Monday, April 19, 2010
Farewell to the Lizard King and the Madness of the NFL Draft
I wanted to sit down and write a nice little thing about the upcoming draft but then the Lions went ahead and overthrew The Lizard King, Cinnabon Sims in a vicious coup and left me stunned and confused. To be fair, my stunned confusion has nothing to with football - Sims was a tremendously talented player, but he was a human missile who didn't fit what the Lions wanted to do on defense - but rather because I have devoted so much time to rhapsodizing about Sims' animal kingdom, his warrior lizard foot soldiers, his fleet of sleek fighter birds and, of course, his general, the noble and oft mentioned monkey. What the hell am I supposed to do now, huh? No one ever thinks about that, the innocent victims of the bloodbath. Sure, Tony Scheffler might be a more competent administrator but that dude probably doesn't even speak Monkey. I thought we were moving forward as a society, but no, I guess not. I guess not.
I will probably write something else about Sims later. Then again, I might not. I don't know. Hell, how much is there really to say? Sims was - and still is, I suppose - a freakishly talented natural athlete who was rated as the number one recruit in the entire nation coming out of high school. But, to be honest with you, he wasn't all that great a football player. He was good at running around like a freak and smacking into people. Not a bad quality to have, but as soon as a team asked him to - Gasp!- read a play and react accordingly, or to stick to his own assignment, shit didn't go so well. The sad reality is that the Lions are better off without him. Beyond that, I could write a billion words of utter gibberish about Sims, his monkey, his lizards, etc., but they would all be written with tears in my eyes and sorrow in my heart and I have enough of that as a Lions fan. Instead, I will choose to believe that his kingdom will still exist, even while its king is gone, and on quiet nights, I will open my window and I will listen - perhaps in vain, but I will listen - for the voice of his sweet, beautiful monkey. Because, friends, it is important to remain hopeful against even the most terrible of odds. After all, isn't that what being a Lions fan is really all about? And so, I suppose the last thing to say is this: Vaya con dios, Lizard King. Vaya con dios.
Okay, now we can move on to all this draft nonsense. Of course, much of what I wanted to say about the draft in the larger sense, in the leaguewide sense, was summed up nicely by my boy Harpo in his mock draft posted below this. Stunningly accurate, I imagine. But still, I should probably offer a few words about the Lions and their prospective draft picks, because that would be the responsible thing to do and I am, above all, a responsible man who loves you deeply.
The thing is - and this is what Harpo pointed out very nicely - is that none of us have a fucking clue what is going to happen. We like to think we do, and to some extent we have a rough outline of how things will go, but that is only because we have been able to piece together sketchy information from the teams themselves, and that sketchy information is made all the more sketchy because often, in the days leading up to the draft, that information is, frankly, full of shit. The sad fact is that we are all on the outside looking in and our assumptions mean somewhere between jack and shit. Player A might make Mel Kiper play the ol' slide trombone but he may leave Martin Mayhew, Jim Schwartz and co. flaccid. Unfortunately, too many fans see Mel Kiper furiously working that trombone, sweat on his face, lust in his eyes, a dull moan escaping his lips, and they reach for their own, uh, instruments. Somewhere in all of this, Todd McShay sits on a rubber trombone and goes wild, but that is too disturbing and I won't elaborate any further on that disgusting point.
The real point - if there is one in all that weird and depraved gibberish - is that we don't know a damn thing, and just because the so called experts have a player rated highly on the draft board, it doesn't mean that this translates at all to what our own team is thinking. Hell, I remember last year, chatting with a bunch of friends, and laughing at each other's picks because they seemed so outrageous. They just spit right in the face of that sad old prick known as conventional wisdom. I remember taunting Harpo when his Raiders took Darius Heyward-Bay and I remember everyone laughing at me when the Lions took Brandon Pettigrew even though Michael Oher and Rey Maualuga were still available. And then again when the Lions selected Louis Delmas over Maualuga and James Laurinaitis. Most shamefully of all, I had to be given a pep talk by my boy Adrian when the Lions drafted Matthew Stafford over Aaron Curry. It was sad. I got caught up in all the pre-draft hype and after it was over, I felt like an ass. Also, like an idiot, but that is a common occurrence. Then again, so is feeling like an ass, but never you mind that. The point is, is that I didn't know a Goddamned thing even though I follow this shit like it somehow holds the keys to the kingdom of heaven. It's absurd.
It's natural, I suppose, to get caught up in it all when everyone around you is screaming their own opinions about what your team should do. The trick is, is to recognize the fact that most of those opinions aren't original in the least and are merely the parroted opinions of people like Kiper and McShay. And if you realize that, you'll realize how ridiculous this whole thing really is. I mean, would you listen to Mel Kiper about anything? Everyone shits all over the dude and then, come this time of year every year, everyone starts heeding his words like he's the fucking pope urging us to retake Jerusalem. "WE MUST TAKE NDAMUKONG SUH BECAUSE GOD WILLS IT." It's ridiculous.
It only gets worse in the couple of weeks leading up to the draft. Then everyone gets really stupid. It's absolutely ridiculous. Everyone starts hollering at one another, screaming back and forth about why Player A is going to be a bust and about how Player B's sprained pinky in the fourth grade means he is an injury risk and about how Player C failed to lift a car over his head during the combine or about how Player D didn't do well enough on his Iowa Test in elementary school. It's ridiculous. Pretty soon, everyone is all in a lather, just spouting gibberish that they don't even necessarily believe just to back up a prediction that they made a couple of months before. Now you've got guys calling each other a dumb asshole and slandering everyone who doesn't like the correct 22 year old. People start throwing up desperate solutions to made up problems. "Well, if we can only get back the Washington Monument and a football helmet filled with cottage cheese, maybe we can absorb Haynesworth's contract, and . . ." I mean, it just goes on and on and on.
Of course, then the draft actually happens and everyone swings into warring camps, clashing over made up letter grades and whether or not their team did the right thing. It's horrible, just horrible, and everyone will do it. They will. Just watch. Hell, I will too. I guarantee it. You pretty much have to. To not do it would be incredibly unnatural and would cause everyone to view you with queer suspicion. You have to care. It's required by football fan law, and so, ridiculous as it all is, when the smoke of this madness finally clears, and we start to sift through the wreckage, try not judge me to harshly when I am ranting and raving about the relative merits of the Lions third 7th round pick. Just know that I will be whipping my own ass enough for all of us. And by whipping my own ass, I mean metaphorically. Of course. I mean, I would never literally whip my own ass. That would just be too damn weird. Ahem.
Okay. Jesus! I have rambled on a lot already and I haven't even gotten to the Lions prospective picks, and so I will try to keep this short. I'm just going to focus on the Lions first pick, because to do anything more than that would probably make me swallow my own tongue and then you'd turn on the news tonight and see a story about a disgruntled Lions fan marching down the street, naked, playing a snare drum and wearing an Uncle Sam hat, a diaper being the only thing between his shame and the world, and no one needs to see that, do they? No.
The conventional wisdom, such as it is, has the Rams taking Sam Bradford, the quarterback from Oklahoma, with the number one overall pick. That is good news for us, because those damn experts have labeled Suh as a can't miss prospect, a once in a lifetime beast who you pretty much can't pass on. Of course, they still are expecting the Rams to pass on him, so go figure, right? And, of course, this glowing praise hasn't stopped fans everywhere from picking apart Suh, claiming worry about knee problems from his past, and even bitching about his technique and about how his weight is distributed.
All I know is that I watched this dude play a few times in college and when I did he was an absolute machine. The most famous of these games was the Big 12 Championship game. Nebraska sucked. They had no real offense, and they had no business even being in that game with Texas, but they almost won the damn thing because Suh went crazy and single handedly put his team on his back and destroyed everyone wearing burnt orange. It was an amazing performance, one of those once in a lifetime deals(there's that phrase again . . .)that you can never forget. To hell with your bullshit about weight distribution and technique. I want that dude on my football team. It's that simple for me.
Of course, it seems that the Rams and the Bradford camp are refusing to do the traditional thing, which is to hammer out a contract before the draft, meaning there is always the chance the Rams steal Suh and leave us scrambling. That, uh, that would suck. Fortunately, I have a lot of faith in Mayhew and Schwartz and I assume they have a backup plan, or, really, several backup plans. That, of course, is all predicated on the wild assumption that Suh is their plan anyway. You see how we don't know shit?
So what are some other possible plans? Well, let's see, shall we?
McCoy, a defensive tackle out of Oklahoma, has been linked at the hip with Suh for a long time. They both play defensive tackle in the Big 12 and for the last year or so, they have been vying to be the top prospect in this year's draft. Unfortunately for McCoy, Suh's performance on national television made him the Robin to Suh's Batman, at least in the public's eye. The reality is that this probably isn't fair. I mean, there's a reason why McCoy has kept pace with Suh all this time and it's because he's a damn good football player. While Suh has been compared to a young Albert Haynesworth, McCoy has been most often compared to Warren Sapp. Not exactly a bad thing, you know? I feel kind of bad for McCoy. Just about any fanbase that winds up with him is going to wish they had Suh instead. It's not fair, but such is life I guess.
For me, personally, while I think that McCoy is indeed a fine prospect, Suh just seems to be that rare talent that you can't pass up. I know this is me falling into that WELL I SAW HIM A COUPLE OF TIMES AND I LIKED HIM SO NOW I WANT TO MARRY HIM AND LIVE HAPPILY EVER AFTER camp that gets so absurd this time of year, but what the hell, I am but a lowly human and these things happen.
But more than that, I think that Suh fits what the Lions are looking for better than McCoy. McCoy would be the dude if Rod Marinelli was still hanging around, fouling up the place. He's perfect as that attacking Sapp type defensive tackle who can put pressure on the QB, which is critical in Marinelli's beloved Tampa 2. But we're not talking about Marinelli(THANK GOD), and just as McCoy fits with that sort of scheme, Suh seems to fit with what Jim Schwartz and company like to do. After all, Albert Haynesworth excelled in Schwartz' defense, and again, Suh has been called a young Albert Haynesworth, so . . . yeah, you do the math, Stephen Hawking.
Then there is the fact that McCoy's relatively unimpressive display of bench press prowess at the combine had people acting like he would be slapped around and then beaten into submission by the dude who played McLovin. Which is important because of all those pesky bench press competitions during games. That's really where we need to improve as a team. Last year, we lost almost every bench press competition. It was embarrassing watching Grady Jackson try to bench his own body weight and failing at the fifty yard line, thus costing us the game. Oh, wait, shit . . . you mean that never happened? Well, then.
McCoy has never had a problem with his strength on the field so I view that as just a bunch of dumb noise swirling around in a thunderdome filled with dumb noise right now. It is loud and it is terrible and it is painful. There is also a report, which came out today, that says that McCoy tested positive for marijuana, but then again, I assume that all the players could test positive for marijuana, so who cares? Unless he turns out to be Charles Rogers and is all HEY HEY SMOKE WEED EVERYDAY and declaring that shit a sacrament, I think he'll be alright. If anything, it just makes the Warren Sapp comparison all the more eerie.
This would make me cry. Everyone hates Jeff Backus, but the Lions don't and the scouts don't. Do the Lions need a replacement for Backus? Yes, eventually. I don't think he's as good as those people want to make us believe he us. He still gives us up too many sacks and he's not nearly athletic enough to be anything more than adequate. But, I also don't think he's as bad as everyone else thinks either. He's never had a left guard who's been even remotely competent playing next to him and, with his lack of athleticism, he has had to try to play both positions, holding down the entire left side. Of course he has failed. Great players would struggle given that situation. And Backus is not a great player. But I think he can be an adequate player, and for now, given all the Lions other needs, adequate is good enough.
Meanwhile, Okung is the top rated left tackle prospect in the draft, but he is by no means a sure thing. I don't think it would make sense for the Lions to draft him at number two with Suh or McCoy still on the board and with both Backus and Gosder Cherilus set as the starting offensive tackles. Again, eventually, those positions do have to get better, but not here and not with Okung. The financial commitment doesn't really make sense, and like I said, there are questions about Okung. Okung is a pure pass blocking specialist at this point, someone with a lot of upside and a great frame who played in a spread passing offense at Oklahoma State. Meanwhile, the Lions like to focus on a power run game. So, yeah, not exactly the best fit. I think the Lions are looking for a better version of Backus, a great run blocker first, and a decent pass blocker second. Okung just isn't that guy. Of course, I am just talking out of my ass here and making wild assumptions based on other wild assumptions, and . . . Jesus, I am doing exactly what I bitched about everyone else doing. I apologize.
The Lions could also trade the second pick, which probably wouldn't be horrible. If they could end up with a Joe Haden at cornerback and an extra first day pick, that would be rad, but still, I really, really want Suh. I'm just not so sure that the Lions feel the same way. But that's just the thing. I don't have a fucking clue how the Lions feel and neither does anybody else. They will do what they will do and we will all scramble afterwards to make sense out of it, just like we always do. Often times, the plan isn't apparent until it starts to come together. It was that way last year and a lot of us were caught of guard. I like to think that I adjusted pretty damn quickly to it and started seeing things with the eyes of the new plan, but that's just the thing. I'm still seeing things with those eyes, going off of the assumptions and beliefs which make sense in the context of the plan revealed last year. But the dudes in charge, the dudes actually making the decisions, are already on to the next phase of the plan, and with that comes a whole new set of assumptions and beliefs. The only thing any of us can do is keep up and hope that we don't make too big an ass out of ourselves in the process.
So, there it is, my big treatise on this year's edition of the NFL Draft. Like the draft, it is long and maddening, at times useless and vaguely obscene, but what the hell, you know? This time of the year makes fools and madmen of us all and who am I to be any different? I will look back on this post with derision and regret. Hell, I already do, but it needed to be done and although it may demean me as a person, it shows that I will do the ugly things that make you people happy. As always, this is because I love you.
I might pump out a couple of more draft related things before the fateful day. Something like a Top 5 Busts of the last 20 years or the Top 5 steals, which is appropriate because I am shamelessly stealing this idea from Kevin, our Falcons contributor. But these are strange and terrible times, and in the madness of these days, we must do what we can to survive and so, I'm sorry for the blatant theft, but what can you do, you know? I'll be back tomorrow, and I'll try not to be so rambly, but you know by now that is just a terrible lie. Oh well.