After another embarrassing Thanksgiving loss, Detroit can root only for No. 1 pick in the draft

Hope evaporates for listless Lions

First ...

November 26, 2006|By Alex Marvez | Alex Marvez,South Florida Sun-Sentinel

DETROIT — DETROIT-- --The last time the Detroit Lions were embarrassed this badly in their annual Thanksgiving Day game, it cost the head coach his job.

This year, why bother?

The 2006 Lions are so hopeless that even die-hard fans are tired of calling for team president Matt Millen's ouster. Only two chants of "Fire Millen" - a favorite refrain of Lions faithful the past few lowly seasons - broke out Thursday in the second half of Detroit's 27-10 loss to the Miami Dolphins at Ford Field.

The crowd was as listless as the Lions (2-9), who packed it in after the Dolphins began to pull away in the third quarter.

"It's not always just the losing. It's how you lose," said Dolphins cornerback Andre' Goodman, who played for the Lions from 2002 to 2005. "After a while, you start being uncompetitive.

"This is a gritty city, a hard-working, blue-collar type of place. They want to see you giving everything you have during the game. I think they're getting to the point where they feel like they're not getting enough of it and it's been consistent over the years. I dealt with that a lot over the four years I was here."

So did former Lions quarterback Joey Harrington, a lightning rod for abuse the past four seasons until being traded to the Dolphins in May. Before the game, Harrington shared an anecdote with Lions media that revealed just how poisoned Detroit's locker room atmosphere had become.

After losing a fumble in the Dolphins' preseason opener against Jacksonville, Harrington said he was bracing for a negative reaction from his new teammates. Instead, Harrington said he was taken aback when given encouragement from defensive end Kevin Carter.

"That really kind of hit home with me," Harrington said. "That's the type of team I was looking for. That's exactly what I think of when I think of playing team football."

The fact that Harrington has won four consecutive games with the Dolphins - something he never did in Detroit while compiling an 18-37 starting record - speaks volumes about the Lions' flubbing his development. But problems at quarterback, where the Lions haven't had a franchise player since Bobby Layne in the 1950s, is just one of many issues for a team with a 23-68 record since Millen took charge in 2001.

It took Millen the use of three top 10 picks to find one wide receiver (Roy Williams) worthy of such lofty draft status. Quarterback Josh McCown, who was signed in the offseason to compete with Jon Kitna for a starting spot, actually played at wide receiver last Sunday against the Arizona Cardinals ahead of 2005 first-round draft choice Mike Williams.

Mike Williams, whose first catch of the season against the Dolphins drew a semi-sarcastic roar from Lions fans, and standout defensive tackle Shaun Rogers have struggled this season with their conditioning. Injuries have hurt Detroit at running back and along the offensive and defensive lines. And opponents are completing passes at a 68 percent clip, which ranks among the gaudiest success rates in NFL history.

The cumulative result: Yet another Thanksgiving Day mess as Detroit continued its march toward the No. 1 pick in April's draft.

"Yes, it's embarrassing," Roy Williams told The Detroit News after his team's only nationally televised game of the season.

The bigger embarrassment would be if the Lions kept Millen after the season ends.

Alex Marvez writes for the South Florida Sun-Sentinel.

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