30 Days With Isley.

Before you go on, this is going to be a blunt and emotionally gripping, and there will be some language to contend with

From what you know of me, you don’t know me. I’m usually overly poised and emotionally stoic. 

I think I get it from my grandfather. He’s 94 now and in the final months or days of his life – which we’ve been thinking for hundreds of days now. My brother, Paul (Ha, yes, I have a sibling. Told you.) and I have always called him Grandpop, but unexpressive might be more descriptive of my Dad’s father. That’s not a criticism of David W., just a fact. I don’t think I’ve ever seen Grandpop smile. In a way, especially in a time like this, I envy his utterly dispassionate demeanor. 

Even when his wife, Gertrude, Grammy W. died nearly 6 years ago, I don’t recall him in any heartache, at least not outwardly. 

Grammy W. was completely unalike Grandpop. She was as kind and warm-hearted an individual as you could encounter. She cared more for my brother and I possibly more than our parents did. 

It’s a good thing my Dad got some of Gertrude’s peppy DNA or else who knows how icy a human being he would’ve grown into. 

My Dad, as strong as he is, isn’t as emotionally unflappable as his father is, but he’s certainly his father’s son. Just as I am.

I don’t think I’ve ever seen my Dad cry. Not even when his mom died in 2008. When it’s expected, as her passing was, it’s far less jarring. Plus, paramount to my Dad was/is quality of someone’s life. It was time for Grammy W. to go. 

My other grandmother, Grammy B., my mom’s mom died in the first summer I’d moved back after having been away for over seven years. This was July of 2007. We’d become somewhat distant because of the indignation each of showed by expecting the other one to call the other. My mom was rapt with sadness when Harriet died, as I suppose most would be with the passing of a parent. 

I’ve always had a small-ish family. My immediate family, at its ‘peak,’ consisted of my Mom, Dad, Brother, two uncles and three grandparents. No aunts, no cousins, and a grandfather who passed away before I could remember. 

This may sound callous, but when each of my grandmother’s died I wasn’t touched by sadness. 

I stood under the reasoning that old people die. Both of them were in their mid-80s and had lived rich lives, so far as I knew. 

I suppose I’m fortunate to have lived as long as I have and to have never grieved a day in my life. I think I can thank the objective and somewhat emotionally detached strands of DNA that are woven through me from my Grandfather and Dad. If there are times I should be grieving, perhaps the genes I’ve been blessed with have acted as safeguards from sorrow. 

That hereditary shielding while protecting me from gloom, and prevented from making irreparable life decisions, doesn’t come without an austere cost. 

I’ll let one of my former psychologists detail that price. 

‘You lack intimacy in your life.’

Immediately, you think I need a girlfriend. 

Her statement was much more abundantly universal than just a life partner. 

Outside of my dad, I’d say I don’t have a best friend. At least not someone who could be normally defined with those qualities. Nor is there a friendship where I actively participate in as the role of best friend. 

My interests are unyieldingly narrow. There are things I like, but little seizes my inner most feelings. 

The most straightforward way of explaining this general ambivalence I live in goes like this; you know I’m an avid sports fan. Though I use the word fan loosely, as I’m far too objective and impartial to meet the criteria of being a ‘fan’ in the traditional sense. If baseball were taken away from me and I could never watch it, follow it, or talk about it ever again, much like with my the passings of my grandmothers, I’d likely give it little more than a shoulder shrug. Without that fully engrossed intimacy, I can calmly move along to another interest. 

Some have asked me, after I’ve listed the nearly ten places I’ve resided, ‘how do you do that?’ When I was less intuitively refined my answer was ‘I dunno, I knew that was part of the deal when I got into radio.’ 

As I’ve gotten older I realized I was able to commit to the career that often creates vagabonds because of my inability to truly connect anywhere. That dispassion makes it convenient to skip around life, not only geographically and occupationally, but mentally and emotionally as well. 

Holy siht! This is 725 words and I haven’t gotten to the somber fountainhead behind this post!

Ya know that new dog I adopted barely over a month ago?

She’s dead now. 

For the first time in my life I succumbed to grief, and my glacial heart encountered a form of emotional global warming that it could not instinctually defend itself from. 

In the shadowy remoteness of my emotions, I guess I do have an intimacy for dogs. 

Fcuk. Diddy, and adopting him at my Dad’s suggestion, possibly saved me from some serious self harm due to my bout with the un-fun part of being bipolar; depression. Heavy, depression. 

On Sunday February 8th, late in the afternoon I saw a 13 ABC Facebook post about Spot (that wasn’t the name, but isn’t that what we call random dogs?), a Whippet – which was a dog I was familiar with because my family had one – needing adoption! ‘Spot’ wasn’t quite the type of dog I’d consider but the general idea of a dog needing a home pricked my heart. 

Having all the space I have now, I’d occasionally pondered the thought of having a second dog. Most of my life, I’ve had a dog around, but usually there’s been two of them! Tequila and Licorice, Licorice and Tootsie, Tootsie and Sweety, Tootsie, Sweety AND Jasmine, and Sweety and Jasmine.

The immediate urges were saying no, no, no, no BAD IDEA. 

I have room now, but what if I move? It’s difficult enough finding a place to live that takes ONE dog, let alone two.

That alone was a thought-stopper. But I also feared, with a laugh, there’s NO WAY I get lucky enough to find another dog like Diddy, who has NEVER peed or shit in the house OR chewed anything. Diddy’s only drawbacks, and they’re barely that, are that he’s got some barky separation anxiety when I leave the house and his hyper demeanor can put some people off. I despise using the word blessed, so much so that I NEVER use it, but I’ll make an exception here. I’m blessed to have trusted my senses when they said ‘take this one,’ when I was looking for a dog in June of 2012. 

Oh? The Toledo dog warden, which I’d passed dozens of times without ever thinking more than ‘damn, they kill dogs there’ needed families for dogs AND they’d even renamed themselves the much less menacing LUCAS COUNTY CANINE CONTROL. 

Me even half considering a second dog, then going to where there are easily adoptable pets is like Alcoholics Anonymous planting a keg in the middle of the room. 

OF COURSE there was a medium sized dog available for adoption, who unlike the other extremely vocal canines just sat quietly in her crate. 

Demure and shy, you’re the one. 

The requirements for a family addition were the same criteria I sought the first time around. Medium sized, independent, between the ages of 2+ and 4ish, a relatively calm demeanor. 

I knew Diddy was the one when I walked him at Pet-A-Palooza at the Palace of Auburn Hills when we stopped for a minute and two 70+ lb dogs when nose to nose and Diddy just stood there nearly between them and didn’t move a muscle. 

After soliciting lots of advice from friends, family and neigbors, on Monday the 10th I decided to adopt Aloma, soon to be Isley. I could bring her home Friday after she was spayed.

By midday Tuesday I began to waver on my decision. I went to bed that night thinking I made the wrong one. I would tell the shelter they could keep the adoption fee, but I couldn’t take Aloma Isley home. 

The next day as I was going to the gym I saw an older woman walking two dogs outside of my place. If SHE can handle two dogs, so can I. I was back on board! An hour later at the gym, I convinced myself once again two was a bad idea. How the hell do I clean up one dogs shit, while the other one’s yanking me away. Oy vey, as my Grammy’s would both lament.

Another hour later the shelter called and said she’d been fixed, so come pick her up. 

Coming home. 

Buyer’s remorse was silenced and I couldn’t say no. Isley was coming home. 

She tried to siht in the house that evening, but luckily she held out long enough for me to get her outside. My senses were on the mark again, as Isley didn’t need to be in her crate while I was gone any longer than five days or so it took to crate train her. She was responsible. Get a dog of that age like I did, twice, if you’re worried about total house destruction. 

Her bed. 

Friday the 14th Isley went to Total Pet Care. The shelter just isn’t as medically thorough as a normal veterinary clinic. As expected, she did indeed have kennel cough, but other than that she was in decent shape considering she’d been in a shelter for a month, and who knows where before then. 

The medications Dr. Pisle gave Isley quickly cleared up the symptoms but Isley began vomiting in the coming days.

She’d gone trash digging one night while I was asleep. Perhaps the current and worsening impending stomach troubles came from the remnants of uncooked chicken she discovered in the trash. 

Isley, even since I first brought her home, wasn’t as enthusiastic, coming from where she did, as you’d expect for a giant bowl of food. She ate, but never finished. Fine, all have friends who just pick at their food. 

The night of March 5th, Isley had thrown up something I’d never seen before. Dogs puke yellow bile up. It happens. But this time the yellow substance was encompassed by a pool of transparent liquid. Picture what it looks like when you crack an egg into a pan. I was deeply concerned.

Back to the vet the next day. No fever, no outrageously abnormal blood work and nothing threatening in a chest x-ray. Isley’s troubles were diagnosed as ‘something she ate caused her to be fickle and upset.’ Vague. But I was cautioned to watch her closely. She was also switched over to a more stomach friendly wet dog food, and she was given was I’d say was akin to an IV shot to re-energize her. 

By the weekend, there was no more vomiting, but strangely Isley had once again starting eating less and less. This was a dog that was underweight and I couldn’t get her to eat, yet she’d drink water like she had gills. 

I needed to get her back to the vet before the storm on Wednesday. We made it Tuesday morning. A stool sample I’d dropped off earlier in the morning came back with no concern, but this time Isley had a fever. Over 103. And this time her white blood cells were up and of concern. Like in humans, white bloods fight infection, so when they’re up, there’s a reason to disturbed. However, Dr. Hoffman was confident the it was an infection and the antibiotic called Baytril, commonly used to treat dogs and cats, would finally get Isley back to some normalcy. Something I haven’t been able to enjoy much of with her. 

Thursday at lunchtime, just before I gave her the third pill, the vet called to check in on Isley and I shared that I was beginning to get very unnerved. Her conditioned had worsened. The laborious breathing Dr. Hoffman noticed on Tuesday had become more of a worry. Isley, who I couldn’t sit within a foot of and not have her paw-ing me with both paws to be affectionate towards her, was lethargic. She reciprocated no affection. This dog, who was a wordsmith with her paws, wouldn’t or couldn’t touch me. When we’d go outside, she struggle to climb the stairs back up, and I’d have to slow my pace even walking back down the hallway to the apartment. 

As unfamiliar with it as I was previously, I know what death looks like. There was lifelessness in her eyes. There were tears in mine. 

I had to get Isley back to the vet the as soon as possible the next morning. 

The last few days, when I’d woken up in the middle of the night, as I frequently do, I noticed Isley wasn’t sleeping. Same thing on this Thursday night. Earlier in the evening she couldn’t comfortably lay down in any position besides on all fours, sometimes barely being able to briefly put her head down in between her front paws. She was positioned like the Sphinx with a palpably loud and disturbing breathing pattern.

I’d done my sobbing earlier knowing what could be, so now all I was going to do was try to comfort her. I picked her up and put her in bed next to me. Her struggles to breathe kept me awake for a while, but I was determined to fall asleep with her formerly adoring paw in my hand. Her paw was cold, but my spine was chilled. 

Friday morning after I got ready for work she tried to pee in a spot she’d had an accident on earlier in the week. Without being overly vocal, knowing she was sick, I stopped her. But moments later she couldn’t hold it. This completely obedient dog created a puddle of urine at my feet in the bathroom. I thought of an elderly person not being able to control their bladder. 

We made it to the vet around noon. 

Dr. Pisle once again examined her. 

Even without a demonstrative movement, I saw the doctor’s grimness.

She said she couldn’t hear anything in Isley’s lower lungs, and her liver was extraordinarily enlarged. This wasn’t something she noticed on previous examinations. 

Whatever was wrong with Isley, she was so sick that the doctor didn’t try to persuade me to even consider extreme measures to discover what was wrong and then to treat Isley. 

I had to put her to sleep. 

The paperwork was signed. Rachel, the vet tech, asked me if I wanted her collar and leash. I’d morbidly been tentative about it since the night prior, but I took it, and she said take as much time as I needed. 

Isley could barely acknowledge me. She couldn’t give me a paw goodbye. For all intents and purposes I’d lost this treasure that penetrated my heart the night before. 

 

The last time she listened to me say her name. 

I’d been sitting on the floor with her, but for both our sakes, I needed to rise and leave the room quickly. I’d gotten up and opened the door to leave and I felt Isley try to follow but I hastily darted out and nodded with thanks for the apologies from the people at the front desk. 

It’d been nearly thirty five years, but for the first time in my life I’d met this nearly inexorable foe named grief. 

Not that I thought she could’ve been saved but I paid the extra money to have a post mortem necropsy done. I wanted closure. 

A few hours, and a lifetime reservoir of tears later Dr. Pisle called. 

Isley had lymphoma. I didn’t need her to tell me just how viciously it’d spread throughout Isley’s body. I’d never seen deterioration in any living thing like the three days after Isley was treated for an infection that Tuesday.

The relentless cancer had devoured her body…and my soul. Bravely, to Isley’s credit, the doctor said she hid the disease well. The shelter couldn’t see it, nor could three visits to the more highly trained professionals. I’d like to think the Isley’s unending devotion and affectionate nature shielded her from the insidiousness of the cancer until the final days. 

Chillingly, the vet said Isley had only a few days left to live. 

I didn’t feel guilty for putting her down. I didn’t feel like I wasted nearly a thousand dollars for all the costs of Isley’s month with Diddy and I. I didn’t feel like there was more I could’ve done to rescue her. 

If there was any remorse…it’s that I had cheated personal grief, which is inescapable as a human, for so long. 

I know this unfamiliar agony won’t last forever. I’ll likely even get adopt another dog in short time. And even though I knew this animal for just thirty days, I don’t know that I’ll ever be able to experience intimacy as most do…though this emotional odyssey has proven to me that as apathetic as I believe I am, I, like you, cannot evade the emotional anguish known as grief. 

I lost control of my emotions at the end of The Dark Knight Rises. At it’s conclusion, I was losing one of the few things I HAVE emotionally immersed myself in during recent years.

The funeral scene for Bruce Wayne saw Jim Gordon reciting an amending verse from the end of Dickens’ A Tale Of Two Cities. I (foolishly) never thought I’d ever be able to apply those words to my own life, with my own modification. 

It is a far, far better thing that I do, than I have ever done; it is a far, far better rest that she goes to that she has ever known

Thank you to my neighbors Chris and Therese who empowered me to rush to the shelter that Monday to get ‘Aloma’ before someone else did. 

Thank you to Diddy for not being an a$$hole for Dad bringing home another dog.

Thank you to everyone at Total Pet Care in Toledo on Glendale who never made Isley’s well being and health anything but paramount.

Thank you to everyone who posted something on this superficially heartless person’s Facebook. And for the texts as well. 

Thank you to my family. Especially my Dad who said who he’d give me back some of the money I put out. To that I sobbingly said ‘I just want my dog back.’

Thanks to my compassionate employers at Clear Channel for letting me vanish for a clump of hours to see for Isley. 

Fcuk you to you if you were Isley’s previous owner and you knew she was in someway sick and instead of trying to treat her, you just let her run. Fcuk you. 

Thank you to Isley. 

Not So Smart. But…

We need to get the out of the way. Marcus Smart can’t intentionally and forcibly touch fans. In fact, it’s a good idea no matter where you are and who you are, to heed every Mom or Dad’s or advice of keep your hands to yourself.

Smart’s already kicked over a chair in frustration this year season. Does that, and his outburst on Sunday make him a hothead? It shoudn’t. There’s few in college basketball that could offer that behavioral resume, but I can empathize with Smart’s seemingly uncharacteristic turbulent emotions this year.

You should be able to as well after you know some of the circumstances.

Oklahoma State has already lost 7 games this year, when they lost 9 all of last season.

Smart’s sporadic fury is borne of from than just losses.

Marcus Smart made the commendable decision to stay in school after his freshman year, rather than entering the draft and becoming a lottery pick. Here’s a 19 year old passing on what we’ll say was at least $2.65 million dollars (he wasn’t going to slip past the Pistons at 8. That’s KCP’s salary this year) to stick around and acknowledge the loss of money after his freshman year, and then his sophomore year knowing how talented the 2014 draft was going to be. How about saying his team had a lot more to accomplish and he wasn’t ready to go out the way his team did (with a 1st round NCAA loss to Oregon).

Even those who would criticize – and they did – Smart for staying, SOME would have to praise his mature personality and mindset.

Before this season Smart endured some doubt about his decision. “I don’t regret it. But I’m not 100 percent sure that was the right decision. But I don’t regret making it because you can never come back to college and be a student-athlete. The NBA? You can have chances to go.”

Smart also has a mom who needs a kidney, which, if you can get one, costs a quarter of a million dollars.

When Smart was 9, one of his brothers died of cancer.

An exorbitant amount of money, as well as family health concerns and the weight and expectations of a college basketball program that spends around $13 million dollars a year, 5th most out of 344 NCAA programs.

Marcus Smart didn’t steal, rape or kill anyone. The reigning Heisman trophy winner may have.

19 year olds routinely make poor decisions.

19 year olds who cold-shouldered as Smart said, “more money than 95 percent of America can ever dream of making their whole life” have more emotional stress than your average college kid not on TV dozens of times a year.

I’m not absolving Smart of his recent his actions. They just to be recognized for what they are.

If there was a ever time to invoke the STUDENT part of student-athlete and not combust from hysterical laughter, now is that time. College years, if you’re lucky enough to make it to one, are where you’re supposed to make mistakes and subsequently learn from them.

An immense amount of responsibility comes with the talent and basketball scholarship Smart has been bestowed with.

That responsibility is earned. Maturity, wisdom and experience are learned.

Thankfully Marcus Smart has not made such an abominable error that he can’t recover from.

I’m rooting for him.

Not FREE, man. Still Inexpensive Though.

Freddie Freeman just got an 8 year $135 million dollar contract.

‘Wow,’ was what I first thought.

Then the ultra critical, Holmes-ian part of my brain kicked in. 

Freeman is young. 24. Not turning 25 until next September. 

Didn’t Freeman receive NL MVP votes this year? Yea, he did. He placed 5th.

Well, $135 million sounds like a ton. But wait, that’s $16.8 per year…or, more than $8 million less than Ryan Howard is making in 2014, as a (broken down) 34 year old. 

Sadly, the obvious needs to be stated; every professional sports contract comes with risk. If you sign, and likely overpay for a late 20-something, early 30-something year old free agent you may be paying for past production that you’ll never benefit from. 

In Freeman’s case, as SI’s Cliff Corcoran states here, he may have had the best season he’ll ever have, last year. If that’s true, the Braves could be on the precipice of paying a non-All Star, at an easy-to-fill position, a substantial sum of money. And they’re not the spendthrift Yankees or Red Sox. 

I believe Corcoran, and anyone else who thinks the Braves overpayed Freeman either in years or dollars is wrong. 

Freeman isn’t the power/average/speed combo that MVP runner up Paul Goldschmidt is. In fact, Goldschmidt is better, and CHEAPER than Freeman thanks to the extension he signed last March. In no year of his extension will Goldschmidt make within $2 million of what Freeman will average. 

You read that and think, yea, the Braves made an awful deal.

Those who act quickly during team controlled and arbitration years on young-ish players, if they’ve scouted and projected correctly, often save big. Those savings are often on All Star level players, or in Andrew McCutchen’s case, Pittsburgh will never pay the reigning NL MVP more than $14.75 million a year. McCutchen is a star and the Pirates will reap the benefits of every year of his athletic prime for an incredibly low price. 

Quick aside for McCutchen then back to why I’m confident the Freeman deal is a savvy one. McCutchen will play ’14 as a 27 year old. That’s close enough to somewhat typical free agent age. Let’s say like Miguel Cabrera, the ’13 MVP became a free agent after next season, at 28. Can you imagine what his cost would be on the open market. We MIGHT be discussing Alex Rodriguez money. 

Nothing’s guaranteed, but Freeman SHOULD be able to hover close to his ’13 numbers. In other words, I don’t think it was a fluke, nor do I forecast a massive regression. 

Corcoran states that he sees a future drop off from Freeman because of his unsustainable .371 on BABIP. 

For context, Cabrera’s BABIP was .356 last year, and .346 for his career. Last year, McCutchen’s was .332. 

Corcoran is right about the instability of .371 over time. 

Consider two things though. One, Freeman is 24. It’s fair to conclude we’ve yet to see him meet his full power potential as he grows closer to his physical prime. 21, 23, and 23 homers, could easily blossom to 28, 29, 30 or more in the next few seasons, especially in Atlanta’s steamy summers. 

If you’ve read here before, you know that I need to see a substat that factors in to BABIP. I do believe luck IS factored in to that stat. Luck is unsustainable. Sometimes weakly tapped, thousand hoppers find their way past three gloves up the middle. Other times, screaming, decapitating, widow making line drives find gloves. 

With BABIP I need LD%. If you hit a lot of line drives you’re going have a BABIP, a high average for quite some time. 

Fangraphs doesn’t have such advanced statistics dating backinto the 80s and 90s, but can we agree Tony Gwynn, while he had some speed, was no Vince Coleman. He had little thump. 135 home runs in 20 years; just 5 times he reached double digits. Gwynn is my Ted Williams. He was a line drive hitter. 

For contemporary context, Cabrera’s LD% (when they stay in the yard, he hits those screamers, right?) the last years are 21, 22 and 24. If you’re over 20 you it’s likely you’re a worthy opponent 60 feet 6 inches from the pitcher. 

You should see where this is going. Freeman’s LD% are 23, 26 and 28(!). A .371 BABIP will come and often go, but you can pencil him in for at least a .290 average in the years ahead. 

142, 129 and 121 are Freeman’s strikeout totals the last few years. And he’s never walked more than 70 times in a year. But again, with age not only comes power at the plate, but discernment. That can already be seen in Freeman’s incremental drop in K% from 22 to 21 to 19.

The Braves made a good deal. For now and very much so for the future. 

No Doubt How The Lions Should Use The 10th Pick

Ready?

We’ve gone from a standstill to a full Usain sprint of mock draft season. Mel Kiper released his yesterday. NFL.com has theirs out as well. 

A year ago at this time I was perplexed why Lions fans were so adamant that the team draft a pass rusher with their top pick in the draft. 

I’m not saying the Lions should completely ignore defensive end/pass rusher in April. But when the Lions have so many desperate needs on the roster, don’t waste the 5th overall pick on a unit that already offers two Pro Bowl/All Pro type of players. It requires little hardcore football knowledge, just common sense, to comprehend that if Fairley and Suh are replicating what they did in the final half of ’12, then it should be a great deal easier for whomever is on either side of them to be a disruptive pass rushing presence.

So as the unofficially, unappointed GM of the Lions what would I do at five? Before we go through the nonsense of guys getting hyped up, or hyped down, at this very moment, without the certainty of being able to trade down, unless he has some inescapable and overt weaknesses as judged by the combine and scouts, just take Dee Milliner (he SHOULD be there at 5, I think) and call it a first round.

The full post is here

As much as he struggled most of the year in New York, late in the year Dee Milliner began to figure out how to be a defensive back in the NFL, so I don’t think I feel like a fool for my preference a year ago.

Ziggy Ansah had a very capable year for the Lions, playing 14 games and registering 8 sacks. And his efforts were welcome and needed after the versatile veteran Jason Jones’ season ended even before September was complete. 

Depth is vital to success in the NFL. Without depth none of the league’s final four teams would be where they are now. Especially the Patriots. 

Having Ansah to compliment Suh and Fairley was helpful, but with as dominant as the Lions interior was again this year, more snaps for Ansah’s fellow rookie Devin Taylor, and mini-veteran Willie Young, might have produced similar results as the BYU rookie. 

I need to take the contrary approach yet again this year when it comes to what I feel is the fan consensus for the Lions draft selection at tenth in the first round. Though perhaps the release of more studious mocks will change fan urges. 

You’re familiar with the three year exploits of Marquise Lee of USC, you know the size and power of Texas A & M’s Mike Evans and you’re veritably smitten with Clemson’s Sammy Watkins, who’d be MY top ranked wide receiver because of what appears to be exceptional playmaking ability. I know, I know. I said that about Tavon Austin too. The Rams misused him though, and Watkins is more of a traditional wide receiver anyway. 

The Lions first pick should not be either of those three players. 

Presumably, the Lions specifically targeted a head coach with an offensive background so that they could finally extract the best play possible out of THEIR franchise quarterback. If that doesn’t happen, and Stafford’s game continues to be defined with words like potential and inconsistency, Tony Dungy’s 2014 playoff proclamation will be sorely wrong. 

Let’s say Caldwell is success and the maximization of Stafford’s gifts are ready to explode in the ’14 season. If that’s the case and absolutely the expectation and certainly the demand (from fans), his elevated play and consistency should help all of those around him flourish. In other words, time to start making chicken salad. He worked into the kitchen for the first half of the season, then spent the post-bye weeks with his hand stuck in the garbage disposal. 

Don’t get spellbound by Chicago’s towering and talented receiving duo of Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery. Let’s not act like selfish kindergarteners and because they have one, we want one. You can want. Just don’t take…with the first draft selection. After all, Jeffery was the 45th overall pick. His stock dropped because of weight questions. 

Just as I felt and hoped for last year, the Lions first draft pick should be a secondary player. Forget about it being a poor unit, when’s the last time they had an impact player (who could stay on the field), and someone who teams had to gameplan against and around? Uhh, Dre Bly? EVER in the past 20 years!?

Unlike last year’s feening for the local hero – Denard Robinson – this year that strategy makes perfect sense for the Lions. Even if Darqueze Dennard was not GO GREEN, GO WHITE, pending further scouting, combine probing and team interviews, he’s likely the top cornerback available in the draft. Even if he was from the tiniest school in the FBS, Dennard is at worst a ‘safe’ pick for the Lions. At most, maybe Lions fans can start using the term ‘shut down corner’ and not be talking about who’s covering Calvin that week. Instead, it’s their own. 

Walter Football’s CB rankings

So what if Sammy Watkins is someone else’s exhilirating playmaker? Worry about that when they’re the opponent. There’s more ‘names’ to choose from in the wide receiver ranks as ther draft wears on. 

Just a sampling: Penn State’s crafty Allen Robinson. You want your giant…how’d ya like Fla. State’s Kelvin Benjamin to be around when the Lions choose? Scan through WF’s WR rankings for more names to excite you. 

Yes, the Lions need more options for Stafford to choose from. However, don’t limit yourself to just those names slightly above. Pass catching ‘tight ends’ (the quotes are to laugh at the designation) may be available for the Lions to select from as well. Yes, even in addition to Joseph Fauria. Remember, Brandon Pettigrew may or may not be back. 2013′s draft pick, Michael Williams, IR’d before the season may become the block-first tight end making Pettigrew expendable.

We’ll see.

I’m just saying, don’t panic if the Lions first option behind Calvin isn’t a wide receiver. They also have Reggie Bush, who I expect even more out of than last year. But, a fear of Bush having passed his prime is an honest worry. 

Even if potential playmaking linebackers like Anthony Barr or Khalil Mack were to tumble to the Lions, or a lineman to get you thinking about transitioning Riley Rieff, it’s been too many years where the secondary has been an easy point of an attack for opponents.

Detroit requires a player in the back four who can not only make life challenging for a quarterback trying to complete passes, but also someone adroit at creating turnover chaos. I don’t know when and if we’ll ever see another Charles Tillman type scoring weapon in a secondary, but the Lions can’t rely on DeAndre Levy to pick off 6 more passes…maybe in his entire career. He had 6 of their 15 picks in ’13. Only nine teams took the ball away from their opponents less than the Lions last year. Subtract a LINEBACKER’s INTs and that’s a whole lot uglier.

Yes, Stafford and the offernse can’t give the ball away 34 times like they did last year, but they also have to get the ball away from the opposition more frequently if they’re going to shave that -12 differential closer to 0, or oh my, even a plus!

The Lions must take a defensive back with their first pick, and it’ll be difficult to change my staunchness to that opinion. But, try if you’d like.

Who’s The Incompetent One?

On June 27th, 2012 when the Pistons traded Ben Gordon and a pick to the HornetsBobCats I was…happy and proud. 

The Pistons took a measure needed to get rid of Ben Gordon’s attitude, fading skills and his atrocious contract, where $25.6 million dollars over two years remained. 

Because of rigidity of the NBA salary cap when you make a financial miscalculation on a player one of two reasonable (no amnesty, no buyouts) things can be done to try and economically rebound:

- Wait it out. As the Pistons are doing now with Charlie Villanueva. That’s free and open money this summer.

- Deal your bad deal for someone else’s bad deal and hope the fits are better for each. 

Of the latter, two things can happen. It turns out to be a shrewd move (for you) and the team begins trending up, while crossing off certain personnel needs on the shopping list. 

Two, your initial error has been compounded. This is real trouble. The Knicks offer a good example of this. I compare the repeated trade attempts to make up for a bad signing, or two, to lies. 

When we were young, our parents told us not to lie. For that one lie would lead to another, and another and another. Before you/we know it our stories are all criss-crossed and discombobulated and we struggle to recall what the initial lie was even about.

It’s chaos. 

*On the note of lieing, it’s apt to share the sage words of Mark Twain, ‘If you tell the truth, you don’t have to remember anything.’* A-freakin-men. 

Compounding NBA trade after trade desperately trying to land the right combination of players – not usually benefical draft picks – to help the organization start trending back in the right direction rarely ever works out. Sometimes, worse than bottoming out in the League, you’ve achieved a more harrowing fate. You’re now somewhere in the neighborhood of the 7th to 10th best team in the conference. Get eviscerated by a Miami or OKC in the first round, or land at the end of the lottery where the choices aren’t as obvious or fruitful, and certainly not as transformative, as they are at the top of the lottery. 

Unless something unconventional and drastic happens – to ‘save’ the draft pick or to drastically improve – the Pistons are now playing for two games at the Palace against Miami or Indiana in mid-April. 

The price of NBA financial freedom is often costly. 

For the Pistons to rid themselves of Gordon’s deal (THIS was the thorny impetus of everything) the painful, but expected, cost was a future draft pick. At the time, we had fair idea how transcendent the draft was going to be (this year’s) in the second year where Charlotte was able to capture the Piston’s draft pick. 

I wasn’t too concerned. A lot can change with draft prospects in two years, and by then the Pistons should’ve markedly improved.

The setting was now this: an emerging Greg Monroe, a full offseason for the previous lottery pick, Brandon Knight, to improve, the 9th pick in that June’s draft and nearly an entire roster of expiring contracts in the coming years equating to a Federal Reserve sized vault of money to spend on free agents, but moreso, to work inventive trades to enhance personnel since Detroit was no flashy destination for free agents. 

I was happy. Joe Dumars, even at a lofty price, had secured a get out of economic jail free card with the transaction. 

Up to then Dumars had created a questionable resume for a general manager in the post ’04 championship world of the Pistons. 

My vertical wasn’t more than four inches off the ground, but I was willing to give Dumars a leap of faith that he’d learned from the miscalculations on Gordon and Villanueva. Maybe a ‘Damn, I got lucky with Moose in the draft. Better not fcuk this up.’

He’d owned the team for less than 13 months, but Tom Gores was soon going to task Joe Dumars with erecting a competitive playoff Pistons team. 

Having come from a background where he needed to accept a scholarship to attend Michigan State, I can only deduce that Gores’ $2.5 billion dollars in worth came from refining a keen business acumen and dedicated, endless work, not from a family trust. 

You have to have an uncommon level of intelligence to make that kind of fortune. 

Immediately after Joe Dumars dealt Ben Gordon, he should’ve felt the doubt Pistons fans hardbored in Dumars’ GM prowess, thanked him for his time and fired him. 

Instead, Dumars remained. 

By the time all is said and done, the deals given to Villanueva and Gordon might look like pop gun shots compared to the genocidal nuclear bombs of the summer of 2013. 

This hindsight is the inescapable vision of a galatic telescope, but few would’ve minded if after selecting Andre Drummond, Gores would’ve fired Dumars. 

As happy after that trade as I was, as time wore on my lack of confidence in Dumars grew to the size of their young, newly drafted center. 

Did they shop Corey Maggette’s expiring contract for an asset?

Why couldn’t they figure out the Brandon Knight conundrum?

The acquisition of Jose Calderon was smart. It showed what the Pistons were capable of with a legitmate offensive orchestrator at point guard, and it moved more money off the summer books. 

Didn’t move the impending expiring deals of Rodney Stuckey nor Villanueva.

I’m not willing to throw the towel in yet on Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, even light of Trey Burke’s quality play since his return from a broken finger, but the Pistons are really hindering KCP’s growth. 

Maurice Cheeks was an underwhelming hire to replace Lawrence Frank. 

The mercurial Josh Smith is signed. Bringing questionable size to the Pistons frontcourt, in an era of smaller, fleeter lineups, and by making him the 3, essentially encouraging him to hoist up even more 3′s which have played a major role in why he’s never ascended to an All Star level. But he’s $54 million dollars anyway. 

It was great to move Knight, though I remain confident  that off the bench as a 3 & D he could’ve excelled, but wait, you bring in the erratic and inefficient Brandon Jennings AND extend him!? Jennings and Smith is a volatile pairing. The owner said PLAYOFFS, no matter the toxic fumes that eminate. 

Dumars did it anyway. Because Gores demanded playoffs, which is his right as an owner to do. But his duty as an owner is to make the best decisions for the franchise, and in that, he failed by not firing Dumars on June 28th, 2012. 

Other things that irk me:

FWIW, former Pistons 2nd rounder Khris Middleton is averaging 11.7 and 4.4 rebounds and hitting 43% of his 3.1 three attempts per game for the Bucks…

…where Knight has reached a career high in points, rebounds and assists a game. 

Perhaps the greatest miss of the summer wasn’t Burke or Iguodala or even passing on my coveted Jeff Teague.

It’s that Denver’s GM, Masai Ujiri, who constructed a team just how the Pistons needed to be built – sum of the parts… – was out with the Nuggets and he opted to go back to his previous destination in Toronto, to become the Raptors GM. The deal was $15 million over 5 years. That’s slightly more than Will Bynum is making this year. 

Ujiri wanted to back ‘home’ and the deal was done in late May. 

I just can’t fathom how a guy who is worth billions of dollars completely ignored the possibility of swiping away a man who knows exactly how to erect an team in a not-so-desirable NBA city. 

The Raptors, who’ve gone 10-5 since dumping their ‘Josh Smith’, Rudy Gay, will probably be the 4 seed in the East.

Dumars deserves blame. But who’s more incompetent? The man being incompetent, or the man who won’t fire the guy being incompetent. 

New QB For Cincy.

As much as the Eagles/Saints doing their best to constrict each other’s offensive strengths, while still putting up 50 points, was more my type of contest, it’s difficult to gripe about the quality of NFL action this weekend. 

Really, the only element that kept us from a perfectly exciting quartet of games was another early January Wild Card round of misfires by Andy Dalton. The third year QB can tout three straight playoff Bengal playoff appearances, which is unprecedented to think of for anyone under 30. Dalton’s also helped engineer three straight playoff wins…for the opponent. Dalton’s the owner of 1 TD pass and 6 INTs in the playoffs. His 67 QB rating against San Diego is actually his best showing to date. SEE, HE’S IMPROVING! By the time we elect a 45h President, Dalton should have ramped himself up to ‘quality playoff performer!’

Fire Marvin Lewis? That would be a present to any of the teams currently seeking a new head coach. Lewis being the Bengals HC for so long isn’t a Ford-sian misstep by Cincy management, under Lewis that team has returned to relevance upon his arrival. 

Attempt to improve the QB situation? That’s the fulcrum of Cincinnati’s offseason blue print. 

As teams evaluate Jay Gruden as a head coach, their interest and intentions could help the Bengals in deciding whether Gruden has helped max out Dalton’s modest given gifts and skills, or if Gruden’s instructions and guidance are actually restricting Dalton from reaching greater heights. 

Personally, I was surprised he was drafted as highly as he was by the Bengals in ’11, and I even more stunned that Dalton performed so unexpectedly well as a rookie.

We saw yet again this weekend, that team’s fortunes are always tied to the QB. The Bengals have plenty of talent on their roster – talent other teams surely crave – but against playoff competition, often even the most talented of teams can’t escape the sharpest nail that can be driven into a coffin; multiple turnover games by the QB. 

Shockingly, the Bengals probably aren’t going to be able to pull a more talented franchise QB out of thin air. 

Not that I’d think Dalton would need any more motivation than how unmerciful Bengals fans are directing rage towards him now, but perhaps they select a rather humble project-type QB in the mid-rounds of the draft this year. A name like Zach Mettenberger, or Aaron Murray. Both of whom have had success in the SEC, and both are coming off knee injuries that’ll hinder their draft stock. If not those two, then possibly David Fales of San Jose State, who early in the season was mentionded with the likes of Manziel, Mariota, Bridgewater. Fales’ team won six games, missed a bowl and it’s been a deafening silence surrounding him as other candidates like Blake Bortles have emerged. 

What about the veteran route, hoping the Bengals can lift up a rock and polish up a tarnished gem as the Cardinals did with the ending days of Kurt Warner?

Here’s your list of 2014 free agent quarterbacks.

Is Josh McCown for real or a product of Marc Trestman mysticism? Will he remain a bear backup, or just retire?

Matt Schaub? He’s gonna get the boot from Houston for the same reason Cincy would want a new QB.

Mark Sanchez? Don’t laugh. I think it’s fairly difficult to evaluate just how good of a player Sanchez is because of the cesspool of chaos he’s been subjected to within the mismanaged Jets organization. 

Even before conjuring up any of these players, the one former Pro Bowler who could make a difference in January for the Bengals that jumped to mind is Michael Vick. I’ve followed the Eagles long enough to know that I don’t trust Vick to stay healthy, and when he is capable of staying on the field, you get one of two Vick’s. The highlight reel Vick who still can rocket balls to receivers, and create the occasional magic on the run or the lowlight reel Vick who’s incapable of not turning the ball over repeatedly. 

However, without a trade for someone elsess young backup who can’t crack a lineup (Kirk Cousins?) that comes with its own risk, there’s not going to be a QB available that has the upside, and the ability to shine in the playoffs (if he’s not broken in half after how many ever games he plays) like Vick. 

My Choice For Lions HC + One ‘Why Not (ask)?’

Caldwell, Zimmer, Roman, Whisenhunt, and Jay Gruden seem to be the names most connected with the Lions. At this point, Whisenhunt and Caldwell moreso than the rest. Unless you wanna go pie in the sky with Tony Dungy interest based on his comments about the Lions being the best coaching gig available, which may have been a way to somehow connect Caldwell with the job, just as he appointed Caldwell his successor in Indy. 

By the way, I never got to the two I’m most inclined to. But first let’s state the obvious that so many seem to be completely ignoring. As outsiders we can watch college games and other NFL teams and have a more informed and articulate opinion about who we’d like our time to draft or acquire. 

With coaches, our evaluations that form our opinions and wants are not so clear. In fact, with many coaches simply speaking coach-speak, we’re practically in a fog. 

As fans, maybe we ‘know’ a coach and form an opinion on MAYBE 20% of who and what he really is. Without beat writers and columnists having access to meetings, film sessions, weight rooms, and how practices have been closed off more over the years, journalists have MAYBE a 40 or 50% read on who is guy, and what is strengths and weaknesses are, 

Basically, similar to a draft pick, we won’t know for some time if the Lions picked the ‘right’ guy or made the ‘right’ choice. Though the wrong choice may be apparent nearly immediately. 

Whoever they choose to be their next head coach won’t be ‘right’ just because he’s the person that you’d hoped they’d select. Even if he is, we won’t know for some time. 

Also, dampen your expectations. Don’t hope for the guy that’ll help the Lions to the Super Bowl. That’s a sure path for a letdown. The next coach the Lions hire should be able to assure that the Lions are competitive team annually. Born out of that continual success hopefully could be a Super Bowl. Though not always. That’s why Andy Reid is no longer the Philadelphia Eagles head coach. 

Now that the boundaries and expectations have been established, my preference for the Lions next head coach is the Bengals defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer. Greg Roman would be my other interest, but after reading he’d walk across the country for the Penn State job, being an NFL head coach may not be best suited for Roman.

Zimmer overcame the harrowing situation of having his wife die suddenly in October of 2009. Just days after the tragedy, he was back coaching the Bengals with more emotional and moral support than any man in that situation could desire. He is beloved by those he works with and leads. 

Not to say there aren’t those who haven’t overcome more in their lives, but with the way Zimmer handled it with such aplomb, I have to count that as a positive trait when tallying up what makes for a successful NFL head coach. 

A couple other quick notes that have drawn me to Zimmer.

Since becoming DC in Cincy in 2008, Zimmer’s defenses have placed around 11th annually in points allowed. 

The last three years they’ve been 5th, 8th and 9th in ’11.

Bengals LB Vontaze Burfict was a sure first round pick beginning the 2011 season at Arizona State. After numerous behavioral problems he went undrafted in 2012. Under Zimmer, Burfict’s reputation and play have been galvanized. He had 171 tackles, 3 sacks, 8 TFLs, 8 passes defensed, 1 INT, 1 TD and basically a muffin-topped stat sheet. 

Amid Andy Dalton’s turnover-fest yesterday, Zimmer’s defense performed as well as they could considering the circumstances Dalton’s miscues put them in. 

During the Bengals 9th game against Miami, Geno Atkins, their all-everything interior defensive lineman, was lost for the year. Zimmer’s defense was unwavering allowing just under 20 points per game in the final 7 games in which the Bengals finished out 5-2. 

When’s the last time you heard about trouble and mischief surrounding Pacman Jones?Adam Jones was an integral, and well behaved, part of the Cincy defense this year. More in the register casting Zimmer as someone who truly can thrive amid adversity, as opposed to it just being some inane platitude tossed around like the in-game cliche it’s become. 

Wait, is there’s all this, why isn’t Zimmer a head coach yet?

He’s too honest

The Dolphins didn’t like his candor…yes, the organization where apparently the school bully was more in charge than anyone else. With a GM, Jeff Ireland, people are shocked remains on the job. 

Zimmer also called Bobby Petrino a gutless bastard for riding off in the middle of the night to escape the Michael Vick situation with the Falcons. 

Zimmer’s worked through and lived beyond a tragedy to be wished on the worst of people on this planet, he’s handled problem child players and he’s willing to be blunt?

With the right QB mentor to work with Stafford as OC, or QB coach, Zimmer could be the RIGHT man to lead the Lions back to being a playoff contender, and beyond, every year. 

HOWEVER. 

If you’re steadfast on the Lions hiring a coach primarily with an offensive background, I want to suggest a name that hasn’t been brought up yet, though maybe he should be considered after what we witnessed Saturday night. 

Why not Colts offensive coordinator Pep Hamilton?

Just one year on the job with the Colts, taking over after Bruce Arians departure for Arizona, the entire philosophy of the Colts attack was transformed away from Arians’ bombs away, down the field approach, to Hamilton more conservative, and traditional West Coast offensive attack. 

Hamilton was a QB at Howard, coached there, then begin an ascent through the NFL coaching ranks before leaving his role as Bears QB coach after ’09 to coach WRs under Harbaugh in ’10, then QB/WR coach under Shaw for two years, and then the enormous leap to once again leading his former pupil Andrew Luck.

With Luck on the precipice of being the game’s preeminent quarterback, I can see why Hamilton could be completely content in his role as the Colts OC. Especially if he’s as bright as I think he is, he may want another year in his role, before he knows he’s prepared to be an NFL head coach. Until then, teams thoroughly prospecting for head coaches would be wise to probe Hamilton’s interest in a promotion and his acumen that may well deserve it. 

Whisenhunt Questions Need Answers

Accuse of me being the most Satanic devil’s advocate ever. 

Tell me I’m using the Hubble to fry an ant (a coach). 

But I think I’m more right than wrong in my quest to show you that Ken Whisenhunt should not be the Lions breakaway leader for their open head coaching position.

If I’m using a telescope to vaporize Whisenhunt, the Lions should be using it to scour the ends of the earth for the best person to be their next CEO of Sundays. If the Lions’ brass botches, I would think sports fanatical Detroiters buying Fords would be in question in the future.

If they’re apprehensive to hiring an assistant without NFL head coaching experience, astute as that person may be, then really the front office should’ve fired itself. It’s the fault of those executives (Millen) that the Morhinweg’s and Marinelli’s never panned out. Geez, give yourselves a slap on the back for getting a passing grade on the Schwartz hiring though!

By supposedly being truly uninterested in hiring a first-timer, the Lions are potentially preventing themselves from hiring a Mike McCoy. 

Want an even more impressive hire from the non-retread ranks? Chuck Pagano. Who was a defensive coordinator for ONE year with Baltimore before heading to Indianapolis.

Because they haven’t hit a coaching home run before – and lots of other recent questionable decisions – the Lions are right to doubt their skill to uncover a Mike Tomlin, who like Pagano was a DC for ONE year in Minnesota nor was he EVER a head coach before Pittsburgh thoroughly vetted him and decided he was the right man to succeed Bill Cowher. Again, fire yourselves, or find someone to help you through the process. They can’t afford to keep bumbling through the prime’s of Stafford, Suh and Johnson. 

Being thorough and meticulous isn’t interviewing Mike Munchak. With a 22-26 record in Tennessee is he REALLY the man who can change the culture (their words) AND be a championship head coach? I think from afar we all confidently say NO. 

With the Lions trying to find their man, no one will, or should, accuse them of trying to be too foreward thinking or outside of the box. Smash the box. That’s why they need to strain all sorts of CL’s to kick the tires of someone like John Pagano in San Diego, Ben McAdoo in Green Bay, Adam Gase in Denver, and I assure you that no one will censure you for leaking some public interest in Andrew Luck’s offensive coordinator, Pep Hamilton. Andrew Luck’s almost hand picked position coach, nahhhhh, who’d want that!?

I couldn’t convince you and you’re still set on Whisenhunt. 

OK, give me just a few more moments. 

Did Whisenhunt keep Ryan Mathews healthy for 16 games so he could churn out 1200 rushing yards? 

Did Whisenhunt campaign for the Danny Woodhead addition so that he could put up a thousand total yards, and finally fill the vacated Darren Sproles role of 76 catches?

Did he convince the war room to take Cal’s Keenan Allen to replace the production they lost when Vincent Jackson bolted for Tampa (Robert Meachem was a BUST), so that Antonio Gates could once again find room operate (from 49 to 77 catches this year)?

Did HE revitalize Philip Rivers, or did his head coach, former Broncos OC Mike McCoy play a larger role in that. 

Extra Credit: With Carson Freakin’ Palmer and his spaghetti for elbow ligaments did Whisenhunt get Arizona to a 10-6 record in the toughest division in the NFL?

Except for the last the answers at best are foggy, but they’re questions that need to be asked. 

Do a quick Google of Matt Leinart Ken Whisenhunt and you’re not going to like what you unearth. 

From Bill Barnwell at Grantland from back in November of 2011. These are pasted from the column, so please read it for context. Then smash your wishes of Whisenhunt in Detroit. Please. 

Leinart started the 2007 season as the team’s starting quarterback with shaky numbers — 60-of-112 for 647 yards with two touchdowns and four picks — and Whisenhunt temporarily benched him for Warner. The situation resolved itself when Leinart broke his collarbone and missed the remainder of the season. In his stead, Warner was unsurprisingly brilliant, completing 62.3 percent of his passes and averaging 7.6 yards per attempt.

In 2008, the situation came to a head in training camp. When faced with a decision between a Hall of Fame quarterback and a developing young one, Whisenhunt made the only wise decision he’s ever made with quarterbacks: He chose the Hall of Famer. 

When Warner retired after the 2009 season, Leinart was seen as the starter-in-waiting. The team brought in former Browns colossus Derek Anderson to compete, even as Anderson was coming off of a season in which he completed just 44.5 percent of his passes and threw an interception every 18 passes.

Anderson was arguably the worst opening-day starter in football, and the team bounced between him and rookies Max Hall and John Navarre Skelton throughout the season. Each rated among the worst quarterbacks in football. The following year, Whisenhunt traded for Kevin Kolb. Kolb was, not coincidentally, one of the worst quarterbacks in football this season before suffering an injury. Whisenhunt is the primary reason Matt Leinart is considered a bust, and over the course of his career as Cardinals coach, Whisenhunt has shown virtually no ability to pick the right starting quarterback for his team.

 

‘…today, I Don’t Want To.’ Pennyworth, Alfred TDK 2008

Calvin Johnson doesn’t catch as many passes as I think his reputation would dictate.

I wrote that on November 24th after Johnson had a catch near the end zone late in the Tampa loss swiped away from him. Read the post for more in depth thoughts, and the laughable Rice comparisons.

Unfortunately, and I sincerely mean that because of my adoration for Calvin on and off the field, the template in which many people view Johnson may have been altered by last night’s nationally televised game of dropsy’s.

Eh, probably not. Most Calvin admirers, and again he deserves them all, will just chalk up Johnson’s four (3 critical ones including the 2 pt conversion) to a bad game, or will tap into their memory banks and recall that Calvin sure does sit out a lot of practices, and he may or may not have recently had his knee drained of fluid. I’ll concede that those two things unequicovally could have led to what I often politely rebuke Megatron for; Calvin Johnson doesn’t catch as many passes as I think his reputation would dictate.

I don’t root for the Lions. However, there’s a couple of players on that team I do root for, and Calvin Johnson is certainly one of them. So please do believe me when I offer great disappointment in the fact that Johnson proved my season-long surmise correct during the lofty platform of Monday Night Football.  Calvin Johnson doesn’t catch as many passes as I think his reputation would dictate.

Lots of receivers drop balls. Lots of talented and reknowned receivers drop passes. But none of them, at this point in the NFL’s context, have the seemingly inexorable reputation that the exalted Megatron carries with him.

Because I don’t want to be a labeled a loud mouthed, contrarian-just-to-be, I relish being right because of the strenuous efforts I put in to support my opinions. I probably mention actually bring it up TOO frequently for the modesty and humility I claim that also characterizes my personality. I feel a bit pained that I was right, in light of last night’s events, which probably cost the Lions their season, and though it was about time, Jim Schwartz his job.

If you come here often, and I hope you do, you know we use a lot of comic references, especially Batman and Transformers. It’s time for another. One that earnestly describes my feelings about Calvin’s shortcomings in the 18-16 loss to the Ravens.

Here.

But, 1:55ish here too.

‘…today, I don’t want to.’ Pennyworth, Alfred TDK 2008.

Hashing out the tweets:

- Aside from of a couple that Bush bounced on his own, the Lions made ZERO adjustments to stop from running into the teeth of the Ravens defense. 3 and 4 yards is tolerable run after run, but it was clear Baltimore wasn’t going to give up a 35 yarder through the middle. The Ravens faced a similar problem early on, and countered with a pitch out wide that at least showed the threat of that play for later on. Didn’t really need it.

- It looked like Stafford had turned the corner in his career, and his early in the year he looked like an efficient, mostly mistake free and keen quarterback. Woops. If you mention Shaun Hill’s name this week, don’t let anyone commit you because you’re not crazy. In the first 8 games Stafford through 6 INTs. He’s got 11 in the 2nd half with 2 games to play.

*On a tangent, Stafford’s final pick last night cost a guy a lot of money in my fantasy league. He’d gone up 92-91 with the Fauria score, but the pick dropped him into a tie, and lost the tiebreaker because the other guy had Dan Bailey’s 27 points.*

If I’m playing with the QB math correctly, Stafford’s second half rating is 71.8. If we only tallied his last 6 games, that number would drop him in between Chad Henne and Brandon Weeden. This blundering second half leads me to…

- WHEN Schwartz is fired, either after the Vikings game, or if they miraculously make the playoffs then get annihilated by SF, Car, or NO, the prime candidate to replace Schwartz needs to be an offensive minded coach. Before Mayhew and a Ford can even begin to ask the first interview question, that candidate should be interrupting them with, ‘I’M GOING TO FIX 9.’ Any coach should have an eye towards engendering more discipline, but there’s WAY too much invested in Stafford for him NOT to be the team’s best player.

Here’s my way too early prediction for the Lions next head coach. He’s a Michigan (State) guy, and he’s spent the last two years learning from the game’s most meticulous student and preparer, Peyton Manning. Adam Gase, the Broncos OC. Unless you’re going to convince Manning himself to do it! My backup name, AT THIS POINT, is Saints’ OC Pete Carmichael. The Lions next HC needs to be a QB guru a la Marc Trestman or Bruce Arians.

- The Lions defense did a fine job not letting the receivers get deep on them, but the pressure was never enough to rattle Flacco, who shimmied around the pocket quite adeptly all night. The defense hit Flacco five times, and sacked him once but didn’t force a single turnover. The Lions were one of just two opponents in the Ravens last 7 games not to cause Flacco to fail into a turnover. Ugh.

- Here’s a wild attempt at human psychology to explain some of the exasperating penalties called against the Lions the last two weeks. Recall how Schwartz, multiple times, has said, and to paraphrase, ‘Yeaaaaaa, budddddy, I’m OK with how our guys play (relating to the discipline questions and incessant flags).’ Well, refs are human beings and if that sentiment passed by officials in someway, perhaps subconsciously they all conspired to say ‘you want flags Jim? You got em.’

Through my jest, I’m quite serious. If Schwartz isn’t going to lambaste his team for penalties, then refs aren’t going to hesitate on close calls to chuck laundry at the feet of Lions players. Jim, you sought to live in interesting times, and you got em.

- Credit to Matt Elam and the Ravens defense signing the check his rookie mouth wrote. They beat the siht out of Calvin last night. When Johnson DID haul something in, he got smashed. Frequently.

So much for the league getting a year of not-so-Raven defense as they recalibrate that unit. Elam is real, Jimmy Smith has emerged as their, or A, top corner. More often than not there’s still Ngata, Dumveril isn’t finished yet either. Nor is Suggs. And out of Jaguar-imposed obscurity, Daryl Smith is one of the league’s best linebackers. That was an impressive and imposing defense.

From Robert Klemko at SI’s MMQB.

Johnson was so open on the first of those drops, Baltimore’s defensive backs might as well have been among those great lubed and sad masses watching from the stands.

But did their jaws drop, too, when Johnson dropped the footballs? Not exactly.

“If you watch film on him, you’ll see that he’ll drop the ball,” said Ravens cornerback Lardarius Webb. “He’s sure-handed, but he drops a couple. I was still surprised that he dropped them on us, in this game.”

See, I was right. #sorryimsorry.

Ranking The Lions Performances.

I was thinking through the Lions schedule, and I stumbled onto an almost annual mystery of ‘who’d they beat’ or the statement that ‘they haven’t beaten anyone.’

Based on present and future context – how the opponent played at the time AND how they improved or regressed – regardless of outcome I want to rank the Lions quality of performance in their 13 games thus far. 

1. Lions (4-3) vs. Cowboys (4-3), win 31-30. Unstoppable Calvin, savvy Stafford, into the bye was momentum and confidence. 

2. Lions (0-0) vs. Vikings (0-0), win 34-24. One big run by AD, then it’s balanced offense and stifling defense. 

3. Lions (3-1) at Packers (1-2), loss 22-9. On the road, w/o Calvin, and having not won at Lambeau since Barry, Rodgers didn’t carve them up and Detroit hung in. 

4. Lions (3-2) at Browns (3-2), win 31-17. On the road after GB loss with 17 fourth quarter points and see that Durham CAN contribute (8 catches 83 yards).

5. Lions (4-2) vs. Bengals (4-2), loss 27-24. A Green vs. Calvin showcase before the Bengals lost their best defensive player, Geno Atkins, and a last second 54 yard FG by Mike Nugent grabs a win for Cincy. 

6. Lions (1-0) at Cardinals (0-1), loss 25-21. As I suspected, the Cardinals, now at a modest 9-5, were better than most expected to be. Stout defense, better QB play than last year, and an overlooked, but exceptional head coach. 

7. Lions (2-1) vs. Bears (3-0), win 40-32. Lions pick Cutler 3 times, and Reggie Bush shows that his talents are for real and mesh perfectly with the Lions offense. 

8. Lions (1-1) at Redskins (0-2), win 27-20. Decades old monkey off the back, but the Washington defense was as porous as it’d shown the prior weeks, and throughout the rest of the year. 

9. Lions (6-5) vs. Packers (5-5-1), win 40-10. Can’t rank this too high. Losses to the Steelers and Bucs preceding it and you’ve got a fanbase on the fence of confidence, with lots of ‘noise’ and doubt leading up to the game. Vegas nailed this one, as Lions were huge favorites. 

10. Lions (7-5) at Eagles (7-5), loss 34-20. The holes in the 2nd half for McCoy were enormous and the angles to tackle him were putrid. Still, this is probably still more competitive if not for a freak snow storm. Thew weather assuages many of my judgments that could come from this game. Other than maybe, when it snows Jeremy Ross is Devin Hester. 

11. Lions (5-3) at Bears (5-3), win 21-19. Thank you Marc Trestman for sticking with an injured Jay Cutler too long. 

12. Lions (6-3) at Steelers (3-6), loss 37-27. Off a bye, which they entered on a high, on the road to a Steeler team steadying the ship. Questionable coaching didn’t help matters with the fake FG run. EDIT. Off the game AFTER the bye

13. Lions (6-4) vs. Buccaneers (2-8), loss 24-21. Let down type loss to the Steelers the week prior, back home against an improving and less tumult filled Bucs team and a cadre of crushing mistakes. 

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