We are officially less than a month before the start of the NFL season, so it's probably time to start previewing the monster. The key to the NFL's success — other than fantasy football and gambling, of course — is the rabid nature of its fans. That is to say: You don't see a lot of people painting their faces for their favorite golfer.
We asked a gaggle of writers, from the Web, from print, from books, even a TV guy or two, to tell us, in as many or as little words as they need, why My Team Is Better Than Your Team. This is not meant to be factual, or dispassionate, or even logical: We just asked them to riff on why they love their team so much, or what their team means to them, or whatever. We will be running two a day until the beginning of the NFL season.
Right now: the Detroit Lions. Your author is Michael David Smith.
Michael David Smith is an editor at Football Outsiders. His words are after the jump.
Here's why the Lions are better than your team.
1. Matt Millen is a genius.
For a long time I thought Millen, the Lions' team president, was an idiot. After all, this is a guy who took over a 9-7 team after the 2000 season and has promptly led them to a 21-59 record in five seasons. And as much as the Lions have embarrassed the city of Detroit on the field, Millen has been as much of an embarrassment off the field: He is the only team executive the league has disciplined for violating its policy on diversity (a $250,000 fine for giving Steve Mariucci the head-coaching job without interviewing any minorities), and he is the only team executive who has entered an opposing locker room after a game to blast a player with a homophobic slur (he twice called Kansas City's Johnnie Morton a "faggot" after the Lions lost to the Chiefs.)
But then it dawned on me: Millen still has his job. And not only does he have his job, but he has a guaranteed five-year contract extension, and he was recently placed on the competition committee, making him one of the league's most influential executives. There's no way I could match that record of incompetence and still be employed, let alone promoted. Could you? Clearly Millen understands something that we don't. Some day, MBA students will study the Millen era to learn how one brilliant man kept his job even as everything he touched turned to shit.
2. Our first-round pick wears a special helmet.
Ernie Sims, the rookie linebacker out of Florida State, suffered five concussions in college, causing some teams to remove him from their draft boards. But no problem, said the Lions. They took him with the ninth overall pick and have fitted him with a specially designed helmet, the better to protect his brain with. Jerry Seinfeld once observed that the invention of the helmet is proof that the human being is stupid: We invented the helmet because we were participating in activities that were cracking our heads; instead of avoiding these activities we made little plastic hats so that we could continue our head-cracking lifestyles.
The Lions have taken it one step further with Sims: When the little plastic hat doesn't work, Sims still won't avoid the activity; he'll just get a different plastic hat that he hopes works better. The special Revolution Helmet (http://www.riddell.com/RevFacts.htm) he'll be wearing sure sounds impressive: "The new Revolution helmet includes innovative features specifically designed to help reduce the risk of concussion. The Tru-CurveT protective shell extends to the jaw area and has been computer designed around the head's center of gravity to offer superior front-to-back fit and stability. The new Z-pad design provides protection to the side of the head and the jaw - helping to lessen the energy of impact on these areas if a collision occurs. The patented VSR Air-FitTSystem features padding that can inflate to offer a custom fit to every player's head shape."
What I'm most curious about is this: If there's a special helmet out there that prevents concussions, why do players wait until after their fifth concussion to start wearing it?
3. You want depth at wide receiver? I'll show you depth at wide receiver.
On most teams, when you draft a guy in the Top 10, you know he's going to step in and make an impact. But not on the Lions. Detroit took Charles Rogers with the second overall pick in 2003 and took Mike Williams with the 10th overall pick in 2005. They are currently the Lions' third-string receivers, and it's entirely possible that at least one won't even make the team. That's how loaded the Lions are with wide receiver talent; they can simply release a Top 10 draft pick.
The second-string guys ahead of Rogers and Williams are Glenn Martinez, who has one catch in his NFL career, and Mike Furrey, who is trying to make the Lions as a receiver after playing safety for the Rams last year. OK, maybe the Lions don't have much depth at receiver. Maybe it's just that Rogers and Williams suck. But, hey, Matt Millen drafted those two ... and he's a genius!