In Metro Detroit, we call it same old Lions. Another season is practically in the books at 4-7 and guess what? Same. Old. Lions. It’s like the movie “Groundhog Day” with Bill Murray. The same thing, over and over and over again. It’s exactly where we are right now.
Two days after another loss, Lions ownership finally decided to relieve head coach Matt Patricia and general manager Bob Quinn of their duties. Rightfully so but it was one year too late. Neither one of these bums should have made it out of last season. However, I told myself they needed one more year. So what did I do? Bought into watching my team practice at the Senior Bowl and filled my heart up with hope and the idea that these two guys could really turn it around.
Fact of the matter is, I didn’t believe the lies I was spewing. All I wanted to see was Matthew Stafford be the guy for the Lions. All I wanted was for him to get them over the hump and possibly, get them to the promise land. Essentially, just get the Lions their first division title since 1993. And if possible, to their first ever Super Bowl. Maybe I’m asking for too much but I don’t think I am. In fact, we as fans of this team aren’t asking for much. But regardless of what we ask for, the results never change.
When the Lions hired Quinn, I was excited. He was younger than most of the candidates for the job but was also familiar with success. He had been part of four Super Bowl winning teams with the New England Patriots. After he was hired, the success in Detroit came early with Jim Caldwell as his head coach. Many felt like he was forced to keep him due to the Ford family and to be honest, it was the best move the Ford’s could have done.
Two seasons of Caldwell and Quinn led to consecutive 9-7 seasons and a wildcard playoff loss to the Seattle Seahawks. That all changed after Quinn fired Caldwell (who went 36-28 in four seasons). It created an uproar in the locker room and a lot of that was because Quinn said, “9-7 wasn’t good enough.”
From thereafter, the culture began to change. Not for the better, either.
Quinn hired his buddy, his close friend and former colleague Matt Patricia. To be honest, I was excited about it. I’m not going to lie, I was tired of seeing the 9-7 record myself. Reason being, they couldn’t beat the Green Bay Packers for the big push over the hump and claim the division. Some of that was on Caldwell and his in-game mistakes. Something had to be done and it felt like Quinn was making the right decision.
It felt like Patricia could be that guy. He was the mysterious figure behind Bill Belichick in New England. Watching Patriots games, you’d see this bearded man with a pencil in his ear. Figuring out he was the defensive coordinator, you assumed it was good. It was New England and they were winners so it had to be good. We as fans just wanted to win.
Boy, were we fooled.
Patricia came in and acted more like a dictator than a leader. He bullied some of the best players on the roster out of town. From players not wanting to re-sign with the organization to players being thankful for their release or being traded from Detroit. Players like Quandre Diggs and Darius Slay are perfect examples of players who had plenty to say after being traded.
Diggs and Slay were right https://t.co/kUcTT6XUa9
— Russell Brown (@RussNFLDraft) November 28, 2020
Like most jobs, it’s results driven. For Quinn, he was 31-41-1 (.420 record) during his four and a half seasons as the general manager of the Lions. As for Patricia, he was 13-29-1 (.314 record) during his two and a half seasons as the head coach of the Lions. Unfortunately, there’s a lot more to the story than just the record for Patricia.
When he was hired in Detroit, he brought in his buddy and returned the favor to a coach who gave Patricia his first big coaching break. That was by bringing in Paul Pasqualoni to be the defensive coordinator for the Lions. Together, these two had horrific defenses on the field. For example, in 2018, the Lions defense only gave up 335 yards per game (10th best in the NFL). However, they only had 14 takeaways for the entire season, which was second worst in the NFL. To me, that sounds like a defense that desperately needed a playmaker. So going into the 2019 NFL Draft, they could have added to their defense by selecting players such as Ed Oliver, Devin Bush or Brian Burns but instead they drafted another tight end with the eighth overall pick.
For being a defensive-minded head coach, it just didn’t make much sense considering what they did in the second round of the 2019 draft. They selected Jahlani Tavai who had gained some attention heading into the draft but no way should he have gone 43rd overall. Regardless, this leads us to 2019 and believe it or not, it got worse.
Heading into the 2019 season, the Lions re-signed safety and defensive captain, Diggs to a much deserved contract extension. Little did we know, they were going to trade him away for a fifth round pick. To make matters worse, the Lions defense allowed 400.4 yards per game (31st in the NFL).
Rather than putting the blame on himself, Patricia made Pasqualoni the scapegoat. But rather than firing him, Pasqualoni decided to step down and the Lions went in a direction but still kept the bearded brains of the operation on board. Adding insult to injury, the Lions blew 11 second-half leads under Patricia in his coaching career in Detroit. Much of this was to his defenses never having the ability to make the big play on the quarterback. It was that “bend don’t break” mentality for these defenses but almost every single game ended in heart break and disappointment.
Clearly, these decisions have led to negative results and has driven this organization deeper into the ground than they already were. That’s why both men, Quinn and Patricia, are standing in the unemployment line.
But this isn’t me trying to have a pity party with my followers on Twitter. No, this is me telling an organization that won’t read this article to clean up their act and get it together. We’ve waited decades for something and we continuously get nothing. If you want to sell your cars and advertise your product, by all means go ahead. You can put a winning product on the road but you can’t put a winning product on the field? Why is that? Just do us a favor and figure it out or just sell the team.
However, I know that won’t happen. That’s a pipe dream that I want to happen to relieve fans of this team a lifetime of disappointment. Knowing that the Ford family isn’t going anywhere, what happens next?
Find a head coach and general manager
Did I really have to write this? For some delusional Lions fans, I probably should state the obvious. That being said, it wasn’t always sunshine and rainbows between Patricia and Quinn. Remember the 2020 NFL Draft, there were reports that Quinn wanted Jeff Okudah and Patricia was the one that wanted Derrick Brown.
They ended up going with Okudah.
It’s still early but Okudah hasn’t necessarily looked like the same cornerback he was for Ohio State. But I digress.
This has happened often to Jeff Okudah this year. pic.twitter.com/DEzgOnnVIs
— Russell Brown (@RussNFLDraft) November 22, 2020
Find a head coach and general manager that can become a cohesive unit. Two people that share the same vision, the same goal so the results are positive. If there’s any fanbase in the NFL that deserves it, it’s the fans of the Detroit Lions. If I had to pick today, it would be Ed Dodds for general manager (Colts assistant GM) and Robert Saleh (49ers defensive coordinator) for head coach or Joe Brady (Panthers offensive coordinator). Dodds and Saleh make the most sense as they’ve both been connected to head coaching and general manager openings for the same team since last season. Brady would just be fun but I don’t view it as a legit possibility.
Trade Matthew Stafford
It absolutely pains me to write that. However, his time in Detroit has come to a close. According to Spotrac, the Lions have a potential out on Stafford’s contract after this season. They can trade him or cut him and it will lead to a $25 million dead cap hit. That’s less than ideal but Quinn has left this team with plenty of bad contracts already, this will be the least of the new regimes worries.
During his career in Detroit, he’s 73-86-1 with no division championships or playoff wins. It’s not all his fault and he’s clearly the most talented quarterback the Lions have had in my lifetime but again, jobs are results driven. Can a new regime believe they can win with Stafford?
But during his career, he’s had Jim Schwartz, Caldwell and Patricia as his head coaches. Meanwhile, he’s seen Scott Linehan, Joe Lombardi, Jim-Bob Cooter and Darrell Bevell as his offensive coordinators. There’s been plenty of changes around him and Stafford has been the only constant but that shouldn’t give him an automatic pass. Especially when the results never change.
That being said, it shouldn’t be surprising if the new regime views his trade value as a bigger asset to the organization than whatever results he can provide for them on the field. Teams such as San Francisco, Tampa Bay and Indianapolis make a ton of sense as potential trade candidates.
Don’t hesitate on a different quarterback
If the Lions move on or keep Stafford, that’s fine. Maybe they won’t get the return they’re looking for so they keep him around for one more season and have him be the veteran to a rookie quarterback. That means they have to keep themselves in position to draft a quarterback for the 2021 NFL Draft.
Let the Zach Wilson tape flow tonight, folks pic.twitter.com/6PZ81c7hN7
— Russell Brown (@RussNFLDraft) November 17, 2020
Currently, they own the ninth overall pick but there’s plenty of quarterbacks worthy of top-10 consideration. If they lose the rest of their games and solidify themselves a top-five pick, it makes absolute sense to pull the trigger on a quarterback. Zach Wilson from BYU would be the player on top of my list, if the Lions can’t draft Trevor Lawrence or Justin Fields. Aside from those three players, Trey Lance from North Dakota State would be an intriguing option.
I know this will make the people that wanted Tua Tagovailoa last year upset but it is what it is. Move forward and get your guy now. From what I’ve seen, Wilson makes the most sense right now. From his overall arm strength to ability to improvise in and out of the pocket, he’d provide a new identity to a team that desperately needs one. Of course, this all depends on who the next coach and general manager are for the Lions.
But what if new regime doesn’t want to draft a quarterback? Do they want to roll the dice and put their jobs on the line from day one? Maybe they don’t so is there a potential veteran quarterback to consider? Dwayne Haskins and Sam Darnold could both be intriguing options for whichever coaching staff takes over this team. Even though Detroit doesn’t seem like an ideal landing spot, both quarterbacks could certainly use a change of scenery.
Figuring out the bad contracts
Certainly there’s some bad contracts on the books but there’s some that are manageable. For example, Danny Shelton has a fairly reasonable contract and if the Lions got rid of him, they could open up close to $4 million in cap space. He’s not the only one.
Justin Coleman got a four-year contract worth $36 million to cover slot receivers. Say what you want, he was never going to be the same player he was for the Seahawks. With that being said, the Lions could save about $5 million if they were able to move on from Coleman.
Some other contracts they could cut from their books are Desmond Trufant ($6.5 million), Jesse James ($2.142 million) and Nick Williams ($4.7 million). By removing these five players, the Lions could open up close to $22 million in cap space. That’s not including the possibility of getting rid of Stafford or having him try to restructure his deal.
This doesn’t mean they need a ton of money to get this thing right. I don’t believe in spending a ton of money in free agency. There’s a reason why players become free agents and by signing a bunch of players to bad contracts isn’t necessarily the recipe for championship football teams. With the right staff in the place, there’s plenty of right that can be done.
Stockpiling 2021 draft picks
Following with what was just previously stated, the Lions could easily look to trade some of these players for as many draft picks that they can get their hands on. They need to stockpile on as many draft picks as possible for the 2021 NFL Draft.
Currently, they only have five draft picks for 2021 and that’s just not enough. COVID could make the off-season very interesting and limited for teams across the NFL. If there’s any year to trust the tape, this is the year. Just because Quinn couldn’t get second round draft picks right or find a gem in the fifth round, doesn’t mean that the next person in charge can’t figure it out.
Focus on Swift, Golladay and Hockenson
I could be here all day talking about every player on the depth chart but let’s be honest, the most intriguing part of the Lions job is some of the weapons you get on offense. Swift and Hockenson are here to stay but the Lions could look completely different at wide receiver. Marvin Jones is set to become a free agent and it seems unlikely that he’ll be back in Detroit. Meanwhile, Golladay is set for a contract extension but every time that conversation is had it leads to nowhere. Maybe new management will lead to a new contract for Golladay.
We can only hope.
Golladay had 11 touchdowns in 2019 and saw over 100 targets in 2018 and 2019 for the Lions. It’s clear that he’s been the No. 1 wide receiver for this team. Meanwhile, the Lions are 1-5 without Golladay in their starting lineup. They’re 3-2 when he’s playing. They average 26.6 points per game when he’s playing and 21.8 points per game when he’s not.
As for Hockenson, he’s already taken a huge step forward and is slowly starting to look like the player we all thought he could be coming out of Iowa. Currently, he has 45 receptions for 530 yards and five touchdowns. Whether it’s Stafford or a different quarterback, he’s got a role for the Lions and a new coaching staff shouldn’t change that.
In week 3, D'Andre Swift had no carries & 1 reception for 19 yards. Since then, he's starting to get a more defined role in the Lions offense. Here's his stat line the last 3 weeks:
— Russell Brown (@RussNFLDraft) October 27, 2020
Lastly, the Lions might finally have themselves a running back they can rely on. Swift has 70 carries for 331 yards and four touchdowns as a rookie this season. More impressively, he’s added 31 receptions for 275 yards and two touchdowns. Regardless of what the box score says, Swift has been splitting carries with Adrian Peterson for much of the season and it’s a matter of time before he becomes the number one running back in Detroit.
Whatever comes next, the Lions made the right decision by firing Quinn and Patricia. With how this season has been going, it was inevitable. Whether Patricia quit on his team or the team quit on him, there were too many moments during his tenure where it looked like the Lions were a ticking time bomb.
That time has come where ownership has blown everything up and it’s time to rebuild.
This isn’t the first time it’s happened but every time it does, it feels like there’s a chance for something spectacular waiting in the wings. It gives myself and Lions fans everywhere a glimmer of hope. The state of the Lions isn’t pretty. It’s going to take time and whoever is hired next, you’ve got to be patient. They have to figure out what direction this offense is going from quarterback and wide receiver to important chess pieces on defense. There’s some serious depth issues within this team. From top to bottom, it’s going to be re-shaped. For better or worse, I have no clue.
Bevell will close out the season as the interim head coach and if all goes right, he could earn himself the job. We’ll see how the team responds the rest of the way to Bevell but one thing is for sure, the Patriot way is officially dead before it ever began in Detroit.