Posted: Tuesday October 11, 2005 11:13AM; Updated: Tuesday October 11, 2005 8:56PM
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Start with third-year wide receiver Charles Rogers, who was recently suspended for four games after violating the league's substance abuse policy and also publicly complained about the way he's being used in the offense. The man has played in nine games since being drafted second overall in 2002 and he's wondering why the Lions are losing faith in him. Then, there's the friction between Roy Williams and running back Kevin Jones. They scuffled on the sideline during a 38-6 loss to Chicago in Week 2, shortly after Williams ran the wrong route on a play that resulted in a Harrington interception. Jones jumped in Williams's face over the error and Williams says he still resents the criticism.
"It still lingers with me because I'm not the type to yell at somebody," says Williams. "It's one thing to tell a guy to pick up his play, but I don't want somebody in my face telling me how to play my position. He runs the ball and I catch the ball. And we don't have to be tight because we don't hang out anyway."
The Lions' problems are even more pronounced on the field. Harrington is officially a disaster. That big year for Jones? He's averaging 2.9 yard per carry. That explosive combination of Rogers, Roy Williams and Mike Williams? They've combined for 22 catches, 196 yards and two touchdowns this season and now they all might be on the sidelines this week against Carolina. Along with Rogers's suspension, both Roy and Mike Williams are hampered by injuries.
Even if all three were still available, the chances of Detroit's passing game developing quickly don't look good. "Right now the receivers don't have any trust or confidence in the quarterback and the quarterback doesn't have any trust or confidence in the receivers," Roy Williams says. "When you watch PeytonManning and his receivers, they're all on the same page. We don't have that rhythm here. And since I've only been here for one year, I don't know how long it's supposed to take to create it."
The Lions don't have the benefit of time to figure that out. They've had enough of that over the last four years and everybody in the organization realizes it. It's time for results, dramatic ones at that. You can see that urgency in the way team president Matt Millen operates at practices these days, where he occasionally tries to inspire players by barking at them after mistakes. Since he put this team together, he apparently feels an obligation to do anything possible to push it to its potential.
Of course, that's Mariucci's primary job and I'm starting to wonder if he can handle it. He's in his third year of trying to prove he's no different than every other Lions head coach and so far he's failing in that regard. He's starting to hear the same complaints about his offense that got him run out of San Francisco -- that it's too conservative -- and what's more troubling is all the dissension around him. If there's one common quality of Mariucci-coached teams, it's that they generally stick together.
That's not happening now and one win over another struggling team won't be enough to set that right. The Lions need to grow up fast. They have to learn how to win. They need to develop some continuity. After all, as Williams said, they have everything they need on paper. Now it's time to see if they have it in their hearts.