Wednesday, April 21, 2010
Top 5 Lions Draft Busts. Oh . . . Oh Lord.
Yesterday's post, the one in which I celebrated the Lions top five draft steals of the last twenty years, was supposed to make us smile and celebrate the good in our football lives before trudging into the deepest, darkest places of hell, the sorts of places where the only sound is Hitler sobbing while he's getting reamed by a twelve foot tall demon with a two foot long dick, and the only smell is of feces, desperation and failure. That's what this post is all about. There's nothing like comparing your own post to Hitler crying while being Roethlisbergered in hell or to the smell of shit, but then again I am a Lions fan, and these things happen.
Of course, this would be much easier to take if yesterday's post actually filled us with smiles, sunshine and rainbows like it was supposed to, but instead, somehow, it managed to be depressing and terrible in its own unique way, reminding us that although we have had plenty of bad in our lives, we have had very little good to balance it out. As much as this post will go a long way in explaining why things have been so terrible for so long for the Lions, yesterday's post explains it even better. In order to survive in the NFL, you not only have to have elite talent, you also need to get lucky from time to time. You need to be able to identify talent that no one else sees. You need a dude to come out of nowhere and run wild on the football field like Bigfoot on meth. But the Lions have not been lucky. Not even close. Part of it is that the word luck doesn't really tell the tale. It's not luck. It takes a lot of hard work and skill to pick out the diamonds in the rough. The people in charge of doing this have apparently been blind and have no sense of touch because they have continually picked up pieces of coal and then watched them crumble into dust. Hopefully, this will change.
But this post isn't about that. No, this post is about the glaring, naked failure that can't be hidden, that can't be explained away as bad luck. This post is about wrestling with the devil. This post is about failure so immense and so terrible that it almost defies explanation. This post, taken in context with yesterday's post is the backbone for everything we have seen gone on in the past two decades as Lions fans. This post explains it all, explains the pain, explains the suffering. This post is naked and harsh. This post is the Detroit Lions, or at least the Detroit Lions of our past. And these are the Top Five Draft Busts of those Detroit Lions from the last twenty years.
5. Aaron Gibson, 1st Round - 27th Pick Overall - 1999, Stocker McDougle, 1 - 20 - 2000
I'm cheating a little here, but what the hell, you know? I'm doing this for a couple of reasons. One, there is just too much terrible to ignore, and two, because Gibson and McDougle are basically the same person in my mind.
Now, perhaps that's not fair. I mean, obviously they are different players, but for our purposes, they are representative of the same thing, which is of the Detroit Lions utter failure to find a franchise left tackle. Furthermore, both Gibson and McDougle were giant fat dudes who were expected to blot out the sun and anything else that threatened the Lions quarterback. Unfortunately, it turns out they were just a couple of fat guys who the sun and everything else passed right on by.
Both Gibson and McDougle were taken in those dying days when both the team and the fans clung desperately to the illusion that the Lions could be winners. There was a window that existed once upon a time in which we could all see a new world, a better world, and by the time Gibson and McDougle were taken that window had closed. The only problem was that we could still pretend that it was open, and we could still remember what that image looked like. Hell, we could almost remember what it felt like.
And that makes a man desperate, that memory of what could have been. And it was with that desperation that the Lions took both Gibson and McDougle, hoping against hope that both could finally shore up what long had been considered the Lions fatal flaw, the offensive line. But they were just shots in the dark, just desperate lunges, trying to grasp that elusive lost world that never was.
Gibson lasted less than a year and a half in Detroit before he was cut adrift, left to spend his days on reality shows about the grotesquely obese and selling himself to traveling circuses as the world's fattest football player. He was an epic disappointment, a dominant force in college who simply ate his way out of football.
McDougle lasted a little longer, spending five years with the Lions, serving as a full time starter at right tackle for two of them, but the bloom was off of McDougle's rose before his rookie year was even finished. He came into the league as a left tackle and ended up on the right side because it was soon apparent that he wasn't good enough to play left tackle. Sure, he started for a couple of seasons, but they were seasons that came in the midst of the Lions decade of hell. There simply weren't any other options. The Lions were the only team that McDougle could have started for and when they cut him lose, he never started another game in the NFL again and was out of the league entirely within two seasons.
4. Mike Williams - 1 - 10 - 2005
Oh Lord, here we go. It is a testament to the absolute horrors we have had to face as Lions fans that an epic bust like Mike Williams only checks in at number four on this abominable list. He is part of an unholy trio of busts made by Matt Millen, and somehow, someway, he is the least offensive of all of them. Of course, saying that there is only a trio of busts is entirely too kind to Millen. I mean, an argument could be made that all of his picks were busts, but this post is about the worst of the worst. These aren't just dudes who didn't pan out, these are the dudes who give us that sharp pain in our insides when we think about them, the dudes who make our faces scrunch up whenever anyone mentions their names, terrible names, the names that launched a thousand torturous jokes. They are the Helen of Troy of draft busts.
Like I said, somehow, Mike Williams is the least offensive of these three miserable horsemen of the apocalypse(There was a fourth, but his horse was beaten to death in a heroic stand by Ernie Sims' monkey. But that is another story for another day.) A stud wide receiver at USC, Williams appeared unstoppable at times. I remember watching him dominate Michigan in the Rose Bowl, catching everything that was thrown his way, including a sick, one handed catch for a touchdown. This dude was the real deal. Huge, fast, great hands. He would be a sure star.
But then Maurice Clarett pitched his fit and managed to briefly get the NFL to waive its rules regarding who was eligible for the draft. Up until that point, a player had to be three years removed from high school in order to be eligible for the draft. Sound familiar? That's because it's exactly the same today. But for a brief moment in time prior to the 2004 draft, those rules were thrown out and in the confusion, Mike Williams jumped with Clarett through that open window and declared himself eligible for the draft even though he was only a sophomore. Then, a funny thing happened. That window closed and the NFL told Williams he had to go back to school. Unfortunately for Williams, the NCAA told him that since he had hired an agent he had to get his ass off of campus. That left him in limbo. It was incredibly unfair, and yet, it was his unfortunate reality.
Fast forward to the 2005 Draft. Now, Williams was eligible for the draft and the image of him dominating at USC was still in everyone's mind. The only problem, though, was that people were starting to worry about what the one year layoff did to him. I mean, he was still young and he was still in his developmental years. In retrospect, that should have been a huge red flag, instead of the tiny pink one that went up at the time.
In addition, scouts began to whisper that Williams had simply outgrown the wide receiver position and might be better off as a tight end. You know, when scouts start to complain that you might be too fat to play your natural position, that should probably be another huge red flag. Still, somehow, Williams managed to be considered a top prospect coming into the draft, and when he fell to the Lions with the tenth pick overall, it seemed a lucky accident, a quirk of fate. After all, the only reason the Lions were even able to end up with him was because of the one year layoff. Surely, he was a better prospect than that.
Yeah, about that. Williams showed up to camp and right away Matt Millen and the coaches began to harp on him about his weight. He was too fat, too slow, and they just beat the living shit out of the dude in the press. It was awful. Of course, even though they kinda acted like assholes about it and ruined the dude's confidence, they weren't entirely wrong. Williams was too fat and too slow.
Williams wasn't all that great as a rookie, but a lot of that was chalked up to his year long layoff. He did just enough, catching 29 passes for 350 yards, that people were still fairly optimistic about him. And then everything went to hell. The Lions continued to bitch about his conditioning, Williams wouldn't respond and he found himself in the doghouse. His second year he went out and only caught 8 passes. And that was it for him as a Detroit Lion.
Since then, Williams has bounced around, a football vagabond, and just a few weeks ago, I made a joke about him offering to suck Pete Carroll's dick for a job. That's how low he has fallen. Of course, a couple of days later, it found out that he was given a job. With the Seahawks. By Pete Carroll. And that wraps up the weird and tragic saga of Mike Williams.
3. Charles Rogers - 1 - 2 - 2003
Oh man, oh man, oh man. Again, the fact that Charles Rogers is not number one on this list is absolutely staggering. I mean, at one point this dude was considered a can't miss star. Today, he's most likely to be found in a halfway house or a dumpster.
Rogers was a superstar at Michigan State, but even there it was fairly well know that Rogers, uh, liked to smoke weed from time to time. Still, that didn't deter the Lions, who took Rogers with the second overall pick, back in those days when the Millen era was still young and we were all still cautiously optimistic and much, much more innocent.
Rogers actually looked like he would be pretty good as a rookie, catching 22 passes in his first five games before, uh oh, breaking his collar bone. If this post had a soundtrack, now is where that dun dun DUN music would play. It sucked, but we still believed in hope and we knew that Rogers would be back. He did come back, and somehow, he ended up breaking his collar bone again. And then all the bullshit came out about the weed, and then the drug suspensions happened and then I started making jokes about him having a hollowed out collar bone to store his weed in, and that was it for Charles Rogers as a viable NFL player.
Rogers only lasted three seasons with the Lions, and never played a down with another team. And in those three seasons, he only played fifteen games and only caught 36 passes. Charles Rogers was, as they say, an epic, epic bust. I will say no more because really, so much has already been said. His story is sad and ridiculous. Of course he was a Detroit Lion.
2. Joey Harrington - 1 - 3 - 2002
Oh Joey, you piano playing, smilin' son of a bitch. It might seem somewhat odd to rank Harrington over both Mike Williams and Charles Rogers. I mean, after all, he technically had a far better career than either one of them. But, the thing is, is that there is no one player who is more synonymous with the horrid Matt Millen era than Joey Harrington. There just isn't. Seriously, close your eyes and think of Matt Millen. I'm sorry to do that to you, but isn't one of the first things you see the face of Joey Harrington? Yeah.
And that's the thing about Joey. That poor son of a bitch will forever be the face of the single worst era in pro football history. That is a staggering statement to make, but it's true. The dude was the signature pick of the Matt Millen era, the player who the entire team was going to be built around, the franchise. Well, the franchise disintegrated. And with it went the reputation of one John Joseph Harrington.
Now, that's not really his fault. Harrington found himself caught up in an unseemly situation much bigger than himself. And yet, that's the reality that he has to face, the reality that we all have to face. He was a mediocre quarterback who we all needed to be extraordinary. That light from the Barry Sanders era had died, that window of opportunity that I talked about earlier had closed and we were all still desperate for someone to open that window back up, for someone to somehow capture that flame, that flicker of light which left when Barry did. Joey was not that man. That is almost an absurd understatement. For what we needed him to be, Joey Harrington was as colossal a failure as any other quarterback bust in this league. That's an entirely unfair statement to make, mean and cruel. It's not really his fault. It's ours for putting all that on him. And yet, that is the reality of the situation. It is what it is, and that's why Joey Harrington is number two on this list.
1. Andre Ware - 1 - 7 - 1990
And here is why Harrington isn't number one. Andre Ware. Heisman trophy winner. The last piece in the puzzle. The last piece we needed to go through that window of opportunity, the last piece that would turn us from a pretender into an ass kicking leviathan of a contender.
Here are Andre Ware's career stats: 14 games and 6 starts over 4 seasons, 83-161, 1112 yards, 5 TD, 8 INT, and a QB Rating of 63.5. That's it. That's all the dude did for his entire career.
His best season? 50 of 86 for 677 yards, 3 TD, 4 INT and a QB Rating of 75.6. Ladies and gentleman, the missing ingredient for the Detroit Lions during the Barry Sanders era.
And really, that's what this is all about. During the entirety of Barry Sanders' stay in Detroit, during that time when the winds of hope still blew strong, when everyone thought we had a legitimate chance to be a great football team, the one big thing that we were always missing, the one big thing that never let us get over that hump was a decent quarterback. Not even a franchise quarterback, but a decent quarterback, someone who could make us feel secure and comfortable with the game on the line, someone who wouldn't fuck up when we needed him to be steady. We didn't need someone to win football games for us. I mean, we already had Barry. We just needed someone who wouldn't lose them for us.
The thing about Andre Ware, is that he was supposed to be that guy. He was supposed to be more than that guy. He was supposed to be the answer for when people took away Barry. And Barry would be the answer when they took away Andre. Together they would be unstoppable. But Andre Ware never even made it to competent. Andre Ware never made it past the point of developmental project. His failure left a gigantic hole in the Lions puzzle that they were never able to fill. It's as simple as that. If Andre Ware works out, we all remember the last couple of decades a lot differently. But he didn't work out, not even close, and the result was that Shakespearean tragedy known as the Barry Sanders era, and then the holocaust known as the Matt Millen era.
It's incredibly unfair and hyperbolic to say, but what the hell, I will say it anyway: Andre Ware's failure was the trigger for all of that, the initial domino that led to all the other dominoes of failure falling, the domino that led to 0-16. Like I said, that is a ridiculous statement to make. It's incredibly simplistic and it's incredibly hyperbolic. And yet, I can still make it. I don't even entirely agree with it, and yet it's still there and it has to be at least considered. That is an absolute testament to the enormity of Ware's failure, and it's the reason why he is the number one choice on this terrible, terrible list.
Ugh. Jesus. I feel like I need a shower and a hug. Jesus.