ALLEN PARK -- Winning NFL teams are built with baby steps. The subtle draft moves, key free-agent acquisitions along with a decent dose of luck typically paves the way for a franchise to enjoy a winning environment.
Instead, Lions president Matt Millen has decided to take the opposite approach.
In 2007, Millen has already dumped team captains Dre' Bly and James Hall, taking a "If you don't like it, leave" approach. Bly and Hall were Detroit's two most productive defensive players since Millen arrived in 2001, and they were also among the two most respected locker room presences. Contrary to what has the Lions have "leaked" to the media, both players commanded a great deal of respect from fellow teammates, which is why they were tagged team captains in the first place.
The problem with Millen and coach Rod Marinelli's aggressive demeanor is that it could not only backfire, but it could set the organization back at least another five years.
At this point, the Lions have absolutely no defensive leadership. Defensive tackle Shaun Rogers has been hesitant to adopt any leadership qualities, and the team doesn't have a quantifiable middle linebacker -- who typically serves as the voice of the defense.
How the dismissal of each player will affect the team's play, and its impact on chemistry, isn't yet known. What is obvious is that the Lions haven't upgraded since their respective departures.
The signing of former Tampa Bay defensive end Dewayne White is solid, but he never put up the numbers attained by Hall. Meanwhile, the Lions are toying with the notion of replacing the Pro Bowler Bly with three-year player Stanley Wilson. Wilson would start opposite injury-riddled veteran Fernando Bryant.
That hardly seems like a blueprint for success.
While Millen and Marinelli contend that they are building a cohesive, sound team that can traditionally compete at a high level, they are actually -- at this point, anyway -- tearing down without building.
The Lions impact in free-agency has been a mess. Besides White, the players the team have met with have left without a contract. This includes wide receivers Kevin Curtis and Shaun McDonald, running back T.J. Duckett and linebacker Kawika Mitchell. Each player left without buying into what the Lions organization is selling. And that is a frightening (and potentially debilitating) thought.
Detroit has the free-agency dollars to spend. But with virtually unlimited resources financially, they are unable to land veteran talent that could drastically improve the team on either side of the ball.
Millen has obtained some key draft acquisitions, but they don't guarantee production. Especially given Millen and the scouting department's inability to register late-round quality, the Lions multitiude of late picks is more of a crap shoot than a promising future for the franchise.
What Millen does have is both time and leverage. A myriad of quality free-agents are still on the market, including Curtis, McDonald and Mitchell. He can also still move down in the draft by dealing the highly sought after No. 2 overall pick (or a package of picks) and acquire veteran leadership. Or he could draft Georgia Tech receiver Calvin Johnson and pray he doesn't go the route of Mike Williams and Charles Rogers. The off-season is far from over, so it isn't yet time to press the emergency button in Allen Park.
However, if the Lions continue to sell low and buy high, the team and franchise itself could continue to wallow in disappointment for the next several years.
Afterall, if anyone has learned anything from the Matt Millen era, it's that it is just as easy to go from bad-to-worse than it is to improve.