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 0-16 Lions -- Worst NFL Team Ever!

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PostSubject: 0-16 Lions -- Worst NFL Team Ever!   Mon Dec 29, 2008 9:06 am

Monday, December 29, 2008
Bob Wojnowski
A season to forget: Lions show heart but make history at 0-16

GREEN BAY, Wis . -- When it was over, they ran the final gauntlet with heads down and helmets on, through the visitors' tunnel at fabled Lambeau Field, through laughs and taunts that will ring forever.

"Oh and 16! Oh and 16!" the fans chanted at the Lions, who jogged quickly from the field, away from the stench, directly toward, um, well, what? The Lions have nowhere else to go now, nowhere but up after completing the first 0-16 season in NFL history with a 31-21 loss to Green Bay Sunday.

This ended precisely as it should have ended, as it was destined to end. The Lions played OK for a while, made gigantic mistakes, couldn't tackle frozen targets, and then finally, mercifully, slid from sight, down a tunnel, into the not-so-hallowed halls of infamy.

The Worst Team Ever.

It's etched on their foreheads, in indelible ink. The worst team in the history of the NFL, the worst team in the history of Detroit sports, the worst collection of professional sportsmen ever assembled in our fair city, in almost any fair city.

It's a stain that should stick to everyone, absolutely starting with William Clay Ford, who now has the perfect legacy for his 44 mediocre years as owner of the Lions. Ford has displayed such awful leadership, the Lions always wander aimlessly, from coach to coach, from quarterback to quarterback, no clear path or plan in sight.

When your best isn't enough

It will stick to the latest poor coach, Rod Marinelli, who stood on the sideline, all bundled up in a silver jacket, shouting orders to the end -- the end of this disaster, surely the end of his career as an NFL head coach after 23 losses in 24 games.

"The record speaks for itself, and my feelings about it will be kept to myself," Marinelli said, still unwavering. "I thought this team tried hard all year. They gave it their best and I gave it my best, but sometimes your best isn't good enough."

That's the truly sad thing about this horrible team. At times, I do think they tried their best, from standout receiver Calvin Johnson to hard-running rookie Kevin Smith, but there were few holes to run through, only holes to step in.

There's no way Marinelli can stay, of course. He should be fired today, or soon. There's no way anyone has earned the right to stay, although with Ford's scattered thinking, who knows what happens next. Heck, he already said he was keeping front-office guys Tom Lewand and Martin Mayhew, so I'm guessing he's just winging it again.

All I know is, the Lions gave it one final effort, weren't good enough to beat a 6-10 Green Bay team, and richly earned their place in history. Somewhere, deposed team president Matt Millen had to suffer one final pang of remorse, knowing he pieced together this group with pathetic drafts and signings.

"There's nothing you can say to make anybody think you're better than that record, 0-16," center Dominic Raiola said. "You gotta live with it. We made this bed, we gotta sleep in it for the next six months, for the rest of our careers, for the rest of our lives. When our kids grow up, they're gonna know we were part of 0-16."

Players accept blame

No one should ever forget it. And in a quiet locker room, players had no problem owning up to it. It was an admirable display, actually, as if bathing in the misery served as some sort of cleansing penance.

There were no defiant shouts because, well, players have no idea who their next leader will be, have no idea if he'll be any better than Millen or Marinelli or Mariucci or Mornhinweg or Moses himself. It is interesting that Bill Parcells, who immediately turned Miami around, could be available again if he exercises an out clause in his contract.

"You gotta do something, you gotta hire a personnel guy that's won before," Raiola said. "I'm a leader and a captain, and right now this is what I represent, 0-16, and it's embarrassing. We let a lot of people down -- we let each other down, we let our coaches down, we let the city of Detroit down. I've been here eight years, and to be known as the losingest team in Detroit really, really hurts."

Ah, there's plenty of blame to spread. In the finale, we saw flashes of promise wrapped in the standard cloak of stupidity and frustration. Late in the game, with the outcome somewhat in doubt, Smith shoved the ball in a Green Bay player's face and drew a crushing 15-yard penalty.

Every time the Lions did something positive, such as Smith's 9-yard touchdown that made it 24-21, they followed with something lame, such as Donald Driver's 71-yard touchdown reception 16 seconds later that clinched it for the Packers.

"That's something I'll learn from and it'll never happen again in my career," said Smith, speaking of the penalty, not the 0-16. "We've got some players, we just don't have enough. You try to smile, not to cry. We deserve everything we got coming. I don't need any comforting. At the end of the day, it's a man's game, and we went out as men and lost 16 games."

Player after player talking about learning from the experience, but really, what else can they say? Quarterback Dan Orlovsky, who played decently at times and is a free-agent, believes he showed he can start for someone, and maybe he can.

Incentive for future

Again, it's hard to see much gain through all the pain, beneath all the stain. Smith said he'd keep the gloves he wore against Green Bay in his workout bag to remind him of the losing, to push him harder.

"Believe it or not, I still remember how winning feels," said Smith, a college star at Central Florida.

"At least we learned to keep fighting. I'm gonna try to be the best back in the NFL now. It's over, we made history, and now my eyes are on next year."

That's the only place the Lions can look, the same place they always look. The problem is, this is a collapsed franchise with no clear renovation plan.

It begins with the aloof Ford, as it has for nearly half a century. He never was a self-made man, part of the auto family, but this is a self-made mess.

I can tell you this: The players are looking for help, craving help, begging for help. The Lions have high draft picks, including the No. 1 overall, which is a start.

"Every aspect of this football team has to be re-thought and analyzed," said kicker Jason Hanson, who completed his 17th season here.

"You're kind of numb because this train has been rolling down the tracks for a while. The fans cheering at the end (for 0-16) was interesting, and pretty sad. But in this league, nobody feels bad for you. Hopefully, the guys here will hate what this feels like and turn it into energy."

Having energy is one thing. Having talented players and shrewd general managers and good coaches, that's another thing.

That's the tricky little aspect the Lions haven't gotten remotely right for years. And that's why the Lions ended up where they did, jogging off a frozen field wearing crowns of scorn, permanently stained.

You can reach Bob Wojnowski at bob.wojnowski@detnews.com
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PostSubject: Re: 0-16 Lions -- Worst NFL Team Ever!   Mon Dec 29, 2008 9:16 am

Monday, December 29, 2008
Smith remains bullish on future
Bob Wojnowski / The Detroit News

GREEN BAY, Wis. -- By the end of the season, he was one of the Lions' most outspoken players, and not coincidentally, one of their best players.

But there was little solace for rookie running back Kevin Smith, who narrowly missed the 1,000-yard mark, but ran hard to the finish. The Lions capped their historic 0-16 season with a 31-21 loss to Green Bay Sunday but Smith rushed for 92 yards and scored on a 9-yard fourth-quarter run.

Afterward, he sounded dazed by the Lions' misery, but encouraged by what could lie ahead. And along with receiver Calvin Johnson, who had 102 yards and two touchdowns, Smith gives hope the Lions have solved their running-back woes.

"We've just got to suck it up, come back and do better," Smith said. "We'll see what happens next year. I'm looking forward to it. Now my whole mind-set is, I know what this league is about and I just want to be the best."

Smith has a ways to go to be the best, but his 976-yard season, fourth-best ever by a Lions rookie and fourth-best by an NFL rookie this season, was a solid start. He beat out veteran Rudi Johnson and never looked back.

On this day, Smith took one painful look back at a horrible personal-foul penalty late in the game, when he shoved the ball in an opponent's face on the Green Bay sideline. The penalty essentially killed the Lions' last drive.

"It was a very bad, selfish decision," Smith said. "I let my emotions get the best of me, but that's no excuse. The great players and the great professionals don't do what I did. I need to learn from it."

The positive is, Smith and Johnson showed significant development this season. Johnson is the graceful, quiet receiver. Smith is the loud, punishing back. Who knows, if the Lions find the right coach and the right quarterback, they might actually be able to build an offense.

Smith said he'd keep his gloves from this game in his workout bag as a reminder of the losing, and as incentive to make sure it never happens again.

"It's over now, we're 0-16, we made history, but my eyes are on the Super Bowl next year, that's how I think," Smith said. "I wish (this season) was just a dream. I wish you could just wake up and it'd be over."

Well, it's over, but it will always linger. For Smith, that could be a good thing.

You can reach Bob Wojnowski at bob.wojnowski@detnews.com


“It takes pitching, hitting and defense. Any two can win. All three make you unbeatable.”    
–Joe Garagiola
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PostSubject: Re: 0-16 Lions -- Worst NFL Team Ever!   Mon Dec 29, 2008 9:21 am

Monday, December 29, 2008
Marinelli's attitude is unchanged
Despite speculation Lions coach might be fired as soon as today, he says it will be business as usual.
John Niyo / The Detroit News

GREEN BAY, Wis. -- Today could be Rod Marinelli's last day as Lions coach, but he insists he'll approach it with the same attitude he has carried through every day of his three seasons in Detroit.

"I just come back in to work and things will happen the way they happen," Marinelli said after Sunday's 31-21 loss to the Packers completed an 0-16 season for the Lions and likely sealed his fate. "I don't have concerns. I just wake up tomorrow and come in to work."

Marinelli will hold a team meeting with his players at 11 a.m. at the Lions' practice facility in Allen Park, then review game film. He also expects to meet with team owner William Clay Ford Sr. -- as he does most weeks -- later in the day.

Marinelli, who has a year remaining on his contract, was asked if he felt he should be back.

"I'm not gonna (answer) those questions," he said.

But he answered quickly, and with a smile, when a reporter wondered aloud if he was glad this dismal season was finally over.

"No," Marinelli said. "I could go another 16. ... I just love what I'm doing. Every day I do."

Regrets? Sure, he has a few.

"Obviously, there's a lot of things we could've done better, no question about it," said Marinelli, 10-38 as coach, 3-21 on the road.

The players mostly declined to speculate on the coaches' fate.

"I mean, there's teams out there that have won games that are ready to fire coaches, GMs," cornerback Leigh Bodden said. "So if you don't win a game, you gotta do the same thing. And it doesn't go just for them -- it goes for players as well."

Added veteran kicker Jason Hanson: "I know that Coach was a good leader, for sure. That was not a problem. If you had the character, he provided the motivation to fight. But that's just one part of what makes a football team."


“It takes pitching, hitting and defense. Any two can win. All three make you unbeatable.”    
–Joe Garagiola
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PostSubject: Re: 0-16 Lions -- Worst NFL Team Ever!   Mon Dec 29, 2008 9:31 am

GREEN BAY 31, DETROIT 21
Woetown: Worst-ever Lions perfectly awful
Infamy arrives Penalties, porous defense cost Lions

BY NICHOLAS J. COTSONIKA • FREE PRESS SPORTS WRITER • December 29, 2008

GREEN BAY, Wis. -- As the worst team of all time trudged off the field Sunday, Lions coach Rod Marinelli marched toward the tunnel. If he heard the chants of "0-16," he didn't acknowledge them. If he saw the signs -- "PURRFECT SEASON!!" -- he didn't give them a second glance.

Moments later, even though this 31-21 loss to the Packers was historic, not a run-of-the-mill midseason game, Marinelli opened his postgame news conference the way he always does -- with the injury update. Marinelli prides himself on never changing.

The problem this season, though, was that nothing ever changed.

"Overall, the record speaks for itself," Marinelli said finally, without prompting. "We know what that is."

The Lions are the first 0-16 team in NFL history. Asked if that made them the worst team of all time, Marinelli said: "I said the record speaks for itself."

Marinelli wanted to build the Lions like the 2002 Tampa Bay Buccaneers, who won the Super Bowl with him as their defensive line coach. But these Lions were like the 1976 Bucs, who went 0-14 and were the last NFL team to lose all of its games.

"I thought this team tried hard all year," Marinelli said. "I thought they gave it their best. I felt I gave it my best. But sometimes your best is not good enough, and it wasn't good enough this year."

It hasn't been good enough for years.

The Lions are 1-23 in their past 24 games. They are 10-38 since they hired Marinelli. They are 31-97 since hiring president Matt Millen in 2001 -- the worst eight-year stretch in the NFL since World War II. Millen was fired three games into this season, but this remains his mess.

Lambeau Field was the fitting place for the finale. The Lions have lost 18 straight road games against the Packers, including one playoff loss. They haven't won in Wisconsin since 1991.

This loss was classic Lions.

The defense was horrible, becoming the first in NFL history to allow two 100-yard rushers and two 100-yard receivers in a game. The Lions allowed two touchdowns of more than 70 yards and a quarterback rating of 132.2.

Their best offensive talent was wasted, as Calvin Johnson caught nine passes for 102 yards and two touchdowns in another loss.

And they beat themselves. They lost their composure when it mattered most, taking three 15-yard penalties in the second half. Cornerback Ramzee Robinson was flagged for taunting, linebacker Ernie Sims for a late hit and running back Kevin Smith for unsportsmanlike conduct.

"Stupid," center Dominic Raiola said. "Just uncalled for. I mean, you're in a game like that, you can't do that. Just dumb."

Though the game was tied entering the fourth quarter, 14-14, the Packers quickly took a 24-14 lead. The Lions responded with a nine-yard touchdown run by Smith, but on the next play from scrimmage, they gave up a 71-yard touchdown catch to Donald Driver.

The Lions continued to scrap. They converted two fourth downs to keep a drive going. But then Smith was pushed out of bounds for a four-yard loss and shoved the ball into the face of a Packer on the Green Bay sideline.

Now it was second-and-29 at the Green Bay 49, and whatever slim chance the Lions had was virtually gone. Three plays later, quarterback Dan Orlovsky heaved a desperation pass that was intercepted. The game was essentially over. The 0-16 season was sealed.

Smith said he made a "very selfish decision" and let his emotions get the best of him.

"It's just frustrating, man," Smith said. "You want to play. You want to do good. You want to compete like everybody else. When things aren't going your way, it builds up, and the great players and the great professionals don't do stuff like what I did. I'll learn from it."

Marinelli hopes the Lions learn from this. That's the only way anything good can come of it.

"The biggest thing in this is how you conduct yourself afterwards," Marinelli said. "We accept responsibility for everything that went down."


“It takes pitching, hitting and defense. Any two can win. All three make you unbeatable.”    
–Joe Garagiola
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