Monday, January 04, 2010

The Best Thing About the Lions Season is That It's Over

The circus has left town, not to return for another year. If you didn't get a chance to see it, shame on you---you had 16 weeks to check it out. Sometimes, you didn't even have to leave your living room.

Another Lions season is over with. Barnum & Bailey got another run for their money.

If you head down to Ford Field today, you can see the remnants. Smell it, too.

Crushed popcorn boxes, empty spools of cotton candy. Entire NFL careers, even---all lying in the wake.

The three rings came down today.

It was another thrilling run for the Lions. They managed two wins this time. The decade of the 2000s ended with another unbalanced act. Precious little in the left hand column, all the weight on the right side.

2-and-14. It fits nicely, in the same drawer as all of the other similar seasons. File it.

It was a typical Sunday afternoon at Ford Field yesterday. The Lions put up some semblance of a fight, then collapsed into defeat in the late going. They always do that. Unless, of course, they're collapsing in the first 10 minutes, or in the third quarter.

How do the Washington Redskins and Cleveland Browns feel this morning? The Brownies ended their season on a four-game winning streak, but it took a loss to the Lions to shame them into performing. The Skins fired their coach today, and he's lucky it didn't happen in the locker room way back in September, moments after losing to the Lions.

The Lions were the lone victims of the St. Louis Rams this season, who will draft first in the 2010 Draft. The Lions will draft second. They do that a lot, too. The Lions appear in the Top Five of the NFL Draft every year. Sometimes the Top Three, or Two, or One. Last ones on to the elevator, first ones off. Or something like that.

It was 37-23, Chicago Bears on Sunday. Another double digit loss. Every time the Lions take the field they're spotted 10, 14, 17 points by the bookies in Vegas and just about every time that's still not enough. Opponents cover the spread over the Lions like black paint on a white wall.

Sunday's tilt was a bonus exhibition game, for those who've longed for the meaningless since late August.

Players playing for their NFL lives. Nothing on the line except, well, nothing. Appearances by guys who'll never wear an NFL uniform again---certainly not a Honolulu Blue and Silver one.

Starting with the quarterback.

They may as well have held the game in court, because Daunte Culpepper, from the opening snap, was trying to make a case for himself.

Not for the Lions, of course---his ticket out of town was punched weeks ago. Maybe months ago. No, Daunte was trying to demonstrate why he's still a viable starter in the league.

He didn't play horribly. You could actually watch this performance with both eyes open. But whether it was enough to convince a team to take a flyer on him for 2010, who knows.

Calvin Johnson was again a man among boys. He's pretty good, in case you were wondering.

The folks at FOX Sports put up a graphic early in the game. It said that Jeff Backus was starting his 144th consecutive game at left tackle. I guess they were rubbing it in. Their timing was impeccable, too; they flashed the fun fact just after Jeff was flagged for holding.

Backus is the Lions in a microcosm. Nowhere else but in Detroit could a tackle of such pedestrian ability hold a job for nine straight years---simply because the Lions weren't able to get anyone else. For nine years.

Later, FOX showed Rod Marinelli, now the Bears' defensive line coach. They were rubbing it in again. Rod had that same perplexed expression on his face.

So Jim Schwartz has his first year as Lions head coach under his belt. Now he can continue to dismantle things. The first thing he should do is make safety Louis Delmas a team captain and fire everyone else in the secondary.

But here's to keeping the trio of Schwartz, offensive coordinator Scott Linehan, and quarterback Matthew Stafford together for a few years. They can all grow together. Maybe build something here for a change. That would be very nice.

Oh, and something else disturbed me. Some backup tight end was wearing No. 85, which I thought had been unofficially retired, for it was the number of Chuck Hughes, who died on the field in 1971. I honestly don't recall anyone wearing 85 since '71.

But the Lions all wear No. 31, truthfully. As in 31 of 32 teams. They inched up by one from last season.

Guess we should all prepare for a Super Bowl parade---in 2041.

The year 2010 is only four days old and already the Lions are winless in it.

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