Now What?

I lay out what’s next for the Lions.

On Saturday, November 28th, Matt Patricia was fired as Head Coach of the Detroit Lions, and Bob Quinn was fired as General Manager.

There’s plenty to say there, but not much of it would be stuff you haven’t heard before. In the end, 2018-2020 will be looked back at as an especially dark period of professional football in Detroit.

Patricia and Quinn are gone, which deserves to be celebrated. But the mess they left behind is still here, and will take multiple years to clean up. Lions owner Shelia Ford Hamp and team President Rod Wood, along with assistance from Chirs Spielman and others have begun a GM and Head Coach search, and who they hire will direct the future of the team.

I’m not here to tell you who they should hire, because honestly I have no clue. But here are some sobering observations. There could be as many as 8 openings for a GM and coach in the NFL come January, and the Lions’ candidate pool will likely not include hot NFL names like Eric Bieniemy, or college coaches like Matt Campbell and Lincoln Riley. The roster is a total teardown without many trade-worthy assets, and they don’t have a ton of draft capital. The opening in Houston with Deshaun Watson, and the likely openings with the Chargers with Justin Herbert, or the Jaguars and Jets with high draft picks will be more attractive. It’s worth noting that Matt Patricia was considered one of the top candidates in 2018, he had his pick between the Giants and the Lions, so just because you don’t get a ‘top candidate’ doesn’t mean you’re doomed.

With that said, there’s plenty of reasons to believe that Sheila Ford Hamp and Rod Wood don’t know how to make the right decision, and starting off with limited options makes things more difficult. Sheila only owns the team because she was born into it, not to mention she was also part of the decision to keep Quinn and Patricia going into 2020. Rod has been with the Ford family business a long time, then became Lions President in 2015. In his introductory press conference he said he was “not a football guy”, which is him freely admitting that he would have no idea how to pick a GM or a Head Coach. On top of that, with the Lions still having to pay Patricia and Quinn through 2022, I’m not sure Sheila would be willing to write a blank check to lure a top choice away from a better situation. Chris Spielman will likely be deciding who the next GM is based on what he hears from an x’s and o’s standpoint. Spielman is on the Lions Mount Rushmore and understands the pain of this fanbase. While he’s better than the Erinie Accorsi led search which gave us Bob Quinn, he’s also on record in 2019 with tweets supporting Bob Quinn and Matt Patricia, saying “but blowing it up is not the answer”.

So that’s that. Unless the organization goes completely senile and hires a Bill O’Brien, a Mike Pettine, or a Marvin Lewis, I won’t have much of an opinion on who they choose. What I will have opinions on is the decisions that the people who are hired make. So let’s fast forward to 2021, and the Lions have named their next GM and Head Coach. Now what?

Matthew Stafford

The first big decision the next men in charge of the Lions will have to make is what to do with Matthew Stafford. Stafford was the 1st overall pick by the Lions in the 2009 draft, and has been the Week 1 starter ever since. He owns practically all the Lions passing records, even interceptions, as he just passed Bobby Layne for that honor in Week 13. I suppose you really do die a hero, or live long enough to see yourself become the villain.

In my mind, the new leadership has three different routes they can take with #9.

Option #1: They decide to keep him as the franchise QB, and run the rebuild around him.

Some GMs, look no further than Chicago’s Ryan Pace, can be fired for never finding the right QB, despite building a solid roster everywhere else. Stafford is an immensely talented player who will be 33 at the start of next season, which means he could play in the NFL for 6-7 more years. The next GM may view Stafford as a QB capable of winning a Super Bowl, and that the past regimes simply haven’t done enough to build the right team around him.

This would still be a rebuild, and Stafford’s willingness to be part of it would absolutely figure into this scenario. But it’s possible the next GM and Coach would rather stick with a proven player rather than to jump into the pool of rookie QBs. Also consider that the Lions will not have a top selection in the 2021 draft, where it’s likely top options Trevor Lawrence and Justin Fields will go in the first two picks.

Staying with Stafford and not using the team’s already limited pick supply on a position where you already have a starter could seem like the most logical option, assuming Stafford’s willingness to be part of the process. The roster has plenty of holes elsewhere, and swinging and missing on a QB with a high pick will only make the rebuild more difficult.

Option #2: Keep Stafford, but draft his replacement.

In 2017 the Chiefs selected Patrick Mahomes with the 10th overall pick, and sat him behind established veteran Alex Smith for a whole season. The strategy has paid off big time, and whoever takes over in Detroit may want to follow the exact model.

As I mentioned above, the Lions will be unable to select from the top tier of QB prospects due to the fact they have five wins already. With three games left to play a lot can happen in the draft order, but more than likely they will be jockeying for position with other QB needy teams who aren’t putting on the tank shows happening with the Jets and Jaguars.

The Lions will be looking at more un-polished prospects such as Trey Lance, Zach Wilson, Kyle Trask, and others. If selected, they may not be ready to start Week 1. With an established starter they can learn from in place already, the pressure to immediately contribute many rookies face would be non-existent. Then in 2022, Stafford would be cut or traded and they would take over.

Again, this situation would require Stafford’s willingness to be a mentor. Alex Smith notoriously was more than gracious with Mahomes, but other QBs put in similar situations like Favre, Roethlisberger, or Eli Manning have been far less interested in playing the Mr. Miyagi role. However with 3 years still left on his deal, Stafford may not necessarily be given a choice if this is the direction the new leadership wishes to go.

Option #3 Trade Stafford this offseason.

The third option would be to cut ties with Stafford completely and make it a true tear-down rebuild. Trade rumors have been with Stafford for the past 2 off-seasons, but this is the first year in which it’s realistic, as there would not be a crippling dead-money cap hit if he was sent to another team.

I believe Stafford could reasonably net a 2nd round pick in this year’s draft. There are enough teams who will be in the market for a QB who would likely rather not go the rookie route. San Francisco, Denver, and Cleveland immediately come to mind, but others like the Patriots, Saints, Giants, and Washington could all be potential suitors.

Stafford is one of two players (I’ll get to Golladay next) on the roster that are real assets other teams would be interested in. If the next GM wants to do a total tear-down, he will have to build through the draft. The Lions don’t have extra picks, and with the draft being hard enough as it is, the next GM will want as many swings as possible to build a contender.

If some of the intrigue on the rookie QBs outside of Lawrence and Fields cools down, and there’s enough interest in Stafford, I don’t think it’s outside the realm of possibility for the Lions to get a late 1st round pick for him. Especially for teams like the Saints or Browns who will be in the playoffs, they may decide getting a quarterback who can get them over the top is more important than some position player they can get in the 20s.

This move would allow both sides to go their separate ways, which may be best as Dan Orlovsky hinted on Twitter.

As for me, I think it’s most likely Stafford is somewhere else in 2021. Stafford is a great quarterback, a great teammate, and a great face of the franchise. Yet, in over a decade, for all the numbers he has put up, you have 0 NFC North titles and 0 wins in 3 Wild Card playoff games. As some injuries and spotty play has piled up over the last three seasons, even by keeping him a season to mentor a rookie, you risk losing trade value if Stafford gets hurt or plays poorly in 2021.

To me, this thing needs a full reboot. Stafford has been the focus of two separate front office teams and three separate coaching staffs, and it hasn’t worked out. Stafford can get traded to a team who views him as the missing piece, and the Lions can get some solid draft value while they still can. While it’s hard to move on, I think it’s the best way to move forward.

Kenny Golladay

Whatever the decision is with Stafford, it will likely impact the fate of Kenny Golladay.

Golladay’s agent had been negotiating with Bob Quinn on an extension for the star receiver, however nothing ever came to fruition. It’s unclear how close to an agreement they got, but with Quinn gone now, all bets are off.

Golladay is one of the few bright spots on the roster, as well as one of Quinn’s best picks as GM. The wide receiver depth behind him is awful, which has shown itself as Golladay has been injured on and off this entire season. Put simply, it’s a different offense when he plays.

Where we had three options with Stafford, the new regime has four with Golladay. So as I slowly turn into Charlie looking for Pepe Silvia, let’s break it down.

Option #1: Let Golladay walk, get a 3rd round compensatory pick in 2022.

In the NFL, if you lose a player who signs a big money deal with another team, and you don’t make a big signing yourself in the same offseason, you receive a ‘compensatory’ selection in the next year’s draft.

As I don’t expect the Lions to be in the market for a high-priced free agent in March, and find it unlikely many players will want to come to Detroit, the Lions would reasonably be in line for a 3rd round pick in 2022 if they let Golladay leave.

I expect Golladay to get anywhere from $18-22 million a year when he signs his first big long-term deal, whenever that eventually happens. The next GM knows Golladay is a great player, and a #1 receiver, but there are reasons to hesitate on giving him big money. Golladay is 27, old for a guy getting his first real contract. He has also only played 16 games once in four years, and it’s looking more and more like he will only play 5 times in 2020. While he is talented, paying a wideout near $20 million a year while beginning a complete re-boot may not in the best interest of the team.

By letting Golladay go, you open up money for others in the future when the team is theoretically closer to contending, and add a day 2 pick for next year’s draft.

Option #2: Sign Golladay to a long-term contract.

As I said, Kenny Golladay is a great receiver who changes the offense when he is on the field. No matter who the QB is, rookie or Stafford, you still need weapons for them to throw to. With it being unlikely that Marvin Jones or Danny Amendola will be part of the future, you’re really looking at nothing in the receiver room if you let Golladay walk out the door.

While I do think the move with Stafford will have an impact on Golladay, the next GM may think that moving on from Stafford makes it even more important to keep Golladay in the fold. Part of the reason Justin Herbert and Joe Burrow have had successful rookie seasons is because they’re surrounded with talented skill position players. While Tua Tagovailoa has has had his moments, he hasn’t played as well and has considerably worse weapons around him.

Also look at Sam Darnold. Widely considered to be the most talented QB in the 2018 draft, his career has been torpedoed due to a dearth of talent surrounding him. By keeping Golladay, you ensure that if you do eventually start a young QB, he will have weapons to utilize on the outside.

Golladay is a #1 receiver right now, and while that comes at a price, the team will be worse without him, and there’s no guarantee future picks or signings will replace what he brings on Sundays.

Option #3: Franchise Tag Golladay.

The tag number for wide receivers in 2021 is going to be around $16 million. The new GM could simply kick the can down the road and tag Golladay, keeping him in the fold for the upcoming season, but not committing anything long-term considering some of the bloated contracts that already exist on the team.

The kicker to this would obviously be Golladay refusing to play without long-term guarantees, which he would be well within his right to. $16 million would likely be lower than the annual number he would like for a long-term deal. Golladay also continued to play into the final year of his rookie deal, which some players of Golladay’s level choose not to do anyways without a new contract.

If the next GM tagged Golladay, barring injury or a severe drop off in play, his price in the 2022 offseason would likely rise again. You could let him walk then, but then you also risk another injury or a drop in production, which would change the value you could get for a compensatory pick.

This option would be an easy fix for the new GM in the short-term, but one that could cost him in the future. However, with so many other roster decisions looming, taking the easy way out in 2021 could be the best way to move forward.

Option #4: Tag, then trade Golladay.

Since Golladay is on an expiring contract, the Lions can no longer trade him. Therefore, the only way to get picks for him in this year’s draft would be to franchise tag him, then trade him to a team before the draft.

This is the only way to get immediate compensation for losing Golladay, and the pick you get from a tag and trade could be used to add young receiver depth for this year. The money you saved from not signing him long-term or tagging him could also be used on a free agent receiver who costs far less.

This scenario would be a big risk though, as the team who traded for Golladay would then be signing him to a long-term contract. Golladay is a great receiver, but teams may not be willing to give up more than a day 3 pick knowing they have to sign him to a contract as well. Tagging him eliminates any opportunity to get a compensatory pick in 2022, and if no team wants to trade for him, then you franchise tagged a player you never wanted to keep in the first place.

Personally, I let Golladay walk, and collect my 3rd round pick for him in 2022. It’s tough letting good players walk out the door, but this move correlates with my belief that Detroit needs a full tear down.

Realistically, if you hit on a quarterback in the next two years, this team still wont be a contender for 4-5 years, if everything goes well. Golladay’s timeline doesn’t fit in that window to me, as he would be signing a contract for 4-5 years. As I said before, he’s a great player, and a number one receiver. But he is not on the level of a Devante Adams, Julio Jones, Tyreek Hill, or DeAndre Hopkins.

Instead of signing him, you get cheap free-agent placeholders, and draft young receivers that you hopefully can develop. It’s a risk, and there’s no telling who is on the other side, but this thing is going to take time. Golladay and Stafford are the only two players on the team who you can easily get assets for, so it’s best to take the draft pick and move on from a talented player who’s timeline unfortunately did not match up with the team’s.

The Rest of the Roster

Once you get past the looming decisions with Stafford and Golladay, the rest of the roster remains. As it stands now, to me there are 4 categories that players on this roster fit into.

Category #1

Players brought in by Quinn and Patricia who need to be gone in 2021.

Let’s start with the massacre, shall we? And for good measure, I’ll start on defense.

The first thing the next GM needs to do is load the off the ball linebacker room into a rocket ship and shoot them into the sun. Unfortunately Jamie Collins’s contract makes him immovable for now (I’ll get to that category in a moment), but Jarrad Davis, Jahlani Tavai, Christian Jones, and Reggie Ragland all need to go. Davis and Ragland are both free agents in 2021, and they can just walk out the door. Tavai and Jones will need to be released from their contracts, but the team will not incur massive cap hits by doing so. The forgotten man in all this is Jalen Reeves-Maybin, who has remained in Detroit due to his special teams play. He is a free agent in 2021, and the next GM can sign him to a low money deal for special teams value, or let him walk. Either choice is fine.

Now to the defensive line. Danny Shelton and Nick Williams should get cut to make room for other younger players, and Everson Griffen can walk out the door as a free agent in 2021. The next Lions GM has a decision to make with Romeo Okwara, the only effective Lions pass rusher this year. He is 25 and a free agent in 2021, I expect he will get contract offers somewhere in the range of $8-12 million per year. Signing him may not be the worst move, but I’d be inclined to just let him walk in the hopes of maybe even collecting a later compensatory pick. Keep in mind, if you let Golladay walk, and sign Okwara, you likely miss out on a compensatory 3rd round pick in 2022.

In the secondary, cutting Desmond Trufant is a must. It’ll trigger a cap hit of six million which isn’t great, but you simply need to have a full season with Amani Oruwariye and Jeff Okudah at corner to see what you have there. Will Harris is one of the worst picks of the Quinn era and should be cut immediately. Duron Harmon is a free agent in 2021 and he can be shown the door. Jayron Kearse is a free agent in 2021 and I like him a little just because of his size and physicality, I would not be against bringing him back on a cheap deal, but if he left it would not really matter.

Should the Detroit Lions keep playing Will Harris? - Pride Of Detroit
Will Harris once returned a fumble for a touchdown in the preseason against the Texans and I thought he might be good. Turns out he stinks.

On offense I’ll start at receiver. Marvin Jones has been a very solid Lion, but on an expiring contract at the age of 30 with slowly declining play, it’s time to move on. Danny Amendola should not be brought back, and obviously Mohammed Sanu should not be part of any long-term plans in Detroit. Jamal Agnew can stay or go if he wants to, I wouldn’t pay him over $1 million a year. He has speed and return game value, but that’s about it. So far he has failed to carve out a role on defense, and the wide receiver experiment has failed.

I don’t have too much to say about the O-Line in this category (trust me, I’ll get to Big V), other than that Oday Aboushi can stay or go as a free agent in 2021.

At tight end Jesse James should absolutely get cut, and Issac Nauta was already cut after Quinn left. At running back Adrian Peterson should be sent to go vulture carries from younger, more talented backs somewhere else. Kerryon has been a bust but he’s here through 2022 and with his pass protecting value there’s no real reason to cut him this year, but he is not part of the future.

At QB, much will depend on what happens with #9, but David Blough should probably call a realtor.

On to the next one.

Category #2

Will be in Detroit due to their contracts, but are not part of the future.

Unfortunately there will be remnants of the Quinntricia era in Detroit for years to come, as there are certain players who I wish the team could part ways with in 2021, but it would be too costly to do so.

The first of these players is Big V, brought in by Quinn to replace Graham Glasgow. He’s constantly hurt, can’t start over Oday Aboushi, and so out of shape that he missed significant time in the Jacksonville game because he needed oxygen. Unfortunately he’s under contract for 4 more seasons, and while he can be cut in year 3 or 4 of his deal, the next GM is stuck with him for now.

Lions place OL Hal Vaitai on IR, add WR Mohamad Sanu to 53-man roster
Vaitai is a 5 year 50 million dollar mistake.

Trey Flowers was always going to end up being overpaid as an end rusher due to his lack of sack production, but now it’s going to get real ugly. Quinn backloaded his deal, and for the next two years Flowers would carry a cap hit of $26 and $11 million if cut. In the final year of his contract, the cap hit would be $5 million, which isn’t as bad but still not great. While Flowers is a good player, and a good guy in the locker room, he’s nothing special. Unfortunately he will be overpaid in Detroit for at least the next two seasons.

Justin Coleman may get cut in the offseason, but that would carry a cap hit of $6 million. I just don’t see it happening after likely taking on Trufant’s cap hit, which is also $6 million. Coleman has been another disappointment, a Quinn signing that is paying elite money for the position for a middling player. The one caveat to this is that if the next defensive scheme brought in features more zone coverage, Coleman’s play could improve. He was brought in from a heavy zone scheme in Seattle, and Quinn seemingly tried to fit a square peg in a round hole by forcing him into Patricia’s man-heavy play calling. However even if he does improve, Coleman will be in his 30s once this team is a couple years into the new regime, and likely not part of the future.

As mentioned above, Jamie Collins will be on the roster again next year, as cutting him would incur a cap hit of $11 million. He’s not as bad as the other linebackers, but that’s not saying much. Collins is only on a three year deal and he can be cut for minimal losses in 2022, so he is on one of the least damaging Quinn contracts. Still, Collins is proof that keeping Quinn and Patricia in 2020 only made the hole for the next regime a deeper one to climb out of.

Category #3

Could be part of the future and will be evaluated by the new leadership for future contracts.

Starting on defense, Tracy Walker will have one more season to show he can be a starting safety in the NFL. I will give him the benefit of the doubt for now and say his up and down play was due to Patricia’s dumb scheme and idiotic safety rotation, but Walker needs to show some consistent playmaking ability in 2021 if he wants a good second contract in Detroit.

Amani Oruwariye has developed into a nice player for a 5th round pick, and I look forward to seeing a full season next year with him and Okudah starting. Oruwariye has shown some good playmaking ability and has great size and speed for a corner, but definitely has looked lost against top tier receivers. I put him in the same category as Walker, and would love to see what he can do on a defense that doesn’t only run man and can actually pressure the QB.

Detroit Lions News: Amani Oruwariye deserves a bigger piece of pie
I gave Oruwariye a 2nd round grade in 2019 and Quinn got him in the 5th, one of the few day 3 picks he hit on.

Da’Shawn Hand and Austin Bryant have flashed on the d-line but neither have flourished, mainly due to injury issues. If they can put together a full offseason and stay healthy in 2021, they have a chance to get signed to second contracts by the next GM, but I wouldn’t count on them going forward.

On offense, T.J. Hockenson is one of the league’s better tight ends. He isn’t worth the 8th overall pick, but it’s not his fault he was taken there. I’d like to see him become a better threat in the red zone and become a more effective blocker, but he likely will get his first Pro Bowl invite this year and is one of the few young players on the team that is a surefire starter going forward.

From a pure football standpoint, Frank Ragnow is probably the best player Quinn drafted. The guy is tough as nails, and is able to bottle up the stronger interior lineman in the NFC North like Akiem Hicks and Kenny Clark. Ragnow is controlled for the next three years on his rookie deal, and I would hope he is signed long term after that.

As for the rest of the offensive line, Joe Dahl and Tyrell Crosby are under contract next year and are good backups who have seen a lot of playing time due to injured starters. Despite all the injuries and mistakes by Bob Quinn, the o-line has played well given the circumstances, and I give a lot of credit to Hank Fraley the o-line coach for that. Whoever the next coach is, I would like to see Fraley stay on the staff if possible.

Not include in this list is the 2020 rookie class. With them under contract going forward, guys like Okudah, Penisini, Okwara, Swift, Jackson, Cephus, and Stenberg figure to be part of the future, but it’s difficult to judge them off of a season where they had no real offseason with COVID and got drafted by a GM played for a coach who got fired midseason. Swift has shown the most promise out of all them, guys like Okudah, Owkara, Jackson, and Stenberg becoming solid starters could speed up the rebuild process.

Category #4

Part of the future and already signed to long-term deals.

Taylor Decker.

That is the list.

Decker was Quinn’s first ever pick and he signed him to a long-term deal before the 2020 season started. Decker is a very solid left tackle and is having a career year this season. Having him on the blind-side for years to come is a huge help to the next GM, as left tackle is one of the 3 most important positions on a football team.

Will the Lions make Taylor Decker the NFL's highest paid left tackle?
Decker is the only player who is good locked up for the long term. With the receiver room in potential shambles next year, maybe he could split out wide a couple times too.

For now, this is what awaits the next GM and Head Coach of the Detroit Lions. Whoever it is will be the 7th GM and 18th Head Coach of the Super Bowl era. Will they break the mold and bring success to Detroit, or fall by the wayside along with all the others who have called the shots and roamed the sidelines in Honolulu Blue?

Forward down the field.

5 Outside-the-Box Hires for the Next GM of the Detroit Lions

Let’s face it, the 2020 Detroit Lions are one giant pile of mediocrity. And that’s being generous. The franchise as a whole is one of the worst organizations not just in the NFL, but in the realm of professional sports.

This franchise became the first team to ever have a 0-16 season. This franchise has never made it to a Super Bowl. This franchise has one less NFC North division title than the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. This franchise has one playoff win in the Super Bowl era. This franchise drafted Eric Ebron ahead of Aaron Donald.

At the end of the 2017-18 season, Bob Quinn famously said 9-7 wasn’t good enough, and lamented the team’s inability to win games against good opponents. He hired Matt Patricia to put the team over the hump, and instead the team slid back down to the bottom. During his time as GM, Quinn has been barely able to form a roster that can compete for a chance to make the playoffs, let alone win playoff games.

As I mentioned before, since 1968 the Detroit Lions have only won one playoff game. That 1991 team beat the Dallas Cowboys 38-6 in the Pontiac Silverdome. The next week the Lions traveled to play the Washington Redskins, who beat them 41-10.

Now in 2020, close to 30 years since their last playoff win, enough is enough. Bob Quinn and Matt Patricia will likely be fired after this season, and another re-build will begin in the Motor City. The status quo is no longer acceptable, and if this team is ever going to break from its miserable history, it’s going to take an outsider to do it. So here are my five outside-the-box hires to be the next GM of the Detroit Lions.

5. Condoleezza Rice

How the Condoleezza Rice story erupted, and how the Browns and others  reacted - cleveland.com

Condoleezza Rice is a life-long Browns fan, so she knows what bad football looks like. The Browns leaked that they were considering her for a head-coaching interview after they fired Hue Jackson, but got bullied out of it by the internet.

The Lions should pick up where the Browns left off. Hell, I’d let Rice go full Bill Belichick and be the Head Coach and GM, hiring people who have been in NFL buildings has gotten the Lions nothing since 1957.

Rice served on the College Football Playoff Selection committee from 2013-2016, so she has inside sources that will lead to scoops on which players would be good to draft, and which ones would be busts. From this experience, Rice also has a good understanding of which college teams have good players. No longer will the front office waste valuable draft capital on linebackers from Hawaii.

The Lions will also be able to defend the hire by saying anyone who disagreed with it is an alt-right misogynist. Seems like a win to me.

4. Kwame Kilpatrick

Kwame Kilpatrick's Legal Bill To Public Exceeds $813K – CBS Detroit

Word on the street is that disgraced former Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick is going to be released from prison 17 years early. Just in time to bring him in for an interview with the Detroit Lions.

I believe in second chances, and if his time in public office is any indication, Kilpatrick will go to any and all lengths to make the Lions a competitive football team. Under Kilpatrick’s leadership, no player would be off-limits, no matter the background. If he was in charge of personnel, we’d looking at a starting receiver group of Josh Gordon and Antonio Brown. Kilpatrick would also be able to use his experience as a lawyer to negotiate for the release of Titus Young and bring him back into the fold.

And at running back, maybe he could even bring in Adrian Peterson! Oh wait…

3. Theo “Gridiron” Spight

Gridiron Heroes -Detroit Lions Touchdown celebration song at Ford Field- -  YouTube

Gridiron is Detroit through and through. A blue-collar auto-worker for Chrysler for over 20 years, Gridiron knows the pulse of the city, and what it takes to be a Detroiter.

More importantly, he will bring in guys who he believes have what it takes to be a Detroit Lion. Gridiron has seen every home game since 2004 from field level, which would make him a fantastic scout and talent evaluator.

Gridiron also sings “Gridiron Heroes” with the same passion and energy on a touchdown in the 4th quarter when the Lions are down by 30 points as he does after a Matthew Stafford game winning drive. This leadership ability will prove valuable when he is taking this team out of the dark ages into the dynasty it always could be.

2. Detroit Don and Superfan

Well known Lions superfans kicked out of game

These men spend every non-COVID fall Sunday in Section 140, Row 5, and I wouldn’t ask them to watch the game from anywhere else after they became co-GM’s of the Detroit Lions.

Detroit Don and Superfan may be buckled off of 8 pre-game bud heavies, and they may not know the X’s and O’s as well as the next guy, but they know the fundamentals. They know that in the National Football League, you have to win in your division. I know no other people that hate the Packers, Vikings, and Bears more than these two. Most importantly, they know that when it’s third down, and you’re on defense, you stand and fricking cheer.

If the team still sucked with these two as co-General Managers, at least I would know that the front office cared about the team, and that the losses stung them as much as they sting me.

1. Me

Yeah I said it. I should be the next GM of the Detroit Lions. And frankly, it isn’t just because I know I could at least do better than Bob Quinn, it’s because I know I can hire the right team with me. As Drake said, it’s good to make it, better when your people make it with you.

I’m bringing in my Latrobe correspondent Leigh Murray as assistant GM, his keen eye for the QB position (see “Spin the Hog”) will bring a great signal-caller to the Motor City. I’m hiring Charles Brown as my Director of College Scouting, his time as a Michigan team manager will prove vital to bringing in the right guys to Allen Park. I will hire Tommy Murray as my west-coast area scout and send him to every Senior Bowl. I will hire John Dolan as my mid-west area scout as he will leverage his MSU and media contacts to give me the drop on all things Big 10. I will bring in J.P. Shady as my east-coast area scout covering all things ACC. His background as a jersey boy and former Giants fan will be vital to help us construct a Super Bowl roster as well as a pass-rush. Finally I will be bringing in Conor Ryan as my Independents/SEC scout and Director of Analytics. Ryan will employ the advanced “weights” analytics to NFL football, and no roster decision involving the trenches will be made without him and his rigorous math equation.

While I will not ask this of my hires, I will forgo any salary until the Lions win a playoff game under my direction. After that happens I expect to be paid handsomely.

Go Lions.

The Under-the-Radar Heartbreaking Lions Losses

Ease their pain - NBC SportsWorld

The Detroit football Lions, established in 1934, with one playoff win to their name in the Super Bowl era, are infamous for their heartbreaking losses.

Nationally, everybody knows about the Pete Morelli pass interference, the illegal bat in Seattle, Devin Taylor on Thursday Night Football against the Pack, the 10-second run off against Atlanta, and the hands-to-the-face at Lambeau. In more distant Lions history, people like my Dad and John Dolan’s father Mr. Dolan (@cgd1959 on twitter) have endured generations of Lions losses. Moments such as Marty Morningweg taking the wind in overtime against the Bears in November of ’02, or the Saints beating the Lions thanks to Tom Dempsey (rest in peace) nailing a NFL record 63-yard field goal at Tulane stadium in 1970 come to mind.

While these losses are all well known throughout the nation, I got to thinking about the more under-the-radar losses in Detroit Lions history. The types of losses the rest of America may not know about, but any Lions fan could tell you where they were, or what beer they were drinking while the boys in Honolulu Blue blew yet another game.

So without further ado, here are my top 10 under-the-radar Detroit Lions losses.

 

#10

Kevin Curtis and Brian Westbrook Annihilate the Lions’ Defense

Year: 2007 – Week: 3

Let me set the scene.

Coming into Week 3 of the 2007, the Detroit Lions were 2-0 coming off one of the most exciting wins in recent memory. They defeated the Vikings in overtime 20-17, snapping a 10 game losing streak against Minnesota. Jon Kitna suffered what was definitely a concussion in the 2nd quarter, but came back into the game for overtime to not only catch his own pass for a 9 yard gain, but set up a game winning field goal for Jason Hanson. Re-live those epic highlights here.

In the offseason, Kitna famously predicted that the Lions would win more than 10 games. Sitting at 2-0, the Viking slayer was considered more of an Oracle than quarterback in Detroit at the time. Week 3 against the Eagles is where the dreams of a 10+ wins season went to die.

Kevin Curtis, a relatively unknown wide receiver, proceeded to catch 3 touchdowns in the first half. Brian Westbrook also rushed for 2 touchdowns, both also in the first half. After 30 minutes of play, the score was Eagles 42, Lions 21.

Eagles Will Tame the Lions: NBC10 “Experts” – NBC10 Philadelphia
NFL nobody Kevin Curtis caught 11 balls for 221 yards and 3 touchdowns in the Eagles’ hideous throwback uniforms against the Lions in 2007.

The Eagles practically gave up in the second half, only scoring two more touchdowns. Coincidentally, the Lions also gave up and scored 0 points in the second half.

Final score: Eagles 56, Lions 21.

While this game may not qualify as a ‘heartbreaker’ but as more of a thrashing, it still put any Lions fan’s dreams of a successful season in check. Jon Kitna simply was not a starting caliber NFL QB, and the defense was terrible. The Lions would actually rebound nicely from this loss, getting to 6-2 at the halfway mark of the season. Unfortunately the team went 1-7 in the last 8 games, just the beginning of a 1-25 stretch that would go from Week 10 of 2007 to Week 2 of 2009.

See the lowlights of Lions @ Eagles here.

#9

The Rams go 1-15 in 2009, the Lone Victory Coming Against the Lions

Year: 2009 – Week 9

Fun fact #1, I was at this game. Fun fact #2, this game was blacked out locally.

Perhaps the cruelest irony of the 2008 Lions 0-16 season is that they themselves blew the opportunity to not be alone in futility by being the only team to lose to the St. Louis Rams in 2009.

This game featured incredible moments of ineptitude for both teams. In the second quarter, Rams safety James Butler intercepted rookie Matthew Stafford in the end zone, then ran out of the end zone, only to run back into the end zone to be tackled by Lions running back Kevin Smith for a safety. Right before halftime, the Lions ran a Hail Mary play and Stafford threw it into the crowd.

Billy Bajema, Daniel Fells, Josh Brown, Donnie Jones - Billy ...
Daniel Fells and Josh Brown celebrate their fake field goal touchdown.

The defining moment of this game was when the Rams ran a fake field and scored a touchdown in the second half. The game was tied 10-10 in the 4th quarter, but Steven Jackson ran for a 25 yard touchdown with 1:39 left in the game to give the Rams the victory. Stafford finished 14 for 33 passing with no touchdowns and one pick.

The Lions went 2-14 in 2009.

See the lowlights of Rams vs. Lions here.

#8

Sam’s First Shank

Year: 2013 – Week: 7

When it comes to the 2013 season, it’s pick your poison when it comes to heartbreaking losses. In fact, this is the first of three games from the 2013 season on this list.

The Bengals went up 21-10 early in the 3rd quarter, and A.J. Green had gotten the better of Calvin Johnson through the game so far.

Yet, Stafford and Calvin the comeback kids got to work in the second half. Calvin caught a touchdown in the third quarter, then made what is perhaps his best catch in his career, leaping over 3 Bengals on an impromptu Hail Mary with 12 minutes to go in the 4th quarter to tie the game 24-24.

Three takeaways from Lions' loss to Bengals - Pride Of Detroit
The play of Calvin’s career would later be overshadowed by a punter.

This is where the fun begins.

With :35 seconds to go with the game still tied, the Lions have to punt from their own 23. Out trots rookie Sam Martin, who the Lions drafted in the 5th (!!!) round from Appalachian State.

Martin takes a seed snap from Don Muhlbach, punts the ball a booming 80 yards, and the kick is muffed by the Bengals! Jason Hanson comes out and nails the game winning field goal! The Lions win!

Just kidding. Martin shanked it 28 yards and the Bengals took over from mid-field. The Bengals get in range, and Ted Nugent bangs it through from 54. Lions lose, 27-24. Little did us Lions fans know that the shank was cruel foreshadowing for what would take place just a play after the phantom pass interference in the Wild Card game against Dallas in 2014.

See the lowlights of Bengals vs. Lions here.

 

#7

Jim Caldwell Hammers in the First Nail of His Coffin

Year: 2017 – Week: 8

You can mark Sunday Night Football against the Pittsburgh Steelers as the first nail in Jim Caldwell’s coffin as head coach of the Detroit Lions.

Let’s just fast-forward to the 3rd quarter, because that’s where it all begins.

The Lions are down 13-12, and have settled for field goals in the red zone twice so far in the game. While he should have taken an easy chip shot to take the lead, the usually conservative Caldwell decides to go for it on 4th & goal from the 1 yard line. The play fails miserably and Stafford gets sacked by Tyson Alualu, and the Steelers take over from their own 2 yard line.

All of a sudden it’s 3rd & 9. It sucked that the Lions got stopped on 4th & Goal, but at least they can get a stop here and get good field position for their next possession, right?

Wrong.

Ben Roethlisberger hits his rookie wideout JuJu Smith-Schuster streaking over the middle for a 98-yard catch and run touchdown. The Steelers grab the lead back 20-12, but Stafford and the Lions offense were unfazed.

JuJu Smith-Schuster sparks memories of Franco Harris. Here's how ...
Smith-Schuster puts a lock on his bike at Ford Field.

They drive right back down the field, and with 12 minutes to go in the 4th quarter it’s 3rd & Goal from the 2 yard line. The handoff goes to Dwayne Washington, but he is stuffed at the one. With the Lions down 8 with only 12 minutes to go, Caldwell will surely go for it, as adding a field goal would still require another touchdown to win the game, right?

Wrong.

Caldwell elects to kick, and Prater drills it to make the score 20-15. And that was the final score of the game.

Sure, this may be revisionist history leaving out that Golden Tate Kris Durham’d (more on that in a moment) the ball on a play that would have put the Lions inside the 25 with 9 minutes to go. Yeah, I’m also leaving out that Marvin Jones let the go-ahead-touchdown pass hit him in the face with just under three minutes to go. The fact of the matter is, this one will always be remembered as the game that Caldwell went for it when he should have kicked, and kicked when he should have went for it.

See the lowlights of Steelers vs. Lions here.

 

#6

The Legend of Tiquan Underwood and the Phantom Fumble

Year: 2013 – Week: 12

Phantoms are a looming presence in Detroit Lions history. There’s the phantom of Bobby Layne, the phantom pass interference in Dallas, the phantom face mask on Aaron Rodgers, and the phantom hands-to-the-face in Lambeau just last year. There is one often forgotten phantom however, and that’s the Kris Durham phantom fumble of 2013. But I will get to that later.

This tale begins with Taiquan Underwood, who in this game had 3 receptions for 108 yards and 2 touchdowns. For his entire season in 2013, Underwood totaled 440 yards and 4 touchdowns, meaning that 25% of his yards and 50% of his touchdowns game in just one game.

When you really look closely though, 16% of Underwood’s touchdowns and 19% of his yards for the season came on just one play, an 85-yard touchdown strike from Mike Glennon to put the Bucs up 24-21 early on in the 4th quarter. If Underwood played the Lions for 16 weeks, he’d be in Canton.

But a different irrelevant NFL receiver stole the show at Ford Field that Sunday, and for all the wrong reasons.

No one really knows where Kris Durham came from, he just sort of appeared. But in 2013, he became one of the many random receivers that the Lions tried to develop into a solid second option in hopes that the opposing defense would stop literally put everyone on Calvin Johnson. The “Kris Durham and Matthew Stafford were roommates in college” line was dropped every week by play-by-play guys, a sort of ugly step-sister to “Matthew Stafford is friends with Clayton Kershaw”.

And for a minute there, Lions fans embraced Durham. He caught a Stafford frozen rope to put the Lions in Dallas territory in the famous QB sneak game, and many of us wondered if he and Stafford had some sort of magical connection from their time together at Georgia.

Well, with 5:38 to go in the 4th quarter against Tampa Bay at Ford Field, Kris Durham officially ran out his welcome in Detroit.

Despite 3 Stafford picks, one of them a pick-six, the Lions still found themselves in the game down 3 facing a 3rd & 11 from their own 35. Stafford drops back, throws the open deep out route to Kris Durham who catches it for the first down and more.

But as Durham turns upfield, something inexplicable happens. He loses the football.

Kelcie Mccray Stock Photos & Kelcie Mccray Stock Images - Alamy
Sorry it’s a stock photo, but it’s the best I could find. Let me know if there’s a better one.

No Buccaneer hit him, no gust of wind came from the rafters. He just threw the ball into the field of play, which was then picked up by Tampa’s Kelsey McCray. The Lions phantom strikes again.

Even more unbelievably, Ryan Lindell missed another field goal and despite the now 4 turnovers the Lions are driving again. With just under a minute to go Stafford lofted it up for Calvin Johnson, but it goes out of his hands and into the waiting arms of Jonathan Banks for the interception, who coincidentally the Lions would trade a conditional 7th round pick for in 2018. Lions lose, 24-21.

Watch the lowlights of Buccaneers vs. Lions here.

 

#5

Completing the Process

Year: 2010 Week: 1

Some may argue that this game doesn’t qualify as under-the-radar as the completing the process rule was referred nationally as the “Calvin Johnson Rule”. Others may argue that it belongs at #1 on this list. So I put it at #5. If you feel like complaining about it, pay $99 a year for a WordPress domain and make your own list.

When looking back, this is the one that started it all. All of the other ref jobs wouldn’t be the same without this one.

Matthew Stafford was sacked by Julius Peppers and injured right before halftime. He would not return to the game, and the Shaun Hill era began. As the second half started, the Lions led 14-13.

The Hill-led attack had not mustered up any points, but the Lions defense remained strong as well. Neither team had scored in the second half, but with 3 minutes left in the game the Bears offense began to move. With 1:32 to go, Cutler found Matt Forte for the score but the Bears 2 point conversion attempt failed, putting the Lions down 5 instead of 7.

All of a sudden, the Lions have life, and they’re at the 25 with :30 seconds left. Hill airs it out to Calvin Johnson who appears to make the catch, and the Lions begin to celebrate. There’s just one problem, the referees call it incomplete on the field.

Calvin caught the ball with both hands, moves the ball to his right hand while falling to the ground, uses the football to get back onto his feet and loses it in the process. While in literally every bar and backyard on earth this is a catch, it simply was not good enough for the Zebras. The Lions lose two plays later, and Detroit vs. Everybody is born.

Watch the lowlights of Lions @ Bears here.

Referee Gene Steratore: Calvin Johnson didn't maintain possession ...
Not a catch.

 

#4

The Rookie QB Curse Begins

Year: 2012 – Week 13

Fun fact, I was at this game.

For some reason, the Lions just can’t beat rookie quarterbacks, as would eventually be evident with Sam Darnold, and Kyler Murray. This however was the beginning.

After a 2011 season which featured the first Lions playoff appearance since 1999, it was expected that they would build on that success. However the 2012 season did not go to plan and in Week 13 the Lions found themselves at 4-7 coming off a devastating loss to the Texans on Thanksgiving. If they were going to save the season, it had to start now, and for a second there things looked promising.

With just over six minutes to go in the game, the Lions led 33-21 and rookie QB Andrew Luck just threw his third interception of the game to Don Carey. The Lions eventually punted, but with just over three minutes left in the game and up 12 points, the Lions should have this one wrapped up right?

Wrong.

Luck hits fellow rookie LaVon Brazil in the end zone just before the two minute warning, making it 33-28 Lions. The Colts elect not to go for the onside kick and the Lions take over at their own 20. On 1st & 10 the Lions run the ball, and the Colts burn one of their two remaining timeouts. On 2nd & 9, the Lions take a risk and throw to Calvin Johnson down the field and get a pass interference penalty. The Lions are then able to run the clock down to 1:14 left, and are punting from mid-field. They should just be able to pin the rookie QB deep, and with no timeouts left there’s no way he can lead them all the way to score a touchdown right?

Wrong. (Are you sensing a theme here?)

Colts vs. Lions: Calvin Johnson Makes an Incredible One-Handed ...
Why does Calvin Johnson make all his best catches in the games the Lions blow?

Nick Harris puts up a brutal punt that flies out of bounds at the Colts own 25. With only 1:07 left and no timeouts, Andrew Luck marches his team down to the 14 yard line. 1st, 2nd, and 3rd down are all incomplete, leaving just :04 seconds on the clock for 4th & 10 from the Lions 14.

Every Lions defender backs up to the goal line, and that leaves Donnie Avery flying across the middle of the field with no one guarding him. Luck flips it to him and Avery bolts into the end zone from the 10 yard line and the Lions fall to 4-8. I still remember watching Cliff Avril walk off the field and throw his helmet to the ground. On the walk back to the car, my Dad said that he would never pay for Lions tickets again until they won a playoff game. He has kept his word, and so have the Lions. The only game we have been at together since was the Ed Dickson Panthers game in 2016 when a family friend gave us tickets. Maybe we should stay away from Ford Field.

Watch the lowlights of Colts vs. Lions here.

 

#3

Jim Schwartz is Carried Off the Field

Year: 2014 – Week: 5

When it comes to best Lions seasons, 2014 is probably the winner despite its heartbreaking end. Finishing with an 11-5 record in Jim Caldwell’s first season as head coach far exceeded expectations, and the Lions defended the den, going 7-1 at home.

That 1 loss at home is a painful one, and the story of this game actually begins during the 2014 draft, when the Lions selected place kicker Nate Freese from Boston College in the 7th round of the draft.

Nate Freese sucked.

He only lasted three games in Detroit, going 3/7 for his field goals and a brutal 0/4 between 40-49 yards. In week 4 there was a new kicker in town, Alex Henery. Against the Jets he went 1/2 but the one he made was from 50+ yards. With the Lions winning that game 24-17 he earned himself another week on the team. The next game would not go as well.

Week 5 was Jim Schwartz’s return to Ford Field, this time as a defensive coordinator for the Buffalo Bills. Despite claiming all week that a return to Ford Field was not a big deal, anyone in Detroit who watched him boo-ya fist pump after victories or almost fight Jim Harbaugh knew that this one was going to be personal for him.

The Bills defense played well, and the Lions only scored 7 points on offense, the other 7 coming by way of a Rashean Mathis pick-six. This game only truly gained its fame for the Alex Henery choke job that went down in the second half.

The Lions’ defense had been suffocating all day, and the score at half was Lions 14, Bills 3. Alex Henery botched two field goal attempts in the first two drives of the third quarter, the first from 44 and the second from 47.

The Bills clawed their way back in behind the Kyle Orton led offense, eventually tying the game at 14. The Bills and Lions seemed destined for overtime, but with 1 minute to go Golden Tate took a simple in route and turned it into a 55 yard gain, setting up Alex Henery for a shot at redemption from 50 yards.

That field goal attempt was perhaps the ugliest kick I have ever seen.

From the moment the ball went off Henery’s foot it was spinning sideways. The ball flew to the left and even missed the net, landing somewhere off  by the brick wall of Ford Field.

This blown kick set the Bills up in good field position for their own chance to win the game. They moved the ball up the field thanks to a Sammy Watkins reception and Dan Carpenter came out and drilled it from 58 yards. Lions lose, Schwartz is carried off the field like Buddy Ryan.

Super Bowl Matchup Watch: Schwartz plays coverage – The Buffalo News
“Nothing personal.”

Some Lions fans could view this game as a blessing in disguise as Matt Prater was signed the week after. It still doesn’t get rid of the sting for me, especially considering if they had won that game they could have ended up 12-4, and hosting a playoff game.

Watch the lowlights of Bills vs. Lions here.

 

#2

The Raiola Hard Count

Year: 2013 – Week: 3

The misfortunes of the Lions 2012 season started in an improbable week 3 battle in Tennessee, Schwartz’s first return to Nashville since being the defensive coordinator there before taking the gig in Detroit.

With just under 7 minutes to go in the 4th quarter, the Lions finally take the lead after Stafford puts a sidearm bullet right in the hands of Nate Burleson for the touchdown. They then go right back to Burleson on the 2 point conversion to make the score 27-20. And that’s where this game starts to go bananas.

On the ensuing kickoff, the Lions give up a 105-yard kickoff return touchdown to Darius Reynaud, game now tied 27-27. The Lions then punt on their next possession, giving Jake Locker the ball with a little over three minutes to go in the game.

He lofts the ball up to Nate Washington, who catches the ball off of Eric Wright’s back, for a 71-yard catch and run touchdown. Stafford and the Lions offense remained calm now down 7, and began to march down the field and into Titans territory with their next possession.

On 2nd & 10 with 1:30 to go on the Tennessee 35, Stafford drops back and dumps it off underneath to Brandon Pettigrew. Pettigrew turns to run up field, but runs into Titans corner Alterraun Vernor, who strips the ball from him and runs it 71 yards into the end zone. On the play, Matthew Stafford looks gimpy running, and would not return to the game. Titans lead 41-27.

In the life of a Lions fan about five times a season when the Lions are down big late, you think to yourself, “OK, all we need is a touchdown, an onside kick recovery, a hail mary touchdown, and we’re right back in this thing!”. It’s a sort of Honolulu Blue delusion, and it never, ever comes close to happening.

Except this time it did.

Shaun Hill enters the game and leads the Lions on a 80 yard, :58 second touchdown drive. Titans 41, Lions 34.

Jason Hanson trots onto the field in a now half empty stadium since the Titans fans all thought the game was over, and gets a perfect bounce on the onside kick. The ball pops in the air and lands in the arms of Lions safety Amari Spievey.

On comes Shaun Hill, who launches the ball like a beautiful rainbow to the end zone and it is deflected by Titans linebacker Akeem Ayers. Ayers on the previous drive negated what would have been a game winning interception by roughing the passer, but now with his deflection he has made up for it.

Wrong,

The deflection lands into the arms of Titus Young who leaps into the end zone. The game is now miraculously tied at 41, and we’re heading to overtime folks.

Detroit Lions: Remember the time Titus Young caught a Hail Mary?
Titus Young hauls in the Hill rainbow.

Jake Locker leads the Titans into the red zone but the Lions defense makes a stand, and they’re forced to kick a field goal. The Lions come answering back with a drive into the red zone of their own, but are now faced with a 4th and 1 from the Tennessee 8 yard line.

The plan was to hard count the Titans and try to get them to jump offsides. If they didn’t bite, then the Lions would call timeout to bring on Jason Hanson to extend the overtime period. This plan was relayed to seemingly everyone on the offense, except for Dominic Raiola.

Shaun Hill runs up to the line and puts on a hard count so good that it fooled his own center. Raiola snapped the ball and no one on the Lions moves except him, and Hill flails forward attempting to gain just a yard. The attempt while valiant is unsuccessful, and the Lions lose 44-41 in a game they should never have even been in anyways.

Watch the lowlights of Lions @ Titans here.

 

#1

Eagles Snow Bowl

Year: 2013 – Week: 14

This list begins and ends at Lincoln Financial Field against the Eagles. In a game more notable for the insane snowfall, and image of Calvin Johnson’s helmet looking like a snowman head, it’s forgotten that this game was a heartbreaking loss for the Lions, and a catalyst for the meltdown that would take place in the weeks following.

The Lions were 7-5 after a huge Thanksgiving day win against the Matt Flynn Packers. The Lions now controlled their own destiny in a NFC North with the struggling Bears and Vikings, and a Rodger-less Pack.

The Eagles and Lions both struggled in the first half, Lions running back Joique Bell fumbled twice, and the Eagles only gained 82 yards of offense. Thanks to a Nick Foles pick the Lions had good field possession for a drive and were able to punch in a touchdown and 2-point conversion. At halftime the score was Lions 8, Eagles 0.

WK 14 Can't-Miss Play: Calvin Johnson's face full of snow - NFL Videos
Where’s Calvin?

In the 3rd quarter, the Jeremy Ross show began. The Eagles punted, and Ross returned it 58 yards for the touchdown. The conversion failed (a fade route to Joe Fauria), and the Lions led 14-0.

On the ensuing possession, the Eagles found some juice. Foles hit a big play to Riley Cooper, then a touchdown to DeSean Jackson. The two point conversion fails, 14-6 Lions.

The Eagles got the ball back, and this is when LeSean McCoy took over the game. He gashed the Lions for a 40 yard touchdown scamper at the beginning of the 4th quarter, then the Eagles converted for 2 points, tying the game at 14.

Jeremy Ross answered right back, and on the ensuing kickoff (the Eagles kicker was Alex Henery, by the way) returned another kick for a touchdown. The Lions tried going for two but there was a false start penalty, then had their extra point attempt blocked. 20-14 Lions.

Back came LeSean McCoy, and this was the beginning of the end for the Lions. McCoy gashed the defense for a 57-yard touchdown run, turning Louis Delmas into a snow angel in the process. The Eagles got the two point conversion and led 22-20.

On the next Eagles possession, they scored again, and now led 28-20. The Lions made a last attempt at a drive and got well into Eagles territory when Domonic Raiola struck again, snapping the ball when Stafford wasn’t ready for it. Stafford foolishly attempted to pick the ball up, failed to do so, and the Eagles pounced on it and never looked back.

In the end, the Lions defense surrendered 396 yards in the second half despite the conditions. While this game was more of a slow burn loss than a heartbreaker, it started the free fall for the next two losses that would knock the Lions out of the playoffs with Justin Tucker’s 61 yard field goal, then Stafford’s pick against the Giants. The Lions missed the playoffs, Schwartz was fired, and the Caldwell era began. All because they just simply couldn’t tackle LeSean McCoy.

Watch the lowlights of Lions @ Eagles here.

DT at 3? It’s More Likely Than You Think.

Look at any mock draft, and at #3 selected to the Detroit Lions will likely be Jeff Okudah, cornerback from Ohio State.

The pick, in the eyes of a mainstream media member, makes too much sense. With the Lions trading away Darius Slay to the Philadelphia Eagles, there is now a hole at corner in the defense. Simply draft, plug, and play Okudah. Problem solved.

However, a Lions fan has to take a look at the secondary and wonder if it really is the top need for this team. With the signing of Desmond Trufant from the Atlanta Falcons, the Lions get a veteran starter who has a chance to revive his career in the Motor City. In Atlanta, Trufant was utterly mis-used by Dan Quinn’s zone heavy scheme, and I believe in a man-oriented attack Trufant will have more success.

Falcons-Rams inactives: Desmond Trufant officially out
Trufant at Ford Field in 2017.

Justin Coleman will return as the slot corner in 2020, and Tracy Walker will be returning at free safety. These are two players who had their fair share of ups and downs in 2019, but ultimately would be starters on most teams in the NFL.

Duron Harmon was added in a trade with the Patriots for the pick Detroit acquired in the trade for Quandre Diggs, and I would expect him to take the starting strong safety spot in 2020. Will Harris the rookie who struggled replacing Diggs is still there to be developed.

That just leaves the other starting corner position, to which I will re-introduce you to Amani Oruwariye. Oruwariye was a 5th round pick in the 2019 draft who played sparingly but admirably, even notching an interception in his rookie campaign.

Sorry Darius Slay, Amani Oruwariye has been the Detroit Lions best ...
While many think the Lions will take Jeff Okudah at #3, I think the Lions may already believe they have Darius Slay’s replacement on the roster with Amani Oruwariye.

It’s plausible that Oruwariye was drafted as a project to replace Slay as the Lions’ front office likely knew #23 wouldn’t be on the team after 2019. If that is the case and Quinn & Patricia believe Oruwariye can start in 2020, I think they will look to draft a defensive tackle at third overall, or at whatever slot they may trade back to.

In my eyes, defensive tackle is the weakest position group on the team. In the matter of one year, the Lions went from having Snacks Harrison, A’Shawn Robinson, and Mike Daniels on the interior to Danny Shelton, Nick Williams, and whoever else falls in line behind them. Both Shelton and Williams are rosterable in the NFL, but far from desirable starters. I am also hopeful Da’Shawn Hand can play at the 3T spot but he has had injury issues in both 2018 and 2019 so he is no sure bet to be on the field.

This is why I think Derrick Brown is definitely in play for the Lions at #3 overall. While it is on record that I believe Javon Kinlaw has a higher ceiling than Brown, Brown fits exactly what Patricia wants in a DT. A two-gapping read and react stud who can go into attack mode and collapse the pocket when asked to.

2020 NFL Draft: Why poor combine is concerning for Derrick Brown ...
If Matt Patricia could build his perfect DT in a lab it would look a lot like Derrick Brown.

Also, I don’t think Okudah is this complete product he gets billed as by many in the draft community. Yes, he plays best in man coverage which the Lions primarily use. However, zone concepts still have to be utilized, and from my study Okudah has problems correctly playing his assignment in zone. His 40 time is average for a corner at 4.48, a full second behind his 4.3 Buckeye burner counterparts Denzel Ward and Marshon Lattimore who have gone high in drafts previously.

I believe Quinn would love to trade back inside the top 10 for a team who wants to come up for a QB, but the demand may not be there if some remaining free agent QB dominoes fall certain ways. While the mainstream force feeds you Okudah, I’m telling you to be prepared for the Lions taking a DT at 3.

For the record, I wouldn’t be mad if they did.