Tag Archives: Jim Bob Cooter

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 – 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 – Need Defensive Playmakers and Big Running Back

Lions have been fairly active in the free-agent market.  They have especially beefed up the right side of the offensive line signing right tackle Rick Wagner from the Baltimore Ravens and stole T.J. Lang, a Detroit homeboy, from the Green Bay Packers.  Wagner and Lang more than make up for the loss of Riley Reif (Vikings) and Larry Warford (Saints.)

The Lions offensive line should be more productive with a starting O-line of Decker at left tackle, Tomlinson at left guard, Swanson at center, Lang at RG and Wagner at right tackle along with free agent TE Darren Fells who is a good blocking TE.  It’s a solid offensive line that will protect QB Matthew Stafford better and open up decent running lanes.

There is a point of contention that the Lions need to have defensive playmakers.  I couldn’t agree more but I don’t think they need to use their first round pick, not when the lack of a running game is so apparent.  I had written an article, back on February 18, that in the draft, the Lions should get a running back with their first pick.  With the recent free agent signings of Lang and Wagner, I believe it’s the correct move even more.

Now I know there are big supporters of Ameer Abdullah and I don’t deny that he can be a dynamic playmaker if he can stay healthy.  Granted he is coming into his third year and he will be playing with a chip on his shoulder since he will feel that he’s got something to prove.  Abdullah believes that he can be an every down back that the Lions have been so desperately seeking.  But the NFC North is one of the most physical divisions in the NFL.  And at 5-9 and 209 lbs., I’m not convinced that he will be able to take the wear and tear of playing in such a tough division.

So to those fans who feel the need to go with a defensive playmaker in the first round, hear me out.  If the Lions cannot find better balance on the offensive side of the ball, no matter how good of a defensive player, the Lions will struggle to get above .500 in 2017.

The best defense the Lions can play is a well-rested one.  That means the Lions will need to control the clock and that means having an effective ground attack.  I would love to see the Lions with an average time of possession to be anywhere from 31 to 33 minutes a game, which would be a one to three minute improvement.  Keeping the ball and extra one to three minutes a game means more scoring opportunities for the Lions and less for opponents.  I’d much rather see opposing defenses gasping for breath as the Lions churn out first down after first down and getting more into the end zone instead of field goals.

In my expert opinion (OK, I admit, I am a legend in my own mind), I would trade Abdullah for draft picks…perhaps picking up a 3rd round pick in 2017 and maybe another 3rd round pick in 2018.

Then I would target D’Onta Foreman, the 6’1″, 250 lbs. beast out of Texas.  He was one of the most productive runners in the 2016 collegiate season, averaging 6.3 yards per carry, gaining over 2,000 yards and running for 15 touchdowns.  And once he gets past the line, he will look for contact and run over defenders.

By drafting Foreman, you make Jim Bob Cooter’s offense just that much more dangerous.  Matt Stafford will become even more efficient as a passer since the defense will have to creep up to protect against the run.  That frees up Golden Tate and Marvin Jones for some 1-1 opportunities and give TE Eric Ebron receiving opportunities underneath for six to ten yard gains.

Let’s not forget that the Lions have one of the best 3rd down backs in the league in Theo Riddick as well as a change of pace runner in Zack Zenner to spell Foreman.

Control time of possession just allows so many scoring chances and keeps opposing quarterbacks on the bench which where they are the least effective.  I am so tired of Aaron Rodgers pretty much having his way with the Lions either at Ford Field or at Lambeau.  Keep him on the bench and he can’t hurt you.

So take Foreman with the first pick and then address the rest of the needs in later rounds.

Lions need to get a middle linebacker.  Tahir Whitehead gave up too many passes over the middle.  Good player against the run and on occasion can get after the quarterback, but Lions need a linebacker that can stay with opposing tight ends.  The middle is probably the weakest area on the field for the Lions in regard to pass defense.

Round 2 pick:  Jarrad Davis, Florida  6-1, 238 lbs., Linebacker

In his senior year, Davis recorded 60 tackles, two sacks and broke up four passes.  He has above grade instincts and is a play-maker on the field to go along with his leadership skills.  He does need to improve getting off blocks but he has skills and is a dangerous blitzer.  He is very physical when hitting backs, quarterbacks, receivers and offensive linemen.  Will bring a certain amount of nastiness to the defense.

Round 3 pick:  Jordan Willis, Kansas State  6-3, 255 lbs., Defensive End

Jordan Willis has good speed for his size with a 4.53 40 time.  At the combine, he looked smooth and athletic in the field drills.  As for his season, he caused a lot of disruption and negative plays.  With 16.5 sacks, 52 tackles (17.5 of them for loss) and three forced fumbles, he would be a great bookend for Ziggy Ansah.

Round 4 pick:  Davon Godchauex, LSU  6-3, 310 lbs.  Defensive Tackle

Godchauex has a good first step off the ball with speed to shoot the gap.  He has the ability to fire up the field and get to the quarterback as well as being effective in stunts to loop around and causing disruption.  He is at his best charging up field and dropping running backs for loss and sacking the QB.  He needs to work on holding his own against downhill runners but his upside is to good to pass up.

There are a few more areas the Lions need help…and despite signing  free agent TE Darren Fells, he isn’t the pass catching TE the Lions could use.  I would love to see the Lions nab Seattle Seahawk TE Luke Willson who is on the cusp of breaking out.  He could very well challenge Ebron for playing time.  He’s a smart receiver with good route instincts and not a bad blocker to boot.

Ah heck, if I was a good GM, some team would hire me, right?

Go Lions!

 

 

Detroit Lions – Look Forward to 2017 and Beyond

running-lion

Well damn.

The Detroit Lions came to Seattle to play in the NFC Wild Card game with some lofty expectations…only to discover that the Seattle Seahawks were indeed a very large obstacle they could not get around.

Some of it was of their own doing. The four dropped passes (three of which would have led to first downs). Four very stupid 15-yard penalty calls (two by 13 year veteran Anquan Bouldin and one by Haloti Ngata, an 11-year vet. Those two players should know better.) And of course, the most evident, they were made one-dimensional when the Seahawk defense took away the Lions anemic running and forced Matthew Stafford to put the game on his shoulders.

Not that Matthew Stafford didn’t relish the challenge. I mean, after all, he did lead the Lions this year to an NFL record of 8 fourth quarter comebacks in 2016. And don’t give me that tripe that they accomplished that feat against mediocre teams. Ticks me off to no end when Peyton Manning, Eli Manning or Tom Brady accomplish something similar to this and they are hailed the greatest. But when Matthew Stafford does it, it’s for some other reason.

I’m not going to re-hash the season nor am I going to re-hash the wild card game. You all saw it. Suffice to say, I was rather uncomfortable when I showed up to a friend’s house to watch the game in my Golden Tate III jersey…and even more so after the game had ended. Thankfully I have fantastic friends so the needling wasn’t too awful.

I will say this: I am going to give the Lions organization a pass for 2016. Not that it is of any great importance that I do so since I really, really doubt that what I write here for Beer Thinker Sports is read by anyone in the Detroit Lions organization. None the less, I’ll give them the pass.

My reasons are that since this is the first full season for GM Bob Quinn. And while some of the moves and acquisitions he made prior to the start of the season got the Lions a chance to be in the playoffs, there is more work to be done. And I’m sure Mr. Quinn will be the first to admit it.

What I am going to offer is just my opinion on what’s needed for the future of the Detroit Lions.

  1. The road to the NFC North Division runs through Green Bay. Not a big surprise. Since 2011, the Green Bay Packers have won the NFC North title five out of the last six years. Not sure how they can accomplish that other than to say it rests all on how well Aaron Rodgers plays. And for the last three years, when it looked as though each time the Pack had no chance of even getting to the playoffs, they find a way to dig deep and pull yet another miracle season. So the first step for the Lions to be successful is to build a team that can stop Aaron Rodgers. Best way to beat him is to keep him off the field. That means the Lions need to get themselves a running game that can tire out an opportunistic Green Bay defense and keep their best player on the bench. That means improving the Lions offensive line and getting a dominating running back to take pressure off Mathew Stafford. It also means the Lions need an upgrade to the defense, particularly in the secondary as well as the defensive line. Darius Slay is a good cornerback but Rodgers pin point accuracy can defeat just about any one on one coverage. In order to force Rodgers into mistakes, pressure has to be put on him, force him into making mistakes. Unfortunately, it’s a Catch-22 as Rodgers has an insane ability to escape and keep plays alive until someone gets open. But if the Lions can get another speed rusher to complement Ziggy Ansah and replace an aging Haloti Ngata, they just might be able to at least stay with the Packers.
  2. The Lions need to get a big running back to help Matthew Stafford. No surprise here. For the last 10 years, the Lions have averaged an anemic 92.8 yards a game and only once did a player top 1,000 yards for the season, Reggie Bush in 2013 for 1,006 yards. I don’t know about you but I am pretty fed-up hearing the words the Lions need an “effective running game.” It’s a bunch of bull. The Lions need a rusher that will carry the ball 25-30 yards per game and get you 110 to 125 yards per game. That leads to better time management and keeps the opposing offense off the field. It may be boring but it does lead to wins despite the fact the NFL has become a pass-happy league. And that requires a big running back, one that can make up for any deficiencies in the offense line yet capitalize when blocking is done correctly. Not a big play back, Lions have that in Ameer Abdullah and Theo Riddick. But a big back that will wear down a defense and allow Abdullah and Riddick to hit big gains when they do come in for a change of pace. And since a big back will force the linebackers to come up, that opens up the passing game and all of a sudden, the Lions dominate on time of possession.  It will also give the Lions a bigger threat in the red zone. Don’t know about you…I like Matt Prater and all but I’d like to see games where he just kicks extra points instead of field goals.

There are 4 running backs in the 2017 draft that I think would be a great fit in the Lions running game. In most cases, any one of these running backs will make Ameer Abdullah expendable.

  • Leonard Fournette, LSU. At 6-1 and 230 lbs. and a 40 time of 4.5, Fournette might not be available to the Lions as he is projected as a top-10 pick. But I list him in case GM Quinn can do some magic to move up in the draft to get him. He has been compared to Adrian Peterson. In his 2016 season, he gained 1,953 yards with an average of 6.5 yards per carry. He is a powerful downhill runner that can run through tackles and can break off big gainers.
  • D’Onta Foreman, Texas. 6-1, 249 lbs. Ran for 2,028 yards for an average of 6.3 yards per carry for Texas in 2016. He isn’t much of a receiver but that’s not what the Lions need since Theo Riddick fills that spot nicely. Foreman is a load who can run over the opposition and bring a bit of attitude and toughness the Lions so desperately need.
  • Samaje Perine, Oklahoma. 5-11, 237 lbs. Perine reminds me a lot of Marshawn Lynch in that he will just not be tackled. Again, toughness and attitude the Lions need and Perine would definitely get Green Bay’s attention. His position in the draft has dropped due to being banged up this season but Perine rushed for 735 yards with an average of 5.2 yards per carry in limited action. He is a decent receiver as well with 10 receptions for 106 yards. Love to see this guy in screen pass situations on first or second downs.
  • James Conner, Pittsburgh. 6-2, 250 lbs. Is listed as a possible 4-6 round pick due to a serious knee injury in 2015 and then being diagnosed with cancer. He was proclaimed cancer free in 2016 as well as coming back from a torn ACL. He responded with 1,092 yards with a 5.1 yard per carry and scored 16 TD’s. He also caught well out of the backfield with 21 passes for 302 yards and four scores. He is worth taking a chance on since he has the potential to become a 3 down back and be a major threat in the red zone with his running and receiving abilities.

3.  Lions need to upgrade the secondary. Granted, NFL rules will favor the receiver in most cases. However, there are 2 places that teams really can’t shortchange themselves: The offensive line and the secondary. Both are exposed if the talent isn’t there. I feel the Lions offensive line is good enough going into 2017 but the secondary has been exposed. The Lions need another good cover corner to compliment Slay and a safety in the league of an Earl Thomas to help cover the middle.

  • Jalen Ramsey, Florida State. 6-1, 209 lbs. I doubt the Lions will have a shot at this guy but I felt the need to list him just in case GM Quinn can maneuver to get him. He is projected as a top-5 pick so it is a longshot. Ramsey is comparable to Richard Sherman. However, it is felt that he would do better at safety than corner. Teams have high regard for Ramsey and they love him off the field which pretty much means you aren’t going to see his name for any off the field antics. With his great character and impressive skill set, a lot of teams want him on their roster.
  • Eli Apple, Ohio State. 6-0, 199 lbs. He has Number 1 corner potential in the NFL with his size, agility and speed. He does need coaching to stop grabbing receivers but that’s just a matter of technique. Possible he’ll be available late first round or early second.
  • Su’a Cravens USC. 6-1, 226 lbs. Cravens was moved to linebacker in 2016 but most experts feel that Cravens potential in the NFL reside in playing safety. I’d like to see him gain at least 10-15 lbs. to play in the NFL. He is physical, strong and quick and has shown to be a capable tackler. A good defensive coordinator would be wise to use him in a variety of ways. Could be that game changer on defense.

4.  Protect the den. It is one of the most important aspects of the game. Great teams know how to win at home. Winning 6-8 games at home and go .500 on the road gives you 10-6 to a 12-4 season and pretty much gives the Lions a playoff slot. Lion’s fans are more than willing to do their part and if the Lions get that big running back and beef up the secondary, Lions will be able to challenge the Green Bay Packers better for the division title.

There are other aspects that I’m sure need to be addressed. I, for one, am not sure that current head coach Jim Caldwell is the one to lead the team to the Super Bowl. But he is close with owner Martha Firestone Ford who really likes him. Caldwell has Jim Bob Cooter as his offensive coordinator and is a good one. He and Matthew Stafford are on the same page and in his first full season, got as much as he could out of Stafford. Defensive coordinator Teryl Austin is a good one as well. But he has been mentioned for several head coaching jobs and with 6 openings this year, he may be gone. Whoever comes up next needs to improve the coverage and mitigate the big plays the Lions seem to give up.

Detroit Lions Bob Quinn’s First NFL Draft as GM – Make Us Proud!

Show Us What Ya Got Bobby!
Show Us What Ya Got Bobby!

On April 28th, we Lions fans are going to see what new GM Bob Quinn is going to. Is he going to start this team on the road to consistent winning seasons and perhaps a trip to the Super Bowl within the next 3 years? Or will he flame out like so many other GM’s the Lions have had over the years.

I will say that last year, while disappointing, was perhaps one of the most interesting seasons that I could recall in a while. Not so much regarding the play on the field which started like crap but ended up with the Lions being in contention until late in the season. Not a place anyone expected them to be after a horrendous 1-8 start.

Martha Firestone Ford does not show the loyalty that her late husband, Bill Ford, Sr., did when it came to GM’s and coaches. She is loyal to them as long as they are winning…but she has a quick hook if results aren’t achieved as the firings of Mayhew and Lewand prove. I also believe that she was instrumental in part of the removal of Joe Lombardi as the offensive coordinator last year which gave Jim Bob Cooter a chance which he took great advantage of.

When Cooter took over the job on October 26th, Cooter had very little time to get his offense ready for the trip to London. I think the only thing he could do was try to survive the game. It had to be tough on the players to get used to a new offensive coordinator with only 4 days to prepare and make that long trip across the pond. And it showed in the game, a 45-10 loss to the Kansas City Chief in jolly old England.

The loss came on November 1st. Four days later, General Manager Martin Mayhew and President Tom Lewand were thanked for their services and show the door.

Both were left-overs from the scorched-earth tenure of THE most inexperienced GM that ever walked the face of the earth, otherwise known as the smarmy Matt Millen. But they made some significant contributions and after the epic 2008 0 – 16 record, Millen was fired (two years too late in my estimation), Mayhew engineered some decent trades and drafts to get the Lions into the playoffs four years later in 2011. Granted, they were overmatched in the Wild Card game against the Saints but they did improve each season since 2008. Yeah, I know, how can you not after losing every single game in 2008…and after achieving a 10-6 record in 2011, they reverted back to their losing ways in 2012 and flopped to a 4-12 season.

Enter Bob Quinn, then the New England Patriots director of pro scouting, hired by Ernie Accorsi, an excellent GM during his time with the New York Giants. The search was quick and the face-to-face interview that Accorsi had with Quinn gave light to the reasons why the Patriots just don’t win, they dominate year after year.

Accorsi spoke with Patriots head coach Bill Belichick (a former Detroit Lion receivers coach in 1977) and while the conversation they had hasn’t been made public, Accorsi respected Belichick’s opinion enough that he convinced the Lions to pull the trigger and hire Quinn.

And in yet another smart move, the Detroit Lions retained Accorsi as a special advisor which gives Quinn a very experienced person to speak with as this is Quinn’s first time as a General Manager.

In typical fashion, Quinn isn’t giving any hints on what his plans are for the upcoming draft April 28th – 30th. And so far in free agency, Quinn has made some significant moves, getting WR Marvin Jones from the Bengals after the retirement of Calvin Johnson.

He also shored up the secondary bringing in four defensive backs, CB Johnson Bademosi and Crezdon Butler as well as safeties Tavon Wilson and Rafael Bush. And perhaps the most intriguing signing was getting Buffalo Bills DT Stefan Charles on a one year contract.

Which brings us to the draft. What will Quinn do? Not sure but I suspect that it won’t be a typical, desperate Detroit Lion draft where they pin the hopes of success on one player. Quinn and the advice of Ernie Accorsi is going to be geared into building a team. A team that will have sustainability and if it just happens to follow how the New England Patriots do business, well cripes, I think all of us die-hard Lions fans can accept a 15 year run with an average of 11 wins a season, 13 trips to the playoffs, 6 Super Bowl appearances and 4 Super Bowl wins.

Granted, there is a lot of work to do…and to be honest, I don’t suspect we’ll see the Lions in the playoffs in 2016. However, the success the Lions had in the second half of 2015 is a decent foundation to build on. Jim Caldwell may not have the football acumen of a Bill Belichick but he does have 2 Super Bowl appearances, winning one of them.

I predict the draft will be a good one for the Lions. Bob Quinn and company are going to give the Ford Family and the City of Detroit something to be proud of for a long time.

Detroit Lions – Green Bay Loss Hurt But Need To Stay Hungry

Stay Hungry

I, like many Lions fans, was sure the game was won Thursday night.  We outplayed them for 60 minutes and we had them.  But a small yellow flag gave the Packers another chance…and they took advantage of it.

I could be stoic and say it’s all part of the game.  But I can’t.  I am pissed that the game was basically decided on a referee’s decision.  Packer fans can say what they want but that was no face mask.

But shame on the Lions as well.  Granted, the Packers got the opportunity but where the hell was our defense?  Did no once consider the Packers would attempt a Hail Mary?  With no time left and only one shot, how the hell can you not expect it?

The Lions are pretty much out of the playoffs for this year.  I don’t know how anyone could have expected a team starting out 1-7 would have qualified but the Lions played well enough over the 3 games prior to this loss to give us a glimmer of hope.

And they played well enough Thursday night to make people think that it just might happen.  The Lions offense clicked well in the first half and the defense was lights out for the whole game.

We all know what happened.  The call the refs blew yet again and yet again it went against the Lions.

Facemask

Look, I am all for player safety.  But I also think that common sense needs to be instituted.   Devin Taylor’s thumb brushed Aaron Rodgers’ facemask…it wasn’t blatant and there was no harm done.

However, because Taylor brought Rodgers down by his shoulder pad, it looked like it was a facemask.  This play should have been reviewable…and if it had been, I am almost sure that New York would have reversed the call since the contact with the face mask was incidental.

All right, I’ve vented my frustrations and have accepted the condolences of my friends, none of whom can understand why I continue to root for this team.  I can only compare it to when people ask me what it’s like to ride a Harley Davidson.  If I have to explain it, you wouldn’t understand.  About the only thing the Lions can expect is yet another apology for blowing yet another call.

Now is the time to start looking forward.  The Lions, if they get the right GM in, are in a great position to improve themselves in specific areas, which I believe are the offensive and defensive lines…and in that order.

We have the quarterback in Matthew Stafford that I believe is finally showing the type of QB we all have been waiting for.  Of course for years I have been saying the Lions needed to get him an offensive line to give him time to display those talents.  And while the line has been better the last 4 games, depth is needed to make it even more successful.

It is possible the Lions will have as many as 11 picks in the 2016 draft.  Let’s call it a departing gift from Martin Mayhew.  While losing Ndamukong Suh, Nick Fairly, Corey Hilliard, Kellen Davis and Jed Collins to free agency without signing any unrestricted free agents, the Lions will be rewarded with at least 3 compensatory picks in addition to the eight draft picks the Lions currently have.

That gives them a ton of options and I think for the Lions to move to the next level, they are going to need depth on the offensive and defensive lines.  And they need to seek players that will compete with the current starters and push them to excellence.

And this next observation is critical:  Those players that cannot accept competing for the jobs each week need to be shown the door.

It started with new leadership at the top when Martha Ford removed Martin Mayhew and Tom Lewand.  It continued when Jim Bob Cooter replaced Joe Lombardi as offensive coordinator.

And head coach Jim Caldwell, despite whatever success he may have for the rest of this year, has to know he is on the hot seat.  I’m willing to give him one more year since changes he has made have resulted in some success.  But now, after this loss, he has to prove his coaching chops and continue success by winning as many games as he can the rest of this year.

Draft position isn’t going to matter for 2016.  There are so many players out there that can be had in the later rounds and rookie free agency, the Lions can upgrade in many areas without breaking the bank.

So the mantra for the rest of this year is the Lions need to stay hungry for the rest of this year…and need to stay hungry from this day forward.

Go Lions!