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"We just plain and simple didn't get it done, for whatever reasons," said offensive tackle Jeff Backus, who has had a front-row seat for Detroit's carnage as Millen's first draft pick. "Execution, talent, schemes -- at different times it was different things.
"It was just one of those years it all kind of came together."
More like one of those years where everything came apart.
Millen is long gone, fired in September when it became apparent the Lions might make a real run at those '76 Bucs. Coach Rod Marinelli is still around, but who knows for how long? When Donald Driver torched cornerback Leigh Bodden -- the "pickup" in the trade of Shaun Rogers, the Lions' best defender, to Cleveland -- for a 71-yard touchdown, Marinelli was seen on the sideline, shaking his head.
"The record speaks for itself," Marinelli said. "We tried hard all year. I felt they gave it their best, I felt I gave it my best. But sometimes your best isn't good enough, and it wasn't good enough this year."
The sting of the losses, not to mention those jeers from the Lambeau Field fans at the end of the game, will be felt for months to come. When the game ended, Smith held onto his gloves and tucked them into his bag, a keepsake to drive him every day this offseason.
But the stain of this dubious record will taint every player on Detroit's roster for the rest of his career. Regardless of what else he does -- make the Pro Bowl, win a Super Bowl, even be selected for the Hall of Fame -- he will always be part of that Lions team that went 0-16.
Look at the players from the '76 Buccaneers. They haven't set foot on a field in more than two decades, and those creamsicle uniforms have long since been retired. And here they are, still answering questions about that infamous season.
"It's hard for me to have anybody go through what we went through," said Richard Wood, a hard-hitting linebacker on that Buccaneers team. "It's a sad moment for all of football when a team can't win a football game. I feel for those guys, because it's a hollow feeling."
But the Lions did this to themselves. OK, so they got some help from Millen, but they were the ones making the plays.
Or not making them, in their case.
"This is us," Hanson said, "we own this."
Copyright 2008 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
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