Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Motown Jon is no Broadway Joe

So I'm sure by now you have all heard the stunning hypothesis that Detroit Lions QB Jon "Born Again" Kitna has made stating his team--the Detroit Lions-- will win at least 10 games this year. Let's look past the fact that they have only won more than 5 games once in the past five years, and let's also look past the fact that Kitna can make these comments because he's pretty much a lock to play in all 16 games. Backup Dan Orlovsky went to UConn, and third stringer Drew Stanton has an impressive career ranging from, "not being able to supplant a quarterback from UConn" in Detroit, to "not being able to supplant a cokehead" at Michigan State. So it isn't like Kitna has to worry about being benched for running his mouth with this asinine statement.

Let's look a little deeper though. What makes a 10 win team? Well, to start, let's examine to see the teams that have been able to better than double their previous season's win total in the past 5 years. I know you're thinking, "Jed, that would only get the Lions to 7" and you're right. But just humor me.

Teams that have been able to better than double their previous season's win total since 2002:

--2006 Baltimore Ravens (6 wins in '05, 13 in '06).
--2006 New York Jets (4 in '05, 10 in '06)
--2006 Houston Texans (2 in '05, 6 in '06)
--2006 New Orleans Saints (3 in '05, 10 in '06)
--2005 Miami Dolphins (4 in '04, 9 in '05)
--2005 Chicago Bears (5 in '04, 11 in '05)
--2005 Tampa Bay Buccaneers (5 in '04, 11 in '05)
--2004 San Diego Chargers (4 in '03, 12 in '04)
--2004 Atlanta Falcons (5 in '03, 11 in '04)
--2004 Pittsburgh Steelers (6 in '03, 15 in '04)
--2003 Cincinnati Bengals (2 in '02, 8 in '03)

So, there's some precedent here, 11 teams in the past 5 years. Again, going with this hypothesis this would only get the Lions to a minimum of 7 wins. But why have the teams listed above had such a turnaround? The first reason will not sit well with Jon Kitna.

1. Seven teams on the list had a different quarterback take the majority of the snaps during the turnaround. Whether due to inury, trades, drafts, or any combination thereof, the 2006 Ravens (Kyle Boller--Steve McNair), 2006 Jets (Brooks Bollinger--Chad Pennington) 2006 Saints (Aaron Brooks--Drew Brees), 2005 Bears (Chad Hutchinson--Kyle Orton), 2005 Bucs (Brian Griese--Chris Simms), 2005 Falcons (Doug Johnson, Michael Vick), and the 2004 Steelers (Tommy Maddox--Ben Roethlisberger) have all benefited from a new man under center.

2. Of the four remaining teams, two had new head coaches. The 2006 Texans, who moved from Dom Capers to Gary Kubiak, and the 2003 Bengals who moved from Dick LeBeau to Marvin Lewis (with Jon Kitna as quarterback) have both benefited from different coaching systems.

3. One team had both. The 2005 Dolphins had a new quarterback, moving from AJ Feeley to Gus Frerotte, and changed head coaches, as Nick Saban took over for Dave Wannstedt.

4. This leaves the 2004 San Diego Chargers. This is the only team on the list that is comparable to the 2007 Lions, assuming that Kitna stays healthy and is actually the quarterback of record to make good on his prediction. In 2003, the Chargers defense ranked 31st in points allowed, and 27th in yards allowed. In 2004, the Chargers' D virtually halved both of those numbers, ranking 11th in points allowed, and 16th in yards allowed. The 2007 Lions have a chance to do the same thing considering last year they ranked 30th in points allowed, and 27th in yards allowed... almost exactly the same. That San Diego team also benefited greatly from the emergence of TE Antonio Gates as another viable receiving option, a role in which the 2007 Lions could turn to Calvin Johnson to fill. So, can the 2007 Lions duplicate the the success of the 2004 Chargers, if given the fact that their defense could make a significant jump, and another receiving threat could emerge in the form of Gates? No. Here's why.

Oh yeah, that Ladanian Tomlinson guy was running for the Chargers. In 2003, the year they won 4 games, LT ran for 1683 yards. In 2004, he ran for 1335 yards, some 300 yards less. Last year, Kevin Jones led the Lions with 689 rushing yards. He has never out-gained LT in a single season in yards, let alone any running back in his own division. And if you think the key to the Lions winning is having their leading rusher running for 300 yards less than 689 yards... well you just may be smart enough to make Jon Kitna-like guarantees.

Oh, and even if all of this does work, remember, it only guarantees them seven wins.

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