Lions 2009 Season Builds Confidence in Front Office

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Many people, media members and fans alike, denounced the promotions of Tom Lewand and Martin Mayhew after the 0-16 debacle. Why shouldn’t they? Both men worked under the general manager with the worst record in NFL history.

There were two main views opposing the promotion of Lewand and Mayhew. One group felt that because they were associated with Millen, they were incapable of handling the job. Others opposed it not because Lewand and Mayhew were hired by Millen, but because they wanted a proven president and GM to take over.

The first view was very misguided in my opinion. Just because Millen was terrible at his job doesn’t mean that everybody that worked with him was terrible at theirs. Do businesses declare bankruptcy because all of their employees were incapable, or because the employees running the company were incapable? It‘s more often the latter. To assume that Lewand and Mayhew would be terrible just because Millen was is irresponsible.

I wanted the Lions to hire a well-respected candidate from a team with a strong track record of success. Two of those candidates were Scott Pioli, the co-architect of the Patriots dynasty (now with the Chiefs) or Tom Heckert of the Eagles (now with the Browns.) When a team is trying to recover from the level of failure the Lions experienced, why start with unproven commodities like Lewand and Mayhew? It was too risky for my taste, but there have been several encouraging signs since the duo assumed control of the Lions.

Hiring Jim Schwartz was a great move, even though the 2-14 record doesn’t directly indicate that. Schwartz made prudent hires for his coaching staff, laid a strong foundation for future success, showed his attention to detail with some astute coaches’ challenges and took a hard line with players to properly set expectations.

Mayhew also committed highway robbery with two trades snagging 1st, 3rd and 6th round picks from the Cowboys for WR Roy Williams and shipping DT Cory Redding to Seattle for Julian Peterson. He also made a couple of solid free agent signings in CB Phillip Buchanon, LB Larry Foote and RB Maurice Morris.

Mayhew’s first draft class yielded five starters and two solid role players. Only one rookie did not make a significant impact, WR Derrick Williams, although it is far too early to call him a bust or disappointment.

Earlier this week, two of those draft picks were named to the Pro Football Weekly/Professional Football Writers of America All-Rookie team, Louis Delmas and Brandon Pettigrew. Matthew Stafford would most likely have made the team if not for Mark Sanchez getting the benefit of taking over a playoff team.

Mayhew did have a few misses in free agency most notably WR Bryant Johnson. He also made two trades that were stalemates, trading QB John Kitna for CB Anthony Henry and S Gerald Alexander for WR Dennis Northcutt.

Overall, the last twelve months have built confidence in this front office and shed light on how deep a hole Matt Millen dug this team into. Despite the progress, many fans are waiting for results before they invest themselves in the Lions again. There is another population, most likely bolstered by Profootballtalk.com’s weekly call for Mayhew and Lewand’s jobs, who think the Lions need to clean house this year. The road back to respectability is a long one, but the first steps the Lions have taken are encouraging.


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