Behind Enemy Lines: Lions I

When the Detroit Lions are on a your schedule it's tough to find a way to motivate yourself or your players... at least that's the common theory when looking at a team with a 2-9 record. Nate Caminata of the Roar Report shares some insights about the Detroit Lions, their history and their current situation as they prepare for the New England Patriots this Sunday.

10 QUESTIONS - Lions vs Patriots Part 1 Publisher Nate Caminata is this week's guest on 10 questions about the Lions.

10) What were the expectations for this Lions club in 2006, and how has the season differed from those expectations?

The expectations varied depending on who you asked at the time, but no one expected the team to push for a playoff position or even an above .500 record. The funny thing is that while disappointment is inevitable in Lion-land, it should have been assumed that an entire new coaching staff with the same core of players would have resulted in a struggle. Still, with only two wins, it would certainly be a confidence boost for the team and staff to finish with at least two more 'W's before the season is over.

9) The return of Joey Harrington to Detroit as a member of the Dolphins was one thing. But for him to lead the Dolphins to a win at the expense of his old team must have taken its toll on the organization. What was the fallout from that part of the loss to the Dolphins?

There hasn't necessarily been a fallout among the players as much as there has been in the front office. As I wrote in my column last week, Harrington's win simply provided yet another example what a failure Matt Millen has been as a GM in Detroit. One can only imagine the potential of Harrington's success in Detroit with a capable GM. Because it was before a national audience, Millen is finally feeling the heat from ownership, and is likely done after the season.

8) Drafting a wide receiver in the first round for each of three seasons seemed ludicrous at the time to many outsiders. What were the Lions thinking when they drafted Charles Rodgers (2003), Roy Williams (2004) and Mike Williams (2005)? What other needs did the team have that they could have addressed at the time?

Oddly, this is the one issue that I will defend Millen on, one in which he has surely been snake-bit. Hindsight is 20/20, so as a whole, it does seem odd to draft three receivers in consecutive drafts. However, it could be argued that each player at that point was the best player on the board. Any pick, especially in the top half of the round, is a risk. Unfortunately for Millen, it seems only one of those three (Williams) panned out -- although Mike Williams might finally coming around.

7) Regarding those receivers, Charles Rogers had a tryout with the Patriots this off-season, but remains out of football at the moment. Obviously when a team like the Patriots, who were in desperate need for a receiver at the time, pass on you there's a problem. Are teams passing Rogers because of a physical issue or something else?

Rogers was never the same after his first clavicle injury. And after it broke a second time, he was simply a skeleton of his former self. I believe that along the way Rogers lost both his confidence and motivation as a football player, taking the easy way out (he walked out of Detroit with the bulk of his rookie contract that included a $14 million signing bonus). As for the tryouts: he either felt that he could walk onto any roster thus his lack of effort or simply didn't care anymore. I'm betting on the latter. It's a shame, too, considering the talent he left behind at Michigan State.

6) One of the best backs to ever play the game, Barry Sanders, was a Detroit Lion until he abruptly retired in 1999 citing disdain for the losing culture. After he retired the team sued him for part of his signing bonus, which obviously was upsetting to Sanders. What if anything have the Lions done to bring Barry back into the organization like say the Browns with Jim Brown? Where do things stand between the two parties now?

The last known communication between the Lions and Barry Sanders was an impromptu meeting at Sanders' house by both Millen and former coach Marty Mornhinweg. Apparently, Sanders wasn't answering his phone that day (or for the better part of two years), so they decided to Harley-it-up and ring the door bell on his suburbia mansion. They talked briefly, mainly to entice Sanders to return as a player, but it ultimately ended in failure. Since Sanders' book (Now you see him...), which pretty much tossed the Lions' organization into the fire, it's unlikely that he'll ever be a part of the franchise other than its past.

Look for part 2 where Nate addresses Thanksgiving Day game tradition of the Lions, Jon Kitna's future and Matt Millen's future. Nate also offers a prediction for the game.

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