The season couldn't have been much worse, but the timing for the Lions' third and final win of the year couldn't have been any better.
As miserable as the Lions were in registering their second three-win season in the past five years, their 39-31 victory over the Cowboys at Texas Stadium let the Lions go home happy.
Whether or not the win means they have turned the corner for coach Rod Marinelli, the Lions don't have to go into the offseason haunted by the specter of another defeat.
Never mind that they have lost 10 games or more in each of the last six seasons. Never mind that they have only once won as many as six games during that same span. Never mind that they will be picking second in the draft for the second time in six years.
The fact is, the Lions, in the span of the past six years, have become the least successful team in the NFL. During that time, they have won only 24 games while losing 72, a remarkably consistent record of futility.
But for a few hours Sunday afternoon and again Monday, as they cleaned out their lockers and headed into the offseason, they could feel good about themselves and what they had pulled off against the playoff-bound but rapidly fading Cowboys.
"I don't know how big a win it is," quarterback Jon Kitna said, "but every win is big in this league. It's hard to win in this league.
"To win your last game, to win on the road -- for this team, I don't know how long it's been. All those things hopefully give you a kick-start and give you a little bit of hope going into next season."
Perhaps the most significant aspect of the game was not the final score but the fact the Lions competed as hard as they did at Dallas with nothing meaningful to gain.
"I think we saw some competitive character come out," Kitna said. "And I think Coach Marinelli is getting this team to where they are reflecting him. You have that competitive character and drive, and you play hard regardless of what things look like."
If that were truly the result of the final game of 2006, it could be a sign
of better things to come in 2007.
Hip Surgery For Marinelli
Before the Lions get started on their offseason program of player evaluation, free agent signings and draft day planning, coach Rod Marinelli has a date with a surgeon.
Marinelli, who walks with a noticeable limp, has a degenerative hip condition. He previously had replacement surgery on his right hip and is scheduled to have the same procedure performed Friday on his left hip.
Marinelli declined to elaborate on the situation, other than to say he expects to be back at work in a very short period of time.
Because of the rest and rehabilitation required, however, the Lions had to decline an opportunity to coach one of the two teams playing in the Senior Bowl in Mobile, Ala.
His Own Playing Weight In Mind ...
WR Mike Williams, who spent most of the season in the coaches' doghouse for his weight and practice-effort issues, might be in for a rude awakening if he honestly expects coach Rod Marinelli to adjust to Williams' suggested playing weight.
Williams, who stands 6 foot 5, was listed on the Lions program at 228 pounds. It is doubtful he was seldom, if ever, down to 228 pounds during the 2006 season, although that still would have been eight pounds above the weight Marinelli and offensive coordinator Mike Martz ordered at the start of the season.
In an interview with the Detroit Free Press, Williams indicated he wants to stay with the Lions but that he wants an accommodation on the weight issue.
Martz said recently that Williams was at 240 in early December and that the weight slowed him down too much to line him up as an outside receiver.
Williams obviously disagrees with the coaches' assessment and believes he can play at that weight.
"If they do want me back, hopefully, we can come to a fair weight for me to play at," Williams said.
When asked about Williams' suggestion that the Lions relax his weight restriction, Marinelli said: "I just go straight ahead. I know what I want and know how I want these guys to look. I don't loosen up."
In his two seasons with the Lions, the No. 10 pick in the 2005 draft has been a major disappointment. He caught 29 passes for 350 yards and one touchdown as a rookie, but he slipped to eight catches for 99 yards and one touchdown this year.
If the Lions trade him or release him, Williams will have the distinction of scoring just two touchdowns in two years -- one in his first NFL game and one in his last.
Furrey Might Test Free-Agency
The Lions had hoped to get WR Mike Furrey, the biggest and most pleasant surprise of this year's team, signed to a contract extension before their final game Sunday, but they came up short.
Executive vice president and chief operating officer Tom Lewand has indicated that the re-signing of Furrey is a priority and he expects to keep Furrey on the roster.
In two previous seasons as a backup receiver in St. Louis (2003-04), Furrey had just 21 receptions for 197 yards without a touchdown. In 2005, he was moved to the defensive backfield and started 11 games at safety for the Rams.
When Mike Martz came to the Lions as their offensive coordinator last February, he recommended Furrey be signed, and the move has paid off handsomely. Furrey finished the season with 98 receptions for 1,086 yards and six touchdowns.
Coach Rod Marinelli obviously backs Lewand's view of getting Furrey signed to a long-term contract.
"I want him here, I've stated that," Marinelli said. "I think he's what we're trying to build here, how he does things, how he practices and everything. He's so valuable, he's a clutch guy. We've just got to have him here ... Let's pay our guy and keep our guy."