Monday, September 18, 2006

Marinelli Wants To Fall On The Sword, But What's He To Do?

When the Pistons finished the 1980-81 season with a 21-61 record, I remember actually thinking that that wasn't so bad, because the season prior, they rode in at 16-66. Still 60+ losses, still an awful record, but a "better" awful. Besides, such a hideous mark enabled them to draft Isiah Thomas that summer.

The Lions are 21-61 in the Matt Millen era, yet I don't see an Isiah-like savior on the horizon. Unless there’s someone out there who can pass protect, hold on to the football without dropping it, and most of all, who won’t self-destruct.

The Lions committed so many penalties in yesterday's 34-7 drubbing in Chicago, especially in the first quarter, that I'm surprised the Soldier Field turf wasn't stained yellow.

"We laid an egg," tackle Jeff Backus said. And he was one of the egg layers, with a false start penalty. He may have committed more infractions, except I stopped keeping track of the yellow flags when the Lions' penalties started to outnumber their actual plays from scrimmage, or so it seemed.

The nice thing about covering the Lions is that you don't have to learn new postgame comments. You can basically just recycle the same ones over and over, and nobody would know the difference.

"A lot of mistakes were our mistakes."

"We have to be accountable as a team."

"We just had penalties all over, just like last week. We've got to eliminate those."

"It was disappointing."

"We're grown men. We get paid to do a job, and we've got to do it better than what we showed on the field."

And the golden oldie, "We didn't come out ready today."

That last one would be the title track of the Lions' Greatest Hits album.

Coach Rod Marinelli tried to fall on the sword. "I failed. I'll take the bullet right in the head."

No need for that, Rod

Nice, except he should know better: the Lions don't shoot themselves in the head -- they point the pistol squarely at their feet and pull the trigger.

The Lions continue to be -- with apologies to Forrest Gump -- like a box of chocolates. You never know, from week-to-week, what you're going to get. Swarming, dominating defensive line play in Game 1 against the Seahawks, constantly harrassing QB Matt Hasselbeck. Yesterday, Bears QB Rex Grossman, I'll bet, simply took his jersey off and hung it up, ready for next week. Because I doubt it needed cleaning.

At least the Lions went to Roy Williams a little bit -- to the tune of six catches for 71 yards. In fact, QB Jon Kitna's passer rating was a very un-Lions-like 97.9 (23-30, 230 yds, no INT). Yet the Lions have only one TD in two games -- a Kitna sneak. But I'm not getting my shorts in a knot over the offense, because that's going to take time to master. In fact, so is everything else. Marinelli needs help, and he needs time. Expectations should have been very modest this year -- and i'm talking 4-12, 5-11 kind of modest.

But what WILL be troubling if it doesn't improve is the amount of penalties this team takes. Confusion reigns on the offense, hence the false starts and illegal shifts, etc. But the illegal use of hands call -- away from the play -- on CB Jamar Fletcher (who?) that nullified a Boss Bailey INT return for a touchdown was killer. The Lions could have closed to within 24-14, and momentum would have shifted. But the Bears retained the ball, and scored eventually (natch), to put the game on ice.

Rod Marinelli wants to take all the blame for yesterday's debacle -- the second straight flat-out embarrassment in Chicago. But I think his words smack of the deeply disappointed parent who stares at his child in a jail cell and says, "I guess I must have failed as a parent."

It's the child's fault -- always.

Maybe that's the Lions' problem: they've been hanging out with the wrong group of kids. Or maybe there's just too many of those types on their own roster.

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