ALLEN PARK - This isn't the way the script was written. This isn't the way the 2005 season was supposed to play out for the Detroit Lions.
The Lions are a disappointing 3-5 after their 27-14 loss to the hapless Minnesota Vikings yesterday in Minneapolis. Lions coach Steve Mariucci is facing increasing scrutiny for the ineptitude of his offensive scheme and what is perceived as a failure to adapt it to fit his current personnel.
Lions president and general manager Matt Millen is being criticized for drafting four players in the first round; quarterback Joey Harrington, wide receiver Charles Rogers, wide receiver Roy Williams and wide receiver Mike Williams, who aren't producing anything resembling first round pick quality results.
Even William Clay Ford, Sr. and Bill Ford, Jr. are being criticized for not doing anything accept apparently accepting in silence the current mess that is the Detroit Lions franchise.
The question that's on everyone lips is 'how can this be?' How can a team that has seemingly assembled so much productive collegiate talent get so little in results back from it?
The answer starts upfront with the lack of protection Harrington and his backup/co-starter Jeff Garcia have gotten from the offensive line.
The injured Jeff Backus continues to gut it out, but hobbled by a bad high ankle sprain, his mobility and success has been limited. Free agent acquisition Rick DeMulling has been a total bust after being penciled in as the team's starting right guard and has been relegated to second string.
Second year pro Kelly Butler has been up-and-down in pass protection at the right tackle spot while only center Dominic Raiola and guard Damien Woody have been consistently solid, if not spectacular. Oh by the way, Woody injured his ankle in Sunday's loss.
Without the offensive line working together effectively as a unit, the team's running game is missing in action. Second year back Kevin Jones has been left idling with few holes to run through. Jones re-injured his shoulder on Sunday and is questionable. His replacement Artose Pinner has shown little in his limited duty.
Detroit's Three Divas, Roy Williams, Charles Rogers and Mike Wiliams have given the team very little production. Out back-to-back seasons due to a collarbone injury, Rogers was suspended by the NFL for four games for violating the league's substance abuse policy. After sitting four games, Rogers turned in a lackluster week of practice and was sent home.
Roy Williams spent his fifth straight week sitting on the bench nursing a injured quadriceps muscle he pulled chasing down a linebacker following a Harrington interception. That's five weeks for a pulled muscle.
He had to be talked into getting on the playing field at all by Millen and Mariucci and still only managed to limp through three plays before sitting the rest of the afternoon. Williams had ankle surgery - his second ankle surgery- following last year's breakout rookie season and appears to be taking the overly cautious route. He has stated he's going to care of himself.
Mike Williams, who has been playing through a variety of nagging injuries, may have broken his foot and could be lost for a substantial portion of the season.
Harrington showed no signs of learning anything from his two week benching for the injured Garcia, but for better or for worse, Detroit appears stuck with him as Garcia doesn't appear to be any healthier this week than he was a week ago.
For Mariucci, who admitted he's growing frustrated with his receiving corps, he just needs to stop the bleeding by getting a win. He has at least one player in the corps he can depend on in Scottie Vines. Vines' nine catch performance showed what a player can do with a little talent and a boatload of guts and determination.
Mooch will have to call on every inch of his coaching accumen to revive the spirit in a locker room that had high hopes prior to the season, only to see them come crashing down in consecutive weeks.
Detroit couldn't ask for a better opportunity than to face the Arizona Cardinals at home on Sunday but even that isn't a gimme. If the Lions lose this Sunday, it's time for drastic action, whether it be benchings, firings or even a wholesale sweeping of the entire organization. The franchise is mired in what is arguably its lowest period in its history.
This is a team that was expected to contend for a playoff spot in a very weak NFC North that is now basically out of the playoff race at the midway point of the season.
Make no mistake about it, for Steve Mariucci, Matt Millen and everyone else involved with the Detroit Lions franchise, it's desperation time.