Writers of Pro Football Prospectus 2008

18 Oct 2005

Lions May Bench Harrington

I can't say this is surprising news, other than the fact that the current backup is a rookie who is, as Mariucci describes, "very under-practiced." If history is any guide, I'm guessing Matt Millen will address the quarterback position this offseason by using Detroit's first round pick to draft another wide receiver.

Posted by: P. Ryan Wilson on 18 Oct 2005

53 comments, Last at 19 Oct 2005, 5:25pm by JonL


by mawbrew (not verified) :: Tue, 10/18/2005 - 10:38am

Woo-Hoo!!! I had game six in the 'Harrington gets benched' pool. Looking good.

I was getting a little nervous when Garcia looked so bad during the preseason. Absence makes the heart grow fonder, I suppose.

by charles (not verified) :: Tue, 10/18/2005 - 10:40am

I'm going to fight for my job like nothing else, and that's what I've always done," said Harrington, the third pick in the 2002 draft, who has a 16-33 record as a starter. "That's what I've done since the second I've been here. ... I'm not going to quit. That's not how I was raised. You're going to have to drag me out of this, because I'm focused on winning football games for this team, and I'm not going to quit on them."

LOL, anybody have audio of him saying this.

by Independent George (not verified) :: Tue, 10/18/2005 - 10:51am

#2: I'm not sure I see what's so funny about that quote. From what I've read, he has been working really hard at improving his game, and hasn't given up in the face of all his troubles. He never blamed his receivers, his coaches, or the wind (of course, he does play in a dome...). He seems like a decent guy - he's just not a very good quarterback. There are worse things in the world.

For example: having him on your loser league team when he gets benched.

by MDS (not verified) :: Tue, 10/18/2005 - 10:59am

If Orlovsky is under-practiced, Mooch is a moron. Why the hell hasn't he been taking practice reps with Garcia out? I wanted them to bench Harrington during the game Sunday just to see what Orlovsky could do. I don't see how he could've been worse. But the whole offense is horrible. The line is incredibly porous. The receivers are terrible. Where are all the people who talked about what a talented team the Lions had?

by Will Allen (not verified) :: Tue, 10/18/2005 - 11:04am

My Bears pick for the disaster that is the NFC Central is looking better and better. What's scary is that the Vikings are likely one phantom offensive pass interference call away from being co-leaders.

by Duck in MA (not verified) :: Tue, 10/18/2005 - 11:47am

I was at Oregon while Joey was the QB and I always thought he would be a good NFL QB. He won in college despite not exactly having top-notch quality around him (although those Duck teams certainly had at least a decent share of talent). He showed great leadership and willed that team to victory time and again. The Duck in me wants to see him succeed, but the football guy knows that his time as a starting QB is done. He's a really good guy and he works hard, he just isn't a starting QB. He'll be benched soon, the Lions will go 5-11 and still be second in the NFC North. Now I'm just hoping he gets traded to a decent team who needs a solid back-up QB. He'll have to wait for a while, but he may get a chance again to show what he can do. Maybe, just maybe, he can prove he really does belong under center in the NFL.

by Carl (not verified) :: Tue, 10/18/2005 - 11:48am

Actually, Will, I thought that my pick of Detroit as boobie-prize winners of the divsion looked better with this news.

The irony is that the division's two best QBs (Packers and Vikes) have the two worst lines.

If you were to create a mish-mash of all the best players in the division, you might have a team that could finish third or fourth in the NFC North or South.

The Bears are 2-1-0 in their division right now, so they probably have the edge in becoming nearly mediocre, which should give them (or perhaps the "rising" Lions) a tilt against a better wildcard team (I picked Dallas for that spot at the beginning of the year, but it might be Tampa Bay).

I had given up on my computer-jiggered pick of Buffalo to come out of the AFC East, but the Bills are 3-0 in conference, 2-0 in their injury-depleted division, so maybe I'm as brilliant as I seem!

I had the Bengals as a wildcard, and now they're in the AFC North lead, and looking pretty good against relatively weaker competition. I still think the Steelers look like a playoff team, if they get their QB back and he doesn't become Ortonesque with the TOs.

I had NE as a wildcard. I still think they'll probably get in, and KC winning in the West. Now it looks like KC might have enough to make it, but Denver seems awfully solid out there. I love that division.

I still don't like Jacksonville down the road. When a team depends that much on starters in high-injury positions, it's tough to win at the end of the year, especially on the road. I think KC (2-1-0 in conference with a weaker schedule) edges them.

I had the Eagles, and I'll stick with that, even though the rest of their division has been excellent so far against the rest of the conference. McNabb's hernia/groin injury, however, isn't going away, and I really wonder if he can make it through the season.

Seattle will still be on hand at the end of the season to lose against a wildcard team.

by LnGrrrR (not verified) :: Tue, 10/18/2005 - 11:57am

Yeah...I also feel the sadness of losing Harrington on my Loser League...thank goodness Ricky Williams is finally back :D

by Steven H. (not verified) :: Tue, 10/18/2005 - 12:07pm

As a Lions fan, I know how this is going to turn out. The Lions will ditch Harrington, he will go to the Packers and emerge in 2007 as a Pro Bowl quarterback. Meanwhile, Orlovsky craps the bed for three years before another high pick is used on a quarterback. And the Lions still won't have an offensive line. Someone kill me. Or better yet, kill Matt Millen.

by zlionsfan (not verified) :: Tue, 10/18/2005 - 12:11pm

I don't see why it makes any difference how many snaps Orlovsky has taken. Is there any reason to believe he'll be any different than the long line of mediocre QBs preceding him in Detroit?

And even if he is different, would he be able to show it behind this offensive line?

If you don't have any viable alternatives, it doesn't really matter if you discover during the season that your current QB isn't starter-quality. As the Free Press noted, it's not like Brady just became available on waivers. Garcia looked older than his age in preseason and had a year of running for his life in Cleveland before that. Orlovsky only looks good because he's NTS (not the starter).

by Sophandros (not verified) :: Tue, 10/18/2005 - 12:14pm

In Joey's defense (hey, he's a fellow Joe), he's the fourth most sacked QB in the National Football League. From the highlights (if a Lions clip can be called that), it looks as if he doesn't get a lot of time back there.

Now, if Mooch doesn't think that Joey's his guy, then he should bench him, play his guy, and trade Harrington. But coaches don't seem to like to do that, and instead insist on destroying young QB's confidence (see Ramsey, Patrick).

by apocalipstick (not verified) :: Tue, 10/18/2005 - 12:25pm

I don't see how anyone can pass judgment on Harrington's ability. He's mired in the most clueless organization in football, behind an atrocious O-line, and constantly aware that he's not the coach's guy. I feel for him just like I do for David Carr. Who knows if either one can read a defense? It's not like either of them has a chance to even look for the second receiver, let alone the third.

All I'll say is that, as a Chiefs fan, we're going to need a replacement for Trent Green real soon, and I thing JH would be worth a look, esp. if Vermeil and Saunders are still around.

by GBS (not verified) :: Tue, 10/18/2005 - 12:32pm

Carl, you might want to reconsider the realtive strengths of KC's and Jax's schedules. KC may have the easier overall schedule, but Jax has already played every decent team on theirs. If you look at the schedule Jax still has yet play, I don't see how they can miss the playoffs short of an injury parade.

It looks like my worst preseason prediction this year was that Houston would win more games than Jacksonville. Right now, I'm not so sure the Jags aren't going to win the AFC South.

Sorry this is so far off-topic.

by MDS (not verified) :: Tue, 10/18/2005 - 12:43pm

Well, as long as we're getting off topic, how could you think the Jags are going to catch the Colts? That seems nearly impossible to me.

by Rob (not verified) :: Tue, 10/18/2005 - 12:56pm

I also went to Oregon while Harrington played there, so I'm maybe a little biased... but I just have a hard time imagining he would be quite this terrible on another team.

Is there any recent precedent for a bad team acquiring so many skill position players with high draft picks (while not adding any veteran leadership on offense) and actually being successful? When Detroit drafted Williams this year, all the talking heads said "This year Harrington has run out of excuses"... well, not that he's ever bitched or pointed fingers at anyone, but "My receivers suck ass, and oh yeah, our whole team basically still sucks too" would seem to be an accurate one.

That being said, he did look pretty damn bad on Sunday...

by djcolts (not verified) :: Tue, 10/18/2005 - 12:59pm

Jags are tough when the play tough teams - but they haven't yet shown the skill of beating all the teams they are supposed to. This is the drawback for not having an explosive offensive.

by GBS (not verified) :: Tue, 10/18/2005 - 1:05pm

I'm a Colts' fan, so maybe I'm just being overly pessimistic, but the Jags have already gone 4-1 against Seattle, Pittsburgh, Cincy, NYJ, and Denver. Substitute NE and SD for NYJ and Denver, and the Colts still have yet to play those same teams. The Jags only other loss was a close game at Indy, and both teams will meet in Jacksonville in December. Now granted, the Colts are certainly capable of going 4-1 or 5-0 against those "big 5" and there's no guarantee that Jacksonville will go undefeated against the lesser teams the Colts have already played, but it's certainly possible.

To clarify, I still think the Colts have the better team and I'm not predicting Jacksonville will win the division; I'm just saying it's not as unrealistic as it might seem.

by MCS (not verified) :: Tue, 10/18/2005 - 1:22pm


If you were to create a mish-mash of all the best players in the division, you might have a team that could finish third or fourth in the NFC North or South.

Huh? If you take a mish-mash of all the best players in the NFC North, you might have a team that could finish third or fourth in the NFC North or South? I assume you mean NFC East or South.

Typos aside, I think you may be a bit harsh with your judgement. The division is so poor that the best players from all four teams don't add up to a division winner in the rest of the league?

Please elaborate if you have the time.

by Nate (not verified) :: Tue, 10/18/2005 - 1:39pm

RE: 15
Is there any recent precedent for a bad team acquiring so many skill position players with high draft picks (while not adding any veteran leadership on offense) and actually being successful?

The Falcons have to be close. They spent three first rounders in the last three years on WR's (don't forget Price), as well as Vick and Duckett. Ironically, it's their defense and Dunn that has carried them.

by buddha (not verified) :: Tue, 10/18/2005 - 1:43pm

"All I’ll say is that, as a Chiefs fan, we’re going to need a replacement for Trent Green real soon, and I thing JH would be worth a look, esp. if Vermeil and Saunders are still around. "

Be careful what you wish for.

Harrington gets pressure, sure. Harrington also has no clue how to avoid the pressure, feel the pressure, or sit back and absorb the pressure and find the open receiver.

Whenever pressure is about to come, or whenever pressure seems like it might come, Joey ducks and runs or throws to the outlet back who is two yards down the field. He never lets plays develop. He never creates space for himself in the pocket. He's a chicken with its head cut off.

In other words, he'll never be a good NFL QB. He'd make a nice inexpensive back-up someday. But if you want him for your starter, you're in trouble.

by Arkaein (not verified) :: Tue, 10/18/2005 - 2:00pm

Re: 7, 18

Actually, add the Bears and Packers together and you might get one of the best teams in the NFL, IMHO.

Start with the Bears very good D and the Packers decent offense and you already have at least a slightly above average team. Add Al Harris as a starter, KGB on passing downs and a few other Packers defenders for depth and you have a really good defense. Give the GB offense Mushin Muhammed, Thomas Jones and a couple upgrades on the interior of the O-line and you have quite a good offense as well.

Great defense + good offense = very good team.

by bobstar (not verified) :: Tue, 10/18/2005 - 2:12pm

Mike O'Hara of the Detroit News finally wrote something interesting yesterday; he said that at his press conference, Mariucci kept reiterating that Joey was trying his best to get better. O'Hara interpreted that to mean that Mooch felt Harrington's lack of success wasn't due to lack of effort but rather that he just is not capable of being an acceptable NFL QB.

I know the Lions suck in so many ways, but they do have a considerable amount of talent. Why they keep performing like an expansion team is beyond me. Their defense seems to be coming on, though. A very vexing team to support, to be sure.

by Will Allen (not verified) :: Tue, 10/18/2005 - 2:29pm

Interesting thought experiment: What if the Lions had used the picks which obtained Joey and the Wideouts (headlining at your local casino!) on the four best offensive linemen instead?

Carl, I detect too much Culpepper apologia in you. He can't be severely overthrowing wide open receivers in the end zone, as he did on Sunday. That said, I would take him over Harrington and Orton, and the Vikings o-line was hideous in the red zone versus the Bears.

Say, I know you think a new CBA will be struck before the next draft; do you think veterans will get a larger cut of revenues, in return for reworking the 1st round salary structure? I'm on the verge of hoping for Les Steckel II: The Horror Returns, so the purple ones can win the Reggie Bush sweepstakes, which may take a 2-14 or a 3-13 record, but only if they don't have to guarantee him 40 million.

by MDS (not verified) :: Tue, 10/18/2005 - 2:30pm

"they do have a considerable amount of talent. Why they keep performing like an expansion team is beyond me"

They keep performing like an expansion team because you're wrong; they don't have a considerable amount of talent. I'll keep screaming until I'm blue in the face that the problem here is Millen. Everything else, including Harrington (who I think should be benched) is secondary.

by Sophandros (not verified) :: Tue, 10/18/2005 - 2:38pm

I've always felt that it's hard for a QB to read a defense from his back.

When you finish your drop and you're already trying to escape a DL, there is a problem that doesn't begin with your "skill" players. That Kevin Jones (curses!!!) hasn't gotten off this year should tell everyone something about the Lions as well.

If the line were worth anything, Harrington wouldn't be spending Sunday afternoons on his back looking up at Kevin Jones getting stuffed for losses and minimal gains.

by Carl (not verified) :: Tue, 10/18/2005 - 2:45pm

I don't see a really good offense with the Packers. If we use DVOA's metrics, then we're left to assume that GB is somewhere around 19th in the league. Would anyone say the Titans were an offensive juggernaut? I didn't think so, but they're performing at about the same clip.

Chicago has a great defensive team. And they're lucky to play in a cold weather division against the worst offensive flotsam in professional sport.

But, as we continue to suggest, it is very dangerous to rely on defense because of the higher injury toll relative to this unit. Now, the Bears might prove one of those fortunate teams (see also Pats, Bucs and Ravens) in prior years that toughed out a season with fewer than normal injuries at key defensive positions (especially DT and LB).

But I doubt it. And once those injuries start adding up, I don't get the feeling that the Bears' OL, QB or (most) WRs are all that great.

Remember that Detroit also has a better than average defense (although I don't like how they've performed against the pass), and the Lions also get to play some pretty crappy offensive divisional rivals, or at least some teams with shredded lines (Minnesota, Green Bay) that have done better than one might suppose because they have superior QBs.

Harrington has not done as good a job as I expected, but DVOA shows they're not horrible. And the rest of the division rivals aren't exactly stacking Pro Bowl rosters with their OLs either.

According to FO, the Lions' adjusted sack rate is slightly below the NFL average.

And at least they're relatively healthy! Crappy and healthy beats crappy and getting hurt!

Whether you use FO's metrics, or those of others, it seems to me fair to say that no team in this division is even mediocre offensively, and only Chicago and Detroit are better than average defensively.

I look forward to the wildcard team from a much better division scrimmage them mercifully away in Week 18.

by Jeff F (not verified) :: Tue, 10/18/2005 - 2:47pm

#21: Of course, combine any two teams in the NFL, and you will end up with a pretty good team. Maybe not if you combine Houston and Arizona, but if you combine almost any two teams together, you will be dealing with most, if not all of both team's biggest weaknesses, and replacing the weak players with at least passable ones, so saying that adding the Packers and Bears together, you'd get a great team, is pretty irrelevant.

by buddha (not verified) :: Tue, 10/18/2005 - 3:01pm

"I’ve always felt that it’s hard for a QB to read a defense from his back."

I'm sure it is. How about Joey's failure to read a defense when he's standing straight up? How about his inability to accurately throw a pass while he's standing up?

Do you watch the Lions every week? Even when the blocks are there, the ability to make the correct pass (and make it accurately) is not. It's not even close. He's in his 4th year in the league and he has not improved one iota. Not one. He's still scared, inaccurate and has happy feet. The only time he does anything is when the other defense is playing prevent, then he hits the underneath guys. That's it.

And I agree with MDS. At the beginning of the season I bought into the hype about the Lions "talent." They got good draft grades the last few years from all the Mel Kiper people of the world, but I'm beginning to be rather dubious of those rankings.

Look at Millen's draft record:

2001: Backus, Raiola, Shaun Rogers, Scotty Anderson, Mike McMahon, Jason Glenn.

Rogers is a pro-bowler. Backus is average at best. Raiola is average. The rest are nothing.

2002: Harrington, Kalimba Edwards, Andre Goodman, Chris Cash and a bunch of nothing.

Harrington sucks. Edwards has done nothing until the last few games and even that isn't that much. Goodman is bad. Cash was cut.

2003: Smoky Rogers, Boss Bailey, Corey Redding, Artose Pinner, Terrance Holt, James Davis.

Smokey is nothing, Boss Bailey is injured and hasn't been that great when not injured, Redding is a decent role player, same with Pinner Holt and Davis.

2004: Roy Williams, Kevin Jones, Teddy Lehman, Keith Smith, Alex Lewis, Kelly Butler.

Probably Millen's best draft, but that's not really saying that much. Roy Williams is still just untapped potential with a big mouth. Jones is the real deal. Lehman is very good at running into blocks. Butler will be a steal if he sticks. The other two are depth.

Too early to tell on this year.

Millen gets a lot of props for his drafting. But I'm begining to think it's all hype.

And let's not even get into Damien Woody, Bill Schroeder, Rick DeMulling and Fernando Bryant...

by Carl (not verified) :: Tue, 10/18/2005 - 3:01pm

What I think we can say is that the Lions are grossly underperforming this year, given the strengths the team has at key positions. Harrington has not improved as a QB, however, and it might not be prudent to assume he will.

It's good to know that Millen was rewarded with a great contract for a team that wins 60 percent fewer games than peers in its division over the span of his tenure.

If Ford hired a CEO for his automotive division with this track record, Yugo would own the company that gave us the Model T.

by Nate (not verified) :: Tue, 10/18/2005 - 3:22pm

re: 29
What I think we can say is that the Lions are grossly underperforming this year, given the strengths the team has at key positions.

I'll reiterate what the previous poster said - what exactly are these "strengths the team has at key positions"?

Rogers is a nice DT who has regressed a bit this year, and Bly is coming back strong after a crappy 2004. On offense? Ick. They have a mediocre at best LT, a decent (though overpaid) RG, a talented WR who is always hurt and drops too many balls (R.O.Y.), and Pollard. That's it. High draft picks and expensive FA signings don't necessarily translate into talent.

by Nate (not verified) :: Tue, 10/18/2005 - 3:23pm

Oops - forgot Kevin Jones.

by MCS (not verified) :: Tue, 10/18/2005 - 3:24pm

2003 Lions draft sounds like a blues band: Smoky, Boss, Redding and Pinner

by Loophole (not verified) :: Tue, 10/18/2005 - 4:06pm

In response to Carl's comment (No. 7), someone with more time and expertise than me should put together an "all 2005 NFC North team" to see how it would stack up against the best in the NFL. I suspect that it would be good enough to compete for a Superbowl (as would any all star team made up of the best players from four other teams). The second team would probably be OK too.

by Jimmy Two Times (not verified) :: Tue, 10/18/2005 - 4:29pm

OK, this should be fun.

The all NFC North offensive team:

WR: Roy Williams, DET
LT: Bryant McKinnie, MIN
LG: Adrian Klemm, GB
C: Dominic Raiola, DET
RG: Damien Woody, DET
LG: Mark Tauscher, GB
TE: Bubba Franks, GB
WR: Donald Driver, GB
QB: Brett Favre , GB
RB: Thomas Jones, CHI
FB: William Henderson, GB

That team paired with the Chicago defense would have to be one of the best in football.

by JonL (not verified) :: Tue, 10/18/2005 - 4:48pm

Michael Smith wrote a piece for ESPN.com (are we allowed to mention them here?) basically laying the Lions' troubles at the feet of Mariucci (and to a lesser extent, Millen). Given the fact that the Owens/Garcia situation got way out of hand, and the Lions' inability to do anything, the more I think about it the more this seems about right.

by MDS (not verified) :: Tue, 10/18/2005 - 5:50pm

That was a very good piece by the "other" Michael Smith. (And of course we can mention ESPN here.) I'd be all for getting rid of Mooch if I thought it would do any good, but as long as Millen is in charge of acquiring the talent, there is zero chance that any top-notch coach would want to take the Detroit job. Why go to a place where your boss is a guy who has proven himself a loser?

by buddha (not verified) :: Tue, 10/18/2005 - 6:29pm

"Why go to a place where your boss is a guy who has proven himself a loser?"


The Ford's will spend money. They'll just do it on the wrong guy.

by Daniel Warehall (not verified) :: Tue, 10/18/2005 - 7:12pm

#34-Roy Williams over Muhammed?

I'd also like a few Detroit Defensive players... Rogers...Bly...

Now to agree with MDS, Millen is not drafting well. He is drafting BIG names from BIG College Programs, so the fans "know" they are getting talent.

These players occasionally show a flash of their physical talent, but has anyone seen enough out of Williams or Rogers to say they will have the maturity or intelligence to make it as a pro? I haven't.

by Becephalus (not verified) :: Tue, 10/18/2005 - 7:18pm

#28 The posters point was that Carl said an all-star team from the NFC north would suck...which is ridiculous. The Vikings are way underperforming and have probably one of the 5 worst coaches in the past 10 years. I bet the Vikings would be maybe 4-1 right now with lovie smith at the helm. Saying that an all-star team made up of any 4 NFL teams (yes even SF/HOU/DET/ARI) would finsih thrid in any division makes about as much sense as saying USC could beat ARI (which is the duymbest thing I have seen said on this site period).

The whole DET (and especially HOU) fiasco once again reafirms my belief that the position players are way, way, way overvalued on offense and that offensive success lays almost enitrely in the hands of the O-Line. As the NFL is a buisness you think GMs would eventually catch on, but they never do. With a great O-line any RB good enough to start in the NFL will put up big numbers and then the passing game gets significantly easier. I think a lot of teams would take the Carr/Johnson/Davis trifecta before three good lineman, but look where that ha gotten HOU, nowhere. HOU would be much better served by a good O-line and castoffs like Dilfer/K. Johnson/A. Smith (just guys off the top of my head, substitute your personal favorite castoffs) I personally thought drafting even 2 WR in the first round was beyond stupidity. Anyway Harrington is a borderline starter (say 25-32 in the league) with a good O-line in front of him IMO. With a bad O-line he is simply terrible, but is Orlovsky or whoever really going to do any better?

by Jimmy Two Times (not verified) :: Tue, 10/18/2005 - 8:16pm

38-- Yeah, no. Muhammad is pretty obviously better than Roy. I do like Roy, though.

by Will Allen (not verified) :: Tue, 10/18/2005 - 8:48pm

Becephalus, I don't think Lovie Smith would have the Vikings right guard and center playing any better, nor would he likely have had receivers catching balls that they have dropped , nor would he have had Culpepper reading defenses better, assuming that Smith had been forced to use his offensive line coach as offensive coordinatior. The defense might have been sightly better under Smith, but is should be noted that the DVOA rank for the Vikings "d" is a respectable 15, while the offense ranks near the bottom.

Also, have Smith go into his last year of his contract without an extension, and he would lose all credibility with the players as well. If you can't instill fear in NFL players, you can't coach them. By definition a coach in the final year of his contract is unable to instill fear.

No, Tice is not the reincarnation of Vince Lombardi or Paul Brown. I think people entirely underestimate, however, what handicaps he has been working with.

by Becephalus (not verified) :: Tue, 10/18/2005 - 10:01pm

Well I agree that Tice has a horrible staff because of having no money, but from day one no one really had faith in him. Red Mcombs hired the cheapest coach he could find as he didn't care about the team anymore and got what he paid for. I remember when they named him basically everyone laughed. And they have underachieved every year he has been there. This years start is no worse than the implosions they went through after good starts other years under him. 6-0 > 8-8. In fact the team is basically regressing depite spending more money on personel. This is bad coaching. Smith on the other hand has improved the Bears since he has been there (from what i have seen).

So you picked out exactly what I was saying. I am saying that if any one of maybe 20 NFL coaches and their staffs were with the Vikings Culpepper would be playing better, the O-line would be playing better and the Recievers would be playing better, period. Tice is a nice guy and the players like him, other than that I have never heard a single good word about his football knowledge, ability to scheme, ability to make required changes, ability to manange team morale/chemistry etc.

by Will Allen (not verified) :: Tue, 10/18/2005 - 11:17pm

No, Becephalus, you orginally stated that Tice was one one of the worst five coaches in the past ten years. Now you are saying that he is one one of the worst 12 coaches now in the league. Previously, you made no mention of staffs, leading one to think that Lovie Smith, with the same coaching budget, would have this team at 4-1. This is very likely untrue.

Look, I'm not saying Tice is a great coach. I am saying that in his first year he went 9-7 with a bunch of guys on defense who didn't belong in the league. He went 8-8 last year with a just a few upgrades on defense (most notably Winfield), while losing his starting nickel back (Irvin), starting ort (Rosenthal), and a very important component of his running game, Kleinsasser, for almost the entire season, not to mention losing Birk for chunks. He also lost his most important offensive weapon, Moss, for large chunks, while having to coach around his delicate psyche. This year, he loses his best staff hire (Linehan) for salary reasons, and is told to be the one team in the NFL which merges the o-line coaching job with the coordinator role.

Putting this all on Tice is simply inaccurate, and to state that that Lovie Smith would have this club at 4-1 under the same circumstances is pure weightless speculation.

by JACO (not verified) :: Wed, 10/19/2005 - 1:54am

Not to get too off topic, but the over the top assertion that a mix of players from ANY COMPLETE DIVISION wouldn't be the best team in the NFL is totally asinine.

Post #34 was made for a point, but obviously there are some suboptimal choices in there. Let's just try a cursory example of the 'terrible' NFC North to make an 'ultra-squad,' with backups/alternates in parentheses:

QB - Brett Favre (Daunte Culpepper)
HB - Kevin Jones (Ahman Green)
FB - William Henderson (Jim Kleinsasser)
WR1 - Muhsin Muhammand (Donald Driver)
WR2 - Roy Williams (Nate Burleson)
TE - Marcus Pollard (Bubba Franks)
LT - Bryant McKinnie (John Tait)
LG - Toniu Fonoti (Ruben Brown, Chris Liwienski)
C - Olin Kreutz (Matt Birk)
RG - Damien Woody (Terrence Metcalf)
RT - Mark Tauscher (Fred Miller)

RDE - Alex Brown (Kabeer Gbaja-Biamila)
DT - Kevin Williams (Pat Williams)
DT - Shaun Rogers (Tommie Harris)
LDE - Adewale Ogunyele (Aaron Kampman)
SLB - Hunter Hillenmeyer (Boss Bailey)
MLB - Brian Urlacher (Nick Barnett)
WLB - Lance Briggs (Robert Thomas)
CB1 - Antoine Winfield (Fred Smoot)
CB2 - Charles Tillman (Al Harris)
SS - Mike Brown (Corey Chavous)
FS - Darren Sharper (Terrence Holt)
Other Nickel/Dime Backs - Jerry Azumah (Dre Bly)

Special Teams
P - Brad Maynard (Nick Harris)
K - Ryan Longwell (Jason Hanson)
KR - Jerry Azumah (Troy Williamson)
PR - Nate Burleson (Jerry Azumah)

Even a division as allegedly poor as the NFC North could muster together a 'mish-mash' squad, and completely obliterate most, if not all other teams in the NFL.

Oh, and the Vikings just traded a 6th or 7th round pick for Toniu Fonoti, which is an absolutely ridiculous steal. The Chargers made an egregious error there. Fonoti was was their best guard, and is probably the most underrated guard in the league. That is a great move for your 2006 Minnesota Vikings.

by Becephalus (not verified) :: Wed, 10/19/2005 - 3:54am

No the 20 other coahces comment wasn't meant to make it seem that I think there might be 11 other guys Tice is better than. It was just that was the number of decent coaches by my estimation. No sense in replacing a terrible coach with a merely bad coach.

And those years you pointed out the Vikings started off 6-0 and 6-1, and the defense was playing decently. Moreover the Vikings would beat quality oposition, they would also drop a bunch of games to horrible teams. In my mind that is a coaching problem.

Two years ago preason they were third in preseason odds to get to the superbowl (as determined by vegas). This year they were 4th I think. I am not saying that this is the end all be all but clearly the people making the odds think they had a good team on paper (and the 6-0 and 6-1 starts might lead someone to agree) and I think both years they basically underperformed wildly. Period. I don't think the probelms on defense was ever the players, I think it was the coaching. Oh well I am obviously not going to convince you.

by Will Allen (not verified) :: Wed, 10/19/2005 - 11:46am

Well, becepahalus, let's check out your assertions. What contributions are such titanic defensive players such as Denard Walker and Eric Kelly making these days? Nick Rogers? Kenny Mixon? Henri Crockett? Derek Ross? Mike Nattiel? These were all guys (and I certainly haven't named them all) who had significant playing time in 2003 and/or 2004. I guess they just haven't yet found the right coaches, huh?

Also, last I checked, a win in September counts the same in the standings as a win in December. In fact it is not uncommon for teams with inferior defensive personnel to skid in the last half of a season, since the schemes to cover up weaknesses are inevitably exposed.

As I stated earlier, I'm not saying Tice is a great coach. In particular, I think his hiring of Cottrel was a real error, but , then again, we don't know how much that was forced upon him by McCombs' salary restrictions. Your assertion, however, that Tice is one of the five worst in the pat ten years, is pure hyperbole, in that it ignores that hardly any other coaches in the past ten years have had the set of circumstances that Tice has been forced to deal with.

by Lafcadio (not verified) :: Wed, 10/19/2005 - 11:54am

for the four horsemen (ARI/DET/HOU/SF) :

QB - David Carr (Josh McCown) //QBs will need legs
HB - Domanick Davis (Kevin Jones)
FB - Fred Beasley (Cory Schlesinger)
WR1 - Anquan Boldin (Andre Johnson)
WR2 - Lary Fitzgerald (Roy Williams)
TE - Marcus Pollard (Eric Johnson if healthy, else Mark Bruener)
LT - Jonas Jennings (Leonard Davis)
LG - Rick DeMulling (Chester Pitts)
C - Jeremy Newberry (Alex Stepanovich)
RG - Damien Woody (Eric Heitmann)
RT - Kwame Harris (Todd Wade)

RDE - Bertrand Berry (Andre Carter)
DT - Seth Payne (Saun Cody //potential)
DT - Shaun Rogers (Bryant Young)
LDE - Chike Okeafor (Gary Walker)
SLB - Boss Bailey (Morlon Greenwood) gasp!
MLB - Jeff Ulbrich (Earl Holmes)
WLB - Julian Peterson (Jason Babin)
CB1 - Dunta Robinson (Ahmed Plummer)
CB2 - Dre' Bly (Demarcus Faggins)
SS - Tony Parrish (Kennoy Kennedy)
FS - Marcus Coleman (Terrence Holt)
Other Nickel/Dime Backs - R.W. McQuarters

Special Teams
P - Scott Player (Nick Harris)
K - Neil Rackers (Jason Hanson)
KR - Jerome Mathis (Eddie Drummond)
PR - Philip Buchanon (Otis Amey)

They could end up with a winning season (if playing in the NFC North of course).
Some big names of underachievers on offense and some big names of defensive players lost in very very bad teams...

by MDS (not verified) :: Wed, 10/19/2005 - 12:07pm

I realize it's just a joke, but come on. A team made up of the best players from the four worst teams, assuming they had time to practice together, would be by far the best team in the NFL. Look at the receiving corps above. It would be by far the best in football, no comparison, good enough to make even those pathetic quarterbacks look good. The defensive line could work on an eight-man rotation, keeping everybody fresh, and would obliterate any opposing offensive line in the fourth quarter.

by zlionsfan (not verified) :: Wed, 10/19/2005 - 12:16pm

Ah, Mitch. Always the one to bring up the point we've all been missing: (see link to Free Press column)

Joey's a nice guy, so we should give him another chance.

What a load of crap.

If he's a nice guy, that's a good thing, but it's hardly the primary qualification for playing QB, or for that matter, any other position in the league.

I think there are other nice QBs in the league who also happen to be competent at their jobs. I don't think that's too much to ask.

by Carl (not verified) :: Wed, 10/19/2005 - 12:26pm

Wow. I was using the notion of assembling a Franken-team of NFC North talent as a metaphor, not really asking for rosters.

That said, I'm a bit shocked to see some of the names on that roster! What did you do, look up all the names of pro-bowl alternates from years past and decide these guys are your men?

I've actually talked to some of the people on this list, and they would be the last to say they were the best on their team, but less division.

Some are injured and not even playing. The best offensive lineman in Minneapolis right now might be an obese high school coach who was somehow not telephoned over the summer. He was making about half the median salary of a lineman at the time, and would have agreed to a low one-year contract.

It's impossible to even believe this level of incompetence.

I'll give Green Bay a mulligan because their front office has performed so well since the CBA was instituted.

But Minnesota has self-destructed, partly because of cheap owner, partly because of a really overrated front office, and partly because they didn't have a coaching staff on hand that could mitigate, creatively, the personnel issues they were forced to endure because of owner/front office incompetence.

Detroit and Chicago have been the "special kids" since the CBA was signed. Millen has been an abject disaster. Although he gets kudos for his drafts, I've never liked the money he's thrown around at high-injury positions, nor the mediocre selection of free agents (except for Bly, who always has been one of my favorite players).

"The whole DET (and especially HOU) fiasco once again reafirms my belief that the position players are way, way, way overvalued on offense and that offensive success lays almost enitrely in the hands of the O-Line."

Regression analysis by both me and several NFL clubs (we shared data) completely disagree with this contention. OL is very, very, very important, but not nearly so much as having elite and healthy QBs and WRs on staff.

Because of the relatively low injury rate for OLs, a team that makes bad decisions at other positions can nevertheless create some continuity at these OL positions, unless they really, really screw up (see Vikings).

Will and I have debated many times before the true underlying problem here, which is that although the CBA puts the burden on players to remain healthy, strong and efficient, there is NO financial lever that would coerce owners to put out a better product.

That's why throughout the CBA there have been certain teams in both conferences (Denver, Colts, New England, Steelers in the AFC; Green Bay, Rams, Eagles in the NFC) that remain pretty competitive compared to their peers annually.

If I were a fan of Chicago, Detroit, Arizona, et al, I would be pretty steamed at the ownership groups that poop on me nearly every year.

If fans could cut the Bears like the Bears will do a crippled fullback, would the Bears suck as often as they have over the past decade? I'm not so sure.

The North is a special case of chronic underperformers, plus a GB team that made some (for them) very unusual pre-seasons decisions and have to catch up now. It might get worse for them, not better.

Will, my peeps at the union and management continue to say the real negotiating snag has NOT been doing something to help players in their first contract get more money (although I think that would be fair), shifting some of the health benefits packages or other issues that are very important to the vested athletes.

Guaranteed contracts, which are important to stars at particularly dangerous positions (such as WR or DB), are going nowhere. The union isn't going to bring it up, and the owners aren't going to budge even if they do.

Rather, it continues to come down to the battle within the owners' ranks over how to share revenues. This has become a very big issue, but everyone thinks something will be done so they can make a deal.

This is a win-win, potentially, for both players and owners in smaller markets, but a real divisive issue among owners in other high-revenue places (especially Dallas, New England, Pittsburgh, DC and, I'm not making this up, Cleveland).

I stick to my original position that even if a new CBA is done, it will not affect the current way of doing business, a way that actually cheats fans by not providing incentives for some underachieves to improve their product.

by Will Allen (not verified) :: Wed, 10/19/2005 - 2:11pm

Well, Carl, as I've stated before,I really don't care what is considered a "fair" outcome in a negotiation between billionaires and millionaires. I really don't think "fairness" is objectively determinable, given that it is a quality wholly dependent on the vantage point of the observer, so I vigorously seek to avoid using that standard in thinking about any issue.

In the context of the NFL, all I care about is what would produce the best product for the viewing audience. We agree that there is a distinct lack of incentive for owners to put as good a team on the field as possible, and, unfortunately, I strongly suspect you are correct that there will be nothing forthcoming to change this. If we are going to have a salary cap, however (and given a sufficient increase in revenue sharing, I wouldn't mind seeing the salary cap go), then the current structure, in which untested 1st round draft picks get guaranteed many millions, while more proven, non-first round, veterans have to wait until their first contracts are close to expiration, or even have to suffer through franchise designation, before getting big guarantees, is not what is best for the viewing audience.

I'd prefer to see 1st round draft picks' salaries scaled back, in return for more money for veterans, and getting rid of the franchise designation. Teams at the bottom would not then be taking huge risks on players who had never played a down in the league. A standard two or three year rookie contract would mitigate some of the injury risk for new players. Peyton Manning probably would have earned more money on the open market after his second season, but Chargers fans wouldn't have been forced to live with the long term implications of drafting Ryan Leaf.

by zlionsfan (not verified) :: Wed, 10/19/2005 - 4:38pm

I don't think the new CBA will include a provision for the NFL to repossess a franchise that has been run into the ground; anything short of that won't fix the situation in Detroit. There is nothing the league can do to change the habits of an owner who is content to manage his franchise as a money-making sub-.500 team.

Carl, the problem I have is that I'm essentially powerless. I'm not a local fan, so boycotting Lions games doesn't mean much (although I did have season tickets one year). I can write the team and tell them how stupid I think they are. What else can I do? I can be angry at Ford for not caring about the team's success, but that hasn't changed in the last 30-plus years. That's a long time to carry around anger. I prefer resignation ... sigh ...

by JonL (not verified) :: Wed, 10/19/2005 - 5:25pm

RE: #49

You're missing the point. Mitch Albom has spoken to God, and God told him that Harrington's been given a bad rep.

Also, God said he saw Mateen Cleaves at the last Lions game.