by | Feb 25, 2009 | Detroit Free Press | 0 comments

And with the 17th pick, Lions fans said …


Gosder Cherilus. That’s the pick. Gosder Cherilus. Yep. An offensive lineman with a name more suited to a horror film (the old guy in the haunted house?) has filled the spot that has been fretted over, agonized over and argued over for months.

Gosder Cherilus. Boston College. Let us say right here that you or I have no idea if he will be any good.

But no one saw him coming.

Gosder Cherilus. Without touching the ball, he is already the resounding answer to one sports question: Should anyone bother with mock drafts? NO! Why waste that time? All those call-ins? All those experts? You could have listened to 100 hours of that stuff and never heard the name Gosder Cherilus.

You heard Jerod Mayo. You heard Jonathan Stewart. You heard Rashard Mendenhall. You heard Derrick Harvey.

You didn’t hear Gosder Cherilus. Trust me. If you had, wouldn’t you have remembered?

He is a big guy – 6-feet-7 and 314 pounds – who is a natural right tackle, has a mean attitude, long arms and some technique question marks. He was the fifth offensive lineman and the fourth tackle taken in the first 17 picks, so the Lions went shopping in a department well picked-over.

Matt Millen told the media he was “thrilled” with the pick. But when Cherilus was selected, the ESPN crew hosting the draft seemed a little baffled. They politely called it a “reach.”

In classic Lions fashion, they actually cut to a commercial just as Detroit was making its pick.

Meeting the Marinelli character test

But that doesn’t mean he isn’t a good fit. The Lions’ right tackle position last season was an unmitigated disaster. That’s one notch worse than plain old “disaster’ that describes many other Lions positions.

“Is it a glamorous guy coming in?” Rod Marinelli told the media. “No. But for a coach, it is.”

And for Marinelli, who seems to have his own set of ink blot tests (if we hear the words “football character” one more time, we’re going to copyright them), Cherilus’ attitude is apparently right, even if he was involved in a bar scuffle last summer.

A bigger question is did the Lions need to use a No. 17 pick on him? Could they have maneuvered and gotten someone else there and Cherilus later? That’s what separates good drafters from great ones. Creating spots. Jacksonville and New Orleans traded up to get defensive linemen that, arguably, the Lions could have used. Millen traded down from No. 15, picked up 10 spots in the third round and an extra pick in the fifth – then took a guy many hadn’t projected until the second round.

You be the judge.

Questions about the offensive scheme

“I love football,” Cherilus told the media in a conference call. “I’m not the type who’s going to be satisfied just getting the job done.”

That’s the attitude Marinelli is looking for, the kind he didn’t get from Shaun Rogers, Mike Williams and countless others.

The problem is, offensive lineman is a position that usually takes several years to truly master in the NFL. The Lions started the day without a real running back option. Their defense was pathetic last season, and despite off-season moves, will be pathetic this season until proven otherwise. So it’s hard to be thrilled about a guy who can block for the run when the Lions a) were a passing machine until recently and b) have no run.

Unfair? Hey. Fans will tell you starting 6-2 and finishing 7-9 is unfair. It’s worth noting that while the Lions were doing their thing in Allen Park, the Red Wings were winning a second-round playoff game with a hat trick from Johan Franzen, a guy they scouted and drafted and developed. And the Tigers were winning with guys like Miguel Cabrera and Placido Polanco, stars for whom they traded.

Like it or not, the front office determines your success, and the Lions have little credibility in that area. We should not rush to declare their first pick a failure – any more than we should call it a jackpot. For now, Mr. Cherilus has taught us not to bother reading anything in advance of the draft.

Next he can teach us to pronounce his name.

Contact MITCH ALBOM at 313-223-4581 or


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Mitch Albom writes about running an orphanage in impoverished Port-au-Prince, Haiti, his kids, their hardships, laughs and challenges, and the life lessons he’s learned there every day.

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