Schwartz: 'Take advantage of being crappy'; more town hall talk
The Lions have their second town-hall meeting with fans tonight at Ford Field. If you're going, here's another sample of what you can expect to hear (or at least what the few hundred who attended Monday's session heard):
Lions coach Jim Schwartz said defensive coordinator Gunther Cunningham and offensive coordinator Scott Linehan began evaluating players Monday. The first thing those guys are going to do is they're going to sit down and watch all 16 games from last year, not looking at schemes, not looking at anything other than talent level to get another objective view of where we are and how we need to improve that, Schwartz said. In talking to Scott and in talking to Gunther, they already have their eyes on some good young players here. And I think we just need to sort of identify those guys that we're going to build around and then make quick decisions on other guys that maybe don't fit the direction that we want to go.
Schwartz mentioned Calvin Johnson and Kevin Smith by name several times, and as it related to the roster as a whole he said, I wouldn't say we're going to sweep everything out.
On the same subject, general manager Martin Mayhew said, I think we have a good core of blue-collar, hard-working guys on our team now. What we need is some impact players, some difference makers. Those are the kind of players we need to sign and draft. But I like the players that we have, a lot of them. I like their work ethic, I like the way they prepare. But we just need difference makers, we need to get bigger defensively. I can't really give you a number but we'll get as many good ones as we can find.
Mayhew reiterated a promise he made two days after the season, saying the team will be a lot more diligent about knowing players, about knowing their backgrounds. He said the Lions have changed their process for performing background checks on potential draft picks and added, I really think we have good scouts. The thing we haven't done is listen to those guys and made the right decisions at the right time.
Team president Tom Lewand seconded the notion about already having good personnel evaluators in place. They haven't always been in a system or haven't really ever been in a system where they've gotten the kind of direction, they've gotten the kind of structure and they have the kinds of systems and plans in place that we're talking about putting in place, he said. So we're going to get that right. For the first time in my tenure with the Lions, that will be right. How long that takes for us to get this turned remains to be seen, but you can absolutely take it to the bank that it'll be done the right way.
Schwartz said the key to a turnaround is we got to spend our money wisely and we have to be very, very strong on those first five picks. We have a tremendous opportunity. Maybe this isn't the place to say it, but I had somebody tell me, not that works for the Lions, he said take advantage of being crappy. He didn't say crappy, but take advantage of being crappy. In other words, you can say it in a lot of different ways, but basically benefit from that position. It's not often that you get at the top of the draft, it's not often that you're in a position that you have a lot of salary-cap money. Take advantage of all those picks and if we do our job right then we will.
Lewand on re-building the team: It'd be really easy to sit up here and come up with another marketing slogan and come up with billboards around the city and try and the old adage of baffle you with BS. And that's not what we're about. We're about as I said a couple of times, doing this thing the right way. And that means investing in a team that's built from the inside out, with bigger guys, running the ball, stopping the run, building through the draft. And to do it the right way means that you're not out there chasing the quick fix. You're not listening to the siren song on the rocks and running the risk of crashing into the shore.
Mayhew said anyone who's given the franchise tag in the future must be indispensable. A couple years ago we made Cory Redding our franchise player, he said. He had an outstanding 12 games or so. We moved him inside to tackle. He played really well. We felt like he was going to be a bell cow for us. The last couple years he hasn't played at that same level due to injury and other factors. But generally speaking it's going to be a guy who you can't win without that particular player. ... For now, I think Jason Hanson is probably the closest thing we have to that on our roster right now who's going to be free. Obviously Calvin is that type of player, but we need to get in a situation where we have two or three of those caliber of player.
Mayhew mentioned Cliff Avril, Ernie Sims, Daniel Bullocks and Redding as potential building blocks on defense. He also promised a renewed emphasis in the return game and said, in the draft and free agency, that's an area where we have some low-hanging fruit. We can get better in that area.