Hey there! I’m an idiot who couldn’t keep this thing under 2,000 words so I broke it into 2 parts! This is Part Two but you can click HERE for Part One if you missed it!
First off, Mayhew is just an extension of the Matt Millen Era. Matt Millen will go down as the worst GM in NFL History. He absolutely destroyed the Lions and is responsible for assembling the talent that went on to go 0-16… the only team to do so in NFL history. However, when the Ford family finally fired Millen, the simply promoted his right hand man Mayhew to the position of GM, and Mayhew has done his best to keep the sucking tradition alive. Schwartz provided a strong voice in the front office, helping to pick his own players and pushed the team to its first playoff berth since the Barry Sanders era, but Mayhew doesn’t deserve any credit for this. If you don’t believe this just take another quick look at his offseason moves this spring and watch how beautifully they dovetail with his draft pick last night…
For the last 2 decades the Lions biggest need has been in the secondary. As the NFL transitions into a pass only league, Detroit has avoided skilled corners and safeties like the plague. So anyway it should be obvious that they still lacked secondary talent this offseason and sure enough that was one of two major concerns outlined by the organization to address in the offseason (along with improving receiver depth). So what did they do? They cut Louis Delmas, their best coverage safety… Moreover… they replaced Delmas with James Ihedigbo who is really a blitzing safety who can’t drop back in coverage, and to make matters worse, while Delmas was only 26, Ihedigbo is already 30…
The other long term issue that has plagued the Lions is their offensive line. I’m certain one of the reasons Detroit has gone through so many quarterbacks is poor O Line play. This probably ended Joey Harrington’s career the same way the Browns ended Couch’s career, Houston ended David Carr’s career, and the Jaguars are about to end Blake Bortles’ career. So you’d think this would be something they would improve. Hold that thought.
The other concern the team outlined for the offseason, wide receiver, was addressed in a similar manner to the secondary concerns… Mayhew cut Nate Burleson… Detroits #2 leading receiver… Now, they addressed this issue by signing Golden Tate to a massive contract… I really like Tate on the team and he’s definitely an upgrade over Burleson (who went to the Browns by the way) but I can’t help but feel a team that already has Calvin Johnson couldn’t have spent SOME money SOMEWHERE besides wide receiver… but what do I know…
Besides Tate, though, cap strapped Detroit handed out one other big contract this offseason: they gave Brandon Pettigrew a four year, $16million deal. Now, Pettigrew is a serviceable player. He really is a pretty bad blocker, but he’s an above average pass catcher. He drops a lot of balls, but so does everyone on our team besides Calvin. SO the issue here isn’t that I don’t want him… its more that we weren’t really bidding against anyone in resigning him (so we could have signed him cheaper) we were cap strapped in the first place so we probably couldn’t afford to give up that money to him in the first place, and signing him takes more time away from Joseph Fauria who I’m not incredibly high on as an every down tight end, but at 6’7″ he is a monster red zone target. However… he’s kindof a double edged sword… cuz you also have to put up with this…
Now, the guys over at Pride of Detroit did a great job talking me off the ledge about that contract, but that doesn’t mean I have to like it.
BUT ANYWAY lets turn back to last nights draft. I have been begging for the Lions to draft an elite corner back in the first round for what feels like 10 years or so. Moreover, I’ve been watching every single step Justin Gilbert (CB for the Okie State Cowboys and the best CB prospect in this draft) makes for the past 18 months like some sort of overly possessive girlfriend.
And theeeeen Cleveland made the aforementioned trade from 9 to 8 (moronic) and stole him from me. No big deal though. Detroit could also improve their linebacking corps. My #2 guy I had been watching was Anthony Barr. An athletic freak of a Linebacker who can rush the passer, stop the run, and (most importantly in the new pass first NFL) he can drop back in coverage and cover the Jimmy Grahams and Wes Welkers of the world. Buuuuuuut Minnesota took him at #9… one slot ahead of Detroit… dammit… but thats ok!!! remember how earlier I said Detroit’s second major concern for the last 2 decades (besides CB) has been the offensive line?? Well we’re in luck!!! The mammoth of a man Taylor Lewan was still on the board! Detroit’s O-Line improved leaps and bounds last year and drastically outplayed expectations (in large part due to the addition of Larry Warford out of Kentucky) but adding a guy like Lewan would anchor this young unit for years to come. Lewan is enormous, he is skilled, he is tough, and he played college ball just down the road at the University of Michigan. PERFECT fit for Detroit at #10, right?
Wrong. Detroit passed on Lewan for Eric Ebron… Tight End out of North Carolina. (Moreover, Lewan ended up going to Tennessee… the same team that beat Detroit out to hire our first choice for a new coach this offseason (Ken Wisenhunt, who incidently the Browns tried to hire as well)… awesome…) Now let me be clear. I am incredibly happy to have Ebron on my team. Ebron is another in the long line of former basketball players who convert to Tight End and have great success in their new sport. This line goes all the way back to Tony Gonzalez (the greatest TE in the history of the NFL), through Antonio Gates (maybe the most dominant TE in the league from 2004 to 2009), and to Jimmy Graham today who is absolutely demolishing bitches in New Orleans. These guys use their superior size, strength, speed, and leaping ability to become matchup nightmares on a football field. Moreover, the new “pass all day erry day” NFL has shifted in the post Gronkowski / Graham era to a place where a receiving tight end is important for every elite offense.
But heres the problem… Detroit already HAS TWO of these guys on their roster! Joseph “He-of-the-Many-Absurd-Dances” Fauria and Brandon Pettigrew to whom we just forked over $16 million that we didn’t have!!!! Now we have 3 TEs on the roster, who we can’t put on the field all at the same time, and we can’t do anything to clear up the logjam. Fauria is probably the least versatile of the three since as of right now I only see him as a red zone and short yardage threat. You obviously won’t move Ebron because he’s the most talented of the three and you just spend a top 10 pick on him. And you can’t move Pettigrew because he is in YEAR ONE of a brand freaking new 4 year deal.
All this while IGNORNING other REAL positions of need. I don’t care if Ebron is better than the 2 guys we had (he is)… the team needed to improve in other places! We didn’t improve the secondary which, again, has needed it for decades. We left Ha Ha Clinton-Dix AND Calvin Pryor (top 2 safeties in the draft) on the board, and we had to sit idly by as 6 MORE defensive backs came off the board… Yes this was a deep draft for DBs (a position of need for Detroit) and yes their top choice at DB was gone when they were picking, but now the best 9 defensive backs in the draft are gone and Detroit didn’t land a single one of them… so much for that depth.
Furthermore, we had a chance to improve the other DECADES long hole in the team, the O Line with a hometown kid who backs up all the hype no less, and instead we take a position where we had no need whatsoever… well done Mayhew… great job. Now, the fan in me has already begun coping with this issue. I’ve starting to think maybe we can run some unique (non redzone) packages with Ebron, Pettigrew, Calvin, and Tate together. Either slide Ebron into the slot as on oversized mismatch or put Tate there because of his size. I don’t know. Ebron is a good enough athlete to play slot receiver even if he’s taller than average for the position. However, the fact remains that this now creates unnecessary headaches. Now we have to struggle to make sure we properly and fully utilize these different guys instead of just drafting players at positions where we lacked depth and need immediate starters *cough cough* corner *cough*
Sooo is this my cue to put my head in the sand go back to living vicariously through Matthew Stafford again??
Now, they could fix all of this tonight and tomorrow with some well thought out, strategically placed draft picks… but after last night… and after 15 years of front office futility, I’m not holding out hope… This front office hasn’t exactly given me a ton of reason to hope… (and yes, the Millen and Mayhew offices should be considered the same… that move represented continuity not change…)
But hey, we’re not Cleveland. Oh wait… Cleveland fans at least had “The Drive.” I know they were on the wrong end but even playing in that game meant you were at least good. Wait… scratch that… it means you were at least in the playoffs… a treat rarely enjoyed by Detroit. Detroit is one of hte oldest professional football teams in America (active since 1930 though they didn’t change the name to Lions till ’34) and yet we’ve only even been to the playoffs 10 times since 1970 (post merger modern era) with only 1 win. The Browns have made the playoffs 11 times in that span with 4 wins AND THEY DIDN’T EVEN HAVE A TEAM FOR 3 OF THOSE YEARS. So whatever… both these teams suck… but hey… maybe this draft is the beginning of a new Era… heres to Browns vs. Lions in Superbowl L (thats 50 in Roman numerals… I feel the need to point this out so you don’t think L stands for Losers… ugh)