Lions GM Mayhew calls 2-14 season 'unacceptable,' but has hope

ALLEN PARK, Mich. -- Joy and pain were separated by just four days in Martin Mayhew's first season as an NFL general manager.

The high point for him was watching Detroit Lions rookies Matthew Stafford and Brandon Pettigrew connect in the end zone to lift Detroit to one of its two wins. The low point was Pettigrew's season-ending injury on Thanksgiving Day later that same week.

All in all, though, the bad times far outweighed the bad.

"Obviously, 2-14 is unacceptable," Mayhew said Thursday in his first public comments since the Lions' season ended with a sixth consecutive loss. "That's not what we're gonna be about."

Lately, it has been.

The Lions were the NFL's first 0-16 team in 2008, when Mayhew was promoted as an interim GM to replace Matt Millen. They have won just three of their last 40 games and are mired in the worst nine-season stretch by an NFL team since World War II.

Still, Detroit's decades-long search for a star quarterback seems to be over after the team made Stafford the No. 1 overall draft pick last year. His season was stunted by injuries, but his arm and leadership provide hope for a franchise with a lone Pro Bowl QB and one playoff victory since winning the 1957 NFL title.

"That was critical for our organization, to have a young quarterback with his talent level, toughness -- mental and physical -- his poise and football IQ," Mayhew said. "He has a long way to go to become the quarterback he should become, but that's one reason we feel so positive going forward.

"If Matthew Stafford doesn't succeed and become a great quarterback, some of that is on us because he has all the tools. It's on us to put good players around him."

One of those playmakers might be a running back.

Mayhew said Kevin Smith will have shoulder surgery after he comes off crutches following surgery on his left knee. Those injuries have led to the need for a running back in free agency, via trade or in the draft to join Maurice Morris and Aaron Brown on the roster.

The Lions have had some of the worst defenses in league history the past two seasons. Looking ahead to the April draft, Mayhew would only rule out taking a QB with the No. 2 pick.

Mayhew's first draft seemed solid: Stafford, Pettigrew, safety Louis Delmas, linebacker DeAndre Levy and defensive tackle Sammie Hill.

"The early returns are promising," Mayhew acknowledged.

The GM also said that backup QB Daunte Culpepper could be re-signed and third-stringer Drew Stanton will be retained.

"I wouldn't rule out bringing Daunte back," Mayhew said. "Drew's coming back."

Last offseason, the Lions added 15 veterans who made at least $1 million in 2009, trying to fix a mess with short-term solutions. They plan to focus on just five or six free agents this offseason to address specific voids.

Stafford is expected to recover from knee surgery in time to work out with teammates in March. Pettigrew might be able to practice during training camp.

"One of the most important things we're going to do this offseason is rehabbing our players," Mayhew said.

Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press

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