Monday, April 20, 2009

Hall of Famer Marv Levy Discusses Lions Woes

There is one thing the Detroit Lions are not lacking as they approach Saturday's NFL Draft.

They're not lacking suggestions on what to do with the top pick if you look at the various mock drafts. When you're 0-16, everybody will either tell you to select a franchise quarterback to finally erase the curse of Bobby Layne.

The Miami Dolphins are the best example that a team's fortunes can turn around quickly with some shrewd planning. It doesn't hurt to have Bill Parcell's in the front office. After finishing 1-15 in 2007, in the 2008 draft, the Dolphins selected Michigan Offensive Lineman Jake Long with the top pick in the draft and used a second rounder to snap up his teammate Chad Henne.

They finished the 2008 season 11-5 and reached the NFL Playoffs. They signed former Jets quarterback Chad Pennington as a free agent to a two-year contract and are grooming Henne for the starting role.

Parcell's used the philosophy to build from inside to out therefore protecting the most valuable position.

Since the Lions also have the No. 20 selection obtained in the Roy Williams trade, they'll have another trump card to reduce margin for error.

Amidst all of these suggestions, there is one person who is widely respected in the NFL and is currently in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Former Buffalo Bills Coach Marv Levy has been to a place where the Lions haven't appeared.

It's a Super Bowl.

For that matter, he's been to four consecutive title games and despite losing them all, Levy's watched his quarterback Jim Kelly enter the shrine located in Canton, Ohio., and this year, Bills Owner Ralph Wilson along with defensive standout Bruce Smith will be standing on the podium giving their thanks to those that helped them reach this milestone and walking away with their yellow sport jackets.

Before the Hall of Fame announced the Class of 2009, Levy was nice enough to take time out to offer his suggestions to the Lions as to what it will take to turn their 2008 disaster around.

Q: What are your thoughts about the Lions infamous historical season?

A: It has to be agony of course and there were a few of those games they could have won. I think they have to put it behind them and go to work which is apparently what they've done. The difference between the best and the worst in the NFL is not as great as maybe the perception might be. You go to work and you'll see great steps forward. I can't predict when they'll win a Super Bowl at least that's where I see it now.

Q: If you were inheriting an 0-16 team coach, how would you fix that situation?

A: There isn't a one sentence answer to something of course to something which is that complex. You rely on the best abilities of everybody in your own organization. There is no my way or the highway to do it here because you won't succeed. You try to assess and address what you have to do. I've always been a little reluctant to get the top quarterback in the draft. You can point to Peyton Manning and say I'm not right about everything I say. It takes quite awhile for a quarterback to develop. There are quarterbacks that are six rounders like Tom Brady and all the way back to my young days such as Johnny Unitas, who weren't even drafted, who can be great quarterbacks. To me that's the way to go.

Q: Since you're not high on drafting a quarterback early, what direction would you go in?

A: I'd build on defense first. Then you're offense isn't always playing catch up and struggling, doing predictable things such as multiplying their turnovers and interceptions.

Q: What was your most interesting draft with the Buffalo Bills?

A: We took a different approach when we traded away two-first round picks and a second for Cornelius Bennett and it paid off. I was blinking at the time and Bill Polian, our general manager at the time, is the best ever, convinced me and we went forward with that. The next year, we didn't have a first round draft choice and needed a great running back so we had to wait until the second round and picked some guy named Thurman Thomas.

Q: Finally, what are your thoughts about new Lions Coach Jim Schwartz? He does appear to be assembling a good staff.

A: I don't know a great deal about Jim but you just said something which is very major. There is no such thing as a good coach. There is a good coaching staff. It appears as though he's putting together a good staff and it looks favorably from what I've seen.
Scott Morganroth can be reached at

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