A Lions Den Again … Saturday Cup O’Chiefs

QB Matt Stafford (left), DT Ndamukong Suh (center) and WR Calvin Johnson (right) are the foundation of the renaissance of the Detroit Lions.


For the Chiefs, the 2008 season ended with the worst record in franchise history. Just two victories in 16 games was what Herm Edwards team was able to achieve in that disaster year.

But the two-victory Chiefs were not even the NFL’s worst team that year. Oh no, there was a team that went through 2008 without a single victory, a 0-16 record, the most games lost in a single season without at least one winning performance.

The Detroit Lions.

On Sunday, the Chiefs will visit Ford Field in Motown to face the Lions in week No. 2 of the 2011 NFL season. This is not the same Lions team that stumbled and bumbled about in the NFL for over a decade. Or more like a decade and a half.

The numbers that count come in victories and defeats:

  • There were 6 winning seasons since 2000.
  • There were 12 seasons of 6 or fewer victories.
  • There were 5 seasons of 3 or fewer victories.
  • They’ve not had a winning season since 2000, 11 seasons ago.
  • That 2000 season was the last time they made the playoffs, 11 seasons ago.
  • The Lions last post-season victory was in 1991, 20 years ago.
  • Since 2001, Detroit’s record in 10 seasons was 39-121, a .322 winning percentage.

Back three years ago, the Ford family that owns the Lions finally had enough. GM Matt Millen was terminated. There were various other moves. Martin Mayhew was put in charge as GM and he hired Jim Schwartz, long-time defensive coordinator with the Tennessee Titans as head coach.

Over two seasons, Schwartz’s record as head coach is 8-24. But the Lions went 6-10 last year and finished with four straight victories. They lost six games by five points or less. They did it all after losing starting QB Matt Stafford in the season opener for five weeks, and then when he reinjured his right shoulder; he missed the last eight games.

How have the Lions done it? How have Mayhew and Schwartz gotten this team turned in a direction that looks like it has nowhere to go but up?

They’ve done it with an interesting approach. All those losses have given the Lions high draft choices over the years, including four picks in the top 10 and three picks in the top two choices – Stafford, WR Calvin Johnson and DT Ndamukong Suh.

The Millen regime had many high choices as well and failed miserably to fill the team’s needs, busting with first round picks like QB Joey Harrington, OT Stocker McDougle and three WRs Charles Rogers, Roy Williams and Mike Williams. Rogers-Williams-Williams became the symbol of the Lions organizational despair. They combined to play in just 97 games, producing 35 touchdown catches.

The new group has done much better, grabbing Stafford, Suh and this year, DT Nick Fairley (out with a foot injury).

They’ve kept most of their higher-round draft choices and used them wisely. They got starters in 2009 with TE Brandon Pettigrew, FS Louis Delmas, OLB DeAndre Levy and in 2010 with Suh, RB Jahvid Best and SS Amari Spivey.

But the Lions haven’t relied just on the draft. On picks in rounds four and later, they’ve been willing to package those choices in deals for veteran players. In all, they’ve deal 22 draft choices in the last three drafts, without giving up a first-round choice. In rounds four and beyond, they deal 19 choices.

There are three starters in their lineup that came through trades for fifth-round picks or lower – LG Rob Sims (5th-round), LCB Chris Houston (6th and 7th rounds) and DT Corey Williams (5th-round). They picked up key reserves like TE Tony Scheffler (part of three team trade where they gave up LB Ernie Sims), QB Shaun Hill (7th-round), CB Alphonso Smith (6th-round) and DE Lawrence Jackson (6th-round).

As the current regime filled its roster and starting lineup with draft choices and trades, Mayhew and Schwartz were able to zero in on positions where they needed help now. It was no longer talented bodies needed at every position, but a list came together after the 2010 season.

That’s when they turned to free agency, signing five UFAs, including starting LBs Justin Durant (from Jacksonville) and Stephen Tulloch (Tennessee) and CB Eric Wright (Cleveland). Joining them for depth was RB Jerome Harrison and WR Maurice Stovall. Average age for those five free agents is 26 years old.

Using all these avenues have paid off for the Lions. The average age of their starting secondary is 25 years. The average age of their starting LBs is 25 years. The average age of their offensive skill position players is 25.6 years. The three top offensive players on the roster are WR Johnson (25), QB Stafford (23) and RB Best (22).

There’s so much ahead for the Lions in this 2011 season and it would be premature to crown them as a contender, a turnaround and a lost franchise that’s finally found its way. The results on the field will speak loudly.

But finally, the Detroit Lions are no longer an NFL doormat.

11 Responses to “A Lions Den Again … Saturday Cup O’Chiefs”

  • September 17, 2011  - Jimbo says:

    Geez Bob,
    It’s so nice to wake up on a Saturday morning and read your Cinderella story on the Lions. Maybe I can contribute to the story about the glorious hiring of Gunther C. and how he is turning the Lions den into a contender.
    I’m ok with the story and your opinion. I am however questioning the lack of content or subject matter I would expect the day before gameday. Granted Chiefs news especially good Chiefs news is hard to come by. Maybe it’s just me or maybe it’s just you thats a changing, but I can’t really recall one interesting or relevant story you have written this week. Hopefully this is not the new version of things to come. I love you man, but to me you are losing your flair or edge or something. Hope you get well soon.
    Go Chiefs.

  • September 17, 2011  - ED J says:

    So Bob after 1 game you already crowning the Lions as a turn around and after 1 game you consider Chiefs a bad team? Really!!!! Then last yr I can remember repeatedly you down playing us beating Chargers after 1 game. I didnt hear you say anything like this was a turnaround for the Chiefs. I can truely say i want be buying this stupid subsciption again. I thought this was a Chiefs site. Yet all i read is you bashing the Chiefs and praising the opposition.

  • September 17, 2011  - jim says:

    Bob, If stating factually that the Chiefs are really bad based on game one, and the Lions are resurging and you give reasonable reasons why, means you’re a Chiefs basher and a Cinderella story teller, then so be it. Bob’s job is not to sugar coat the issues, make you ‘feel good’ (that’s up to you),nor is it to make something positive out of basically nothing. His job is to speak the truth, as he sees it, and give us the opportunity to sound off, pro or con. He does this very admirably. Some times the truth hurts and some people just don’t want to hear it. If fans want some uplifting stories about the Chiefs, and some rah-rah phony type articles, well……..when the Chiefs do something worthy of such, it will be here. Until then, Bob keep up the good work and tell the straight, honest, factual truth, as you see it.

    Outside of hurting your feelings, what did Bob say that wasn’t factual or truthful?

  • September 17, 2011  - Jimbo says:

    Hey jim,
    Don’t get your undies in a bunch. I was simply stating that his subject matter has not been interesting this week. Like I said, the story was fine, not the subject matter. It has nothing to do whether or not it is the truth or facts as he sees it.
    I am not a Lions fan. I am a Chiefs fan. That’s the subject matter I am interested in. I really must have been misguided for the last 3 years that this was a Chiefs Blog. I just want the “old Bob” back. To each his own I guess.
    Go Chiefs.

  • September 17, 2011  - el cid says:

    I understand the idea of Chief’s new but…..The Chiefs do not talk to local media. Are you un-aware of that? What info about the Chiefs do yo want to know when THE CHIEFS ARE NOT TALKING. I know we get a little nuts arguing who is good or bad but after a while what is left to say?

    If I may, suggest you look at Haley’s Q and A. HC say nothing anyway, he says less. “blame Haley”, team did not quit, don’t talk about players not available, change things. Over and over, nothing new so I guess we get info on who we play. Do not care for it much but we know nothing about the why and wherefores of the Chiefs, what else is there?

  • September 17, 2011  - el cid says:

    Talk about sites not posting Chief’s info. Check out the Chief’s home site….not a word as of 1130 AM, saturday that the Chiefs signed Flowers to a new contract. The Chiefs do not even tell their own employees what they are doing, Talk about paraniod??

  • September 17, 2011  - Chuck says:

    Ya we can say the same thing: 2009= Tyson Jackson, Alex Magee, Colin Brown, Javarris Williams, Jake O’Connell. 2008= Brad Cottam, DaJuan Morgan, Will Franklin, Kevin Robinson, Brian Johnston. WHEW, Iam wore out listing all of our big hit studs!!!!!! Go Pioli/Haley Go!!!!

  • September 17, 2011  - el cid says:

    Interesting about the 09 draft. But here is something to consider, when Pioli gets to his 5th year, were will his 5th year players who should be ready to be the building blocks, not on this team. If I remember correctly, when Pioli got here, there was much lamenting about there being no 4 and 5 year veterans on the team. Pioli’s 09 draft has not bit us, yet. In 2014, we will be at the same place as when he got off the plane.

  • September 17, 2011  - Michael says:

    uh, Pioli and Haley didn’t have any part of the 2008 draft. 2009 draft was a dud for Pioli, but the Chiefs aren’t the only team that had a bad draft in 2009; it was one of the poorest crops of college talent in years. Jackson should not have been picked that high, no doubt. But, he was considered a first round pick and the best 3-4 end in the draft; so don’t act like everyone in the world thought otherwise.

    Funny how that works…it’s not that Bob reports the negative with the Chiefs that bothers me, that’s fine. It’s just that he does it with such unveiled pleasure sometimes it’s irritating. Conversely, many times when things go well for the Chiefs he talks about that only grudgingly, still irritationg. I guess he has an axe to grind and can’t help it spilling out from time to time. But, if it’s brought up, then, oh, it’s just his opinion.

    I like Bob’s insight into the Chies most of the time. He does good stories most of the time. But, I’m not going to prented I don’t see what I see. I put up with it because of the reasons listed above, and I like reading what other fans are saying on the site. Even el cid.

  • September 17, 2011  - el cid says:

    Mike, good points but how do team fix a bad draft? 2014 The Chiefs will be short talent They will dip into the free agent talent pool. Also by then they will have to spend to the cap floor. We night have been better served with an occassional quality free agent now with an upside and a 5 year contract. Just seems we missed the boat somewhere along the way.

    As for Bob’s handling of his site, I search all over and it is better than many. I am satisfied but the ones who are not might as well move on and find one that meets their needs.

  • September 18, 2011  - ED J says:

    Yea bottom line 2009 draft was horrible draft for all 32 NFL team just look at laundry list of 1st rd picks playing for different teams. Second I don’t care about Bob voicing his opinion its his site. The thing is though we won 10 games last yr Bob still had negative comments along the way and after 1 game he’s praising a team who hadn’t had winning season in almost a decade. So Jim before you blow off the handle read what we’re saying. Secondly I paid money for this site to read about perspective on the Chiefs not the Lions. Also El Cid Pats don’t release info about their organization but yet you can find articles about the team their. I could care less about guys personal life but perspective on team and why it struggled and what it can do get better is what I’m looking for out of Bob. Not sweet little stories about Gun and his Lions. How about a story about the reason we’re having football is because how Clark Hunt was centerpiece of getting lockout ended. About half of you don’t even know that. I found articles in other places about Clark Hunt was instrumental in ending the lockout. You didnt need inside info from Chiefs to hear about that El Cid. Bottom line thats what I paid my money for not to read about the opponent.

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