Bad Management in Detroit

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The automotive companies aren’t the only ones to suffer from bad management decisions in Detroit. Time questions how the Detroit Lions can manage to become the first team to likely go 0-16 since the season was extended to sixteen games. Before the Lions, only the 1976 Tampa Bay Buccaneers managed to go winless for a season, but that was in a fourteen game season, and the Bucs were an expansion team in their first year.  Detroit hasn’t had a winning season since 2000.

Detroit will accomplish this dubious record of going without a victory if they lose their final game at Green Bay, where they haven’t won since 1991. Time points out how difficult this record is to achieve:

Football experts all agree that in today’s “any given Sunday” NFL — where every team seems to have a decent shot to win, where a salary cap structure, and a draft that gives the worst teams access to the best young talent in a young man’s game, creates league-wide parity — going winless is awfully hard to do. “It’s mind boggling to me,” says Troy Aikman, the Hall of Fame ex-quarterback for the Dallas Cowboys and Fox Sports analyst, who lived through a nightmarish 1-15 season himself as a rookie back in 1989. Several teams, in fact, have only managed to put together one victory in a season, including the 2007 Miami Dolphins and the 2000 San Diego Chargers . But failing to eke out one win in a league built on mediocrity takes a certain stunning level of ineptitude.

The article points out several reasons for why the team has done so poorly, listing poor management first:

And more than anything, terrible management is to blame. Former president Matt Millen, an ex-NFL linebacker who joined the team in 2001 and was finally fired this season after a multitude of public fan protests, strung together years of failed draft picks to dig Detroit into it current hole. Although every armchair football aficionado knows that defensive and offensive line play wins championships (or at least a game or two), Millen repeatedly spent top draft choices on low-impact wide receivers, despite not having a good quarterback to throw them the ball. The low point: in 2003 Millen used the second overall pick on Michigan State wideout Charles Rogers, who was recently sentenced to nine months of drug counseling following an assault and battery arrest involving his fianc�e. Among the top players Millen passed over for wide receivers: Pittsburgh Steeler quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, a Super Bowl winner, five-time Pro Bowl defensive back Troy Polamalu, also a Super Bowl-winning Steeler, and San Diego Chargers linebacker Shawne Merriman, a three-time Pro Bowler. “If you can’t evaluate talent, if you can’t draft talent, nothing else matters,” says Aikman. “Your team is built on a house of cards.”

Lions owner William Clay Ford Sr., 83, the grandson of Henry Ford, has only added to the hopelessness. Since Ford acquired the Lions in 1964, the team has won just a single playoff game. Millen, for example, was given an inexplicable five-year contract extension before the 2005 season, so he’s still being paid for destroying the team. Ford has promised to bring Martin Mayhew and Tom Lewland, two Millen-era execs who helped assemble the ’08 disaster, back for another year. Their coach, Rod Marinelli, hired his son-in-law Joe Barry to be his defensive coordinator. How has that worked out? The Lions have been the NFL’s worst defense since Barry took over two years ago.

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