From day one -- just minutes after the Lions had dropped their season opener to the defending NFC champion Seattle Seahawks -- Rod Marinelli wasn't looking for or accepting alibis.
"I'm not going to throw them a rose and say 'good job,' " he said, after the surprisingly close 9-6 loss at Ford Field. "They expect more and I'm going to demand more. Our standards are higher."
The standards might have been higher but the Lions never really got any closer to living up to Marinelli's demands. At least not on a consistent basis. They won only three games in their first season under Marinelli, beating Buffalo, Atlanta and Dallas on their way to a 3-13 season.
It was disappointing and -- to some, at least -- surprising that the Lions did not fare better after their investment of hard work, a greater dedication to the job at hand and a completely different approach to virtually every phase of the game under Marinelli.
There had been a feeling at the time of Marinelli's hiring that the Lions had enough residual talent to win at least a few more games under the more demanding, tightly-disciplined approach of the new staff.
Even in the team's front office, there was a belief that the 2005 Lions -- loaded with five offensive skill position players taken in the first round of the previous four drafts -- had under-achieved terribly in the final season under coach Steve Mariucci and his successor, interim coach Dick Jauron.
In hindsight, that talent -- from quarterback Joey Harrington through wide receivers Charles Rogers and Mike Williams -- was astonishingly over-rated by everyone from team president Matt Millen through the lowest man on the scouting staff.
Yes, the Lions suffered a devastating number of injuries 2006, but even if they had stayed healthy, it is doubtful they would have won eight games.
In hindsight -- regardless of what Marinelli says in defense of his players -- the Lions simply do not have the personnel to hold their own against the better teams in the NFL.
To the bitter end, Marinelli manned up to and took responsibility for the team's three-win season.
Asked to evaluate the job he did in his first season, he said: "Not good enough."
Asked why he didn't win enough games, he responded: "Well, I've got ... just got to do a better job, maybe earlier getting the toughness that I wanted, the consistency I wanted, day in and day out."
Eventually, Marinelli agreed -- but only in the most general terms -- that the Lions need more quality players.
"Well, you always do," he said. "Every coach is going to say, 'Oh, we always need more players and more players.' I look at it as certain guys evolve. That's how I evaluate.
"I'll take a guy like Cory Redding; he evolved. As a player, he improved. You start looking at (Jon) Kitna, did he evolve? You start looking at this young offensive line we ended up with."
In the 39-31 win over Dallas on New Year's Eve, the Lions had only two of their projected offensive line starters -- left tackle Jeff Backus and center Dominic Raiola -- on the field. Left guard Ross Verba, right guard Damien Woody and right tackle Rex Tucker were all on injured reserve, along with some of the players who had replaced them.
Instead, the Lions played with a practice squad player -- Clint Stickdorn -- at right tackle, a free agent off the street -- Stephen Peterman -- at right guard and an undrafted rookie -- Frank Davis -- at left guard.
The fact the Lions were able to win with that lineup at Dallas is an indication the young players were evolving and improving. But if the Lions are ever going to get back to respectability, they're going to have to get better in a lot of areas, regardless of who's taking the blame for last year's shortcomings.