Fan Column: Don't be too rough on Lions


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Irish Alum -
Posted at Message Board

I'm not thrilled with the interpersonal skills of M&M, but I also realize that they're working to professionalize the team - to change the culture of a club that really hasn't had a thorough scrubbing since Wayne Fontes and Mouse Davis installed the Run 'n' Shoot. The team has stagnated, the players fat (in some cases -- Mr.'s Gibson and Claiborne...), dumb, and happy. The owners appeared to want to win but kept putting their stock in the wrong men.

So now they get a management team that, while admittedly green, wants to prove to a lot of people that they belong in prime time. They thought that a couple minor tweaks would be necessary to put the Lions over the top, but the roster was soon exposed as a team that was unbelievably lucky to hit 9 wins a couple years ago.

So they sat (and we watched them sit, thank you FOX), watched, studied, and tried to figure how to best work out Plan B - a demolition of the team. We're starting over, my friend. But unlike the expansion Texans, we have cap baggage from the ill-considered Ross signings. ($10 million signing bonus for Batch? 'nuff said)

And we have players who, having matured under a different - dare I say less demanding - culture, expect to be compensated like the best in the NFL even though it's abundantly clear that they are not the best players at their postion. These players signed their contracts expecting to be rich. But they didn't play to the level fo their compensation. Which brings us to Johnnie Morton.

Morton's 2002 cap number would have been $5.341 million (according to ESPN's Pasquerelli, who I tend to believe). $5.341 million is 7.4% of the Lions' $71.7 milion cap. As I don't know for certain that the cap extends to the 53-man roster, let's be generous and say it only applies to the 49-man roster. One player equals just over 2% of a 49-man roster. That means that Morton's cap number would be worth roughly three and a half average players. But that wasn't enough - he wanted MORE. He wanted to be paid like the Broncos' Rod Smith - who I recall got a LOT of money from the Broncos.

I know that Johnnie has been good for the Lions for his professional career, that he went over the middle against some nasty defenses, and that he has been a loyal soldier through some really goofy times in Pontiac, but he's not worth the equivalent of three and a half average players, let alone more than that. The Lions apparently were trying to reduce his cap number to build a better team, and he was stubbornly looking to increase his cap number. So they cut him. And signed three other players (including his replacement, who has statistics that arguably are as good as Johnnie's), with $2.8 million in leftover cap space remaining! You cannot fault M&M for this move. Johnnie was good, but not that good.

Marty's ill-considered comment about not cutting Johnnie just days before curring him was just that - ill-considered. But I have to guess that we don't know the entire story on this. If I had to guess, Marty was genuinely positive about renegotiations with Johnnie and felt like they could rework his cap number. I guess that the negotiations broke down, the Lions were faced with one good (but not great receiver) or 3 players (including a good but not great receiver) and a ton of cash. What decision would you have made? If you chose the former over the latter, I nominate you for the Bobby Ross Award for Outstanding Cap Management.

So I wish Johnnie well. He's a good guy and a decent football player. I hope he goes somewhere that gives him the compensation he's looking for. I hope he plays for a team that wins a lot of games. I also understand - and hope he does, too - that his interests and the Lions' interests no longer intersected.

I am a 25-year fan, and I desperately want to see the Lions win. It wasn't going to happen with Batch, not with Moore, not with Boyd, not with Scroggins and probably not with Morton at the salary level he wanted.

So, please, refrain from calling M&M slugs. They're profesionals in a professional business that changes every day - every hour, if you follow that @#$%!!! KFFL site that I'm slowly growing addicted to. They're doing the best they can with a team stocked with holdovers from a disfunctional regime. Hopefully, you listened to the palpable frustration of Marty's post-game press conferences, or saw the Jim Rome interview of Mat Millen where the combination of impatience, frustration, and sheer stress was so evident. These two want to win, know how to win, and know that they won't win with last year's roster. So give them a chance.

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