The Lions Show a Different Color Flag

December 5th, 2012

Jeff Risdon, LionsDraft Editor

You won’t be seeing these two in the same picture ever again

It scarcely rippled across the transaction wires, but very quietly the Detroit Lions spoke volumes about the rest of the 2012 season with some midweek roster moves. These moves indicate that instead of prematurely throwing the red flag, as Jim Schwartz did on Thanksgiving, this time the Lions are waving the white flag.

They will deny that, of course. Ryan Broyles had to go on IR with his torn ACL, a crushing setback for a talented player who had fought so hard to get back from tearing his other ACL almost exactly one year earlier. Broyles will likely be on the same timetable as he was this season, missing all offseason activities and starting the first handful of games inactive until he gets close to full strength.

It’s the other moves that subtly show the Lions have mentally transformed from fighting to salvage some dignity from perhaps the most disappointing season in the post-Fontes era and gone into full “prepare for next season” mode. Titus Young was also placed on injured reserve, mercifully ending his star-crossed season–and almost certainly his Lions career–in the least dramatic fashion possible. The move indicates Schwartz and the team are done trying to breathe any life back into Young’s career, which is awful difficult to accomplish when Young himself kept slitting his own throat with antagonistic, recalcitrant behavior beyond what most preschool teachers deal with on a daily basis.

There were chances for the two sides to build a bridge. Someone close to the situation told me the Lions did in fact attempt to lure Young back into the fold only to be rudely rebuffed and informed that the only thing Young was interested in was his paychecks. I can’t confirm that directly, but a different source advised me the Lions had begun the process of trying to recoup some of Young’s signing bonus during his team-imposed suspension. That put the onus squarely on Young to either bury his hatchet or pour gasoline on the dumpster fire. Fortunately, before Young got a chance to make yet another bad decision, the compromise of going on injured reserve was settled. I imagine they probably argued over which body part should be blamed, as Young had not appeared on any injury lists and looked perfectly healthy when last we saw him on the field three weeks ago. Now Young will have knee surgery, “unless he doesn’t show up for it” as Jim Schwartz so candidly stated.

With two receiving spots open for an offense that throws the ball more than any other team in NFL history, there were two directions to choose between. With several street free agents with some various amounts of experience and lingering long-term potential available, the Lions instead promoted Kris Durham from the practice squad. Among the guys they could have signed: Lee Evans, Jabar Gaffney, Adrian Arrington, Anthony Gonzalez. There are also a host of ex-Lions who could step back in and know the offense, ready to contribute right away, guys like Bryant Johnson, Derrick Williams, and Jarrett Dillard. That the Lions opted to go with Durham, a 2011 4th round pick of the Seahawks who barely survived rookie cuts and, according to several observers, has done very little to distinguish himself in practice squad duty, shows the Lions are not going to go gangbusters to try and win anymore. Durham’s best case scenario is to be the next Kassim Osgood, a guy the Lions already have with little function to the offense.

If further validation of that point is needed, look no further than the other roster move. Veteran safety Erik Coleman was released in favor of Vikings castoff Tyrell Johnson. Coleman has played extensively this year as both Amari Speivey and Louis Delmas have battled injuries, and while he’s a marginally effective starter, Coleman has not been bad enough to just up and release him. I’ve seen Tyrell Johnson in the NFL and I scouted him while at Arkansas State, and I feel quite confident in saying that Tyrell Johnson will never be as good as Erik Coleman has been this year. It’s a shot-in-the-dark move of desperation to try and get a good look at someone who might be able to help next year at the expense of on-field results this year.

The white flag has been waved. The Lions are now playing for 2013…and I respect the change. It’s the right move to make given the 4-8 record and with so many impending free agents. I like the decision by Jim Schwartz and GM Martin Mayhew here. Let’s see who has the professionalism and awareness to understand the situation at hand. Mike Shanahan played this card beautifully with the Redskins a few weeks ago, and they haven’t lost since. Schwartz can only hope his players see the white flag and rally against it the way the Redskins have. It’s really a low-risk scenario for Schwartz, although I am highly skeptical that this particular collection of players under this particular coaching staff will respond positively. But it’s better than not trying anything different.

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