Sunday, December 23, 2007

Give Big Baby His Rattle And Send Him Home (And Not Just Him)

The desperate pass landed square into the mammoth torso of Shaun Rogers, and the football stuck to him like Velcro. Off he went, rambling some 60 yards or so toward the Denver Broncos goal line, falling into the end zone, his 360 pounds (or more) crashing onto the turf. He was gassed, but he had scored. The crowd roared, and Ford Field was rocking with Rogers’ score putting an exclamation mark on an improbable 44-7 win.

That was November 4. And Rogers is still gassed, seven weeks later.

They call Rogers, the Lions’ defensive tackle, Big Baby. I’m not sure how he got that moniker, but there is something frightfully ironic about it. Somewhere in the barrel of goo that is him, there’s a joke to be made about that nickname. But the joke, I’m afraid, is on all of us. Has been for quite a while now.

Shaun Rogers was one of President Matt Millen’s rare competent draft picks, back in 2001. Ever since he entered the league, Rogers has, when he has cared to, been a dominant force along the line of scrimmage. He just hasn’t cared to all that much, or all that often. Now it seems evident that he simply can’t anymore, this season.

The Lions have not gone on this six-game losing skid because of Rogers, that’s for sure. But he hasn’t done them any favors, either. He reached the zenith of his season in that Broncos game, when he was that player that he could sometimes be – a beast inside, making tackles, disrupting plays.

In a fit of excitement, having been duped by Rogers in the Denver game, I served up some sugar about Big Baby the next day on the Internet, for all who cared to visit to lap up:

Shaun "Big Baby" Rogers is beginning to play the kind of defensive football that gets people into Pro Bowls unanimously and makes quarterbacks and offensive coordinators curl into the fetal position...
Watching the 350+ pound Rogers racing toward pay dirt, the football looking like an M&M in his hands, while the crowd swelled and a roar grew with each of his pounding strides, was a watershed moment, at least in the Matt Millen Era. Rogers was among the first players Millen drafted, in 2001, and here he was, a behemoth running like a DB toward the end zone. The Lions already had the game well in hand, but Rogers' touchdown will be one talked about for years.

And as if all that blather wasn’t embarrassing enough, there was this line:

Big Baby could own Detroit.

What a fool I was!

Eight games is half a season. The Lions moved to 6-2 with their lopsided win over the Broncos, who were in disarray at the time. Another decent half, and the Lions would make the playoffs.
How could they not, with Big Baby shaking his rattle so?

Six losses later, the Lions’ season is over. The fact that the end has come in December as opposed to October, as in previous campaigns, is not cause for celebration.

Neither is the deterioration of Rogers’ overweight, woefully out of shape body.

Rogers, winded as usual; this may have been taken after the second play of the game for all we know

Every week, Rogers gets shuttled in and out of the lineup more and more often. It’s impossible not to figure out what’s going on. Big Baby needs another nap.

Coach Rod Marinelli tried like the dickens to ensure that this wouldn’t happen. He knew that, last season, Rogers was carrying too much girth. So in training camp, he allowed Rogers to work at his own pace, in his own way. Perhaps, the coach reasoned, this wide berth would keep Rogers fresher as the season wore on. Marinelli made the mistake of treating Big Baby like a grown man.

Oh, Rogers is grown, alright – fully grown, and then some. He’s a shameful excuse for a football player right now – stealing his paycheck while he can barely keep upright for more than three or four plays in a row. He peaked in his team’s eighth game, and has been as invisible as a 360-pound fraud can be, ever since.

“I’m in a slump,” was how Rogers recently and casually tried to explain away his disappearing act since the Denver game.

It’s more plausible that the fact that you can barely fit him into a piano box is what’s causing Rogers’s hideous play of late.

Yet the Lions, and even some of their fans, seem reluctant to bid farewell to Rogers. They chew on their fingernails, afraid that as soon as he’s out of Detroit, Shaun Rogers will become a consistent, useful force for another NFL team.

I’ll take my chances.

Truth? I don’t care if Rogers turns into the second coming of Deacon Jones, Reggie White, and Bruce Smith wrapped into one. I don’t care if he makes the Pro Bowl every year until he retires. He needs to go. Goodness gracious, accountability needs to start somewhere.

If that’s all that’s keeping him here – the fear that he could fulfill his potential elsewhere – then that’s not enough justification. What keeps a football player on your roster should be what he’s done – not what he could do for someone else.

The Lions are paying Rogers a lot of dough to gasp and wheeze on every other play. They may as well pay him some more to leave town entirely.

It’s not just Rogers, so you know. He’s only a symptom. It’s clear that the Lions need to start all over again – blowing this thing up. Nobody should be untouchable, save perhaps the rookie receiver Calvin Johnson. Millen, Marinelli, and everyone in between should be shown the door. It pains me to say that about the coach, because I truly believed that the Lions had found the right man when they hired Marinelli from Tampa Bay two years ago.

But every week, Marinelli falls on the sword, taking the blame for his team’s lack of readiness to play that Sunday’s game. “It’s on me,” is his new favorite line in describing the latest massacre played out on the football field.

Then if it’s always on you, coach, I suppose you should be replaced.

Get rid of them all, I say.

Bill Parcells was just hired by the Miami Dolphins as an executive. It was reported that the Atlanta Falcons had tried to hire him, too, but the Dolphins got the nod. The Dolphins are 1-13. Yet Parcells saw something in Miami.

The Lions didn’t place a telephone call, despite presumably knowing that the well-regarded Parcells was shopping his services. There are those who say that Parcells could have been had, if the Lions had cared to get involved. They are 30-80 in the Matt Millen Era.

They deserve Shaun Rogers, come to think of it.

1 comment:

Remembering_Greg_Landry said...

You thought Marinelli was the right man when he was hired? He has NEVER BEEN A HEAD COACH AT ANY LEVEL!!!!! !! Plus, he walks like a duck with a painful rectal itch. FIRE MILLEN!!!