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Published: Wednesday, 1/6/2010

Lions show slight improvement


DETROIT - The Detroit Lions improved after their infamous, winless season.


The Lions' season ended with a 37-23 loss Sunday to Chicago that dropped them to 2-14.

"There will be significant turnover," coach Jim Schwartz told reporters Monday at team headquarters in Allen Park, Mich.

Detroit did that after the NFL's first 0-16 season, too, and it failed to work.

The Lions fired Rod Marinelli after the season and finally got rid of general manager Matt Millen early in the 2008 season, then gave Schwartz his first head coaching job and promoted Martin Mayhew to replace Millen to be a first-time GM.

"They flipped the whole script, and nothing changed," linebacker Ernie Sims said after losing to the Bears. "Winning two games doesn't mean anything - it's still losing."

No one has done that better than the Lions lately.

Detroit set a league record with 30 losses over two seasons. The Lions allowed 494 points this season, ranking fourth worst in league history, after giving up 517 points in 2008, the second most in a season.

Detroit has won just three games since midway through the 2007 season in what has been the worst 40-game stretch since the Dayton Triangles were slightly less successful during the 1920s.

The Lions' 33-111 record since 2001 - when Millen turned a lackluster franchise into a laughingstock - is the poorest nine-season stretch by an NFL team since World War II.

Detroit did seem to draft some building blocks for the future, taking quarterback Matthew Stafford and tight end Brandon Pettigrew in the first round and following up with safety Louis Delmas, linebacker DeAndre Levy, and defensive tackle Sammie Lee.

"We made good decisions in the draft," Schwartz said. "We need to build on that. Depth was a major issue with this team.

"When we lost major players, we didn't have the depth to handle it."

Stafford and Pettigrew both had season-ending injuries after showing signs of promise.

Playing in 10 games, Stafford threw 13 touchdowns and 20 interceptions.

His season ended after the team decided his injured right knee needed surgery last month and said he expects to be ready for offseason workouts with his teammates in March. He also injured his left (non-throwing) shoulder.

The Lions will have the No. 2 pick overall in April's draft and if St. Louis takes Nebraska defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh, they might take Oklahoma defensive tackle Gerald McCoy.

As much as Detroit needs help on defense, it also would help star receiver Calvin Johnson by adding offensive playmakers in the draft, free agency, or via trade.

NFL IN LOS ANGELES: The company behind a plan to lure the NFL back to Los Angeles said yesterday the Jacksonville Jaguars and Buffalo Bills are the first teams it will try to relocate.

Majestic Realty Co. managing partner John Semcken said the company is still considering at least seven franchises for a new stadium some 25 miles east of Los Angeles.

They also include the San Francisco 49ers, San Diego Chargers, Minnesota Vikings, St. Louis Rams, and Oakland Raiders.

But he said the Jaguars and the Bills are at the top of the list because they play in small markets that tamp down their earning potential and because they have little hope of building larger venues in their home regions.

"Jacksonville and Buffalo are two teams in very, very small markets," he said.

The Jaguars have struggled for years to fill Jacksonville Municipal Stadium and had several games blacked out on local TV this season.

The Bills, meanwhile, have been playing some home games in Toronto in an effort to expand their market.

Jaguars majority owner Wayne Weaver and Bills owner Ralph Wilson have steadfastly dismissed any suggestion they will sell or move their teams.

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