In the spirit of full disclosure, I confess that TJ Duckett is my friend. That, however, doesn’t alter or change the facts. Sadly, those facts continue to point to a Lions organization that resides inside the Allen Park facility that has issues internally that continue to affect on field performance.
TJ Duckett has left the Lions and accepted an offer from the Seahawks. I wouldn’t have wanted the Lions to offer him what the Hawks did. The sad part is that the staff wanted him to stay and he wanted to stay and the Lions could have resigned him for millions less than what the Hawks did. It was all of the circumstances that surrounded his free agency that kept an organization and staff from having a player that wanted to be there.
I have written before about Lions’ business practices and the struggles and drama they have had to sign (or not sign) their guys and the saga continued with Duckett. TJ played for the Lions last season for $1.6 million per year. It was a very disappointing season for him and the Lions. TJ was respected for his work ethic (read numerous media reports) and did according to Marinelli when I asked, “All that we asked him to do.” How frustrating was the season for Duckett?
He was called three days before the opening game against Oakland and told by Lions’ head coach Rod Marinelli, “You have worked hard and you’re our starter this weekend,” Yet, when Sunday came around he wasn’t. I certainly don’t blame Marinelli and I know TJ didn’t. I think the Lions have gotten rid of the reason for that fiasco and many others this team endured last season. In fact, in that Oakland game he eventually sustained an injury that sidelines him for many weeks after not starting as he was told he would.
The Lions were frustrated with the direction of the offense and the leadership and obviously made changes. Their desire to keep TJ however remained strong. It didn’t stop Marinelli and Colletto who were emphatic that they wanted Duckett back.
I certainly know Marinelli well enough to say that he isn’t a game player. If he doesn’t want a guy he will say it. Marinelli and Colletto wanted Duckett back. In fact, not only did they say it to me, but they made it abundantly clear to Duckett in both their words and their actions.
In fact, the entire time that the Lions were shaking up the staff, Colletto was calling Duckett talking about his place in the “New” offense and letting him know about the RB coaching situation. When the Lions had made the decision to hire Sam Gash as the RB coach whom did they call to let know? Duckett. Now they simply wouldn’t have wasted the time to call him if he was not a key cog. The Lions spent a large amount of time talking with Duckett and keeping him, “In the loop,” of off-season moves if they didn’t want him back.
Duckett wanted $1.5 million a year for a two-year deal ($3 million total) to return to the Lions. The shocking thing is that each time his agent called to talk about a deal there was the silence of unreturned phone calls or a, “We’ll get back with you.” Duckett eventually signed for 5-years and nearly $14 million to be a Seahawk, but it wasn’t what he wanted from the start. He is a Michigan State grad, and a state of Michigan guy and the Lions were his home team. He grew up a Lions fan.
Not only is it sad that the Lions wouldn’t get a deal done, here is some more troubling information. Free agency started at midnight on a Friday and the Lions didn’t return calls from the Duckett camp the two weeks prior to that day and only contacted him on the Saturday after free agency had started. At which time Duckett informed me that Lions Executive Tom Lewand told his people that, “I don’t think you really fit our plans right now, but if that changes we’ll let you know.”
That statement by Lewand to Duckett happened, but when I contacted someone within the Lions organization and asked them why they would have put on such an elaborate hoax of acting like they wanted a guy from the state of Michigan; a guy that actually wanted to be in the Lions organization? With the Lions having to overpay to get many free agents, this was a guy willing to give a sizeable hometown discount. I was told, “I don’t know what you’re talking about? We wanted TJ, but he already has a deal with Seattle and he didn’t want to come back.” I can tell you that the phone was silent when I let them know that he indeed didn’t have a deal with the Hawks and that he was very disappointed the Lions didn’t want him. The call got even worse when I informed they that he wanted $1.5 million a year for two to be a Lion.
The Lions weren’t able to get TJ back, as he was disgusted with the organization and was going to be visiting the Seahawks. I shared his frustration when he called to tell me about the Seattle deal when he said, “They had a chance. They had months to do it. Enough is enough.” I couldn’t blame him.
If I were the Lions I wouldn’t have matched the offer from Seattle. Sadly, I wouldn’t have had to. I would actually had been proactive with my own players and know that he wanted to stay home. I would have known what I could have signed him for. It is not excusable for this team to continue to have so many issues with “their guys” similar to the Redding, Furrey and Hartings issues that I have wrote about before.
Let me say that I think William Clay Ford is a good person. He is a good man and that is not even questionable. That isn’t the problem. The problem is that he has issues in his locker room based upon players being faxed contracts that don’t match agreed upon terms and issues like the Duckett situation that make this organization look terrible.
I talked with Lions Executive VP Tom Lewand about the facts in this article and I was told, “I really don’t want to comment. I have found that commenting on these type of situations simply doesn’t work out.”
If the Lions didn’t want Duckett they simply should have told him that like they did others. I certainly wouldn’t have blamed them; it is their team. The sad thing is that they did want him. He wanted to be here. He isn’t. This organization WILL NEVER succeed on the field until they can succeed off of it.
The time has come for William Clay Ford to step in and drop the hammer on his organization. He is the one that has the ultimate authority to fix this. He is the one that can ultimately holds the hammer. Sadly after half of a century, no one expects it. If being a good person won Super Bowl’s there is no doubt WCF’s trophy case would be full. They aren’t. It is now time that WCF insist his organization get on the same page…or else! This organization has many good people. It is time that agenda’s be put aside and this team be allowed to succeed.