General Manager Martin Mayhew took over the rebuilding process of the Detroit Lions in 2008 with coach Jim Schwartz after an NFL’s worst 0-16 season.
Five years later, after an unexplainable meltdown involving a second-half collapse where Detroit lost six of their last seven, changes were needed and occurred.
Schwartz and other coaches on the staff were chopped as Mayhew and Tom Lewand addressed the media, saying it was time to go another direction.
“I think you saw the decision we made today. We have an ongoing dialogue with our ownership and their expectations are very clear. It starts with winning football games, but you also know the commitment we have to our fans and to our community. Jim has done a lot for this organization on that front over the years. The simple fact of the matter is that the decision was made to get us to reach all of our goals,” Lewand stated.
It was rumored that Mayhew would be gone too. Mayhew can be linked as a culprit to some of Schwartz’s failures. There were poor drafts under he and his staff, which caused lacks of depth at positions and ability to have contributors to make plays.
Outside of defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh (an obvious pick), he hasn’t drafted any Pro Bowlers. Another knock on Mayhew is his failures on picks in the second round. Detroit’s failed to get much out of wide-outs Titus Young (cut by Detroit due to character issues), and Ryan Broyles (injuries). As far as other second-round picks still on the team goes, tailback Mikel Leshoure only had nine rushing yards in 2013 through three games. Safety Louis Delmas has battled injury; when he plays he’s a liability in the secondary, missing tackles while only having three career interceptions.
Credit Mayhew though, as he’s done something Schwartz failed to. When he realized changes were needed, he put aside his ego to hire a well-respected former general manager of the Denver Broncos, Brian Xanders. Xanders is very capable of replacing Mayhew, but that doesn’t stop the two from being a bright duo. When 2013’s draft and offseason came about, they were ready, drafting brilliantly and signing some well-needed free agents.
Let’s take a look at the previous draft’s picks. The Lions received some sharp play out of defensive ends Ezekial Ansah and Devin Taylor. They combined for 10.5 sacks, 46 tackles, and four forced fumbles. Ansah leads all defensive rookies and Lions players in sacks. Taylor, a fourth-round pick, has shown flashes of being a monstrous force on the outside and has been a solid rotation. Cornerback Darius Slay has battled injuries, but showed glimpses of being a ruling corner with his freakish athleticism.
Guard Larry Warford, a third-round selection, has been a mammoth reason Detroit’s offensive line only giving up the second least amount of sacks. Being a driving force up the middle, he helped not only with the rushing-attack, but also veteran center Dominic Raiola’s best season. Halfback Theo Riddick has been a noticed asset with his speed and receiving ability; the sixth-round pick has a touchdown on the season.
Special teams were a major problem for the Lions in 2012 but was undoubtedly corrected with punter Sam Martin. People questioned the Lions drafting a punter in the fifth round, but Martin showed worth as his leg averaged a staggering 47 yards per punt. Detroit’s special teams unit didn’t give up a touchdown this season compared to 2012’s two.
The free agency signings were magnificent. Tailback Reggie Bush gave Detroit explosiveness in the backfield, rushing for over 1,000 yards with four touchdowns. Undrafted free agents tight end Joseph Fauria and tackle LaAdrian Waddle sparked the offense. Fauria is a touchdown reeling machine, catching seven. Waddle has solidified the right-tackle position and has potential to be a dominant one for time to come. Safety Glover Quin has been firm in the secondary with three interceptions, already matching Delmas’ career-high.
There are still some picks that could become future starters, like cornerbacks Jonte Green and Chris Greenwood.
Mayhew’s had some rocky drafts, but this previous draft and free agency signings were outstanding. He has appeared to steady the ship. Cutting ties with him at this point would be ridiculous. To put Detroit, a team ready to win, in a complete rebuilding mode would serve no benefits. Finding a new general manager would be difficult. Mayhew’s shown the ability to make changes in his course for Detroit’s success. He, Xanders, and their staff seem to be on the right path; keeping Mayhew was the right move.