No preamble with a faux Christmas carol. Yesterday was four difficult truths about being a Lion’s fan, so I have to balance it today. I mean, I also gave you tasty snacks to counter the bitterness of my cynicism, but today’s installment of draftmas is a more appealing dish. This is a great time to be a Lions fan. Is that statement relative to other times where being a Lions fan is about as pleasant as a Vietnamese prison camp in a Chuck Norris movie? Yes, it absolutely is. That is missing the point though. If you can’t bask in the glow of a new regime taking over the team, it might be psychologically beneficial for you to find other outlets for your free time. I hear painting can be therapeutic. Why dwell on something you clearly don’t actually like when you could be expending that effort on self-improvement. You could be going somewhere like EdX and becoming a better person with a presumably more fulfilling life, laughing at those days when you miserably threw feces at walls like a deranged french noble in solitary confinement for far too long
It’s easy to be a Same-Old-Lions fundamentalist. The truth is that as much time and effort as every professional working for any team puts into preparing a roster, coaching that roster, or examining other rosters, most of the available talent is either not good enough, or doesn’t have the right mental makeup to succeed in the NFL. Most teams are going to fail. If you bet against a rebuild, you’re almost always going to win that bet. Everybody in the NFL gets fired. How many Superbowls has Bill Belichick won? If the Patriots win fewer than 9 games this season, the undisputed greatest coach in NFL history will likely end his career with a forced retirement. And if that happens, the soundtrack will be a bunch of morons chanting “it was all Brady” as Bill gives NFL fans one last metaphorical middle finger on his way out.
If you can’t find optimism in the first year of a new rebuild, stop reading this. Nothing I have to say is going to fix the broken part of you that can no longer find joy. You are actually hurting yourself in the worst possible way by dwelling on the Detroit Lions, on something you have invested enough time with that you’ve lost the ability to distinguish love and hate for. You’ve got a sunk cost of time and emotion spent here, and like a fisherman with a snagged line, you need to cut bait and move on before more of whatever capacity for love and warmth you have left sinks forever.
Still with me? Great. because as I stated at the top, this is the best time to be a Detroit Lions fan. Here are the five reasons why they are not organized into a clickbait slide show.
There are No Wrong Positions to Draft
The Detroit Lions need everything. There is not a single great player on this roster… Not a single one. If the Lions draft a quarterback, they’re replacing a player who peaked early and has been on the downslope with a higher upside option. If they draft an offensive lineman, and they almost assuredly will take one early, the truth is that they do not have a long-term right guard or tackle, and the Kansas City Chiefs proved you can’t win the big game without solid O-line play. If they draft a linebacker, Tampa Bay did that two years ago and they just piloted a ‘ship into port. Receivers, defensive backs, and pretty much any other realistic possibility are all legitimate needs because the roster that Brad Holmes inherited was unbelievably bad. The players masquerading as dudes on the Lions’ defense are base-level NFL starters. They are the guys that good teams are looking to improve on every year, and Bob Quinn paid them top-tier money to cover his terrible drafting. The Lions have perhaps four players on the roster that they drafted and might want to extend in the next 24 months.
There is a reason that everyone is predicting the Lions as a top-five pick next year. Bob Quinn dug this franchise a giant hole, filled it with water, and then dumped concrete mix into the water. Matthew Stafford was floating on a pool lounge chair when the concrete was poured, waited for it to dry, and then walked to safety on the hardened concrete. Brad Holmes has Jackhammered and removed that concrete, but the hole is still there. As Tyler Durden would say “it’s only when you’ve lost everything that you’re free to do anything.” Every single pick this team makes is a gift to Lions fans, because every move is one more mistake being erased. It is one more error corrected. It is one more debit balanced by a coinciding credit. It is a bug in the code that has been identified and re-written. It is a fundamental wrong that has finally been recognized and righted.
Brad Holmes has not been Complacent
When you truly hit bottom, there is not only one place to go. Many teams don’t go anywhere, some teams even try to dig into the bottom. Brad Holmes has been aggressive in trying to make this team as good as it can be in 2021 without mortgaging the future. The Lions have given opportunities for players to prove they have more than they’ve shown. It’s easy to look at a list of free agents and imagine how great it would be for the Lions to grab a bunch of them. It’s frustrating to watch players that would clearly improve this team sign elsewhere for money that the Lions could easily have outspent. Any it can be extremely frustrating to hear that one of those players was offered more by the Lions than they accepted elsewhere. That last one, however, should be a positive sign.
Nobody wants to spend their career losing. Well, nobody you want on the team is willing to spend their career losing. The fact that Brad Holmes is making these offers at all shows us that he has identified the need for a player, and made an effort to find that player, but that the player he targeted wasn’t the kind of loser who is willing to go somewhere that almost definitely means an immediate period of professional failure. He has not signed more Bob Quinn free agents to long contracts that they can never live up to. He has targeted players who would rather take a salary just above league minimum than go to a place where they’re likely to lose more than they win. Brad holmes has failed in targeting enough of the right kind of free agents that it’s easy to believe in the ones he has have come for an opportunity and not just a paycheck.
No Single Move Actually Matters That Much
There was a team a few years ago that was so sure a quarterback was going to be great that they traded three first-round draft picks to get him. And they were so wrong about that player that they traded him, two more first-round picks, and a third-round pick just to replace him. That team also went 3-3 in the playoffs and won two division titles during that quarterback’s five-year tenure with the team. You can not make a bigger mistake than that, and they’ve gone 47-33 since making it. So does nailing pick number seven in 2021 mean life or death for the Brad Holmes regime? The answer is clearly no. You are about to make the argument that the team was already good when they made that draft pick, at least better than their terrible coaching allowed them to be, and you’re not wrong. However, that only proves my point even further.
It is not one bad move that gets someone fired, it is the aggregate effect of all their moves. Saying something like: “If the Lions do X at 7, it is an indication that the organization will fail” is just silly. It’s an indication that they liked player X at 7. And if they were wrong about player X, that is not going to sink the franchise. The team that missed on that quarterback had already blown half of the six first-round picks they made in the four years leading up to their acquisition of the quarterback. They actually only hit on two defensive tackles and a running back in round one while building that team.
That team was not built around success at the top of the draft by any reasonable definition. They were average, or slightly below average in round one, and legitimately terrible in the top ten. They made multiple selections in the top ten and turned that into a kick returner, a journeyman swing tackle, and an injury-prone running back (he was injury-prone in college too). That’s how they built the “great roster” that the quarterback walked into. That team was the Los Angeles Rams in 2017 under Les Snead with Brad Holmes riding shotgun alongside Ray Farmer. They have not even made a first-round pick in the four years since drafting Jared Goff and they won a playoff game last year. So calm down with your hot but incredibly weak takes that the entire rebuild rests on making one good decision with pick seven of this draft. There are 53 roster spots. Pick seven fills one for better or worse.
The Lions are Making an Effort to Entertain You
Previous regimes were about as open to the public as a casino vault. Even when they did their mandatory presers they did everything they could to suck up as much time as they could without actually saying anything of substance. They were politicians during a downturn in the economy that can’t be fixed by their level of government. This Lions regime is giving a ted talk on how to be awesome about every two weeks or so. Whether it’s Brad Holmes jumping to the podium to talk about the upcoming draft, or Dan Campbell going on the Pat MacAfee show for a 15-minute interview that he has absolutely no obligation to do, or Chris Spielman doing a radio spot while the Lions were in the hiring process for those men talking up how completely different the organization was going to be moving forward, this regime is reaching out to you constantly.
If I was rocking my Lions hat heading through an airport and saw Brad Holmes seated two booths away as I sat down to inhale my Sbarro, I think he might not sprint the other direction after looking up and locking eyes with a Lions fan. I can only assume that Bob Quinn would have shed his skin like a snake, leaving a flesh husk that held his shape as he slithered under the table to make his escape, leaving a stench of fear and failure so pungent in his wake that the authorities would close the area down to search for some kind of explosives, forcing me to eat my Sbarro at my gate’s waiting area. Brad Holmes might even smile, like a person.
You do not Have to Carry the Burden Further
Like a Disney Princess releasing the pent-up frustration at being held to a different standard from everyone around her while still having to go through all of the same trials and tribulations that beset all teenagers, you can let it go. Have the Detroit Lions won a playoff game in this century? No, but they might soon. Did they do Calvin dirty? Yeah, kinda. Did Barry Sanders retire because he didn’t believe the Lions were a good enough organization to win? They made the playoffs the year he made that shocking decision without him so he was wro… I mean, yes, he did. And you know what? None of the people with decision-making power for the football side of the current Lions regime had a single solitary thing to do with any of that.
If you choose to carry the burdens that many decades of abysmal failure have heaped on your shoulders, that’s on you. You can only control your reaction to the things that happen. You can be a force of negativity, blocking out the sun with the darkness in your heart, like I did yesterday with my four uncomfortable truths. Or you could do everything in your power to bring positivity and sunshine to the lives of those Lions fans who interact with you. Or, like me, you could do both, but try very hard to ensure that you’re doing more of the latter than the former in a 4:5 ratio. My point is that being a Lions fan doesn’t have to be shorthand for a bitter human being.
Smile more, complain less, and let’s all move forward down the field.
Patreon for the slack. If you’re cool, we can hang.