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.