Thursday, January 27, 2005

MHSAA Plays on a Much Better Field

After a 29 year tenure at the Pontiac Silverdome, the MHSAA (Michigan High School Athletics Association) with the assistance of the City of Detroit has decided to move the 2005 playoffs to Ford Field. Ford Field, which is home base for the Lions, is more than willing to accept this advance.

It is an advance because it is giving high school athletes the ability to play on the same field as the stars.

The expanse doesn’t end there. Not only will it host the MHSAA playoffs, but also the Mid-American Conference championship, the Motor City Bowl, the Detroit Football Classic, the 2005 Major League Baseball All Star game and the 2006 Super Bowl. I’m nicely jealous of these high school players. TAKE USE OF THE FIELD WHILE YOU CAN!!!

Saturday, January 22, 2005

Who Will be the Next Off. Coordinator.

The Lions have interviewed at least two more candidates -- Ted Tollner of the San Francisco 49ers and Mike McCarthy of the New Orleans Saints -- for their offensive coordinator position.

Coach Steve Mariucci is believed to have interviewed Tollner and McCarthy this week for the job left open when Sherman Lewis retired. Tollner and McCarthy were offensive coordinators this season.

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Earlier, Mariucci interviewed three of his own assistants -- running backs coach Tom Rathman, offensive line coach Pat Morris and quarterbacks coach Greg Olson -- for the job, but indicated he would prefer to keep those three as position coaches.

McCarthy, 41, has NFL coaching experience with Kansas City, Green Bay and New Orleans, where he has been the past five seasons. He is believed to be in line for an interview with the Jacksonville Jaguars today for a similar position.

Tollner, 64, was head coach at San Diego State and Southern Cal before moving to the NFL, where he has been an assistant with Buffalo, San Diego and the 49ers.

Both Tollner and McCarthy have experience with the West Coast offense.

By Curt Sylvester

Atlanta: Offensive tackle Todd Weiner and cornerback Kevin Mathis sat out practice on Thursday because of ailing ankles, leaving them questionable for the NFC championship game. While coach Jim Mora said both players "were a lot better," they skipped practice for the second day in a row. The coach is hopeful both will be able to practice today.

Indianapolis: Colts quarterbacks coach Jim Caldwell was promoted to assistant head coach. Caldwell was the coach at Wake Forest in 1993-2000 and was on Colts coach Tony Dungy's staff at Tampa Bay in 2001. He came to Indianapolis with Dungy the next season.

Miami: New coach Nick Saban said he would consider taking back tailback Ricky Williams, whose abrupt retirement last July precipitated the Dolphins' fall to a 4-12 record. "The door is open, if that's a possibility," said Saban, the former LSU coach who signed a five-year, $22.5-million contract 2 1/2 weeks ago. "But a guy has to want to do this. It has to be important to him." Saban also said that he plans to hoard draft picks, something the Dolphins didn't do under former coach Dave Wannstedt. The team has the No. 2 pick in April, but it is without a choice in the second or sixth round because of trades.

Minnesota: Offensive line coach Steve Loney will gain offensive coordinator duties, replacing Scott Linehan, whom the Dolphins lured away with a three-year contract. The Vikings ranked second in the NFL in 2002, first in 2003 and fourth in 2004 in total offense.

Pittsburgh: Ben Roethlisberger is taking off the gloves. The rookie quarterback, who was scrutinized for using gloves during Saturday's subpar performance against the Jets, said he is going to try to play the AFC championship game barehanded. Roethlisberger started wearing gloves in high school to get a better feel for the ball, and he said he would continue to do so. But Roethlisberger, undefeated in 14 professional starts, said that his gloves Saturday were ill-fitting. And snow is in the forecast this weekend in Pittsburgh. "If it's wet, it makes it worse," he said. ... Red Sox pitcher Curt Schilling told Fox Sports that he'll be rooting for the Steelers against the New England Patriots on Sunday. Schilling's dad grew up in western Pennsylvania, and Schilling wore Steelers jerseys during the baseball season.

San Francisco: Coach Mike Nolan, hired this week, said he plans to reach back into the 49ers' recent past on offense. After the 49ers spent two years running fired coach Dennis Erickson's hybrid schemes, Nolan anticipates a return to a stronger form of the West Coast offense, which originated with Bill Walsh and was used by former coach Steve Mariucci. Nolan -- referred to as "Mooch II" by one San Francisco paper -- also said he expects the 49ers (2-14 this season) to use the No. 1 overall draft pick, not trade it -- but only on a player who fits his vision for the franchise. "I learned that personnel is about more than a pretty girl who's 6-5, 240, and runs fast," Nolan said. "It's hard to have chemistry on a football team that you haven't built on the best character. Character is just as important, and we'll have that."

Saturday, January 08, 2005

End of the season, brings back bad memories

The Detroit Lions did in 2004 what they often have during their decades of futility since winning the 1957 NFL title.

Detroit teased its fans with some wins they didn't expect, and a handful of players showed flashes of promise for the future.

But by the end of the season, the Lions' record (6-10) was lackluster and their victories were overshadowed by several near-misses and a few blowouts.

``I look at the whole year as a huge, missed opportunity,'' Lions CEO Matt Millen said. ``We started OK, but finished really poorly. We got complacent, lost our sense of urgency and that led to losing to teams with less talent, and that's just an awful feeling.''

When the Lions were 4-2 in October, they were praised for turning it around after winning an NFL-low 10 games over the previous three seasons. When they lost eight of their last 10, they were regarded as the lowly Lions again.

``Even though we got off to a good start, we were winning without playing good football,'' Jeff Backus said. ``Then, we lost our sense of urgency and that really came back to bite us.''

Minnesota and St. Louis are both in the NFC playoffs despite 8-8 records. That's what really bothers the Lions, who wasted big leads in some games and missed opportunities to win others.

``It's a tough thing to handle,'' Joey Harrington said. ``The only thing you can do is use it for motivation for next year. We've gotten to that point where we're close. When we come back, it's going to be time to win.''

Harrington set career highs with 19 touchdowns, 3,047 yards and a 56.0 completion percentage and threw a career-low 12 interceptions. In his third NFL season, he was booed often at home and challenged regularly by coach Steve Mariucci.

``What he has developed is some thick skin,'' Mariucci said. ``I'm hard on Joey and he likes it that way. He's making progress.''

The Lions were determined to surround Harrington with help this season and they appeared to have succeeded with two first-round picks: receiver Roy Williams and running back Kevin Jones.

Williams had 54 receptions for 817 yards and eight TDs, all records for a Detroit rookie. With 1,133 yards rushing, Jones reached a milestone just Barry Sanders and Billy Sims did as Lions rookies. After an ankle injury slowed him early in the season, Jones ran for an NFL-high 825 yards over the final seven games.

When Detroit was struggling to score points, Eddie Drummond helped out with two TDs on punt returns and two on kickoff returns. Drummond was picked to play in the Pro Bowl, but likely will miss the game because of a shoulder injury.

On the other side of the ball, defensive tackle Shaun Rogers solidified himself as a star -- earning his first Pro Bowl invitation -- and was rewarded with a six-year contract last week.

``I'm glad we got Shaun's deal done because we can really build around him,'' Millen said.

With Rogers clogging up the middle and James Hall getting a career-high 11 1/2 sacks despite playing all year with a broken thumb, Detroit's defensive line was among the league's best.

Rookie linebacker Teddy Lehman had a solid season, playing a team-high 1,225 plays, and cornerback Dre' Bly made four interceptions, earning a second straight trip to the Pro Bowl.

``I've got a thousand reasons to be optimistic,'' Mariucci said. ``Yes, the record is disappointing, we all agree on that. What is encouraging as we go forward, and I have to keep reminding myself, half of our starters and half of this football team are players that are on their first contract, which means they're young.''

Through free agency and the draft, starting with the 10th overall pick, the Lions hope to add at least one safety, at least one quarterback, a receiver, a guard and a defensive lineman.

They would like to re-sign some of their free agents, but it might be difficult to bring back offensive tackle Stockar McDougle, who is unrestricted and could draw interest elsewhere.

Some have wondered how long Millen, who just completed his fourth season, will stick around to run the Lions when he could be making stress-free millions again as a TV analyst.

``I'm going to finish what I started,'' Millen said. ``And by finish, I mean win a Super Bowl. It will not be enough for me to just win more games, because everybody who does not win the Super Bowl is a failure in this league.''

It almost seems as if we have a curse. We have been struggling for years, and I think we are ready to see a new Lions team. It's no suprise Sherman Lewis retired when he did, but this will either hurt us badly or make us benefit greatly. All of that simply relies on who becomes the new offensive coordinator. Lets try to turn it around for next year, and get this curse out of the picture. GO LIONS!