After four consecutive losses the Detroit Lions (6-6) are reeling. The points scored are declining while the points allowed are increasing, and as the frustration mounts, many are wondering where to point the finger.
The blame shouldn't fall on the shoulders of one person and can't be pinned on one area. Rather it's an assortment of issues that have factored into the Lions' second-half slump. However, head coach Rod Marinelli believes there's one person at the root of the problems – himself.
"…It is some of the non-talent issues," said Marinelli, who has blamed himself for many of the team's shortcomings in 2007. "The things I pride myself in, in terms of how we play, how hard we played, efforts, loafs, mental errors, foolish penalties, and finishing each snap. Those are the things I hold myself accountable for…
"That's why I look at myself last night and that's the first guy I check because that's who I am. If it is not getting done then I've got to find a way to get it done."
Whether Marinelli truly believes the team's issues are his fault or if he is simply deferring criticism of his players can't be determined for certain. Whatever the reason, Marinelli does put some of the onus on his team -- saying he'll find players who will work if his current ones won't.
"If that's not happening then I change players," said Marinelli. "I move guys up which I've done all year. If I don't like what I'm getting within that 53, I'll start somebody else, I'll put in somebody else, or I'll cut playing time. They know that. So there is accountability to that if they want to play on this team. That's important to me."
Marinelli doesn't seem to be taking into account many issues that are out of his -- and his players -- control. One may be their schedule. The Lions won six of their first eight games and have lost their last four. Their six victories in the first half of the season came against teams with a combined .458 winning percentage. Their four loses to start the second half of the season have came to teams with a combined .625 winning percentage.
Another major factor in the Lions' recent struggles has been the play of their offensive line, which has been hampered by injuries and inconsistent play. Guard Blaine Saipaia found himself on the field, playing right tackle, for parts of recent contests. His playing time was unexpected, especially at right tackle, and was a direct result of an injury to tackle Jonathan Scott and the inconsistent play of tackle George Foster. Saipaia struggled and was overpowered by his opposition, severely limiting the Lions offense.
The team recently turned to guard Damien Woody to handle the position. It remains a work-in-progress.
But there are many other factors one could stumble upon when searching for insight behind the Lions' recent futility. However, Marinelli maintains the issues aren't talent related and shoulders the blame, shielding his players from absorbing the criticism that some of them have dealt with directly for years.
"It's just doing and executing," explained Marinelli. "Just the minor things and we're not doing them right now. We haven't done it for the last few weeks. It goes back to those issues that you know what to do, it doesn't take any talent. Those are the things that we've got to get back to and that I'm not getting done."
Marinelli also makes reference to what he calls ‘loafs'. He describes a ‘loaf' as "any change of speed". He also elaborates describing a ‘loaf' as not being aggressive on the ball, not attacking the ball or not finishing aggressively - basically effort issues. He credits a high number of ‘loafs' for the Lions' recent losing, saying that last week there was a higher than usual amount.
"It is way up there," said Marinelli. "Off the top of my head it is probably as high as we've had this year, and a loaf is well defined. It is on our board so they know exactly what a loaf is."
Whatever the reason behind the Lions' struggles, Marinelli must have his players put forth a full effort. As the losing continues the frustration will rise like yeast, in which case it will be even harder for Marinelli to eliminate the ‘loafs'.