For the last several months - or at least since Ernie Sims was banished from the land - Lions fans have had their eye on Keith Bullock, the former Pro-Bowl linebacker for the Tennessee Titans. Like with Albert Haynesworth the year before, the reasons for this seem to be almost entirely related to Jim Schwartz. The idea goes that since he was the Titans Defensive Coordinator under whom both Haynesworth and Bullock and a host of others flourished, they would theoretically want to play for him again in Detroit. This of course ignores one obvious truth: this would require them to play for the Detroit Lions.
Indeed. No matter how much we don't want it to be true, not a lot of dudes are beating down our doors, begging to be a part of that noble Lions championship tradition. I know, I'm shocked too. I mean, shit, you would think one playoff win in over fifty years would have everyone clamoring to be a part of the magic. Unfortunately, no matter how good we think (or at least hope) Jim Schwartz is, his presence isn't enough to draw marquee players to the NFL's version of Siberia. Then again, at least Siberia was a part of a successful empire for a while, so maybe that isn't the best comparison. The NFL's version of Sierra Leone? Shit, I don't know. I'm just trying to avoid calling it hell.
Of course, Keith Bullock is a sensible man with actual options so instead of coming to a place where half the people walk around with missing arms and dazed looks on their scarred faces, noses missing from weird machete attacks and hair burned off by radioactive jelly or a six year old with a flamethrower, he decided to get on a plane to New York and become a member of the Giants family. You can't really blame the dude, but unfortunately that leaves the hopes and dreams of many Lions fans shredded and tossed in the dumpster. We should be used to it, but rejection is something you never truly get to used to.
But we still have to move on, without Keith Bullock, and that means that someone has to step in and fill that hole in the defense that so many were hoping that he would fill. Now, 2/3 of the linebacking corps is pretty much set, with Julian Peterson returning at his spot and DeAndre Levy set to step in for Larry Foote in the middle, so we won't worry about them in this post. What we will worry about is that third linebacker, the spot formerly filled by that great animal lover, the Lizard King, Cinnabon Sims. Who's going to start there?
Well, I have decided to do the right thing and step in with this list of potential replacements for the Lizard King. I will break down their pros and cons and using a complex points system derived through consultations with the foremost scientific minds in the world, men like Stephen Hawking, Harry Einstein and Dave Copernicus, we will then be able to determine the best man for the job. Some may question these methods, but once again, I am a scientist and science brooks no ugly dissent. If you wonder just how I (Or I should say we - who am I to deny the contributions of Stevie Hawking?) came to these conclusions, ask yourself instead why you must be a heretical asshole? I may be a man of science but even I cannot account for the hole in your soul that won't allow you to have faith and believe in The Good News.
I don't even know what it is that I'm blathering on about anymore, but then again I am a scientist and not a man of letters so let's just get to it.
- The dude hits like a fucking freight train. We've all seen the special teams highlights of Follett laying out some poor asshole and a lot of us have seen the highlights from when he was at Cal and would routinely disembowel those stupid enough not to just fall at his feet and pray for mercy. Obviously, for a linebacker, this is a good quality to have, one that's worth 75 points according to Science.
- He seems like a pretty genuinely awesome guy. Really, Zack Follett's worth as a player has been overshadowed by the fact that he has become the number one dude in the hearts of many Lions fans. He's hung out with real, live Lions and gone shopping for tampons for his opponents. Shit, in the tampon shopping video he basically looked like he just woke up from a nap on the beach, put on his helmet and stumbled into a drug store. I can't really root against that, you know? And according to Science, that's worth an additional 81 points.
- My boy AERose is a huge fan of Follett's, having followed him dating back to his days at Berkeley. From the moment he was drafted, he assured me that I would love Follett and I trust him. Perhaps that is a failing of mine, my willingness to listen to my friends, but without friendship and camaraderie, Old Ike Newton would have never discovered the apple and Jonas Salk would have never built Franklin Roosevelt a rocket powered wheelchair. As Galileo so famously said "Without friendship, you ain't got shit." So like Science often listens to his friend, Faith, I will listen to mine, the noble Master Rose and will believe in the power of one Zachry Jon Follett. And according to Science, that is worth 42 points.
- There was a reason why Follett was drafted in the seventh round and not the first and that's because he probably isn't quite good enough to be an every down defender in the NFL. When he was drafted, this is what I forecast for him:
I think Follett will probably be the sort of guy who will make a couple of huge HOLY SHIT type hits, maybe a couple of sacks here and there and will bring a shit ton of energy to the game whenever he's in there - all valuable things to bring to a team. He will probably stand out the most on special teams, where he can just run down the field and murder people with reckless abandon, and then be tethered to the bench in between by a choke chain so he doesn't wander into the stands and start wailing on poor unsuspecting drunks. He's going to be a popular player. There's no doubt about that in my mind. He has fan favorite written all over him, but he's probably one of those players who is just a hair shy of being good enough to be a starter in the NFL. He kind of reminds me of a 4A player in baseball - prospects who are talented enough to dominate at the Triple A level but who aren't quite good enough to get it done with the big club.
I still think that's pretty much true. No matter how awesome we might think he is and no matter how many big hits he delivers as a special teams psychopath, he still hasn't proven that he can be a quality NFL linebacker. That's the harsh, naked truth here and no matter how many bells and whistles surround this dude, that's really the only thing that matters. And according to Science, it matters to the tune of -125 points. Science is harsh and there's nothing I can do to contain him. After all, I am only a man.
- For as awesome as Zack Follett seems, a part of me feels like this whole Zack Follett: Wild and Crazy Guy thing is just a bit too contrived, you know? I mean, obviously it's contrived, but that's cool. The fans wanted to see him that way and he's embraced it whole heartedly. I'm not gonna dog him out for that. Maybe I'm just a little cynical and maybe that really is Zack Follett. Either way, it's cool. But I think he's probably a bit like a pro wrestler. That probably is him but an amped up version of him if that makes sense. Still, he does run the risk of becoming that guy, and as much as we all love him now, we don't necessarily want to see him with a camera trying like hell to come up with some new ridiculous angle just because he wants fans to notice him. Anyway, Science deems this to be relatively trivial and says it's worth only -10 points.
POSSIBILITY THAT HE HAS, OR WILL OBTAIN, A PET MONKEY OR EQUIVALENT ANIMAL(ON A SCALE OF ONE TO TEN): 8. Look, in order to truly replace The Lizard King, you're going to have to embrace his kingdom, a kingdom filled with lizards, birds, spiders and of course, that noble monkey. But more importantly than that, that fucking monkey was a staple of my writing last season and I'll be damned if I'm just going to let that shit go now that Ernie Sims is gone. So someone is gonna have to step up here. And Zack Follett seems like the dude who probably is the most likely to get this shit done. We've already seen him frolicking with lions and it's not completely unrealistic to expect that one day he'll show up at practice with, like, a chimp on a leash wearing a diaper or with a python draped over his neck Jake "The Snake" Roberts style. If that happens, I say give him the job. In fact, someone should tell Follett that if he really wants the job, he'll do this. Make it happen.
FINAL SCIENTIFIC SCORE: 143 POINTS. Note: Science decided to multiply the Animal Ownership Possibility Score (In Follett's case, an 8) by 10 and then factored that into the final score. Why? Science doesn't have to explain himself to you.
- Landon Johnson has been a fairly serviceable linebacker in the NFL for several seasons. For four years he was a starting linebacker for the Bengals so he's done it before. Out of all the candidates for this position, he is the one with the most experience and the only one who has ever proven himself at all as an NFL caliber linebacker. Science says this is worth 100 points.
- I once picked up Landon Johnson when I was playing Madden in the franchise setting and he developed into a quality player for me. What does that mean in the real world? Not a damn thing, but what the hell, it's worth mentioning. And according to Science, it's worth 5 whole points.
- Although he started for several years with the Bengals, he was eventually shown the door and ended up in Carolina for the last two seasons, where he has spent his time mostly as a backup on a not very good team. He did start three games last season, but he seems to have settled into a role as a quality backup who can do some good things for you on Special Teams. And hey, that's cool, you know? But we shouldn't have to settle because that is the hallmark of the beaten man and although we have been whipped for decades with chains made of fire and broken dreams, we are not beaten. This is a serious thing, according to Science, and he claims that it is serious enough to merit the loss of 75 points.
- During that same game of Madden, I eventually replaced Johnson with a nondescript rookie I drafted just because he was fast. That dude went on to be much better than Johnson. Again, this doesn't seem to have any bearing on reality. Then again, my team of scientists tell me that all video games are reflective of reality, like Resident Evil or Doom and who am I to argue? Therefore, Science claims that this is worth -5 points.
POSSIBILITY THAT HE HAS, OR WILL OBTAIN, A PET MONKEY OR EQUIVALENT ANIMAL(ON A SCALE OF ONE TO TEN): 6. I have no real, tangible reason for this score but the dude spent four years in Cincinnati and playing for the Bengals can have a strange effect on a man. It is not completely inconceivable that the only way Johnson was able to cope with Chad Ochocinco's bullshit or Chris Henry trying to pistol whip random whores or whatever the fuck was going on there was for Johnson to start tending to turtles or breeding pygmy goats in his backyard.
FINAL SCIENTIFIC SCORE: 85 points.
- This would be a nice story. The army dude finally makes good. You all know the story. The dude got drafted, the army told him he couldn't play and everyone got all shook, but now he's out of the army and he finally has a chance to make it with the Lions. Naturally, this makes everyone's patriotism reflexes go wild and hey that's cool. It would get the Lions some positive attention and would be a good thing for a dude willing to sacrifice for the good of the country and honor and blah blah blah. Shit, I think I just kinda revealed how I really feel, didn't I? Anyway, Science thanks this dude for his sacrifices and grants him 200 points.
- He's a good athlete who likes to hit. It's exceedingly rare for a player from one of the service academies to wind up drafted by the NFL. (Note: I had a bit here playing on the word "drafted" and military service and I would like to say that I excised it out of good taste, but really it was because it wasn't as funny as I wanted it to be. But it's probably good that it got chopped out anyway or else I would have had incurred the wrath of the VFW or offended the last living World War I vet or something and I don't wanna be responsible for the last living World War I vet stroking out in an indignant rage. Also, please humor me and indulge my fantasy that the last living World War I vet would actually be reading this.) But Campbell was drafted by the Lions, meaning that he has to bring something fairly special to the table. (I mean, you could be cynical and say that the Lions drafted him as a PR stunt but that would be cynical as all hell and since we are optimists in our hearts and gentleman and lady gentleman we will not entertain such notions.) This means that there is at least a possibility that he can be a surprisingly effective NFL player. (I have nothing more to say here. I just wanted to see if I could get away with another parenthetical break. Shit. Should I start using footnotes like I'm some degenerate version of David Foster Wallace?) Oh yeah, Science says this is worth 40 points.
- Look, no matter how nice a story the Caleb Campbell story is, there is a really big chance that if he makes it, it will get annoying FAST. I, uh, kinda sorta think I need to tread carefully here. I respect Caleb Campbell for having the balls to get involved in the armed forces. That takes guts no matter how you want to look at it. IT IS NOT HIM OR HIS MILITARY SERVICE I AM CRITICIZING. I put that in bold so Lee Greenwood doesn't freak the fuck out on me. All I am saying is that his story can very easily be co-opted and packaged into something reprehensible and incredibly obnoxious by the Glenn Beck crowd, a bunch of self serving bullshit with a glossy patriotic veneer, ugly vitriol hiding behind the American flag. I, uh, don't wanna see that, you know? Neither does Science and he is so frightened of that happening that he is docking Caleb Campbell 75 points because of it.
- Political landmines aside, the very simple fact is that Caleb Campbell probably isn't good enough to be a starting linebacker in the NFL. Realistically, he is probably only a fringe roster kind of guy, someone who can stick around on a team desperate for a Special Teams kamikaze. He was a seventh round draft pick and even though I don't want to be cynical, and even though I am an optimist and a gentleman, a part of me refuses to let go of the notion that the Lions drafted him because, let's face it, his is a ready made story and gets the team some easy good publicity. I don't want to think that way but I am a complicated beast, a man of Science and Faith, but I will allow myself to think that way nonetheless because in order to be a true Warrior of Light, one must occasionally allow himself to walk in the paths of the darkness. This is just the way of things, I'm afraid. But even if he was good enough to be drafted, he was drafted as a safety, meaning that he probably lacks the bulk necessary to be a quality NFL linebacker. Leaving aside all that other bullshit, Campbell's biggest problem may just be that he is a classic tweener, a player who doesn't quite fit at any position. Science deems this a serious thing, worth -50 points.
- Because of his commitment to the military, Campbell was forced to spend a year away from football. This is something that can be absolutely devastating to one's development as a player. Just ask Mike Williams. I know this can happen because as a kid, I was a pretty decent basketball player. I then took a year off for reasons I won't get into here. (Okay, fine, I spent a year studying lycanthropy in Romania until I was forced to flee a family of degenerate werewolves who were pissed off because I tried to seduce the daughter of their pack leader. I didn't know she was a werewolf. It was pure coincidence, but my professor, a Dr. Werner Ganz, advised me to flee. I later found out via letter that he was found mauled to death in his laboratory. Investigators found my name clawed into his chest, along with a warning to never come back unless I wanted to find out what werewolf justice was all about. But I will say no more, for fear that they might be reading. Also, Nadia, you might be a filthy wolf, but I haven't forgotten you, you hairy bitch.) Anyway, when I resumed my fledgling basketball career, I found that in that year off, I had become hopelessly shitty. It just happens. Everyone else passes you by and you just can't catch up. Now, obviously, Caleb Campbell can't really be compared to a teenaged basketball player, but you get the point, don't you? The dude's been away too long and isn't nearly good enough to overcome that kind of handicap. And according to Science, that's worth -75 points.
POSSIBILITY THAT HE HAS, OR WILL OBTAIN, A PET MONKEY OR EQUIVALENT ANIMAL(ON A SCALE OF ONE TO TEN): 3. The dude has spent the last several years drilling to be a soldier and then actually soldiering. He didn't have time to become the tamer of any exotic beasts. However, I will leave open the possibility that he has a pet rabbit or something mundane like that.
FINAL SCIENTIFIC SCORE: 70 points.
- Dizon was a second round draft pick and even though people almost universally agree that the Lions reached for him there, he was still a second round pick and that means something, you know? He was grabbed there because in college, at Colorado, he was a hell of a linebacker. So he's talented. And that's something that Science says is worth 75 points. (Science sure does seem to like the number 75, doesn't he?)
- Last year, when Ernie Sims went down with an injury, Dizon saw more playing time and he actually seemed be to not bad. I know that doesn't sound overly gushing, but given that just about every Lions fan had written him off after a dismal disaster of a rookie season, that's something. According to Science, it's something worth 50 points.
- We can't forget that dismal disaster of a rookie season, one which saw Dizon buried and left for dead by Rod Marinelli and his gang of idiots and assholes. Now, okay, normally having Rod Marinelli hate you is enough to get on my good side. But, the Lions went 0-16 with linebackers who would get cut from a Pee-Wee team. If Dizon couldn't play on that team, well . . . you get the point. Science gets it and he says it's worth -74 points. (Ha! You thought Science was going to say 75 points again, didn't you? Well, Science is fucking smart and isn't going to fall for some shit like that. He is a scientist after all.)
- There's also a reason why everyone thinks that the Lions reached for Dizon in the second round. He's not really big enough to be an every down starting linebacker in the NFL. He can probably be an excellent special teams player and a quality backup, but I just don't see him holding up at 6'0" and 225 lbs. That's not tiny. (Honestly? That's a big dude.) But for an NFL linebacker, it's small - too small - and unless you possess otherworldly athleticism or are willing to eat your opponent's heart and gnaw on his fallen bones like, say, London Fletcher, you're probably going to find yourself getting driven back by blocker after blocker. Science says this is a problem worth -65 points.
POSSIBILITY THAT HE HAS, OR WILL OBTAIN, A PET MONKEY OR EQUIVALENT ANIMAL(ON A SCALE OF ONE TO TEN): 7. Dizon had a couple of years to hang out with Ernie Sims and learn the secrets of being a top animal shaman. It is not unrealistic to suspect that he has at least, like, a pet cockatoo or maybe even an eel or something. I'm not saying the dude has a giraffe or anything, but every kingdom has to start from somewhere and I'm willing to believe that Dizon knows this and has taken the necessary steps to secure his legacy.
FINAL SCIENTIFIC SCORE: 56 points.
Okay, there are other candidates, dudes like Isiah Ekejiuba and Vinny Ciurciu, but they are special teams aces and everyone knows that's what they're here for. They won't be starting. I mean, they could, but if they do, then this season will likely be spent with a shotgun on my lap and a glass full of paint thinner waiting to accompany me to the Great Gig in the Sky. But, since, again, we are optimists in our hearts we will not think that way. Therefore - and because I've already written 4,000 words on the subject (Okay, fine, 1,500 words and another 2,500 on weird bullshit about werewolves in Romania and bitching about Lee Greenwood and Glenn Beck.), we'll just wrap this shit up.
I guess it's time to declare a winner and looking at the point totals gleaned through the use of Science, my team of expert scientists and I have determined that the third starting linebacker for the Detroit Lions in 2010 should be none other than . . . ZACK FOLLETT. Congratulations, Zack. May you crush your enemies, see them driven before you and hear the lamentation of their women.