I’m not used to the Lions doing the right thing.)
Suh was the prize of the draft this year in everyone’s eyes. And the Detroit Lions are now the proud owner of him. Now I might be getting ahead of myself. But it’s nice to see someone with half-a-brain is making decisions in Detroit.
And trust me, after years of dealing with a man with no brain… I’ll take half-a-brain anyday. So here’s to the hope that after seeing the Arizona Cardinals make the Super Bowl, and seeing the New Orleans Saints win the Super Bowl in back-2-back years…
Maybe, just maybe, the Detroit Lions are making the right steps to do that themselves someday.