It almost seems sacrilegious to mention former Detroit Lions coach Wayne Fontes and the Super Bowl in the same sentence.
But after watching Seattle’s 43-8 massacre of Denver in Super Bowl XLVIII, I couldn’t help but recall something the Big Buck would constantly harp on during his coaching days in Detroit.
Whenever he was asked about what the Lions needed, Fontes would get that look between a leer and sneer, lower his head a little and say in a long drawn out voice, "I need players that make plays. I need playmakers."
Out of everything that Fontes ever said — and he said plenty — his playmakers comment has always rung true with me.
In the end, to be successful, you have to have players rise to the occasion. They have to make plays.
I always thought it was funny watching Fontes during the Lions’ pregame warm-up. He was Mr. Enthusiasm, shouting words of encouragement, his hands clapping at a furious pace, only stopping when he shook a player’s hand.
"What a con artist!" I would think. But I totally misread the situation.
Fontes was a players’ coach. He understood that if the players don’t buy in, they won’t be make plays on the field.
Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll reminds me of Fontes in the way he treats his players. But there’s a difference: Carroll has a football philosophy and system that shape his coaching style.
Fontes never was able to decide on much, especially coordinators, which he changed frequently. The Lions were always in flux under Fontes.
If you examine the Seahawks’ blowout victory on Sunday, they had playmakers all over the field. Former Lions defensive end Cliff Avril was a standout, but he wasn’t alone.
Each Seattle player appeared to be in tune. Whatever was needed at any given time, somebody stepped up and, as Fontes would say, made a play.
As I watched Sunday’s scene of carnage unfold, my mind drifted to the Detroit Lions. I asked myself, "How many playmakers do the Lions really have?"
I came up with three, perhaps four — Calvin Johnson, Matthew Stafford, Ndamukong Suh and maybe Nick Fairley — which isn’t enough.
What makes matters even worse is, in the Lions’ biggest game of the year — a December showdown against Baltimore on a Monday night in Detroit — their playmakers were no-shows or just terrible.
There were several key moments that could have turned the game in the Lions’ favor. Had just one of their marquee players caught the ball, thrown a big completion, made a big defensive stop or nabbed an interception, the outcome would have been different.
One lousy play, but nobody could make it.
Detroit needs more playmakers and talent, and the playmakers whom they already have must start to consistently step up and get it done.
Seattle was a doormat franchise until recently. They drafted well, hired the right coach, acquired free agents who have made an impact and assembled a team of players who believe they’ll make the plays that win games.
In Detroit, we have some talented players who haven’t been able to make the plays when the game is on the line.
Why not the Lions?
Because as Fontes lamented many years ago, the Lions need players who make plays. They need playmakers.
Until that happens, the Super Bowl will remain just a TV show here.