End of an Era
Marcellus Wiley is hanging out in his hometown of Santa Monica
It looks like Marcellus Wiley's impressive NFL career is coming to an end. Lions fans could hardly contain their pride when Wiley was drafted in the second round of the 1997 draft by the Bills and then went on to two All-Pro seasons.
While it doesn't look like Wiley is expressing any interest in coaching, I always thought he had potential as a coach even when he was still playing for Columbia. I remember seeing him regularly trying to fire up his teammates on the sidelines, yelling at them to get off the bench, take their warming jackets off and generally toughen up. He was clearly not a man his teammates wanted to let down. I'm not sure if that would translate into making Wiley a good coach, but I'd love to see him get a shot if he's interested.
Steve Cargile has to prove himself in Bronco training camp
There still should be a talented Lion or two on NFL playing fields this season. The best prospect for actual regular playing time is probably Steve Cargile '04, who's now with the Denver Broncos. Michael Quarshie '05, ("the Finnish Phenom" as I used to call him), is apparently still on the injured reserve, but he should get a shot to get into some games for the Oakland Raiders if he is healthy. Jeff Otis '05, is a backup QB for the Raiders, but may not see much playing time.
It's always great to see former Lions playing in the toughest league in all of pro sports, but when I see 3-4 Columbians who all played together in the NFL I always feel a little disappointed. You'd think with NFL-quality players, the Lions could have won some championships. But as I opined in a previous post, lack of depth can make teams with lots of "stars" weaker than they appear on paper. For every star QB, defensive lineman, and safety, you need backups and other players who can take the enormous pressure off the "big guys." For the most part, Quarshie, Otis and Cargile didn't have that, and that's why they never played for Columbia teams with better records than 4-6.
The Tipping Point
The current Lions and their coaches seem to have taken this fact to heart, and we're already seeing promising signs of improvement when it comes to depth at a number of positions. The roster size now stands at 102, and if we can keep it at 90 or above through the season, that would be a huge improvement over 2005 and 2006, when the roster size was in the mid-70's. It's really impossible to describe how behind the 8-ball Columbia is by routinely having such a small roster. Injuries become that much more devastating, practices are more grueling and less productive, and the proper development of underclassmen becomes a pipe dream.
In just a little over a year and a half, Coach Wilson and his staff have made major strides in player retention, and that is truly half the battle in Morningside Heights.