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Friday, September 19, 2014
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Published: Wednesday, 12/11/2002

West Coast O burdens Lions' odds and ends

The Detroit Lions lost again, so everybody is criticizing coach Marty Mornhinweg for everything - from continuing to start rookie Joey Harrington at quarterback to not starting more young players on defense - when they should be questioning him for attempting to install a high-powered passing offense without having suitable weapons.

Mornhinweg needs to look at the players he has and try to rearrange some of his goals to fit.

I don't blame Mornhinweg for trying to pass the ball. He wants to re-create what he had in Green Bay and San Francisco.

Mornhinweg's ego refuses to allow him to realize the error of his ways. He knows what the West Coast offense did for the Packers and 49ers. He won a Super Bowl ring as Green Bay's quarterback coach.

Everybody in the NFL has a big ego. A coach with a Super Bowl ring and a system believes he can make wine out of water.

Good NFL coaches have to be able to put their players in the best position to win.

Mornhinweg's aversion for the running game is silly, especially since the Lions' current personnel should dictate keeping the ball on the ground.

Still, despite Detroit's season-long problems traveling through the air with a rookie quarterback, Mornhinweg fancies the Lions as a passing team.

Detroit averages 36.7 passing attempts per game. Harrington has completed just over 50 percent of his passes for 2,294 yards, 12 touchdowns and 16 interceptions.

Consequently, the Lions average only 22.3 carries a game. Despite a limited workload, running back James Stewart, who's averaging 17.3 carries, has managed to rush for 962 yards and four touchdowns to rank fifth in the NFC.

Stewart, who leads the Lions with 42 catches, is one of the most underrated and misused offensive players in pro football.

Ironically, the knock on Stewart is that he isn't a good fit for the West Coast offense. That he's supposed to be more of a straight-ahead, power runner.

Stewart has busted runs of 56, 39, 37, 27, 24, 23 and 21 yards this season. He averages an impressive 4.6 yards a carry.

Stewart looks like a legitimate feature back. He should be the Lions' go-to player on offense.

Harrington has struggled all season. He has a bad habit of throwing drive-killing interceptions. He isn't ready yet.

Mornhinweg should tell Harrington to hand the ball to Stewart and take whatever running lanes the defense leaves open.

Stewart should carry the load, grinding out yards on the ground and catching passes out of the backfield.

It'll be interesting to see if Mornhinweg sticks to his guns over the final three games.

Will he put his pride aside and run the ball more? Or will he continue to showcase Harrington and the Lions' pass-happy, sad-sack offense?

Mornhinweg needs to come down off his high horse, give Stewart the ball and give the Lions their best chance of winning.



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