Matt Millen's Perfect Masterpiece

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    This pride of Lions is not proud of its perfect season.

    “No competitor wants to go through something like this,” whimpered Detroit Lions head coach Rod Marinelli after his team suffered loss number 16 on the season and completed a winless 2008 campaign.

    Kicker Jason Hanson described his feelings with more detail. “It’s so mind-numbingly awful. It’s a feeling of complete utter embarrassment and sadness.”

    Don’t be so hard on yourself Jason. You put together a career year, but unfortunately it will always be overshadowed by the goose egg your team posted in the win column.

    The Detroit Lions became the first team since the league adopted a 16-game schedule in 1978 to go 0-16 and the beleaguered franchise has now lost 23 of their last 24 games. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers were the last team to go winless during an NFL season, piecing together a laughable 0-14 record in 1976.

    But my hat is off to Detroit.

    Think about it, it’s probably just as hard to go defeated during a professional sports season as it is to go undefeated. This team had to do quite a few things wrong to not accidentally stumble upon a win. They blew countless leads including a 17-point first quarter margin against Tampa Bay in Week 12.

    And this memorable season was a treat for the die-hard fan. It’s not every year we get to witness meaningful sports history being made. Our hopes of perfection were dashed last year after the Giants denied the Patriots a 19-0 season by downing New England in Super Bowl XLII.

    With baseball history on the line back in ‘03, I can remember praying for the Detroit Tigers to lose four of their last seven games and rewrite the almanac. They ended up only losing two of their final seven outings but still set an American League record with 119 losses. I love historical sports seasons because I know I will one day be able to say to my grandkid, “Sonny, I can remember back in aught-eight when the Lions didn’t win a stinking game!”

    No, not even the firing of former General Manager and Team President Matt Millen on Sept. 24 could save Detroit from infamous perfection. A move that many believe was a step in the right direction for the hapless Lions.

    Millen was just a minor thorn in the Lions’ paw however. The lack of talent on this team is blinding.

    Detroit never even mustered a 300-yard passing game this season between quarterbacks Jon Kitna, Dan Orlovsky and Daunte Culpepper. Only twice did running back Kevin Jones eclipse the 100-yard mark and stud wideout Calvin Johnson was the only receiver to record a 100-yard game – doing that five times only because of his uncanny ability.

    “I thought this team tried hard all year,” Coach Marinelli stated on Sunday. “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.”

    And it wasn’t good enough for the Detroit Lions organization as they relieved Marinelli of his duties on Monday morning after serving as the head coach for three seasons.

    This could be just the beginning. Expect to see plenty of turnover for the Lions roster, coaching staff and front office over the course of the next few months.

    The question remains, can this faction of perfect losers turn the ship around? Hope is given by the parity of the NFL including this year’s Dolphins, Ravens and Falcons. These three teams boasted records of 1-15, 3-13 and 4-12 a season ago but all have found themselves in the ‘08 postseason beginning next weekend.

    But if the courageous-less Lions continue their dismal ways in ’09, I will be cheering them on for another unwanted record. They have lost 17 straight contests dating back to last season and with 10 consecutive defeats to start next year, Detroit can hold the distinction of losing the most games in NFL history.

    Scott Cooley is freelance writer and drops in at 3Daily Winners occasionally.

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