Category Archives: NFC North

Detroit Lions – This “Wait Til Next Year” Can Be Different

I have used this picture in many articles about the Detroit Lions.  If fits for so many reasons but mostly because of the stench that emanates after each failing season….one after the other since 1958.

The 2019 season, once again starting out with hope, has that stench of failure once again.  And yet, there are some reasons to once again, for hope…next year.

First, lets dispense a few things before we get to those reasons:

Force The Ford Family to Sell The Detroit Lions

This is the second most idiotic suggestion out there.  I’ll get to the first one in a minute as I feel this one is more important to discuss.

Let’s be clear:  The owners have little to do with putting the product on the field.  All the teams have salary cap concerns and since the cap has been put in place, it has put most teams, monetary wise, in the same boat.

The Ford Family is responsible for hiring those who run the team.  And while they have had a long run of lousy GM’s and Head Coaches over the years, the combination of GM Bob Quinn and Head Coach Matt Patrica has the chance to be outstanding.

We all knew going into this season there was going to be some growing pains.  Yes, yes, I know…we’ve been through all this more than we care to admit.

Since 1958, the Detroit Lions have had eight General Managers.  Russ Thomas held the position from 1967 to 1988 and until Matt Millen, was probably considered the worst GM the Lions had.

Matt Millen caused the Lions to go into a tailspin that I think the Lions are just starting to pull out of now.  His draft picks from 2001 to 2008 were horrible and failed more often than produced.  Yes he drafted Calvin Johnson, but he also drafted Joey Harrington, Charles Rogers (may he RIP), Roy Williams, Mike Williams & Ernie Sims.  Not exactly the sage know-it-all he portrayed in the broadcast booth.

So we now have Bob Quinn, who came from the New England Patriots organization.  He has drafted wisely, trying to get protection for Stafford early with picks such as Taylor Decker, Graham Glasgow & Frank Ragnow.  He stole Kenny Golladay in the 3rd round in 2017 as well as drafting TJ Hockenson last year.

His fatal flaw, so far, seems to have been letting head coach Jim Caldwell go and hiring another Patriot alum, Matt Patricia.

Granted, Cadwell’s .563 winning percentage, 2nd best in Lions history, caused a lot of people to shake their heads when he was let go.  But in 2017, after going 9-7 and missing the playoffs, Quinn had enough.  The game against the Bengals, 5-9 at the time,  was most likely the final straw.  If they had won, they were in the playoffs.  Instead, an uninspired performance led to a 26-17 loss and no playoffs.  And despite a spirited win over the Packers the next week, Caldwell was fired the next day.   Which brings us to:

Fire Matt Patrica

This is the most idiotic thing that could occur.

My feeling that firing Matt Patrica at this juncture would be a mistake because he needs one more draft to put it together.

Since 1957, the Detroit Lions have had 17 head coaches with an average tenure of 3-1/2 years.  Packers have had 11 with an average tenure of almost 5 years and the Vikings, since 1961, have had 10 with an average tenure of about 6 years.  Bears have had 12 since 1958 with an average tenure of about 5 years.

Each team in our division has made multiple Super Bowl appearances, Green Bay with 5, Vikings with 4 and the Bears with 2.  The Lions, as we all know, don’t have any along with the Browns, Jaguars and Texans.

I can present a lot of statistics which can be manipulated in a myriad of ways to support arguments for and against firing Patrica.  None of it matters right now.

Patrica needs a little time to get his system in place.  We don’t have the defensive players he needs to be successful.  Yep, he is considered a “defensive guru” but let’s face it, you can be the most innovative and forward thinking defensive mind on the planet.  If you don’t have the players, you will not be successful.

How can this “Wait Til Next Year” be different?

The Detroit Lions offense is ranked 4th in the NFL in passing, 14th in points per game and 15th in total points.  Prior to the Bears game, the Lions were ranked in the top 5 in offense so putting points on the board hasn’t been the issue.  This will suffer though with the back injury to Matthew Stafford.  And as much as I want to admire his determination to play, since the season is most likely lost, it would be wise to shut him down for the rest of the year.  Give him the extra time to heal properly to come back strong next year.

And I do feel that Mathew Stafford is still the quarterback of this team.  Unless he decides to retire, any talk of trading or releasing him is just plain stupid.

Given that the Lions are very solid with receivers, we still need to bolster that running game.  But taking a running back in the first round would be a mistake…not when your defense has absolutely no pass rush.

We can’t really call Trey Flowers a bust.  The free agent from New England is the only viable pass rusher the Lions have.  And everyone in the NFL knows it and doubles and even triples on him, daring the other defensive linemen to take up the slack.

Lions are going to have to draft for freaky fast defensive ends.  Lions have (at the moment) nine picks for the 2020 draft and if held today, would have the 11th pick.  It wouldn’t hurt my feelings if the Lions traded a couple of those picks to move up into the top 5 and have a shot at Chase Young out of Ohio or Yetur Gross-Matos from Penn State.

You can keep Flowers and the new DE will free him up quite a bit.  If teams continue to double up on Flowers, the rookie DE has rookie of the year chances.  You could also let Flowers go and perhaps pursue a  free agent stud…Jadeveon Clowney is a free agent after this year.  And who knows if the Seahawks will want to meet his demands.

My feelings wouldn’t be hurt if the Lions took defensive ends with their first two picks either.  Having a rotation at defensive end isn’t a bad thing.

As for running back, Kerryon Johnson could still be a viable option.  But getting a running back in the draft would be smart, provided it’s with the 3rd of 4th pick.  Cam Akers out of Florida State has proven to be a solid runner despite having an awful offensive line.  Could be a steal pick in the 3rd or 4th round.  If you want big and powerful, Najee Harris out of Alabama could be a great rotation with Johnson.  At 6-2 and 230lbs, Harris can batter defensive lines and isn’t too bad of a receiver out of the backfield.

Bottom line, we Lions fans, despite having to hear it all the fricking time, will have to wait until next year.  Bob Quinn and Patrica, along with the rest of the Lions brain trust, have to shore up the defense and the draft is the way to do that.

Here is to 2020…and hopefully it will be the season we’ve been wanting for over 6 decades.

Detroit Lions – Are They Accountable To The Fans?

For as long as I’ve been a Lions fan, three or four times during a bad stretch of a given season, comments start coming out about the fans deserving information from the head coach, GM and the owner.

Over the last 3 weeks, the Lions fans have had there fair share of heartbreak.  From the refereeing debacle in Green Bay on Monday Night Football, the reeling home loss to Minnesota and the trade of a quality player in Quandre Diggs.

Lets take these last three weeks one at a time:

Monday Night Football Robbery

I was all fired up for the Monday Night Football game against the dreaded Packers.  Sure, at the time, they were sitting at 4-1 atop the NFC North.  The Lions, playing some really good football, came to Lambeau with a 2-2-1 record.

I am not going to get into all the details of the game.  Suffice to say, the Lions outplayed the Packers the entire 60 minutes.  Stafford went 18/32 and 265 yards, the offense played very well between the 20’s.  However, they scored only 1 TD and had to settle for five Matt Prater field goals in the Red Zone.

The defense played it’s most inspired game of the season, pretty much holding Aaron Rodgers in check until the fourth quarter.  And it’s not Rodgers who took over the game, it was the referees.  Two hands to the face on Trey Flowers on critical 3rd downs practically gave the win to the Packers.

Yes, yes, I know.  We got into the Red Zone six times and settled for field goals on five occasions.  There is no question that the Lions had to do better than that.

The Packers, while getting the win, really didn’t earn it.  And the Lions, having to take the loss, didn’t deserve to take it.  The referees had a direct effect on the outcome of the game in the last five minutes.  The NFL admitted that the last hands to the face shouldn’t have been called on Flowers.  I want to know why there wasn’t any discussion on at least six other calls that went against the Lions that shouldn’t have been called either.

Meltdown Against the Vikings

Lions are at home with a 2-3-1 record but still can make a statement against a division rival, the Vikings, coming to Ford Field at 4-2.  At the time, no team had yet to score 30 points on the Vikings.

Matthew Stafford had perhaps one of his most complete games of the season, throwing 4 touchdown passes while going 30/45 and 364 yards with one interception.

Lions Red Zone issues were put to rest as they scored 4 TD’s (all passes to Marvin Jones) and only one Matt Prater field goal.  And they became the first team to drop 30 points on the Vikings defense which should have been enough for a win.

But this time, the defense let the Lions fan base down.  They were over-matched and it showed.  Gave up 42 points and Kirk Cousins had what seemed like hours to throw.   And they were a leaking sieve allowing Dalvin Cook to rush for 142 yards and 2 scores.

Quandre Diggs Gets Traded To The Seahawks

At first glance, I thought this was a lousy trade for both teams.  For the Lions, it appeared to be a knee-jerk reaction following to very tough losses.  For the Seahawks, a desperation move after getting stomped by the Baltimore Ravens.

However, I think with what’s all going on, this doesn’t appear to be so reactionary after all by the Lions.  Lions get a 2020 5th round pick and giving up a 2021 7th round pick in addition of Diggs.  What I think is may be going on here is GM Bob Quinn is attempting to gain some draft capitol to work with on the upcoming October 29th trade deadline.

I have no speculation on what he may be working on, but it was fairly evident in the games against the Packers and Vikings, they had only one sack.  In fact, the Lions are 27th in the NFL with only 10 sacks in six games.  They haven’t been able to generate a pass rush against anyone.

OK, so there it all is.  Outside of some comments from Matt Patrica (who has taken lessons from  Bill Belichick) that offered absolutely no insight to the reasons behind these losses and the trade, the Lions brain-trust has offered little hope to the fans on the direction of the team.

There was hardly any outcry from  the team around the lousy officiating of the Green Bay game.  Instead, Patrica practically forgave the officials and instead mentioned there were at least 30 plays that were not executed that were the cause of the loss.

There was no fire in the Vikings game in the second half and there was no indication from Patrica on how furious he had to be with his team.  The same platitudes of “I have to coach them better, this is on me” crap, while admirably protecting his players, give little insight as to what is being done to improve he team.

Reality check:  Is there any team in the NFL that will state the inner workings of the team to their respective fan base?  Most likely no.

Lions fans have been in a state of perpetual frustration for over sixty years.  I don’t know what it is about players when they come to Detroit, they can put up great numbers but just can’t seem to get the consistency needed to have a great team.  We have good teams but more often than not, it’s mostly bad to mediocre ones we have to put up with.

Lions spend just as much as anyone on player salaries.  Martha Ford is way more willing to pay than William Clay ever was.  But she also is a much more results oriented owner than her husband was.  Which is probably why the Diggs trade occurred.  Diggs wasn’t making the grade so the Lions got what they could get for him while the getting was good.

While we all feel the Lions owe us answers, in reality, they do not.  And we’ll just have to live with that fact.  No demands that we cry for in forums, blogs and other social media is going to make one damn difference on the decisions the Lions brain trust make.

Sorry to be the realist here, but it needed to be said.

Go Lions, One Pride!

NFL Referees – A Simple Solution To A Complex Issue

This season, the officiating in the NFL has been, to say the least, horrendous.  It hasn’t been this bad since referees went on strike in 2012 and we had to put up with replacement officials.

NFL officials, on average, earn a $205,000 salary.  Not bad for a part-time gig.  In July of 2019, the NFL shelved full-time officiating in ongoing labor discussions.  NBC Sports – July 11, 2019

This most likely a bargaining tactic by the NFL.  As we saw in 2012, the NFL is more than willing to sacrifice the integrity of the game as well as the quality of the officiating.

The NFL has also lost quality officials to retirement.  Four in 2018 and three this year.  In 2018, the NFL had only 17 lead referees during the 2018 season.  CBS Sports – April 1st, 2019.

So it really isn’t a huge surprise that the quality of officiating has suffered as well as the integrity of the game.

Mike Florio wrote on NBC Sports that the NFL needs to hire someone to explain, defend and apologize for questionable calls.

I disagree.  Doing something like this only adds another layer of frustration.  It’s like hiring a press secretary to be the sacrificial lamb for bad political or corporate decisions.

The actual solution is pretty simple.  All NFL officials need to be held accountable for their job performance.  That means constant training before, during and after seasons.  And their needs to be repercussions if the same mistake keeps occurring.

Repercussions would have to be pretty harsh.  One bad call can happen, we cannot expect perfection.  However, if several bad calls of the same type occur from the same official, he gets pulled from the crew and must go through a refresher course based on the calls he missed.  First time, he will still get paid.  If it occurs again, he goes through the same refresher course but with an unpaid four game suspension.  Third time, he’s no longer an NFL official.

I would also move fast on making these guys full-time officials.  Paying a part-time employee $205,000 per year is ridiculous.   Making them full time employees will draw better quality officials.

Another improvement is to train and certify NFL officials at every position.   Back judges get trained with the main focus on running backs, tight ends and nearby defenders and the penalties most specific to those areas.  Similar training for the rest of the officials.

Promotions would depend highly on how an official is graded out over a period of four years.  And any official that is required to be re-trained under suspension, the clock starts over.  I think that alone would force the quality to improve rather quickly.

I also think that a sky box official is warranted.  He would review all called & non-called  passing penalties only since these have a tendency to be most costly to either side of the ball.  It may slow down the game a bit but I think in the fans would be OK with that if the right call is made.  If a flag is not thrown by the official, the sky box judge can “throw” one from above by contacting the lead official.  And the right for a head coach to challenge any pass interference calls goes away.

This is nothing new in the real world of working.  Consider if any of us made these kinds of mistakes in our jobs.  Many of us would be on the unemployment line if our performance didn’t improve.

I suppose we could use Florio’s suggestion in addition.  It would be useful to the fans to hear what officials are being reviewed and re-trained to maintain (or start) transparency.

But as with all procedures, not everyone is going to be happy.  An overturned call correctly made by the sky box judge can determine the outcome of the game.  And fans of the team affected will continue to scream bloody murder and continue to scream conspiracy theories despite any improvement.

But if data is continually gathered by an outside, independent source showing all the calls made, which ones were overturned and what percentages were overturned correctly, there can be little argument that there is a fix in the game.

The NFL has to do something or it will start losing fans.

 

 

 

 

Detroit Lions – The Next Steps

OK, so the 2018 Lions were a disappointment under new head coach Matt Patrica.  I get it that many people thought it was a mistake to let Jim Caldwell go despite the fact he had gotten the Lions into the playoffs twice in four years.

Caldwell may have had the chops to get the Lions to the playoffs, he never won enough games in the regular season to get at least one game played at home.

The Lions are 1-1 in playoff games at home.  They beat the Cowboys 38-6 in 1991 and lost to the Green Bay Packers 28-24 in 1993.  So seeing how  the Lions are 0-11 on the road in playoff games since 1958, they have a 50% shot to win at home which is better than 0% on the road.

What needs to be done?  Well for one thing, us Lions fans need to stop being satisfied with merely a playoff appearance and start thinking…no, demanding the Lions perform better in the regular season to get home field games and make deeper runs and maybe, just maybe, get to a Super Bowl.

Jim Bob Cooter is gone so first up on the list is deciding on an offensive coordinator:

Pete Carmichael – OC, New Orleans Saints

Carmichael has been interviewed for several head coaching positions including the Packers and Bengals.  I’m not sure the Lions would be able to pry Carmichael from the Saints in a lateral move…and he’s been a huge part of Drew Brees career since his days in San Diego.

Since Carmichael took over as the Saints OC in 2009, the offense has been rated number one 4 times.  If the Lions can pry him away from the Saints and he gets the Lions near the competency of the Saints, it would only benefit him to get a head coaching gig.

His play calling has been both imaginative and creative.  He will exploit a defense’s weakness and go the his offenses strength.  Most importantly, he has the capability to make the necessary adjustments during the game to keep competitive.

Todd Haley – OC, Browns

Haley may not be a popular choice for Lions fans.  He does have experience has an OC (Cardinals, Steelers and Browns) and head coach (Kansas City) so he could be a valuable add for Matt Patrica.

He can be intense but I think that’s just what this offense (particularly Matthew Stafford) needs.  It may backfire on him but if it works, Patrica can worry about the defense and leave the play calling to Haley

Darrell Bevell – OC Seahawks & Vikings

Bevell is responsible for the Seahawks drafting Russell Wilson.  That alone should give him some kudos for discovering talent.  And being a former college QB, he understands the role and would be a good sounding board for Matthew Stafford.

However, there are may Seahawk fans that will never forgive him for “The Call” that cost them a second straight Super Bowl in 2014.  Many football pundits have called it the worst play call in NFL history.

This makes Bevell somewhat of a gamble since he has done very well overall as an offensive coordinator…however, he does seem to err during critical times, something Lions fans have had to endure many times.

I really wish Lions fans would stop calling for Matthew Stafford to be traded.  Yes, I am just as frustrated as any fan with some of his bonehead plays.  But there are several factors that need to be taken into consideration:

Stafford’s Trade Value

Realistically, only one team in the NFL would be worth it for the Lions to make a trade with and that would be the Denver Broncos.  GM John Elway and linebacker Von Miller are at odds and Miller could be an impact player for the Lions on defense much like Khalil Mack did for the Chicago Bears.

The difference in that scenario is that the Bears already has Mitch Trubisky in place when making the trade with the Raiders for the Bears 1st round pick.  Matt Cassell would be next in line as the starting QB and I’m not sure with the Lions at number 8 in the draft would get any better of QB.

Drew Lock out of Missouri is perhaps the most balanced QB of the draft.  He’s 6-4 and 225 lbs, has a big arm and make a lot of throws at awkward angles (sound familiar?).   Impressive when throwing on the run, equally capable standing in the pocket and go through his progressions.  But he tends to lock on to his first-read and his ball placement is spotty.

Problem is that being at number 8 in the draft, I doubt the Lions will get a QB worth a darn.  Cardinals, Raiders, Bucs and Giants are all ahead of the Lions and all need a QB.

The Lions will be better off with Stafford as QB and if they still want a play maker on defense, KJ Wright of the Seattle Seahawks will be hitting the open market as an unrestricted free agent.

Better yet, go after safety extraordinaire, Earl Thomas…having him roam the secondary along with Darius Slay and Glover Quinn would improve the number 12 ranked secondary (by Pro Football Focus) easily into the top 10 or even the top five in the NFL.

Draft/Free Agency

The Lions have needs to improve in 5 areas:  Linebacker, Wide Receiver, Cornerback, Edge Rusher & Tight End.

As of right now, Lions have 8 picks in the 2019 Draft.  Compensatory picks will be figured out in the spring.

With the Lions getting the 8th pick in the  2019 Draft, Nick Bosa is not an option.  He’ll be snapped up with the first pick by the Arizona Cardinals.  He will be a game changer that opposing teams will need to plan for.

As for LSU cornerback Greedy Williams, this will be another pipe dream as San Francisco will draft him with the # 2 pick.  The Rams and the Seahawks are in for a few surprises next year.

1st Round – Byron Murphy, Cornerback – University of Washington

I know there is a huge call out there to get a difference maker on the defensive line.  But drafting Murphy out of UW is the smart move simply because Darius Slay needs help.  It would have been great to nab LSU’s Greedy Williams but the win at Lambeau put the Lions out of the running.

But imagine the Lions having two lock down caliber corners on both sides of the field.  Scouts love Murphy who at 5’11 and 182 lbs, plays much bigger than his size, is a willing tackler and wants to be involved in the run game.  Excellent change of direction and has excellent closing speed.

Free Agent Possibility – Earl Thomas, Free Safety – Seahawks

This is a pipe dream.  But you never know what may happen in the off-season.  Thomas’s days are done with the Seahawks and it isn’t set in stone that the Dallas Cowboys will pick him up.  Thomas should come back just as strong from his broken leg injury.  He played just four games in 2018 but had three interceptions in that span.  In his 8 year career, he has 28 interceptions and 11 forced fumbles.  Lions need his turnover ability to take pressure of Darius Slay and whomever is on the right side of the field.  Just his presence would make the Detroit secondary close to elite.

2nd Round – TJ Edwards, Outside Linebacker, Wisconsin

I know, I know, where is the edge rusher?  But with Edwards, you get a smart linebacker who does all the little things right.  He isn’t the flashiest but he is very comfortable at his position and is willing to take on an offensive lineman to free up a blitzer.  He is a selfless linebacker who has just enough flair to make the big play as well as doing all the other little things to help his team.  Solid pick for the Lions in Round 2.

Free Agent Possibility – KJ Wright, Outside Linebacker, Seattle Seahawks

No, I’m not trying to make the Lions the Seahawks of the NFC North.  It’s just that Seattle has a lot of good defensive players who will be available in the free agent market.

Wright is 29 years old and has played in Seattle for the past eight years, most along side middle linebacker Bobby Wagner.  Much like Edwards, Wright has just enough flair to make the big play as well as doing all the little things right.  He is a very sure tackler, pretty decent in coverage and can occasionally sack the QB when called upon.  Same type of player but with 8 years experience.

Round 3 – Demarcus Christmas – Defensive Tackle, Florida State

The Lions were rated 23rd in the NFL against the run.  And if it weren’t for James “Snacks” Harrison, they most likely would have been rated even lower.

Pairing the 6’4″, 308 lb Christmas with Harrison would indeed be a present for Detroit Lions fans.  Christmas offers outstanding play strength and physicality.  He is very difficult to move out of his gap, is aggressive with his hands to initiate first contact to control linemen.  To be a more complete DT, he’ll need to refine his pass rushing skills but with him and Harrison clogging up the middle, teams will have a hard time running against the Lions.

Free Agent Possibility – DeMarcus Lawrence – Edge Rusher, Dallas

If indeed the Cowboys can’t afford Lawrence, he would be a huge pick-up for the Lions.  He would be a difference maker in the same vein as Von Miller or Khalil Mack.  The Lions have a lot of room in their salary cap and could make a strong push for Lawrence.

Lawrence is only 26 years old and has accumulated 34 sacks in his 5 year career for an average of 6.8 per year.  However, that increases to 12.5 per year over the last two years.  He would be a still if the Lions could get him signed for a three year, $60M contract.

Round 4 – Foster Moreau, TE – LSU

It’s too bad that Luke Willson didn’t pan out as I had hoped.  He had some great years while with the Seahawks but didn’t have much of a chance with the Lions.  Still, they may want to keep Willson but still draft Morreau.

Morreau would most likely become a fan favorite because of his blue collar work ethic.  He plays through the end of the whistle and is rarely caught behind the play.  He makes the extra effort to pick up an extra block and his physical tenacity can make up is technical deficiencies as a blocker.

He’s not going to stretch the field with his speed, would be more of a safety valve or be used in tight end screen plays.  He cradles the ball well in traffic and uses his body well to shield the ball away from defenders.

At 6’6″ and 256 lbs, he’ll provide extra protection in the passing game, can be a factor in the Red Zone for Stafford as he will present his numbers for him to put the ball on.

Free Agent Possibility – Jared Cook, TE – Oakland

If the Lions want to get more offensive production out of the TE spot, perhaps a temporary fix would be Cook.  He’s bounced around the league in his 10 years and in 2018 had his best year catching 68 passes for 896 yards and 6 TD’s.

He’s a capable pass and run blocker at 6’5″ and 254 lbs.  He is most often compared to Greg Olsen and Delanie Walker…if the Lions can get the same kind of production that he’s had in his two years at Oakland, it just might be worth signing Cook to a 1 or 2 year contract around $8 M per year.

Afterthoughts

The rest of the draft is much more of a crap shoot…They could get a decent slot receiver in the 5th round, perhaps Alex Wesley out of Northern Colorado or Kavontae Turpin from TCU.  Lions could bring back Golden Tate as he is a free agent now.  Also on the market is Cole Beasley from Dallas and Rashad Greener from Jacksonville.

I don’t think it would be a good idea to try and get Antonio Brown from the Steelers.  While there is no denying his talent, his latest antics could make him poison in the locker room.  However, a change of scenery just might be the ticket for Brown and he would make the Lions very difficult to defend being paired with Kenny Golladay and TJ Jones.

A lot depends on what type of OC the Lions get…and I would imagine the choice needs to be made prior the draft and any decisions on free agency.

Once again, Lions fans look to 2019 as a hopeful season.  My hope is they get their act together, win 12 games and get home field advantage for 1 or 2 games…because with that occurrence, anything can happen.

Detroit Lions – What I Know (Thoughts Of A Dreamer)

First off – Hope everyone had a happy and safe holiday season!

I’ve been ruminating on a myriad of things regarding my favorite team.  And since I have joined a Facebook group called Detroit Lions Die-Hards, I find that I am not so alone in my fanaticism of the oldest team in the NFL to have never made a Super Bowl appearance.

Over the last month or so, I have been gathering statistical information regarding our Lions.  And after watching the Ricky Jean Francois interview, it appears that many of us are in agreement on changes that need to be made.  It’s not so much about turning over the roster (which seems to be the go to action) but rather wanting to change the culture.

He referenced Ghandi in regards to change.  While I could not find the quote he mentions, the quote I came closest to it is just as relevant to the Detroit Lions culture:  “You must be the change you want to see in the world.”

Since the Ford family purchased the Detroit Lions in 1963, the culture of the Lions changed.  What was once a powerhouse team, appearing in the post-season 6 times from 1930 to 1963, winning 4 championships during that time and posting a 7-2 post-season record, they became a doormat.

From 1963 to the present, no championships and a dismal 1-12 post season record.  55 years since the Ford family purchased the Lions and 61 years since winning a championship.

Despite the Ford family being the constant presence in all of this, I don’t feel the current configuration is the problem.  Martha Ford and the Ford daughters have made significant changes.

Bob Quinn was hired away from the New England Patriots with the hope of making the Lions more of a presence in the NFL.

Jim Caldwell, despite the fact he had twice in his four year stint, was fired because he couldn’t get them past the first round.  I’m sure that both Martha Ford and Quinn weren’t satisfied with merely making the playoffs.

Which brings me to us, the Lions fans.  So many times I have heard and read that a successful Lions season is making the Wild Card.

Well screw that.  All that has done for us is compile an 0-12 playoff road record.  That’s supposed to be successful?

PROTECT THE HOME TURF

It’s been said by many announcers that the Detroit Lions have some of the best fans in the NFL…and in the same breath, have been waiting for the team to produce.  Ford Field needs to become a place that teams fear instead of having a 60% to 70% chance of winning.

My first foray in to statistical analysis was to compare the Detroit Lions to 2 other NFL teams that have had tremendous success since 1990, the Green Bay Packers and the New England Patriots.

Both the Packers and the Patriots stress the importance of wining at home.

Since 1990, the Pack has averaged a 6-2 home record while going 4-4 on the road.  10 years of going 10-6 will get you into the playoffs a lot.  From 1990 to 2017 (27 years), the Packers have made the playoffs 19 times and winning 2 Super Bowls.

The Patriots?  Even better.  They averaged 6-2 at home and 5-3 on the road.  That translates to an average of 11-5 over 27 seasons.   They also made 19 playoff appearances and won 5 Super Bowls.  They played 26 playoff games at home and won 22 of them.  In all of the road playoff games, they went 3-6.

In that same time frame, the Lions have averaged a 4-4 home record and a 3-5 road record for an overall average of 7-9.  Eight playoff appearances in 27 years and a 1-9 record, the lone win a 38-6 home win…all of the other playoff games were on the road, all losses.

Both the Packers and the Patriots stress winning at home because they know home field advantage is an even bigger intangible during the playoffs than the regular season.

FIND AN IMAGINATIVE OFFENSIVE COORDINATOR

When Jim Bob Cooter took over as offensive coordinator, there was cause for some celebration.  Cooter was not well known to the average fan but since 2007 when he was a graduate assistant for the Tennessee Volunteers, he gradually worked his way up to offensive coordinator for the Lions after stops as an offensive assistant with the Colts (2009-2011), Quality Control Coordinator with the Chiefs (2012), Offensive Assistant with the Broncos (2013) and as QB coach with the Lions (2014-2015).

His start as OC for the Lions began when the play-calling of Joe Lombardi was fired in 2015 when the Lions started out 1-6 and for the most part, what really triggered the firing could be Cooter’s undoing as well:  Not getting enough production in the Red Zone.

Of course, as always, Lombardi has moved on to better things and is now the QB coach for the New Orleans Saints, a favorite to win the Super Bowl this year.

Cooter’s early success didn’t last and this year, perhaps hampered by new Head Coach Matt Patrica views on how the offense should operate, the Lions find themselves at the bottom of the league in both yards and points.

Sunday’s game against the Minnesota Vikings was a perfect example:  The Lions got out to a 9-0 lead.  But a 9-0 lead in the NFL is markedly different from a 21-0 lead.  Vikings got 2 TD’s before the half (including the back-breaking Hail Mary catch by Kyle Rudolph) to take a 14-9 lead.  Detroit never scored for the rest of the game as the Vikings dominated the Lions at Ford Field.

Cooter has now become conservative in his play calling, pretty much making the Lions a team trying not to lose as opposed to trying to win.

There is a subtle difference there.  In my opinion, when you “race” out to a 9-0 lead in the first quarter, you don’t try to protect that lead for the rest of the game.  Great teams and great coaches press the gas pedal down and keep putting up points, breaking the will of their opponents.  I point to the Saints, Patriots, Rams and Chiefs this season as prime examples.

We all know that the Lions have rarely had an effective offensive attack.  Despite the many different types of offenses run during the years of Barry Sanders (including the June Jones/Mouse Davis run & shoot phase), it was still pretty much run Barry, run.

And when the Lions did have an offense (based on scoring), the defense was normally (based on scoring) ranked in the bottom half of the league.  In fact, only one time since 1990 did the Detroit Lions rank in the top 10 in both offensive and defensive scoring:  1997 where the Lions scored 379 points and the defense gave up 306 points.  Lions were #4 in scoring that year and the defense was #10 in points allowed.

So now the Lions, with yet another losing record (their 19th in 28 seasons) are seeking yet another change in offensive philosophies.

The Lions have had 13 offensive coordinators since 1990, the longest tenured was Scott Linehan who served for 5 years (2009 – 2013).  They have had their share of notables such as Linehan, Mike Martz and Dan Henning.  And about the average stay since 1990 is just a little over 2 years.  Unlike other teams who lose OC’s for head coaching jobs, most Lions former OC’s have taken steps back or are out of football.

So now the search for a new offensive coordinator will be underway after the season.  It is my opinion they should tap someone from the college ranks to breath some new life into the offense and focus on imaginative play calling in the red-zone.  Oklahoma’s Cale Gundy has done good things to open up the Sooners offense, might be a good choice to open up the attack and see what plays he could create for Theo Riddick and Kenny Golladay.

If the Lions are going to promote from within, George Godsey, the Lions current QB coach would be a logical ascension.  He’s called plays before during his stint in Houston.  While he may have a good rapport with Stafford, I’d be afraid that we’d be in for the same old tired offense.

Todd Haley is an offensive guru with a huge ego to go along with it (re:  Mike Martz) but he would have no issues with pushing Stafford.  Haley’s coaching jobs normally have ended in disasters and both he and Stafford would need to check their egos at the door…but with Haley’s play calling and Stafford’s talent, they could bring out the best in each other.

SPEAKING OF MATTHEW STAFFORD

As far as I’m concerned, I think it would be a mistake to trade or release Stafford.  With a salary at $26.5 million, he is the second highest paid QB and it would be nearly impossible to have another team be willing to take on that salary.  And despite his talent, the Lions would never get significant value for him..so the dream of getting multiple high draft picks for him is just that, a dream.

Lions might be wise to draft a quarterback this year with the expectation to back Stafford up for the next two years and then when the decision is made to go younger, they have a solid QB waiting in the wings.

Draft Tek has Justin Herbert out of Oregon (do we dare think of another Joey Harrington?) as the #1 ranked QB in the draft class but I don’t think the Lions will take him with their first pick, not when the D-Line needs so much help.

More likely, they will have a shot at Brett Rypien out of Boise State or even Garner Minshew from Washington State.  They will need some seasoning before they can lead an NFL team.

If Bob Quinn makes a trade with the team that has the first pick (most likely the Cardinals) to take Herbert, that means they would lose their #5 pick and any shot at getting Joey Bosa.  Cards need a QB as well and might want more than the Lions would be willing to give to give up Herbert.

And with that, I look forward to the Detroit Lions 2019 season with hope…again.

 

Detroit Lions – After A Promising Start, Back To What They Are

I thought the Lions, after hiccupping against the Jets and 49r’s, had righted the ship with impressive wins against the Patriots and Green Bay.  In between those wins, they played well in the loss against the Cowboys, a game they should have won.

After watching the first quarter of the Lions against the Bears, I realize the ship had a massive hole and the duct tape they used didn’t hold.

Inspiration came as well as I was watching.  Using Eric Clapton’s song “Lay Down Sally,” I re-wrote the chorus to sum up my feelings regarding my hometown team:

Lay down Lions, and be the cure for what ails teams

Don’t you think you want a shot at a Super Bowl?

Lay down Lions, no need to be done so soon

We’ve just been waiting 60 years for a Super Bowl Show

Ok, so this proves that I’m no Eric Clapton.  But don’t think us Lions fans feel that every season, at some point, the Lions just lay down.  And I’m sure that in every season, when the Lions absolutely had to have a win, they just laid down and let the other team do just about anything they wanted.

Examples?  You want examples?

Ok, let’s start with the Lions most promising season where they came within one came of going to the Super Bowl, 1991.

The Lions had a great season, going 12-4.  They followed the formula of winning all 8 games at home and going .500 on the road.  Against the NFL North teams, they had an impressive 5-1 record including a win against the Packers at Lambeau Field which snapped a 25 game losing streak.

The 12-4 record earned them home field advantage in the NFL Divisional Playoff game where they crushed the Dallas Cowboys 38-6, putting them just one game away from the Super Bowl.

That should have fired up the team, pumped them up to a frantic level going to Washington, D.C. to face the Redskins, right?

Nope, the “Lay Down Lions” showed up and Washington trounced them 41-10.

Let’s fast forward to 2011, Jim Schwartz’s third year.  Lions started out 5-0 with impressive wins over the Kansas City Chiefs (48-3) and an OT thriller on the road against the Vikings (26-23).

Lions were at 6-2 thru the first 8 games, poised to take the NFC North.  Instead, the “Lay Down Lions” showed up in the 2nd half of the season, going 4-4, blowing important games at Chicago (13-37) and losing twice to Green Bay in week 12 at home (15-27) and at Lambeau the last game of the season (41-45).  Win either one of those games, they would have been 11-5 and in the playoffs.

That last game against the Pack?  They were back on track, riding a 3 game winning streak and could not close it out.

This week 7 game against the Bears?  Lions came in at 3-5 only 2 games behind the 5-3 Bears.  They needed to win this game to close the gap in a division where no team was running away.  You’d think they’d be pretty fired up, right?  Not.

I turned the game off midway thru the 2nd quarter where the Bears were leading 26-7.  The “Lay Down Lions” had reared their collective ugly head.

I could go on and on, but no need to relive the countless heartbreak the Detroit Lions have done to Lions fans and the City of Detroit.

I look to teams that have are having great years.  Los Angles Rams, New Orleans Saints, Kansas City Chiefs and of course, the New England Patriots.  Two of those teams have young quarterbacks (Rams – Goff, Chiefs – Mahomes), the other two doing it with veteran quarterbacks (Saints – Brees, 17th season/Patriots – Brady, 18th season.)

The most common denominator in the success of these teams is they protect the QB.  Brees has been sacked only 9 times this year, Mahomes 12 times, Brady has been sacked 13 times, and Goff 17 times.

Stafford?  He was pretty well protected prior to the Vikings game getting sacked only 13 times.  But then he got nailed 10 times against the Vikes for a total of 23 times.  And by the time I turned off the game against the Bears, he had already gone down 3 times!

Now, no one can totally blame the offensive line for all of the sacks…Stafford admitted he needed to help out his team by getting rid of the ball quicker or if there is nothing there, throw it away.

However, for the last decade, the Lions offensive line has been far from stellar.  Since Stafford came into the league in 2009, he’s been sacked a total of 318 times (including the six in the Bears game) for an average of just under 3 times a game and each time he’s sacked, he gives up 6 yards on average.

Talk to any coach, he’ll want those 18 yards or the extra 2 first downs and a 3rd down with only 2 yards to go.

I believe the Lions have the talent at the skill positions on the offensive side of the ball.  Kenny Golladay and Marvin Jones, Jr. are above average receivers.  Yes,  the trade of Golden Tate to Philadelphia did hurt the Lions offensively.  But they were more than likely have lost him to free agency anyway and Theo Riddick can fill that role very well.   They got a 3rd round pick from the Eagles who have pretty much rented Tate for the season unless they sign him to a contract.

They have also found a diamond in the rough in Kerryon Johnson.  The Lions went out and signed free agent LeGarrette Blount and he was slated as the starter.  But Johnson proved to be the best running back on the roster and has been very productive.  He has two 100 yard games and should run for 1,000 yards this year.

Right now, the Lions have 9 draft picks for 2019.  I think GM Bob Quinn is going to deal for at least 2 more but let’s go with the 9 that they have right now.

There are not really any good offensive line statistics.  But the Lions O-Line, according to Pro Football Focus, is ranked 18th.  Center Graham Glasgow, who had a rating of 71.1 last year, was thought that he was going to be premiere center or at least one as good as Dominic Raiola.  But his ranking has dropped 8 points and he really hasn’t done much to help the running game.

Now I don’t recommend taking a center in the first round.  Lions need to much help at linebacker and defensive line.  They have picked up Damon Harrison to help stuff the run but I think they need an outside pass rusher since it appear they really can’t count on Ziggy Ansah.

If they can trade up after the season, I would love to have them get Joey Bosa out of Ohio State.    He did not play this season as he went out with a core injury to his abdominal tear.  But his upside is too good to pass up.  And if Ansah stays with the Lions, with him Bosa coming from either side along with Harrison would make that line pretty formidable.

I am hoping that center Tyler Biadasz out of Wisconsin is available.  At 6’3″ and 316 lbs., he will open holes along with Frank Ragnow and TJ Lang…I would suspect both Kerryon Johnson and Matthew Stafford would feel good about that.

As for the play calling, as much of a breath of fresh air Jim Bob Cooter was when he took over from Joe Lombardi, he has fallen into predictable play calling as all Lions OC’s seem to do.

Perhaps Bob Quinn can convince Matt Lafluer to leave the Tennessee Titans.  Lafluer understands how to build a modern-era offense and he’s done some great things with Marcus Mariota.  He did wonders with Matt Ryan in 2016 making him a MVP as well has helping Sean McVay rejuvenate the 2017 Rams and working with Jarred Goff so well.

Or maybe the Lions reach into the college level and grab Texas Tech head coach Lincoln Riley.  He is one of the more innovative offensively-minded coaches in college football.  He had Texas Tech average 45 points a game…get him the O-Line outline above with the offensive weapons the Lions currently have, and you can see them averaging 24-28 points a game…wouldn’t that be a treat?

Ah well, once again, the Lions faithful will have to suffer with the “Lay Down Lions” and wait until next year.

Detroit Lions – Wins At Home Must Be A Priority

So far for the 2018 season, the Detroit Lions have been, historically, what they have always been:  A team on the cusp of greatness filled with doubt and unwarranted cockiness that leaves them no better than a .500 team.

Let’s talk about the ability (or in this case, the inability) of the Lions winning at home.  There is a lot of doubt that if the Lions ever got to the playoffs and played at home, that they would actually win.  As we all know, the last time the Lions won a playoff game was in 1991, ironically, a home win over the Dallas Cowboys.  After that, Lions played 9 playoff games on the road and lost all of them.

I’ve chosen two other teams to use for comparison, both of which stress the importance of protecting the home turf.  And I’m pretty sure no one is surprised in the teams:  Green Bay Packers and the New England Patriots.

I am going to use 3 spans of time, the longest being 28 years and the shortest being 5 years.  I’ve chosen from 1990 to 2017 for the longest amount of time…and no, there is no other reason other than I wanted to start in the 1990’s.

28 years – 1990 to 2017

From 1990 to 2017, the Lions posted a 117-107 record at home, a winning percentage of 0.522.  Being a .500 team at home isn’t going to get a team into the playoffs all that often.  And the 8 years they made the playoffs in that time proves that.

The Green Bay Packers posted a 161-62 home record, a winning percentage of .722.  They averaged, over the 28 years, 6-2 at home.  No wonder they have 19 playoff appearances in 28 years.

New England?  Almost as good as the Pack over that time span, putting up a 155-69 home record with a winning percentage of .692.

The crux of this is that because the Lions are just above .500 for the home games and because they are at .299 on the road, they have averaged a record of 7-9 over 28 years.  While the Packers and Patriots who win at least 5 and 6 games a year at home respectively, their records are guaranteed to be 10-6 and 11-5 overall.

10 years – 2008 to 2017

The Lions, if anything, are at least consistent.  However, over the past 10 seasons, the Lions posted a 38-42 home record.  Most of that can be attributed to the winless 2008 season as well as the 2-14 season that followed.  But again, Lions averaged a 4-4 home record and a 3-5 road record to be a 7-9 team.

Packers made the playoffs in 8 out of the 10 years because of a 59-20 home record.  They were barley above .500 on the road but that’s what you expect.  In this 10 year sample, the Packers average an 11-5 overall record…yep, that will get you into the playoffs just about every year.

As for the Patriots, it didn’t really matter if they were home or away.  Posting a 68-12 home record to go along with a 59-21 away record, they made the playoffs 10 out of 10 times due to an average record of 13-3.  But to lose only 1-2 games a year at home in 10 years shows what a premium that Bill Belichick emphasis on protecting the home turf.

5 years – 2013 to 2017

The last 5 years have been better for the Lions.  In that time period, they have averaged and overall record of 9-7, getting to the playoffs twice.  In 2014, the Lions did a great job in winning at home, posting a 7-1 record and going 4-4 on the road to accomplish an 11-5 record.  Unfortunately, the Packers went 12-4 to take the division and the Lions played in the Wildcard game at Dallas, losing 24-20.  In 2016, the Lions went 6-2 at home  but only 3-5 on the road but still snuck into the playoffs, again losing this time to the Seattle Seahawks 26-6.  But they protected the home turf well and got there which is all we can hope for, right?

The Packers have won at nearly a .700 clip over the past 5 seasons, making the playoffs 4 times.  They have been basically a .500 team on the road but doing well posting a 27-12 record.

The Patriots?  Win/Loss Record average at home:  7-1.  Win/Loss Record average away:  6-2.  It’s hard not to make the playoffs when your team goes 13-3 every year.

Both Green Bay and New England put a premium on winning at home.  And their respective successes proves that winning at home gives them a much better chance to make the playoffs on a consistent basis than going 4-4 at home every year.

Now we can sit here and bring up all of the bad drafts the Lions have had and the fact that neither Green Bay or New England ever had a bad GM as Matt Millen.  But much of the bad decisions made were as a result of the ownership hiring second rate GM’s, Head Coaches and Scouting personnel.  Both the Green Bay and New England had their seasons of crappiness.  There was a stretch from 1972 to 1992 the Pack made the playoffs only twice.  And New England had a stretch from 1971 to 1995 that was almost Lionesque with few double digit win seasons and sporadic playoff appearances.

The Packers righted the ship by hiring Mike Holmgren in 1992.  And in his 6 years, he got the Packers in the playoffs 5 times, putting them in the Super Bowl twice and winning one of them.  He and Ron Wolf made a great team.

As for the Patriots, they did make two Super Bowl appearances prior to the Belichick.  The first was in 1985 and were blown out by Mike Ditka’s Chicago Bears 46-10. Bill Parcels got the Pats to Super Bowl 31 and lost to Holmgren’s Packers 35-21 in 1996.  But in 2000, Tom Kraft brought in Bill Belichick and gave him near complete control of all football operations.  Scott Pelosi was the GM up until 2009 but all final decisions were left to Belichick.

The Lions hire Bob Quinn away from the in 2016, one of the first moves made by Martha Ford since her husband Bill Ford, Sr. passed away in 2014.  In turn, despite Jim Caldwell’s limited success in his 4 years, Quinn hired Patriots defensive coordinator Matt Patricia to his first head coaching job in the NFL.  Let’s hope that this combination brings up the talent and skill level across the organization to one that Lions fans have been so desperately wanting since the 1960’s.

Oh, and those wanting Matthew Stafford’s head on a platter?  Let’s cut the nonsense on that right now.

Stafford’s first 9 years in the league compares very favorably with Arron Rodgers first 9 as well as Tom Brady’s first 9.  And just for kicks, since he has been compared to him a lot, I included Brett Farve’s first 9 years

Passing Yards – Average per year

Rodgers – 4,055

Stafford – 3,861

Farve – 3,856

Brady – 3,426

Completion % – Average per year

Rodgers – 65.34

Brady – 63.33

Stafford – 61.4

Farve – 60.91

Touchdowns – Average per year

Rodgers – 31.22

Farve – 28.33

Brady – 25.00

Stafford – 24.00

Interceptions – Average per year

Rodgers – 7.89

Brady – 10.56

Stafford – 13.00

Farve – 16.33

Stafford is right there with all three of these “elite” quarterbacks.  What the other 3 had was consistency at head coach and the GM spots, drafting wisely and making smart free agent signings that gave Rodgers, Brady and Farve the tools they needed to win.  Yes, I know that Stafford had the great Calvin Johnson to throw to but little else.  For most of his career, Stafford didn’t have a running game that was worth a damn, leaky defenses that would give up big plays toward the end of games and just bad play designs that were predictable.

Put Stafford on the Green Bay or New England teams and I think we’d be talking about Stafford in a much different light.  Conversely, put Rodgers or Brady on those Lions teams and we’d be talking about them differently as well.

So I would take Stafford as my starting QB.  But in order to have him be as successful as Rodgers and Brady, let’s give him the same tools as they have had.  Quinn and Patricia are heading that way…I think Patricia needs another year and another draft (another road-grading guard to complement Ragnow)  And while I hate to see Golden Tate go, he was under-utilized and the Lions got a 3rd round pick in 2019 for him in the trade with the Eagles.

Hard choices have to be made…Quinn made his first one in trading Tate.

 

Detroit Lions – Same Old, Same Old?

I had so wanted to write something positive about the Detroit Lions.  But other than just a few moments in the game, they looked more like a team playing for the number one pick in the NFL’s 2019 draft.

That may be a bit harsh after only just one game but it really isn’t one game.  It’s more like 416 games (number of games since the Lions last made the playoffs).

Since that time, the Lions have had 10 head coaches, including Matt Patricia, former defensive coordinator of the New England Patriots.  It’s kind of hard to find consistency when not one coach since Wayne Fontes (who was the last coach to have the Lions in the playoffs) stays any longer than 3 years.

The Green Bay Packers have had 16 head coaches…since 1919…and just four since 1991 and have made the playoffs 20 times since 1991, winning 2 Super Bowls.

The New England Patriots, whom the Lions are trying to emulate, have also had just four head coaches since 1991, made the playoffs 19 times and won 5 Super Bowls in 9 appearances.

What were some of the goals the Lions wanted to obtain in 2018?

  1.  Improve the running game – Last time the Lions had a 100 yard rushing game was on Thanksgiving Day against the Green Bay Packers.  Reggie Bush ran for 117 yards that day.  Coincidentally, Bush was the last to rush for over a 1,000 yards in that same year and the Lions haven’t had 100 yard rushing game nor a 1,000 yard season since.  To bolster the running attack of Ameer Abdullah and Theo Riddick, the Lions signed LeGarrette Blount, a 6-0, 247 lbs. running back making him one of the biggest backs the Lions have had in recent years.  In his eight year career, Blount has topped 1,000 yards twice.  I’ve given up on the Lions having 1,000 yard rusher, I just want to see the Lions average over 4 yards per carry!
  2. Keep Matthew Stafford upright – Well Monday night’s game didn’t have them going in the right direction on that goal.  Stats for Monday’s game show that Stafford didn’t get sacked but he was hit several times.  Twice he was shaken up and even taken out for a series having getting sandwiched between two Jets defenders.
  3. Keep turnovers to a minimum – Again, not going on the right direction.  Stafford threw 4 interceptions, one being run back for a Jets TD and Kenny Golladay had a fumble that he recovered.  Rookie QB Sam Darnold, despite having his first NFL pass intercepted and returned for a TD, looked far more poised than the Lions 10 -year veteran QB Stafford.
  4. Protect the Home Field – Not sure this is actually one of the stated goals but over recent years, the Lions haven’t done a very good job playing at home.  Since moving to Ford Field in 2002, the Lions have a 59-69 record at home, winning just a little over 46% of their home games.  In that same time frame, the Patriots went 107-20 winning nearly 85% of those games.  The Packers?  89-38-1 at home winning just about 70% of their games since 2002.  If the Lions could win at least 6 home games a year and go .500 on the road, that gives them a consistent 10-6 record which at least gives them a shot at the playoffs.

I don’t say that this one game is going to be an indicator at what is going to be indicative of the season.  It’s just one game and all teams have stinkers throughout the season.  Maybe it’s a good thing the Lions got it out of the way early!

The Lions are not out of it.  But the NFC North is a super-competitive division with all four teams having top-tier quarterbacks…and yes, I am including Chicago Bears QB Mitch Tribusky with Stafford, Aaron Rodgers and Kirk Cousins.  Out of the four, Tribusky is more a game manager than the rest but he more than held his own in the 24-23 loss against the Packers at Lambeau.

I just hope the Lions get their stuff together and start playing quality football.

Detroit Lions – Breaking Our Hearts Again

Normally, I wait a day or so before I write about a disappointing loss.  But this time, the Lions had it in their grasp and literally let it slip away.

And it’s not a single player or coach that is too blame for all of this.  It is a culmination of players and coaches that are to blame.

Let’s begin with linebacker Tahir Whitehead.  Lions have the Bengals in third and long and just about everyone knew the Bengals were going to throw a screen pass, particularly Whitehead who had it read perfectly.

Instead of wrapping the player up, he chose to go for the big hit and Giovani Bernard bounced off and ran for 12 yards and picked up a critical third down.

Next up, offensive coordinator Jim Bob Cooter.  He didn’t call a bad game.  In fact, I thought it was one of his more balanced attacks where the offense gained 87 yards rushing and 207 yards receiving.  However, the Bengals took away Golden Tate, the Lions most dangerous receiver and Cooter did absolutely nothing to free Tate up.

How do you not find away to get the ball to the most effective player, who leads the league with the most yards after catch?

And finally, Lions head coach Jim Caldwell.  He blew the challenge call when the Lions had a third and 28 and Matthew Stafford connected with Tate for a 48 yard catch.  However, the ball was loose and referees called an incomplete pass.  With less than 3 minutes to go and you are fighting for your playoff life, why not challenge the call?  It was close enough to be have the call reversed.  Use everything you have available to you.

Caldwell failed the Lions and the fans the most by not challenging that call.

The Lions are not that far away from being a playoff team.  And I’ve been a fan for a very long time and I am not running away from them now.

Caldwell did bring some sense of stability when he was hired in 2014.  He has gotten them into the payoffs twice in that time but never got past the first round.

It’s time he goes.

In fact, it’s probably time for GM Bob Quinn to blow up the coaching staff.  I’d like to see Teryl Austin move in to the top spot and the Lions keep Cooter as Offensive Coordinator since he and Matthew Stafford have such a great connection.

But if you are going to blow up the coaching staff, you might just clean house.  And this would be a golden opportunity to have Bob Quinn get an elite and imaginative staff to bring a fire the Lions haven’t had since the days of Wayne Fontes.

How about dipping into the New England Patriots staff and get Josh McDaniels?  He has a year of head coaching experience and has been a productive offensive coordinator in two stints with the Patriots as well one year with the St. Louis Rams.

Want somebody fresh?  Go after David Shaw, Stanford’s head coach.  He has put up some impressive records offensively and would bring some imagination to the Lions offense.

I suppose this is a gut reaction to yet another heart-breaking season.  But I also witnessed that the Lions DIDN’T WANT THIS GAME!  And that falls squarely on the shoulders of the head coach, Jim Caldwell.

Yes, the stoic manner he has, the calm, reserved manner and the emotionless persona has pretty much sucked the passion from the Lions game.  Football is an emotional game and the head coach has to find that fine balance of when to use it and when not to.  Unfortunately, Caldwell chooses never to tap into emotion when it’s needed.

Outside of blowing up the coaching staff, the Lions aren’t that far away from having a really, really good team.  Matthew Stafford is a great quarterback and they have good receivers in Marvin Jones, Golden Tate, Eric Ebron (though he needs to work on hanging on to passes) and the promising rookie Kenny Golladay.

A few weeks ago, I was promoting the fact the Lions need a big running back in order to grind out games.  But with the emergence of Tion Green over the past few games, I don’t think we need to.  We can lose Ameer Abdullah and have Theo Riddick take over as the primary back and beef up the defensive line.

Ziggy Ansah needs some help…and while I applaud the Lions for picking up Dwight Freeney for the playoff push, he isn’t a permanent solution.  Haloti Ngata is on his last legs and Ansah needs a partner in crime to get pressure on QB’s.

Detroit Lions – Looking Forward to 2018

Yes, I know the Lions are currently in second place in the NFC North.  Yes, I know the Lions are still in the hunt for a wild card spot in the 2017 NFL Playoffs.

But based on their performance over the last three games, even if they make the playoffs, they won’t last the first round.  And should we as Lions fans find that acceptable?  I suppose for a fan base that hasn’t seen a championship since 1957, it would be.

I for one am not going down that path.  60 years since the Lions were last crowned as the best in the NFL is far too long.

Since Lions GM Bob Quinn has taken over, the Lions have made progress.  The 2016 draft shored up the offensive line with OT Taylor Decker and C Graham Glasgow as well as improving the defense with DT A’Shawn Robinson, S Miles Killebrew and LB Antione Williams.

Quinn made some small improvements in 2017 in getting some WR help drafting Kenny Golladay but the focus was mainly on defense again.

So where do the Lions go in 2018?  There is no question the Lions made Matthew Stafford the highest paid QB in the NFL was the right move.  But it’s an all too familiar trap the Lions seem to fall into by relying on one player with massive talent and hope the rest of the offense can do adequately enough to put points on the board.  We’ve seen this with Billy Sims, Barry Sanders, Herman Moore, Calvin Johnson and now Matthew Stafford.

The Thanksgiving Day loss against the Minnesota Vikings exposed a huge deficiency, perhaps the worst kept secret in the NFL: The Detroit Lions don’t have a running game.

I’ve never been a fan of Ameer Abdullah.  He tends to jitterbug too much instead of making one cut, find the hole and go.  And at 5-9 and 203 lbs., he isn’t big or strong enough to be used for short yardage situations.  He is, at best, a change of pace running back and should be used in that fashion if the Lions deem to keep him on the roster.

Personally, I’d cut ties with Abdullah because of the presence of Theo Riddick.  Release Abdullah and look for a big running back that does take the one cut and then heads North.

I doubt the Lions (unless Quinn does some horse-trading) will have a shot at Penn State’s Saquon Barkley or LSU’s Derrius Grace.   Both of them are big-play threats that would take a ton of pressure off Matthew Stafford.  Play fakes would go to the next level and imagine Stafford working with a 2nd and 3 most of the time instead of 2nd and 8!

And the passing game, as good as it is now, would be even more explosive!  A play fake on 2nd and 3 and then Stafford hits Jones, Tate, Golladay or Ebron on a seam route that leave the middle open because the linebackers have moved up, anticipating the run.  If Stafford see’s the linebackers stay back, he hands it off and most likely, the running back picks up the first down.

I think Oregon’s Royce Freeman would be an excellent fit for the Lions.  According to Pro-Football Focus, he is listed as #2 in the nation in breakaway percentage among 2018 eligible running backs.  At 5-11 and 231 lbs., he has the size to bust through holes and with a 4.5 40 time, is fast enough when he hits the hole to get deep into the secondary.

I also think he’ll be able to move the pile in short-yardage situations.  He’ll need to get better on protecting the ball and needs to shore up his blocking techniques but those are coachable.

By getting Freeman (or a equivalent of Freeman), you get a running back that will wear down a defense, allow for better play calling and most importantly, you have a rested defense that can tee-off on opposing QB’s.

In fact, if getting a big running back is the only player they take on the offensive line, I would applaud the Lions going after more D-line players and in the later rounds, get some depth for the Offensive Line, specifically the guard position.

I want the Lions to be an elite team and be one that will be elite for years to come.  Stafford is still a relatively young QB at 29 but in the NFL, anything can happen.  The Lions need to give Stafford the final piece of the puzzle:  a 1,000 yard rusher (one he hasn’t had in 5 years) and a rusher who can give him consistent 85-100 yards a game.  The fact that the Lions haven’t had a running back to gain 100 yards in a game in over 4 years is just as dubious as the 0-16 season in 2008.

Lions need to build on this season and should have a goal to get to and win the Super Bowl in 2019.