Two starting OGs were lost. Eric Andolsek was killed while mowing his lawn along the road. That was a huge loss as some said he was on the verge of being Pro Bowl level. Mike Utley was lost toward the end of the 1991 season.
Lions tried to replace Andolsek with 9th Rd pick Shawn Bouwens at LG and Utley with 33 year old journeyman and mostly backup Ken Dallafior at RG. They weren’t even mediocre.
Lions also replaced RT Eric Sanders, who turned 34 with the inexperienced 5th Rd pick Scott Conover.
Behind that OL, Barry had arguably his worst season with 4.3 ypc & only 9 rushing TDs.
Although it was Erik Kramer who led the Lions to the playoff win, Fontes went back to Peete, who wasn’t very good. And, when Fontes tried to go back to Kramer mid-season, he threw too many picks:
Mike Cofer played only 8 games and had only 2 sacks-- a far cry from his 1990 production of 10 sacks.
Shawn Bowens is the worst offensive lineman I think I’ve ever seen in Detroit. He had to lead the league in fumble recoveries that year because he was always chasing his man back to the quarterback and falling on the ball after another strip sack. Half of Ken Dalifor’s uniform weight was made up of ace bandages on his creaky knees. I think he played with ice packs on his body. Not good. I also think Andolsek was closing in on being a pro bowler and Utley was one heckuva player too. Two young upcoming lineman that we lost way too early. Freak accidents. Brutal. We never really recovered. How you could have a player like Barry Sanders and not invest heavily in that offensive line and make it the ultimate priority is beyond mind-boggling.
I mean, can you imagine? And they traded that pick away for Pat “fricken” Swilling. One of the all-time dumbest things the team has ever done. Ten sacks in 2 years for Willie Roaf, a 13 year player, an 11 time AllStar, and a HOFer.
Fontes showed his ass in 1992. He ditched the Run-n-Shoot and bogged down a productive offense that began to click in 91. Started an unnecessary QB carousel and basically lost a lot of the team that season in the process.
Couple that with the bastard son of Russ Thomas, Chuck Schmidt, screwing the pooch by playing hardball in every contract negotiation, the team was in a slow decline through the Ross years until Matt Millen arrived and destroyed what was left.