Be Like Mike? LeBron Just Can’t Do It

As LeBron James embarks on his journey for a third championship ring, the similarities between he and Michael Jordan have never been fewer. James – the Jordan for this generation of millennials who are too young to remember “The Shrug” or the tongue and the 38 points in 44 minutes with the flu in Game 5 of the 1997 NBA Finals – just accomplished something MJ never did in his illustrious career: LeBron is about to appear in the NBA Finals for the 6th consecutive season. Impressive? Without question. Historic? Definitely. Incredibly difficult and exhausting? No doubt.

Photo: WKYC-TV

LeBron deserves the praise he will receive for this accomplishment, and he deserves all other praise for his overall game and countless other record-setting, game-changing achievements over the course of his historically great career.

 

But as LeBron’s accolades grow and, even, surpass Jordan is some realms, I’m more confident than ever that James is not on Jordan’s level. A guy like LeBron James cannot be the face of the NBA and cannot hold the title of greatest player of all-time.

 

Take all of what I’m saying with the understanding that I’m a Detroit Pistons fan. I was a Pistons fan in the late 80s and early 90s and still a Pistons fan at the turn of the century. So of course, I have really never been in love with LeBron James – similarly I was never ever ever ever anything close to being a fan of Michael Jordan’s. But I think my allegiance to the Pistons allows me to compare these 2 all-time greats with the same cynical, envious eye.

 

I dislike LeBron for some of the same reasons I despised Jordan – Detroit rival, took over the league at a time when the Pistons were at the top, always getting the calls. A lot of jealousy and anger because the Pistons were about to take a back seat – as was most of the league. But that’s a fan for you.

 

Michael was mostly unlikeable to me because he couldn’t lose. He was as clutch as anyone who’s ever laced up a pair of, um well Jordans. And I hated every minute of it. Even when the Pistons “Bad Boy” Era faded away, I found myself actively rooting for anyone else to take down Jordan and the Bulls – Reggie Miller and the Pacers; the Knicks with Patrick Ewing, Charles Oakley, and John Starks; Stockton and Malone’s Jazz. I was tired of seeing Michael win.

 

The difference between the two – and depending on who you speak to, there are many – is one big thing and it’s the complete, number one, without-a-doubt reason that I can’t get with LeBron: maturity. I know what you’re saying – that’s the reason???!!! If it boils down to one word, then, yes – maturity is it.

 

I think back to how Michael behaved. He was no angel on the court. He did his share of tugging at the officials’ shirtsleeves and getting them to give him the benefit of the doubt. He pushed off – just ask Bryon Russell. He worked the refs. But that’s what stars do. The NBA is a players’ league – more specifically, it’s a superstars’ league. That’s just how it is.

 

So sure, LeBron does the same things MJ did and he does the same things his peers do – Steph Curry, Carmelo Anthony, Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook. They all get the calls more often than not – they know it, we know it, and it’s ok. They should get the calls – fans pay to see those guys play and no one wants any of those guys anywhere but on the court. But what I’m talking about goes much deeper than just getting the superstar treatment on the floor. The immaturity I’m talking about is more in how LeBron behaves and how he responds when he gets caught being immature.

 

LeBron flops and then in postgame interviews says he has never flopped. He brings the circus to town when he travels from city to city when free agency comes calling. He takes a dive in a game when no one even touches him – then when asked afterwards if he was trying to embellish the call on the floor, he denies, denies, denies.

 

Time and time again, I get the feeling none of us know the real LeBron James. (Not that we really know who any of these athletes are deep down in their personal lives.) But more telling, I don’t think LeBron really knows who he is – and if he does, I don’t think he’s comfortable with it. That’s why he denies things that are silly to deny. That’s why he calls out his teammates in social media but then never really acknowledges doing it. That’s why he left Cleveland, then left Miami, and then, ultimately, returned to Cleveland. That’s why no coach really seems to be comfortable coaching James; in turn, that’s why James always is trying to run out his coaches only to, yep that’s right, deny it when pressed by reporters.

 

The LeBron-MJ comparisons have gone on since before James was drafted by the Cavs. But no matter how many titles James ends his phenomenal career with or how many MVPs he collects, he’s not like Michael. His game is close, but who James is differs greatly from Jordan. Maybe deep down James is more like Mike than we think – but we’ll never know because LeBron doesn’t know either.

Facebooktwitterredditpinterestlinkedinmail

Hiring Annie Apple — The Latest Head-Scratching Move by ESPN

I’ve been watching ESPN for as long as I can remember. My middle school mornings were spent watching sports highlights and getting acquainted with soon-to-be broadcast stars like Keith Olbermann and Dan Patrick, Stuart Scott, Kenny Mayne, and Craig Kilborn. As an adult now, I still turn to ESPN to see highlights or get my sports fix for the day; but the more I discover about ESPN, the less there is to like.

 

Let me get one thing out of the way – I understand the television industry is a business. Sports, itself, is a business. People come, people go, and regardless of which side is at fault, sometimes it’s just business. (Maybe that’s a cop out, but I believe it to be true.) So when ESPN personalities split from the Mothership and these talented men and women go elsewhere, it can be chalked up to “it’s business”. Where I start to question things is when domino after domino after domino seems to fall and the result we, the viewer, are left with is a product that is not only lacking in substance, but seems to be intentionally gearing itself towards an audience that I don’t belong to.

 

Allow me to clarify a bit.

 

Like these people or not, enjoy their on-air personalities or not – Keith Olbermann, Bill Simmons, Dan Patrick are very talented guys who left ESPN in one way, shape, or form. If these parting of ways stood alone by themselves – probably no big deal, I don’t bat much of an eyelash. Talented guys will find work and make money and have a following of fans somewhere else. I’m not going to shed any tears – plus ESPN stocked up on other very talented guys (some had already been with the company – Stu Scott, Mike Tirico, Scott Van Pelt, Doug Collins to name a few).

 

But over time, the Worldwide Leader in Sports starting making decisions to bring in talking heads that appeared more interested in shocking people and borderline offending others. Remember when Stephen A. Smith was simply a courtside reporter for NBA games and occasionally was brought on for a 3-minute mini-segment on Sportscenter that would feature an anchor conversing with Smith an hour or two before tip-off? No? Yeah, I barely do either. Now, he’s arguably the face of the network – First Take, segments on NFL Sunday Countdown, extended in-studio segments on Sportscenter about any and all sports topics. And that’s ok – let the man be famous and make money and do his job. The problem I have is that Stephen A. (see how he’s even known simply by his first name and middle initial?) not only speaks his mind and is controversial, but that he plays to that growing audience of people who are dying to hear the extreme rhetoric. In other words to put it bluntly, America seems more and more ignorant in 2015 – and Stephen A shouts and yells and rants and people love it.

 

The questionable hires go on and on. Ray Lewis (who has been let go) – one of the NFL’s greatest defenders of all-time. But type in “Ray Lewis best quotes ESPN” into Google and check out what pops up – not exactly the prose of Herman Melville. Lewis would wax poetic and preach from the altar every time he was on camera. Lewis added little to what the average sports fan and viewer wanted to hear and see. And then there’s Curt Schilling. The former MLB pitcher was more interested in political grandstanding than he was in calling baseball games.

 

All three of those guys have the same thing in common – they stir people up and can be offensive. And ESPN knows this and even uses it to their advantage for ratings. But in the same breath, the network suspends them for insensitive remarks about women or domestic abuse or racially-charged epithets. ESPN wants it both ways – have these loud, obnoxious personalities spouting off on ESPN Radio or regular TV programming but also trying to remain politically correct. It doesn’t work both ways.

 

While the network loses guys like Mike Tirico, who by all accounts is one of the best play-by-play men and overall stand-up, good people in the business, they continue down this path of hiring on-air personalities for all the wrong reasons. Take this most recent – Annie Apple, mother of her lesser-known son and 1st round pick in last month’s NFL Draft, Eli. The first I heard of Annie Apple was when she tweeted about the women who would now be drawn to her son and all the other newly-minted millionaire 20-year olds chosen in the draft.

 

 

She then followed up with a tweet to Roger Goodell about the underwhelming desserts at the NFL Draft – to which the Commissioner responded by sending Apple a plate of brownies.

 

And now Annie Apple is going to be a routine contributor to ESPN’s pre-game show on Sundays this Fall?

 

The woman maybe has the qualifications – God knows she’s tweeted those out too, since her hiring became public earlier this week.

 

 

And maybe she’s sharp and bright and able to entertain. But from the bits and pieces we are getting about Eli Apple’s mom, she seems to fit this mold that ESPN has been striving for over the past decade – shock, shout, offend, suspend.

 

This is not the ESPN I grew up enjoying.

Facebooktwitterredditpinterestlinkedinmail

Reports of the Warriors’ Demise Have Been Greatly Exaggerated

It’s always fun to paraphrase the great Mark Twain – and even more so when it’s truly on point.

 

After Game 1 of the Western Conference Finals, the world was ready to all but declare the Golden State Warriors dead and their historic season over. The loss was, yes, surprising – remember Golden State had lost only 1 home game at Oracle Arena all season. They let a double-digit halftime lead evaporate – something they hadn’t done since, well, maybe the days of aforementioned Mark Twain. So, yes, to see the defending champs go down in the series opener was a little bit of a shock. But, please. Let’s not forget who we’re talking about here.

 

73-9

 

The 2-time reigning Most Valuable Player of the league

 

The 2-time reigning NBA Coach of the Year

 

The defending NBA Champions

 

This is essentially the same exact team that fell behind 2 games to 1 against the Memphis Grizzlies last postseason. In the NBA Finals last June, the Cleveland Cavaliers took a 2-1 series lead into Game 4 against these Warriors before Steph Curry and his guys rallied to win 3 straight and hoist the Larry O’Brien Trophy. My point — this team has a bit of a tendency to start off slowly in some of these playoff series. And dropping a game (at Oracle or in OKC or in my backyard for that matter) against a team like the Thunder, who held 4th quarter leads in each of the 3 regular season meetings between these two teams, should not signal the distress flags.

 

And just like they’ve done for more than a calendar year, the Warriors bounced back with authority last night and rolled to a 118-91 victory to knot the series up at one game apiece. The MVP was in typical MVP form, as Curry went for 28 points in just 30 minutes on the floor – 17 of which came in the deciding 3rd quarter. The Warriors opened up what was an 8-point lead at intermission to 20 at the end of the 3rd quarter.

 

Knowing the makeup of this team and their history together, how could anyone doubt this team or even think of writing them off after the Game 1 defeat? Head Coach Steve Kerr didn’t and his comments after Game 2 sum up, very succinctly, how he feels about his team. When asked if there was anything in particular that stood out from the victory or the 3rd quarter in particular, Kerr responded, “Nothing. Nothing stands out.” Typical Warriors. Typical Curry.

 

This reminds me of another Mark Twain quip: the secret to getting ahead is getting started.

 

Although it took them a second, the Warriors — it’s safe to say — have gotten started.

Facebooktwitterredditpinterestlinkedinmail

For Brad Ausmus and the Tigers, It’s Just Time

Ausmus

You know how when you’re in a relationship and it’s just not going anywhere? There’s not hatred or anger, really; it’s just run it’s course. Nothing new or exciting is happening, neither of you really care to share regular, everyday stories with each other anymore. By no fault of either person, the relationship is just over. The Tigers and Manager Brad Ausmus, it appears, have reached that point.

 

(Weiss/ Detroit Free Press)

It’s been an up and down 2-plus years with Ausmus at the helm. A 90-win inaugural managerial year in 2013 was marred by a sweep in the ALDS at the hands of the Baltimore Orioles. The postseason defeat was rather uneventful and even expected by many fans. The elimination brought to light bigger problems that critics, still today, hound Ausmus for – such as his in-game decision making and the use of his bullpen. That lackluster finish spilled over into the 2015 campaign as the team trudged through the year – an embarrassing year at times – to finish in the basement of the AL Central Division with just 74 wins.

 

This year has not started any better and the future doesn’t look all that bright – the defending champion Royals are in the division and the White Sox and playing well. Even the Cleveland Indians have been dominating the Tigers so far this season (6-0). My point is the team just might not be good enough to compete for this division and may not even be good enough to compete for a wildcard spot. If that’s the case, what’s the sense in continuing down this road? There are no signs of a turnaround within the clubhouse or on the field; and with every defeat, Ausmus’s seat only burns hotter. He’s admitted he’s “in the crosshairs”, and knows every press conference he holds after a game is the media’s chance to second-guess every decision he makes. And I’d argue that feeling has to impact his performance.

 

So the argument becomes is it worth it to fire the manager mid-season. Nine times managers have been fired within the first 81 games in the past 10 years and only once did that new manager lead that team to the playoffs during that season – Jim Tracy with the Colorado Rockies in 2009. And since 2000, a managerial change at any point during the season has an average impact of +0.021 as far as team winning percentage. The results beyond that season have varying degrees of success for the team and the new manager. For instance, when the Oakland A’s fired Bob Geren in June 2011, new manger Bob Melvin had similar results, as the A’s struggled all year. However, Melvin’s A’s made the postseason in each of the next 3 seasons.

 

So you fire the manager and what happens? In all likelihood, nothing – at least nothing immediately. So why all the talk? Why all the speculation? Why all the clamoring for Ausmus’s job? It’s these types of situations where it has nothing to do with statistics or possible outcomes or past history of what could or might work out. It boils down to the simple fact that a change is needed. I’m not big on making changes for the sake of making changes. And the thing is – Ausmus by all accounts is a very bright guy, has a sharp baseball mind, understands the game, is cordial with the media, and his players respect him. I’ve been a Brad Ausmus supporter since he was hired, and I continued to support him even when the team underachieved and struggled. I was in the minority last off-season when I opposed him being fired. But now it feels like it’s time. He hears the noise (it’s not whispers anymore) about his future. The media (aside from Fox Sports Detroit) is becoming more brazen in the questions they ask him during his postgame pressers. The players hear it all, too. And while they publicly supported their skipper all throughout the 2015 season, you wonder how long they will continue answering questions about his future this season. At some point, it has to become tiresome to them. It’s already become tiresome to fans.

 

We can debate all day and night over who should replace Ausmus – Omar Vizquel or Lloyd McClendon or Gene Lamont? But that’s not what this is about, even though it is a fair and reasonable question. This is about knowing when something is over, when it’s run it’s course and there is no more good that can come of the situation. That’s where the Tigers are at with Ausmus. It’s just time.

Facebooktwitterredditpinterestlinkedinmail

After a Year, We’re Back for More Magic at Sawgrass

The 2015 season in golf was truly remarkable. From the manner in which Jordan Speith dominated the field and the course at Augusta to Dustin Johnson’s utter collapse on the 72nd hole at Chambers Bay to Speith nearly winning the remaining two majors to Jason Day overpowering the links course at Whistling Straits, it was a great year to be a golf fan. And all that excitement brought with it anticipation as everyone waited for the 2016 season to open (particularly the “Majors Season”) so we could see what would happen next. If last month’s Masters is any indication of the type of season that is upon us, we might not even remember the fun we had in 2015. We’re all looking forward to seeing how the game’s greatest hold up at the historic Oakmont at the U.S. Open in June. We’re all wondering, can Jordan add a couple more majors to his bag at such a young age? Will Jason Day capitalize on his PGA Championship and world number 1 ranking? Can Rory recapture the magic in a major that has seemed to allude him as of late? Will another young star emerge on one of the game’s greatest stages? And what will Olympic golf in Rio look like this Summer?

 

So many questions. But the one I’ve been waiting to have answered for 12 months is here this week: what is the sequel to the 2015 Players Championship?

 

Rickie Fowler’s play at the TPC at Sawgrass last year was nothing short of incredible – more specifically, his play at the 17th was mind-boggling. He didn’t run away with the tournament (heck, he had to go through 2 other guys in 4 playoff holes to finally secure the title), but he didn’t need to run and hide. He didn’t need to set a scoring record in route to winning what’s deemed the sport’s “5th Major”. The way he won it was perfect just the way it unfolded.

 

Fowler shot 6-under in his final 6 holes Sunday afternoon; and when he took the tee box at the Par 3 17th, he stuck his wedge within 7 feet of the pin, as the Stadium Course crowds went wild. But that was really only the beginning of Rickie’s magical afternoon. The playoff he fought to be a part of with Kevin Kisner and Sergio Garcia would force the threesome to return to the 17th as part of the 3-hole aggregate playoff format. And again, Fowler dropped his tee shot within 6-feet. Two times in the matter of 90 minutes, Fowler struck 2 tee shots that few would be able to hit once in their lifetime. But because Kisner and Fowler remained tied after the 3-hole playoff, the two made the trek back to the island hole for the climax to the drama. He couldn’t possibly hit a better shot than what he’d already hit TWICE earlier, right? RIGHT???

 

Wrong.

 

He did.

 

I don’t expect the same magical performance from Fowler this weekend, but not because he’s incapable of playing well and even successfully defending his title – rather expecting a result in the way it happened last year would be unfair. But Sawgrass brings out the magic. It’s a special course. The crowds, the island hole, the purse. Let’s not be remiss – The Players is called the “5th Major” and it pays like it too. Someone will piece together their own bit of magic this weekend – we can only hope it comes any where close to last year’s ride. Here’s a few players to watch:

 

RORY

(Stuart Franklin/Getty Images)

Rory McIlroy

You can’t help but wonder how Rory will respond after missing his most recent chance to complete the career Grand Slam last month at Augusta. It’s not like his game was looking all that great heading into the Masters, but now after a Saturday 77 put him out of contention what is his mental makeup moving forward? That’s probably a silly question considering Rory has long been considered one of the most mentally-tough players on tour. He finished tied for fourth at Quail Hollow last week and is still ranked inside the top 10 in driving distance. Bottom line – Rory’s too good to not be in contention this weekend. And he loves the limelight and certainly has a flare for the dramatics. What better stage than the Stadium Course.

 

garcia-full-getty

(Halleran/Getty Images)

Sergio Garcia

I typically don’t get in the habit of picking Sergio Garcia to win very often. Admittedly, there’s not much rationale behind it – maybe it stems from him not being able to hang on to the lead in the majors he’s contended in, maybe it’s his demeanor that irks me, or maybe he just flies under my radar most weeks. Not this week though. If anyone has a better resume at Sawgrass, please bring them to me at once! Besides winning The Players in 2008, Sergio has finished runner-up twice (including last year in the playoff), placed third in 2014, holds 6 top tens here, and is the all-time earnings leader at this tournament. Tiger Woods would always say a course “fits his eye” when explaining the successes he had at certain venues. Sawgrass fits Sergio’s eye without question. For a course that forces top-notch iron play, Sergio has it covered. Length off the tee is not a prerequisite for winning at the Stadium Course. Sergio’s accuracy and his ability to reach greens in regulation will give him a really good shot at holding the trophy, again, on Sunday.

 

UNIVERSITY PLACE, WA - JUNE 18: Henrik Stenson of Sweden smiles on the fifth hole during the first round of the 115th U.S. Open Championship at Chambers Bay on June 18, 2015 in University Place, Washington. (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
(Getty Images)

Henrik Stenson

Stenson is a guy who I keep waiting to see holding the Claret Jug or donning a Green Jacket. The former FedEx Cup winner has the game to win a major championship. Stenson won at Sawgrass in ’09 and came close in 2013. He hits the ball straight off the tee and that’s what you need to be able to do. What will play to Stenson’s game is the fact he can put the driver in the bag and not be punished. The question will be his putting. How he handles the flat stick seems to be the recurring issue for the Swede.

 

062814-GOLF-patrick-reed-LN-PI.vadapt.980.high.42

(Tommy Gilligan/USA TODAY Sports)

Patrick Reed

How do 8 top ten finishes sound? How do you like someone ranked 3rd on the PGA Tour in Scrambling? Pretty good, huh? The catch with Patrick Reed, however, is you can’t take the good without the bad. Two of the American’s last 3 starts found him finishing 49th and 28th, respectively, on Sunday. But his ability to recover and not compound mistakes with more mistakes is a great asset, especially on a course like Sawgrass. Playing mistake-free is not an option for any player this weekend – can Reed make enough shots to be at top after 72 holes?

 

Zach Johnson of the United States tees off on first hole during the third round of the 111th US Open at Congressional Country Club on June 18, 2011, in Bethesda, Maryland. AFP PHOTO / Jim WATSON (Photo credit should read JIM WATSON/AFP/Getty Images)
WATSON/AFP/Getty Images)

Zach Johnson

No one’s game has ever been more simple, more accurate, or less exciting than Zach Johnson!! Similar to Jim Furyk’s game in that his accuracy always keeps him in contention, Zach Johnson’s bugaboo can be his lack of length off the tee. But Sawgrass puts little emphasis on length. His ball-striking will be on full display this weekend and Johnson’s nerves of steel will make him one to watch on Sunday afternoon.

 

senden-847-meyer

(Meyer/Getty Images)

John Senden

Maybe a guy off the beaten path who comes up this weekend and snatches a career-changing title is John Senden.  The 45-year old Australian has put together 4 top 25 finishes this season, including a T17 at Quail Hollow last weekend. His game is very unassuming and he is not likely to take many risks at Sawgrass. If he can limit the errors and scramble in the top 10 for the week, Senden’s play on the greens is good enough to put him near the top of the leaderboard Sunday.

Facebooktwitterredditpinterestlinkedinmail

No Steph, No Problem: Klay Thompson Proving Curry’s Not the Only Superstar Guard in Golden State

Great teams find ways to win – even when they shouldn’t. Even when the odds are stacked against them and unforeseen circumstances occur that put them up against the wall. Let’s face it — what I’m describing is not quite what the Golden State Warriors are facing; however, they do have to deal with a certain amount of adversity as their MVP guard and superstar, Stephen Curry, recovers from a sprained knee. Despite the record-setting 73-win regular season, the Warriors still had to maneuver through the difficult Western Conference playoffs – with a looming battle with the almost-equally great San Antonio Spurs. When Curry went down, that difficult journey became much more treacherous – some may even consider the Spurs the favorite if Curry isn’t close to 100-percent healthy. But before we start talking like the Warriors title chances are doomed, maybe we should take notice of a star who’s shining brighter than ever in the absence of his fellow Splash Brother.

 

Klay Thompson hasn’t exactly just been going through the motions and catching a free ride on a championship team. Let’s not forget, this is the same player who went for a record 37 points in a single quarter in an NBA game last season. Thompson’s 3-point shooting prowess is only bested by teammate Curry – in the HISTORY of the NBA!! This season, Thompson shot over 42% from long range and hit 276 total three balls – a mark that only trails Curry in NBA history. But something has elevated him to another stratosphere this playoff run. And one can’t help but wonder that with Curry sidelined, Thompson has embraced the role of a superstar.

 

Through Games 4 and 5 against Houston and Game 1 against Portland, Thompson drained 7 three-pointers in each – an NBA postseason record. What’s most impressive is that he did that with Curry, for the most part, on the bench injured. Thompson has increased his points per game from the regular season to the playoffs as well – 22 ppg up to nearly 26 ppg. No one will argue that Klay needs to be a banger inside and grab many boards, but even his rebounds per game have slightly increased from the regular season; and his assists have gone up 1.5 per game in the postseason.

 

Now, of course, it’s only logical that Thompson’s production and opportunities would increase with Curry out. And the 2015-16 NBA Playoffs are only 7 games old for the Warriors so it’s hardly a wealthy sample size to make sweeping proclamations. But what Thompson has stepped into when his team needed it was a role that he may not relinquish all that quickly – with Curry back or not. Don’t misconstrue what I’m saying – there will NOT be a battle between the guards to see who the star of the team is (heck if there’s a battle for that, I’m not so sure Draymond Green wouldn’t beat the both of them). What may happen is the birth of a second star, who will fill the role his team needs him to fill but has all the ability in the world to step up and do much more when called upon to do so. That’s the trick that NBA teams and players can’t quite seem to figure out – LeBron and D-Wade couldn’t figure that out in Miami or else they would have collected more than 2 titles. The feeling around the league is you gather as much talent as possible and throw multiple stars together and the winning will just happen – that’s why rumors still persist about LeBron uniting with BFFs Chris Paul, Carmelo, and, again, with Wade. Superstars = Rings. But that’s proven to not always be the best formula to follow. And while these Warriors have supremely talented players, they all fit roles that they accept and thrive in. No question that Steph is a superstar (and face of the NBA), Klay is stating his case, and Draymond Green has established himself as one of the most well-rounded players in all of basketball. But these guys know what their team needs to be successful. That’s why they won last year against King James in the Finals. That’s why they bumped Michael and the Bulls from the top of the mountain and went 73-9. And that’s why – Steph or no Steph — no one should overlook them right now.

Facebooktwitterredditpinterestlinkedinmail

Oh, Bob Quinn, Why Must You Tease Lions Fans?

When Bob Quinn arrived in town to take charge of the Detroit Lions franchise, fans in the Metro-Detroit area hoped he could replicate what few Bill Belichick disciplines have been able to do. Moving the Foxboro philosophy to other NFL cities hasn’t exactly panned out for those who have attempted the feat — Scott Pioli struggled in Kansas City; the Josh McDaniels coaching experience in Denver was disastrous; even Belichick Originals Romeo Crennel and Charlie Weis couldn’t make head coaching gigs last in the NFL. But if one organization’s fan base deserves something to be hopeful for, it’s got to be the Lions. And when Martha Firestone Ford chose Bob Quinn to become the Lions new General Manager, fans could envision the Patriot Way settling in, nice and comfortably, in Allen Park.

 

In filling the many holes on the Lions’ roster, Quinn certainly went about his re-build with his old employer in mind. He pulled guys who had a history in New England –Tavon Wilson, Stevan Ridley, and Tim Wright. He added another tight end in Matthew Mulligan – the Patriots have been known for years for having a propensity for running multiple tight end packages. He took a flyer on former Giant Geoff Schwartz to add depth to the offensive line. And he even spent money signing a former Cleveland Brown cornerback, Johnson Bademosi, much in part to his skill set on Special Teams – very “Belichickian”. So Lions fan were happy, the future seemed brighter and the franchise appeared to behaving like an actual NFL franchise that wanted and was trying to win.

 

Then the draft came and more reason for optimism in the Motor City. Quinn went safe with his first pick as Lions GM and took Ohio State offensive tackle Taylor Decker. He followed that up with a second round pick that many projected as a first rounder in A’Shawn Robinson – defensive tackle out of Alabama. Quinn, then, added a center, a hard-hitting safety, and a few picks to add depth to the defensive line, guard position, and linebacker. He even scooped up a Long Snapper. The only other team known to draft long snappers is, well, you know. Everything was moving nice and steadily in the right direction it seemed. Slowly and methodically build the team, keeping in mind the Belichick blueprint. And then came the 6th round…

 

With his 6th round pick, Bob Quinn undid all the good he had done. He gained the trust of the Lion fan base. He nurtured them along free agency – being smart and judicial. He went through 5 rounds of the NFL Draft, picking players who fit the roles he was looking for. Then, he, unwittingly, threw the Detroit Lions fans into a delusional fit. His sixth round selection made the Lions fans think of another Patriot move that forever changed that franchise. University of Michigan quarterback selected in the sixth round? Have we heard that before? Anybody? Anybody?

 

Heading into the draft, the quarterback position was a need. The talk around Detroit (and the league) was that Matthew Stafford needed someone backing him up that would push him in practice and light a bit of a flame under him. In order to get the most out of your franchise quarterback, you need to make him feel a little pressure from within – that was the thought. Some thought Dak Prescott from Mississippi State or Kevin Hogan from Stanford with a mid to late round selection was where the Lions were headed. Some even thought Connor Cook’s free fall would end with the Lions in the 3rd or 4th round. Nope. The Lions stuck to the theme that Bob Quinn brought to Detroit – the Patriot Way. And what is more “Patriot” than grabbing a 6’3” U-M quarterback who completed over 60% of his passes and held a 2 to 1 touchdown to interception ration in his career in Ann Arbor? Am I talking about Jake Rudock or Tom Brady? Ha, it’s a trick – those stats describe them both! (I kid. I joke. It’s funny.) But to Lions fans, this is not a joke. It’s not funny. It’s real and it’s possible that Jake Rudock will do for the Lions organization what Tom Brady has done for New England’s. Crazy? Yes, of course. High unlikely that will actually happen? Agreed, 100 percent. But tell that to Lions fans. Jake Rudock may as well throw on a number 12 jersey, start dating supermodels, and pick up cliff-diving in the offseason.

 

Poor Lions fans have been through so much – Barry Sanders leaving them high and dry on the eve of training camp, Matt Millen singlehandedly setting the franchise back 10 years by trying to field a team made up of only first round wide receivers, Calvin Johnson retiring early. The list goes on. And now, just when Bob Quinn has steadily and cautiously convinced fans that by rationally operating the front office the organization could be headed down the winning path, he goes ahead and let’s the crazy back in.

 

Good luck, JR15. (In 15 years, remember this was all a joke – I really did believe you would turn out to be like TB12.)

Facebooktwitterredditpinterestlinkedinmail