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Justin Vanfulpen - LionsFans.com
PONTIAC - There are three important dates for the Detroit Lions in 2002 and none of them included any game dates. The first one is February 18, when the expansion draft takes place, the second is March 1, when the free-agent market opens up and April 20 -- day one of the NFL draft. These three dates will shape the Detroit Lions for the 2002 season and beyond. Team President Matt Millen knows that these dates are important and that anything can happen in the NFL.
"The league is clearly undefined each year, somebody rises from the ashes and somebody who's supposed to do well bites the dust," said Millen. "You can make a quick turnaround in this league. You can go from a non-contender to a contender, and all it takes is a couple of players"
Players are what the Detroit Lions need, and is what they lacked this past season when they went 2-14. Millen knew what he lacked coming into the season and what he still lacks on this team.
"We didn't have much speed on either side of the ball. And I knew that we didn't have any playmakers," said Millen. "I knew our deficiencies going in and I knew what we had to hide."
Well the team didn't hide its deficiencies very well, and now there will be many changes when it comes to the players on the roster next season if the team is going to improve.
"We are slow team, we need to upgrade speed. We need playmakers. You have to upgrade some positions and some guys have to develop," said Millen.
But Millen doesn't think there aren't any positives on this team, and he is still sticking to the plan he developed prior to 2000.
"I'm really positive, because while we have deficiencies, we also have pluses," said Millen. "You build with your pluses and you move forward. I'm comfortable with the plan. I'm not comfortable where we're at, but somebody once said Rome wasn't built in a day. I understand that. So we'll just keep passing the bricks and the mortar and keep on working and we'll get there."
One big part of Matt Millen's plan was hiring head coach Marty Mornhinweg as his head coach, and he still believes that he made the right choice and that Mornhinweg is a good head coach.
"Marty is outstanding and nobody knows it, time will tell, but I really don't believe anybody in this league could have handled it the way he's handled it," said Millen. "I don't think anybody out there could have done as good a job keeping the team together and keeping their morale high and keeping them fighting. And then also handling the media. That part is just consistency, because they do take their shots. They do what they have to do because that's their job, and he has a pretty good perspective on that."
Millen knows that there is only one goal in the NFL and that is to win the Super Bowl and there is nothing else that really matters.
"There's only one successful team a year. All the rest of us are losers. That's the reality of pro sports. If you don't win the prize, you're just like everybody else," said Millen. "So, until you do win the prize, you're still in the hunt. The only difference between us and the team that loses in the Super Bowl is draft status. That's it."
The Lions do have a better draft status then most of the NFL, and they are going to have to make good use of it if they plan on getting better than last season. But like Millen said, "all it takes is a couple of players."
Hopefully, the Lions can find them.