With Matt Millen-high 7 wins, Lions limp toward respectability Print
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Tuesday, 01 January 2008 01:47
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 The Detroit Lions won seven games, limping toward respectability with their highest victory total since Matt Millen took control of the franchise in 2001.
It isn't what Jon Kitna had in mind.
The quarterback, who said before the season he would be disappointed if the Lions didn't win 10 games, said the year was a failure after ending it Sunday by getting beat by backups in Green Bay.
Even though Detroit more than doubled its wins from 2006, Kitna said he was disappointed about a collapse that followed a strong start.
``I have a friend of mine that's into psychobabble,'' Kitna said. ``He says that expectations minus results equals your frustration level. So, our expectations were higher and our results didn't match those.''
The Lions raised hopes with a 6-2 record, then dashed them with a six-game skid and only one win in their final eight games. It matched the NFL's worst second-half mark among teams that won six of their first eight games since the league implemented 16-game schedules in 1978.
In the Super Bowl era, about one-fourth of the teams that started 6-2 were relegated to watching postseason play.
``It's unfortunate, even a little embarrassing to start the way we did and then not make the playoffs,'' rookie receiver Calvin Johnson said. ``We have a long time to think about that.''
The Lions are choosing to take their time announcing any possible changes.
Coach Rod Marinelli said Monday he would meet individually with his staff, but he declined again to confirm or deny reports that offensive coordinator Mike Martz would be leaving.
Center Dominic Raiola, one of few players who seemed to play consistently well, said he is tired of the staff upheaval that has been a part of his seven-year career.
``Since I've been here, we've been changing coaches,'' Raiola said. ``There comes a point in time where it's not the coaches anymore.''
Marinelli, who often took the blame after losses, was blunt during his final address to his players in Allen Park, Mich., at team headquarters.
``You get what you deserve in the NFL,'' Marinelli recalled telling the team. ``We have to learn from this season. We had a great opportunity in front of us.
``It becomes a self-evaluation. That's the only way you can look at it in terms of why we failed for those six weeks.''
During the losing streak, Detroit blew opportunities to beat playoff-bound Dallas and the New York Giants at home. Marinelli said those games changed the season.
The Lions were 5-3 at home, but struggled on the road and became the first team since 1990 to lose by 30-plus points three times at San Diego, Washington and Philadelphia.
The Lions plan to stick with Kitna as their quarterback and likely will keep the receiving corps together, led by Johnson and Roy Williams, but every other position group might be shook up.
They will have the 15th pick in April's draft and chances are they will not select a receiver for the fifth time in six years.
Detroit's unrestricted free agents include linebacker Boss Bailey, offensive lineman Damien Woody and running back T.J. Duckett, who might've became more valuable to the team when Kevin Jones' injury woes continued with a knee injury that might sideline him deep into next season.
``Hopefully we can get T.J. signed,'' Kitna said.
Woody increased his value on the open market by playing tackle for the first time in his career after losing his job at guard, and plans to take advantage.
``I'm definitely open to coming back,'' said Woody, who played center for New England before signing with Detroit as a free agent. ``But I feel I should look at everything for myself and my family.''
The Ford family is expected to retain Millen and Marinelli after the Lions ended the a six-year losing streak of 10-plus losses, the NFL's worst stretch since Tampa Bay had 12 such seasons from 1983-94.
Kitna will be back, too, and he is encouraged after the franchise took a small step forward.
``For the first time in a while we played meaningful games in December here,'' he said.
It might be difficult for Detroit to repeat that relative accomplishment in 2008 with non-NFC North matchups against strong teams such as Indianapolis, Tampa Bay, Jacksonville and Washington.
 

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