Coach Rod Marinelli made his intentions clear Monday in response to ongoing questions regarding the status of the Lions quarterback position, notably after Kitna's three interceptions and one lost fumble in the 28-21 loss Sunday at New England.
"I see Jon as our starter for next year," Marinelli said. "He brings so many things, he's a heck of a quarterback. It wasn't his best game (Sunday), but it's an entire unit, the way I look at it.
"I think he's got so much upside to him. We put a tremendous amount of pressure on him, and the more you do throw, breakdowns can happen, interceptions can happen. He's also done a lot of very, very good things in terms of moving the ball, throwing the ball, spreading it around the field."
Kitna has been Marinelli's choice as the Lions' quarterback almost since he arrived last spring and the decision was made to trade Joey Harrington. Although there was a brief discussion of competition between Kitna, Josh McCown and Dan Orlovsky, Kitna moved into the No. 1 job during offseason workouts and has taken every snap in every regular-season game.
On the plus side, Kitna's leadership has gone far in unifying the Lions locker room, which had been splintered during recent seasons of struggles under Harrington, Mike McMahon and Jeff Garcia.
To his credit, Kitna has moved the team well at times, but opposing defenses seem to have caught up with him in the Mike Martz-style offense in recent weeks. He has thrown at least one interception in each of the past 10 games, and his offensive line has given up 13 sacks in the past two games. Yet Kitna has never pointed a finger at anyone but himself for the interceptions and mistakes.
Kitna was not surprised that Marinelli had expressed confidence in him as the long-term quarterback, and he obviously likes the idea.
"I think that's been his stance all along on how to build a team and the continuity you need at that position," Kitna said. "Your quarterback is going to have times — every quarterback is going to have times — when he does something that really is damaging to the football team.
"(Sunday), I felt like for the first time I just let the whole team down. Coach Marinelli doesn't look at just one play, he looks at the whole picture."
ROGERS' KNEE ‘NOT HEALTHY'
Six games into the season, Rogers was suspended for testing positive for a banned substance and, during the four-game suspension, he had arthroscopic knee surgery.
The suspension was over after the Nov. 19 game at Arizona, but Rogers apparently is not yet close to making a comeback from the knee surgery.
"His knee's not healthy," coach Rod Marinelli said Monday. "We went out and worked him last week and it swelled up.
"He went out, worked out, biked on it hard and all those things. His knee blew up, and you can't put a guy out there like that."
Marinelli said the Lions probably will test Rogers and the knee once more this week, but if there is not noticeable improvement, it is likely Rogers would go on injured reserve.
In the first six games of the season, Rogers had three sacks but he also had some unproductive games, an indication of the problem he was having with his knee even then.
He was particularly determined to correct the team's tendency to play close during the first three quarters but self-destruct in the final 15 minutes of the game.
The 28-21 loss Sunday at New England was an example. The Lions led the Patriots 21-13 after Jason Hanson's fourth field goal of the game with 13:07 remaining, but they committed three turnovers and let the game get away.
"I think the team's playing hard, and I like that," Marinelli said. "I like how they're preparing. What I don't like is the fourth quarter when the game's on the line, on the road.
"One thing I appreciated is that they went on the road against a very good team. We went on the road and competed very hard for a little over three quarters in terms of eliminating mistakes, playing with good fundamentals, kind of being on the details. But the fourth quarter, once again, is getting us."
Marinelli said he and his staff must take some of the blame for the team's inability to finish strong, but he said he would continue to harp on the subject in the final four weeks of the season.
"You've got to learn from those experiences and take it into this week," he said. "We're going into our fourth quarter (of the season). We've got three divisional games to go and Dallas at the end. Looking forward to that and seeing if I can get this team to get better and better."