The rebuilding has begun.
The Detroit Lions' have unofficially waved their white flag this season by shipping wide receiver Roy Williams to the Dallas Cowboys and placing their starting quarterback, Jon Kitna, on Injured Reserve – losing him for the season.
These moves loudly echo a message of submission. A frustrating, yet necessary situation for this team, which has been ‘rebuilding' for countless years.
The Lions, at 0-5, aren't in a position to even sniff the playoffs. Of their remaining 12 games, they face only one opponent with a losing record. The combined record of the season's remaining competition is 36-27, which will certainly make wins hard to come by. Another season of futility cannot seem appealing to anyone following this team.
Still, the moves occurring on Tuesday, Oct.14, may be the first steps in the right direction.
Roy Williams was in the final year of his contract with the Lions and – although he never publically hinted – was not believed to be interested in returning. If the Lions would have let him leave for nothing it would have been a devastating blow. The Lions would have had the opportunity to utilize the franchise tag with Williams; however, offering Williams a salary averaging those of the league's top-5 highest paid wideouts would have been an expensive price for a No. 2 receiver (although he is expected to be paid that in Dallas).
Instead, the Lions were able to parlay a player who was most likely gone at the conclusion of this season into a first, third and sixth round pick (the Lions also gave up a seventh rounder).
The Lions also took a step in the right direction by placing Kitna on IR and shutting him down for the season. Similar to the Williams trade, losing Kitna will not aide in adding immediate victories to the record. Instead, it forces the team to play its young quarterbacks, allowing next season's GM to fully understand what he has in Dan Orlovsky and Drew Stanton.
If either display the characteristics of a developing quarterback and potential long-term starter the Lions may not need to use a top pick on a signal caller.
However, if both display incompetence, the Lions may need to use one of their first-round selections on a potential franchise quarterback.
Both of the recent moves will also lessen the difficulty of another essential decision that will be made this offseason – what to do with the head coaching position.
Rod Marinelli has been unsuccessful in his attempts to transform this team to a winner. Still, he seemed to have them going in the right direction until this season. The Lions' management will need to decide if Marinelli is part of the problem or if the talent – or lack thereof – was too much of a handicap for Marinelli to overcome.
His team's performance going forward will be a telling indication of his coaching abilities. The players remaining on the roster recognize that this team has turned in its surrender for 2008. They know that the General Manager has been fired and this offseason could bring vast changes. It would not be uncommon for players to tune out their coaches in situations like this.
If Marinelli can still get 100 percent out of the little talent on the roster and keep the team competitive through a time of uncertainty, he will have shown that he is qualified as a head coach and should be considered going forward.
The Lions will enter 2009's draft with an arsenal of picks and a new GM to use them – most likely in a more effective manner. The end of this regime is proving to be disastrous but it signifies the beginning of a new chapter in Lions history, which certainly cannot be worse than the one preceding it.