By: Will Burchfield
Just think about it, said Dan Orlovsky.
The city is in a recession, the weather is terrible and your football team hasn’t won a game all year. Life can’t get much worse.
“You’re just trying to survive,” Orlovsky told the Pat McAfee Show.
But survive he did. And now, almost 10 years after the Lions’ miserable 0-16 season, Orlovsky is able to laugh it off. You have to be, he said.
Just consider how it began. The Lions, coming off an improved 7-9 season, were cautiously optimistic heading into the 2008 campaign. Excitement grew when they went 4-0 in the preseason.
“And not only did we go 4-0, but I remember we smoked teams. In the third preseason game we played at Cincinnati and we went up 21-0 with like 6 minutes to go in the first quarter, and it was like, we’re gonna be really good this year,” Orlovsky recalled.
Next thing they knew, the Lions were down 21-0 to the Falcons in their season opener.
“The second play of the season, first play of Matt Ryan’s career, he throws an 82-yard touchdown pass, and I just remember being like, ‘Ah, alright, that didn’t happen in the preseason,'” Orlovsky said. “And then there was just debacle after debacle.”
Quarterback John Kitna went down with a back injury in Week 4. Orlovsky took over, and things only got worse. Midway through the season, team meetings were an ongoing burlesque.
“We would sit in the team meeting and the whole team would watch the offensive tape. On every single play the offensive coach had to say what the player was coached to do, and then the player had to respond why they didn’t do what the coach said. We did that like for three weeks. Team meetings would be five hours long,” said Orlovksy.
After one loss, Orlovsky recalled, Kitna came under fire for not finding the right running lane on a broken-down pass play.
“He drops back, no one’s open, he scrambles, and I guess if you watch the film there was a different avenue that he potentially could have made and gained another three yards. And they were like, ‘Well, John, why did you make your cut here?’ And John was like, ‘What? I don’t know. I’m trying to scramble and get a bad play into a decent play and get a couple positive yards.’
“And I remember the running back coach was like, ‘Well, he should put his foot in the ground and kind of see this hole and cut,’ and Kitna was like, ‘You guys want me to go meet with the running backs now instead of quarterbacks during individuals in practice? What are we talking about?’ And that’s when I was just like, oh my gosh,” Orlovsky said. “We’ve got the running back coach yelling at the quarterback for not scrambling well enough.
“It was a bad situation, especially for a young guy sitting there, like, what is going on?”
After a while, Orlvosky said, just going into work was a burden.
“Think about it. We were in an economic recession, the weather starts to turn real fast up there, the city wasn’t great to be in at that time and we were 0-9, 0-10, 0-11. It’s 12 degrees outside and you’re like, what is my life right now? So you’re just trying to survive. I was young still, so I was just trying to hang on and be like, oh my gosh, this is the NFL? It wasn’t fun, but as I look back on it now, so far removed, I laugh about it because I was like, what a debacle,” said Orlovsky.
Orlovsky would go onto play for three more teams — the Texans, Colts and Buccaneers — before returning to the Lions in 2014. He also had a brief stint this year with the L.A. Rams. Indianapolis, he said, was his favorite stop.
“Detroit my first go-around was not a great time. Economic recession and we were really bad, so it was like a double whammy. Houston was way, way too hot for me and too much concrete. Tampa I liked but still too hot. I always tell people, Indy was the closest thing to the traditional east coast for me with four seasons, dealing with some weather, and then the people out there are so cool. If I had to pick one place to raise a family, too, I’d go to Carmel, Indiana and set up shop for sure,” said Orlovsky.