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Game Preview! 10 Items of Passing Interest About the Detroit Lions

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1) Since Barry Sanders' departure in 1999, the Detroit Lions have gone through five coaches, including Steve Mariucci and interim coach Dick Jauron in 2005. Between 1999 and 2005 the Lions compiled a won-loss record of 38-74. Detroit has not made the playoffs since 1999, and last season was the fifth in a row in which the Lions lost at least 10 games.

Naturally this puts them in position to win the NFC North, a division whose teams are so iffy that the NFL is considering choosing the division winner by casting lots.

   
    Marinelli discussing Joe Cullen's naked driving incident in graphic detail.
? thelionsfanatics.com

 
2) The Lions' new head coach is Rod Marinelli, who was the d-line coach of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers for ten seasons before being hired by the Lions.

Judging from what I've heard in his interviews, I like Rod Marinelli. He is the kind of coach for whom the phrases "old-school" and "throwback" were invented. He's a great interview subject with genuine love for the grindstone aspects of football. He loves seeing successful blocking assignments more than a one-handed catch.

My first impression was that Marinelli could have played Gunnery Sergeant Hartman in my favorite war movie ever, Full Metal Jacket. But upon hearing him speak I realized he was probably more like Brig. General Taylor in Good Morning Vietnam: a taskmaster when he has to be, but not without a sense of humor. And fully appreciative of Robin Williams' firecracker comic genius. Marinelli's definitely a Mork man. You can tell that from miles away.

Either way, you can't look at a picture of Marinelli and not think about some sort of cinematic military icon. Which, let's face it, Detroit needs.

3) The offensive coordinator for the Lions is Mike Martz, former Rams head coach. Martz -- who was the offensive coordinator under Dick Vermeil in the Rams' championship year of 1999 -- loves the big passing game, which means you can say goodbye to the nuanced West Coast offense in Detroit this year.

Joey Harrington is now a backup with the Miami Dolphins, which means he might start very soon if Culpepper continues to look like he did against Pittsburgh in the season opener. New quarterback Jon Kitna (that name rings a bell, eh?) might be better-suited to this offense, since he has a cannon - when he wants to use it. There are questions about his season-long consistency. Kitna's one of those guys clubhouse analysts call a "good leader." Then they clumsily change the subject. But Kitna's a good guy.

4) With the promise of a bigger passing game from the Lions, we might also finally see the oft-promised explosion of Roy Williams this year, especially since the Lions have gotten rid of the marvelously disinterested Charles Rogers.

5) To sweeten the statistical probability pot for Lions fans, check this out: Every Martz-led offense has finished no worse than fifth in the NFL in passing since 1999.

6) From all accounts the defensive line of the Lions is a surly, restrictive and brutish group of guys you really don't want to have to run into. This doesn't explain their pallid defense against the run last year, but it still remains their strong point.

And who knows? If the Lions' defensive line gets some inspired, disciplined and steady support from the defensive line coach, there's no telling how high they'll soar this year! With the right leadership, they could... they... could...

Ah... well, this is awkward.

7) I'm wondering if the Seahawks will become the first team in the Super Bowl era to play back-to-back meaningful "away" games, including playoffs, in the same stadium? Or at least against different teams? Could someone be my special deputy of useless trivia and find this out for me?

8) By the way, yes, Joe Cullen has been suspended for Sunday's game, which means he'll be able to make his tryout with the Chippendales Dancers in Lansing if he wants.

9) Detroit fans will fondly look back on the Tigers' cathartic success in baseball this year. The Pistons should contend as well. And the Shock may very well win the WNBA championship on Saturday. And Detroit's the biggest hockey town in America. They'll be all right without the Lions.

10) But I do wonder - how many times in the last six years has this team been described as "the new-look Lions" in season previews? And where do all those the old looks go?

There's your preview. For more information on Detroit rent 8 Mile or Robocop.