0-16 is the Lonliest Number
"Failure is only the opportunity to begin again, only this time more wisely."
Henry Ford said that, most likely in Detroit, most definitely a long time ago when things were very different. And while the Ford Motor Company has managed so far to avoid needing a complete do over, most things Detroit can't say the same. While Chrysler and and GM both start to rebuild after their early 2009 bankruptcy filings, the Detroit Lions are looking to likewise remove their heads from their asses after a seemingly impossible, completely unprecedented 0-16 season, last year.
Their record, and incredible feat of ineptitude by any standard, gives the 2008 Lions the dubious honor of being the worst team in NFL history, edging out the 1976 Tampa Bay Buccaneers who finished 0-14 (Tampa was in its first expansion season in 1976, an excuse that Detroit, also an expansion team, but in 1929, cannot). That they managed to do this just one season after the New England Patriots went 16-0 in the regular season makes for some pretty shitty icing on an already crappy cake.
Bookies, usually known for their generosity and sensitivity to the rough situations people sometimes find themselves in when chasing strange vibes, have nevertheless gone ahead and posted 100-1 odds on Detroit making it to the Superbowl this year. The Patriots are 4.5-1, despite not making the playoffs in 2008, either.
While some would argue those are sucker bets, either way, there's still some genuine fun to be had at the Lions quarterback game. Incumbent Daunte Culpepper is a 32 year old journeyman with a hard on for season ending injuries. In 2005, 2006, 2007 AND 2008 he's had injury or surgery shortened seasons, never playing more than 7 games before being put on the Disabled List.
In fact in September of 2008 Culpepper officially retired from football after failing to score tryouts with several teams, before signing with the Lions in early November, about halfway through the season. Pulling a now D-list quarterback out of retirement to stop the bleeding for an already 0-8 Detroit made little sense; but it probably never mattered who was at qurterback anyway (Culpepper played the next four games, lost them all, then hurt his shoulder and was out for the rest of the year, hastening his trip from the C-List to the D-List).
Competing against this juggernaut, and apparently winning, is Matthew Stafford, first overall pick in the 2009 draft. Stafford, fresh off a bowl victory in January decided, after discussions with Detroit, to skip his senior year as a Georgia Bulldog and head straight to The Bigs. Or at least to Deroit.
He agreed to contract terms before the draft was even held: a deal that is worth $41.7 million dollars in guaranteed money (which is the most guaranteed to any player in NFL history). And since he has aready been anounced as their Game 1 starter, the Lions are clearly serious about this kid. Everyone should wish the young man luck, he is going to need it.
The Lions, who had theree draft picks in the first two rounds, seemed to have a basic understanding of The Problem with the Lions, which is, esentially that they are no good pretty much all the way around. That said, they spread their picks around, picking up Louis Delmas at safety and a monster 6'5" 263 lb tight end in Brandon Pettigrew after nabbing Stafford.
Pettigrew, for his part, seems to have a sound notion of what's going on. "They drafted me to help make the offence better," Pettigrew said of the Lions. "I want to do whatever I can to make it better." Perfect.
All this is being worked out by Jim Shwartz, in his first off-season before his first season as a head coach, replacing Rod Marinelli, who was fired a day after the 2008 season ended, and is now holding down assistant coaching duties with the Chicago Bears. The Bear gig narrowly beat Marinelli's other offer as assistant to the night manager of the Ann Arbor Chuck E. Cheese.
All of this is interesting of course, but is inevitably shadowed by the Detroit Lions biggest off-season move, the updating of their logo. The blue lion that graces Detroit's helmets, known lovingly to fans as "The Blob" has had a makeover.
The amorphous lion has been redrawn, giving more detail to his groin and tail pouf, but most importantly, his mane is now more flowing, his biceps more bulging, his teeth more fang-like, and he's now the proud owner of one angry squint eye, where before he had nothing.
So what? Is this a sign of things to come? Will we really see a different Detroit Lions this year? A more well-defined team, maybe even one with eyes in their heads? Can a team go 0-32?
We're about to find out.
Published On: September 12, 2009
Permanent Location: http://www.forgetmagazine.com/090912.htm