Goodbye Roy, Kitna: A Fresh Start in Detroit

With the 2008 regular season a scratch, the Lions front office bought themselves an early head start on the future, even if they won't be around to see it.

For the past five years, Lions fans have been blessed with the opportunity to watch one of the game's greatest playmakers.

After Tuesday, they'll have to watch him perform in a different uniform.

Roy Williams didn't always tally huge numbers, but he did produce. He entertained. And he always seemed to enjoy his stay in Detroit, regardless of the constant quarterback and coaching changes.

Regardless of the constant losing.

His endless smile brought the warmth of Texas to the frigid cold of Detroit. But try as he might, he just couldn't bring the winning tradition. Not on his own, anyway.

In Dallas, he'll be a part of a Cowboys' franchise that doesn't know anything other than winning.

If being drafted by Matt Millen makes you born under a bad sign, Williams made the most of his birthright. Unlike his predecessor, Charles Rogers, his career didn't go up in smoke. He became the second part to any Detroit Lions crack:

"... yeah, but at least they have Roy."

The highlight reel manufactured by No. 11 left fans in awe on multiple occasions, leaving many to scratch their heads with a collective, "How did he ... ?" On the heels of No. 20's storied career, that's saying something.

WR Roy Williams provided many highlights
during his career in Detroit.
Getty Images

But in the end, Williams -- like Barry Sanders before him -- simply deserved better. And as one member of The Den message board so aptly wrote, "Roy may be going to a Super Bowl, he was just never going to go to one here."

And likewise, if the Lions ever go to the Super Bowl, it wasn't ever going to be with Williams.

The Future -- Without Roy Williams

The trade of Williams is also symbolic of another rebuilding in Detroit. Easily the primary subject of any discussion regarding potential success in the Motor City, Williams was the last of Matt Millen's pieces to a failed puzzle.

Like Joey Harrington, Charles Rogers, and Kevin Jones before him, Williams' departure seals the pitiful foundation that marred Millen's reign in Detroit.

With the 2008 regular season a scratch, the Lions front office bought themselves an early head start on the future, even if they won't be around to see it. Lions' interim General Manager Martin Mayhew, who has a real chance at becoming Millen's permanent replacement, didn't mortgage anything by dealing Williams.

In fact, he may have earned himself the position with the trade. And, at the very least, he handed the franchise value to help lure the next GM.

Mayhew picked up two solid draft choices (a first- and a third-round pick), saved over $2 million in salary cap space, made Calvin Johnson the official star in Detroit, and for what? A player, Williams, who was going to leave via free-agency next February anyway.

By contrast, two years ago the Raiders got just a fourth-round pick from New England in exchange for Randy Moss.

The Future -- Without Jon Kitna

Obscured by the Williams trade was the shelving of quarterback Jon Kitna for the year.

Although the situation isn't as mutual (according to Wednesday's Free Press column, Kitna was -- as I speculated last week -- forced out), his career in Detroit is nonetheless finished.

Like Williams, and maybe unapparent to the casual Lions fan, was that Kitna was one of the few favorable aspects in Detroit in the past two years.

Kitna gave the franchise stability at a position that had lacked it since the early 90's, tossed for over 4,000 yards each of the last two seasons, and spent the twilight of his career with a franchise that appends "zone" to the term. And with reoccurring back spasms at 36-years old, he ultimately sacrificed his body to see this ball club through.

In the last two seasons, Kitna was sacked more than any other quarterback in the league -- by a wide margin.

No one can ever question
whether Jon Kitna gave his all
in Detroit.
Duane Burleson/AP Photos

But Kitna's days were numbered the moment he arrived in Detroit. Given his age, he was never the long-term solution. His placement on the injured/reserve list gives Detroit's quarterback situation a shot of youth and competition.

In his fourth season, Dan Orlovsky gets his first real opportunity to lead the Lions. A former fifth-round pick, there's no reason why he should watch Drew Stanton play in front of him.

Last year's second-round pick out of Michigan State, Stanton will have his day eventually. He is the No. 2 quarterback, and don't think for a minute that fact is lost on him. Elevated from the practice squad is former Michigan standout Drew Henson, who has impressed Detroit's coaching staff since joining the team late in the preseason.

The three won't have to wait to battle it out in the off-season, breeding a competitive atmosphere at the most important position on the team. After all, who doesn't want the chance to throw the ball to Calvin Johnson?

Kitna and Roy Williams will be missed the same kind of way you miss your first girlfriend. She was exciting, and there was probably a few magical moments. Maybe even hope. But you both knew there wasn't any long-term potential -- and the price tag wasn't worth it, either.

The Detroit front office understands that, and although they won't state it publicly, there is no misconceptions that 2008 is a wash. They proved that on Tuesday.

Instead of waiting until January, they decided to start the future now.

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