At the climax of the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962, as the Soviet ships turned around and headed home, U.S. Secretary of State Dean Rusk uttered the famous words that bottom-lined what just happened, when the world was led to the brink of nuclear war but averted it at the 12th hour.

“We just went eyeball-to-eyeball with the Soviets,” Rusk said, “and they blinked.”

The Soviets didn’t have the temerity to push any further.

The Detroit Lions, some 47 years and change later, went eyeball-to-eyeball with the prospects of acquiring defensive tackle Albert Haynesworth. And the Lions blinked.

The official team colors for the Lions are Honolulu Blue and Silver. You’d better add yellow to the scheme.

The Lions, according to a source identified by NFL.com, are no longer interested in the huge talent and sometimes headache Haynesworth, who the Washington Redskins might be willing to trade.

The source says that Lions GM Martin Mayhew acknowledges Haynesworth’s abilities and that those abilities could work wonders with No. 2 overall draft pick Ndamukong Suh on the Lions’ interior defensive front.

But, the source added, “(The Lions) don’t want any negative influences around” Suh.

Yellow management. A chicken excrement way of doing things.

The Lions, still talent deficient despite another draft and a busy off-season, looked at the potentially dominant Haynesworth and shook their head no—all because they’re afraid.

I’ve supported Mayhew from Day One, when he fleeced Jerry Jones and the Dallas Cowboys out of a No. 1 draft choice for WR Roy Williams way back in October 2008. He’s been bold, aggressive, and has exhibited personnel savvy that defies his being an underling to Matt Millen for so many years.

But not this time. I can’t go with Mayhew on this one. Mayhew regressed, playing try-not-to-lose poker instead of the trying-to-win kind.

An upper echelon team, one that’s elite, can maybe afford to pass on a guy like Haynesworth and cite his track record of being a prima donna. They can afford to be a tad more picky.

The Lions don’t have that luxury. They need talented football players, first and foremost. First you get them here, then you figure out how to deal with them.

I thought that the history Haynesworth has with Lions head coach Jim Schwartz from the pair’s days in Tennessee would provide the final push over the hump, and that the Lions would actively pursue a trade for big Albert.

But I was wrong. The Lions not only blinked, they lost their nerve. They kept their chips and folded.

The Lions have won 33 games in the past nine years. If it wasn’t so painstakingly sad, it would be frighfully funny.

Thirty-three wins in nine years, and they’re going to pass on acquiring a player who could make their front four one of the best in pro football?

They’re cowards.

This is pro sports, not college. Losing isn’t tolerated in pro sports. This is America, where losing is despicable. And in no other sport is losing as horrible as it is in professional football.

All the planning, all the film sessions. All the strategy, all the practicing. For six days this goes on every week. Coaches work 20-hour days. Players work themselves into a rabid froth from Monday thru Saturday. On Sunday (or Monday) there is an accounting.

You play 60 minutes and when it’s over and you’re on the wrong end of the score, it’s damn near disgusting.

Nothing is better than winning a pro football game, and nothing is worse than losing one.

The Lions are bottom feeders, and that means needing the intestinal fortitude to take risks in order to return to respectability.

By taking themselves out of the bidding for Haynesworth, they’re handing out indictments all over the team.

They’re saying that Sc hwartz can’t handle a sometimes-headache player—one that he’s coached before, no less. They’re saying that Suh, so praised for his maturity and for being a quote-unquote good kid, is easily manipulated. And they’re saying that the teammate support structure is broken.

They’re afraid of bringing in Albert Haynesworth.

Guess what? They don’t have that option.

You can’t win 33 games in nine years and play scared when it comes to improving your roster.

The Oakland Raiders—the old version, not this New Coke recipe that plays at being Raiders today—made a mint and won some Super Bowls by signing and trading for some of the league’s most notorious miscreants.

If you needed a career resuscitated, if you were a player who was being figuratively blackballed, you told your agent to give the Raiders a call.

The Raiders of the 1970s and most of the 1980s were a bunch of vagabonds. They were a snarling team made up largely of men who played with chips on their shoulders and with hate and vengeance on their minds and encircling their hearts.

They were like the team of prisoners in “The Longest Yard” and all their opponents were the prison guards.

The Raiders could only have been owned by Al Davis—before he started losing it upstairs. Davis prowled the field before the game with his sunglasses and slicked back hair and bling and he wore black and you were tempted to ask him where they buried Jimmy Hoffa.

His players were of that image—irreverant, sneering, distasteful.

Just win, baby.

That’s what the Raiders did, with their miscreants and cast-offs and has-beens.

Jim Plunkett won not one, but two Super Bowls with the Raiders, and he did it on bad legs and with a passing arm that needed two throws to make it 50 yards. Plunkett was a two-time NFL loser, with the Patriots and the 49ers, when the Raiders got their dirty mitts on him. Then look what happened.

The Lions could have had Haynesworth at a relatively decent price, since the Redskins would be picking up most of the tab. They could have added a guy who, combined with Suh, might have made Detroit go crazy.

Haynesworth and Suh, together, could own Detroit.

What do they think, he’s going to come here and act like a goofball on principle?

Elite teams can afford to think like that.

Bottom feeders like the Lions need good football players, not good people.

Sometimes the two are mutually exclusive, unfortunately. I will grant you that.

I want a team that wants to win—not one that’s afraid to lose.

The Lions passed on Albert Haynesworth.

They lost their nerve. Shame on them.

Advertisements