With Another Season Coming To The Close For The Detroit Lions, Time Is Starting To Become A Factor For The Future Of The Franchise.
Another disappointing season is in the books for the Detroit Lions. Fans have had plenty of disappointing ends to their seasons, but this one seemed to sting a little more than usual. Hopes were high going into this season.
The Lions had had small measures of success during their time under former head coach Jim Caldwell, and it seemed that the team just needed a change in leadership to take the team to the next level. Enter the new head coach Matt Patricia, and fans rejoiced. The team was ready for a deep playoff run. They found a young defensive genius to run the defense while quarterback Matthew Stafford continued to pilot the offense.
The running game that had been a complete disaster for so long was about to be fixed with the addition of rookie running back Kerryon Johnson.
Another year of development for the already budding star wide receiver Kenny Golladay was about to take the offense to the next level. The loss of tight end Eric Ebron was insignificant because it just was going to give more opportunities to the young contested-catch specialist.
Linebacker Jarrad Davis had a rough rookie season, but he was getting another offseason of development under his belt to learn from his mistakes and put it all together on the field.
Cornerback Teez Tabor had spent a year learning how to adapt to the NFL game and was going to be ready to be a significant contributor to a strong secondary unit.
Hope was in abundance for this Lions team entering the season, but unfortunately, nothing was as easy as many fans wanted to believe it was.
Patricia showed all of the signs of being a rookie head coach. The team took a giant step back and at times looked to be a complete disaster on the field.
Johnson was under-utilized to start the year, and then went down with an injury to finish the year.
Golladay has looked fantastic, but his inability to separate was highlighted when the Lions decided to trade wide receiver Golden Tate to the Eagles mid-season, leaving the offense even more ineffective than they had been to start the year.
Davis did seem to take some steps forward but, despite the flashes, he still didn’t look like the player that GM Bob Quinn drafted as his first round pick.
Tabor didn’t see much of the field, and when he did, he looked bad. Now, at the end of the year, Tabor isn’t even seeing the active roster, just a year removed from being the Lions second-round pick.
Stafford has struggled. Whether it is his health, his age, the lack of weapons, the play calling, he simply hasn’t looked like himself, and the offense has torpedoed in a way that we haven’t seen in a very long time. Nothing seemed to go right for the Lions this year.
Now, with the team staring at a top ten draft pick this offseason, it appears that the Lions are at a crossroads. The can either turn the franchise around, or they can start over, building this team back up from scratch, a process that Lions fans are very familiar with, and one that fans know takes time.
The Lions might just be a small handful of players away from being a competitive team. That all hinges on player development and whether their young players can grow into established starters. At the moment though, they have a lot of holes that need to be filled, whether it is from developing players in-house, spending money in free agency, or using draft picks, the Lions need to improve in almost every meaningful position group on the field.
Quinn and Patricia have a couple of years to turn this around. Quinn has to show the ability to put together a consistently competitive roster, hit consistently on draft picks, especially at the top of the draft, and be successful in free agency. Patricia has to show the ability to turn this team around, avoid having the team look completely unprepared as we saw a couple of times this year, and turn the defense into a top-15 unit.
The Lions need a new offensive coordinator to help bring life to a completely lifeless offense that appears to have lost its fire with the trade of Tate.
These things need to happen, and they need to happen quickly. Stafford isn’t a young gun anymore. He is quickly approaching the twilight of his career, and the Lions have nothing so far to show for it. The Lions window to make any meaningful push at the championship is exactly as long as Stafford is still capable of playing at a high level. As soon as that is no longer true, this team is going to need to start from the bottom again.
Outside of the quarterback position, the three most important roster spots are cornerbacks, pass rushers, and the left tackle position.
Cornerback Darius Slay is an absolute stud, but even he isn’t as young as he once was. He’s 28 years old, and if the Lions were to overhaul the decision makers within the front office in two years, Slay would be sitting at 30.
Offensive tackle Taylor Decker hasn’t quite returned to form after his injury last year, and the jury is still out on whether he can ever develop into the elite left tackle that he appeared to be before his injury.
The Lions have nothing in the way of a prolific pass rusher.
Quinn may not be on a “short-leash” but if the roster doesn’t show significant signs of improvement over the next couple of years, he probably is on his way out the door. If Quinn gets sent packing, so does Patricia. If those things happen, the roster is going to get another complete overhaul, and the Lions will be back to starting over. This time, they will not have the benefit of a young Stafford. They will have to rebuild around an aging quarterback that is approaching the end of his career.
That will inevitably lead into the long and desperate search for a new franchise quarterback that can easily take a decade off a franchise. This is going to happen at some point, but it would certainly be nice to see a playoff win before it comes to that.
The bottom line is that this upcoming offseason is a “must-win” for Quinn and the Lions front office. This roster needs to look far better going into next season than it did going into this season. They need a new offensive coordinator that can find ways to not tank the offense on an every-game basis. Patricia has to take the solid roster that Quinn hands him and make something of it. He was brought in to bring stout defense to a defensively struggling team. He has to make good on that.
If the Lions don’t turn the team around over the course of this offseason and the upcoming season, they are starting down a dark path that no one wants to go down again, a complete rebuild.