Time For a Change?
By: Paul Wezner
After only 8 games, is it time to debate whether or not the current regime deserves a chance to continue running the show?
Let's start off with the basics. This is not a very good football team. In fact, it's a very bad one. The offense can't score, the defense can't stop anybody from scoring, and the special teams can't do either. The Lions coaches aren't doing too well either. Head Coach Marty Mornhinweg has his share of problems, as does Defensive Coordinator Vince Tobin, and just about every other position coach on the staff.
So, what gives? How does a team on the edge of the playoffs become the laughing stock of the league in one season? There's no one specific aspect, but put together they've produced what we've witnessed over the first half of the season.
For starters, injuries have severely hurt the team. Of the 11 expected starters on offense, only 6 have started every game the Lions have played. On top of those injuries, the Lions have also lost their third Wide Receiver for the season and have had injuries to other backups like Lamont Warren, Pete Mitchell and Desmond Howard. And that's only on offense. Defensively, Luther Elliss is trying to play with one arm, another Pro Bowler – Middle Linebacker Stephen Boyd – is out indefinitely. And in the secondary, at one point the Lions only had 4 healthy DB's on the roster (the other 5 were injured) and they would have been considered guys that wouldn't even be active in normal circumstances.
The next problem, the Lions coaching has been extremely poor. Mornhinweg looks like he's trying to make himself look like an idiot. From the training camp incidents where he rode off on his Harley and went ballistic about a cell phone, to the botch job he's done with the Quarterback situation, to the bottom line that he took a winning football team to one that can't even win a game, Mornhinweg definitely hasn't impressed in his first season. The same goes with Tobin, who took a defense that led the league in turnovers and one that was in the top half of the league in scoring allowed to the worst defense in the league.
And, with this being the most obvious answer, the talent just isn't there. This statement holds true for the entire team, with the possible exceptions being WR Johnnie Morton and DT Shaun Rogers. The perfect example is rookie Left Tackle Jeff Backus. Backus, known as a run blocker out of Michigan, is still extremely tentative in the running game and gets beat around the edge at least twice a game. And (here's where the problem lies), he's the Lions best Offensive Lineman.
Realistically, despite the deficiencies of most of the team, the Lions two biggest problems are Mornhinweg and starting Quarterback Charlie Batch. Mornhinweg has completely killed the team morale with his handling of the team, and despite the player's insisting that everything is fine, very few teams start the season 0-8 and still believe that their Head Coach has any idea what's going on. Batch on the other hand, for all of his offensive deficiencies, still isn't looking like a Quarterback that will be anything more than an average QB on a good team. He has no one intangible that makes him special (he doesn't have a strong arm, he's not unbelievably accurate, he's not versatile, he's not a master at picking apart defenses, etc.) and continues to frustrate many of his teammates with his mistakes.
The simple fact is that this season is a wash, and the Lions know it. The second fact is this; one or both of the above mentioned will not return next season. If Mornhinweg has completely lost his team by the end of the season, he'll be gone. Millen might not want to fire the coach he hired just one year ago, but at the same time he'll know that Mornhinweg isn't the guy, and Millen is not one to care about what everyone else thinks. If Mornhinweg returns, it will be with 2 new Quarterbacks on the roster. A new free agent will be signed after Batch and Ty Detmer are released, and the Lions will draft another Quarterback. Which one of the three would start is a toss up.
So, until we know what will happen with Mornhinweg and Batch, we'll just have to sit back and watch another 8 weeks of bad football and find other things to keep busy on Sunday afternoons, like counting the leaves that have fallen off the trees onto the ground.
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