The expression "long-term project" is enough to make Detroit Lions fans shudder and unfortunately, after an immoderate amount of loses this season, the Lions are being labeled just that – a long-term project.
In the National Football League, however, long-term tasks can turn into
The Lions 2-13 record may be upsetting, disappointing and even disastrous in the eyes of many. However, it is also misleading. Despite being decimated with injuries (15 players on Injured Reserve) the Lions have been competitive. Of their 13 loses, 11 have been by 10 points or less and eight have been by seven points or less. According to Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo, those are the types of teams that can experience quick turnarounds.
"I'm not sure how many total losses they have but I do know they've lost about ten games under seven points or less," said Romo. That's a team in my opinion (that) goes from one year going 4-12 to the next year being 10-6. So, I promise a team like that is a dangerous team that you can not take for granted and we are not going to that's for sure."
Making a one-season transition from losing to winning seems unlikely to some; however, it isn't a rare occurrence in the NFL. Quick turnarounds and abrupt improvements have been happening more frequently around the league and this season has been no exception. In 2005, 14 teams finished with double-digit loses. This season 10 of those teams have improved their win total from the previous year, while nine have seen an increase of at least two victories. Four of those 14 teams have increased their win total by at least four wins and three have increased their win total by five or more wins. Seven of the 14 teams will enter the last week of the regular season with either a secured playoff spot or a chance to make the postseason.
One of the aids to a quick resurrection of a losing team is production from unexpected sources. Something that the Lions have had this season and may be able to build on for next season. One of those players has been defensive lineman Cory Redding, who started the season at defensive end but has impressed many as a defensive tackle - including Lions head coach Rod Marinelli.
"Oh yeah, yeah very much," said Marinelli. "I think he's a really good player. He can - especially inside, he's been so disruptive. He has that high energy motor in him."
Another player who has exceeded expectations and has produced for the Lions this season is wide receiver Mike Furrey.
"He's everything that I'm looking for, you know? I really am," said Marinelli. "The guy comes in here and just - no fanfare - just came in everyday and worked, work, work. His film tells exactly who he is. We know exactly who he is and what you get every single day in practice and boy, we sure do want him here."
Marinelli admits that he, and others in the organization, didn't expect Furrey to produce like he has. Marinelli also believes that there are other players on the roster that have the opportunity to do the same for the Lions – whether it is this weekend or next year.
Marinelli: "No, nobody did, no, no way. I mean that's the neat thing about it all. He comes in and we see some other guys right now that are kind of pounding around for us. (DT Anthony) Bryant, we (have to) wait and see on these guys. (DL) Corey Smith, (Guard Stephen) Peterman (and) guys who are coming in. (We're) getting kind of K-Mart specials (who) come in, you know? These guys get an opportunity. They come in and they take advantage of it and it's great. You find good players that way."
In response, the Lions are currently attempting to re-sign both Redding and
Furrey, who will become eligible for free-agency in early March.
An immediate turnaround is far from guaranteed for the Lions; however, improvement seems more likely than regression for a team that may finish the season with 14 loses. Even though nothing is promised Marinelli, along with others in the organization and around the league, see a team filled with promise. His task will be translating that promise into success.
The following players have been listed on the Detroit Lions' injury report: CB Fernando Bryant (concussion/IR) is out. TE Casey FitzSimmons (shoulder) and G Ross Verba (groin) are doubtful. LB Teddy Lehman (hamstring) and WR Eddie Drummond (ankle) are questionable. T Jeff Backus (foot) and TE Marcus Pollard (hamstring) are probable. Backus, Bryant, Drummond, FitzSimmons and Verba each missed a portion of team practice Wednesday.
The Lions placed Bryant on Injured Reserve. He is the 15th player the Lions have placed on IR this season, including seven starters.