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Quantifying Bob Quinn’s impact on the Lions in 2016

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Did the Lions truly become Bob Quinn’s team?

NFL: Combine Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

Bob Quinn has officially passed his one-year anniversary since becoming the Detroit Lions general manager. His inaugural year was filled with ups (Anquan Boldin signing) and downs (Andrew Quarless signing), but overall Quinn’s first year was widely considered a success. The Lions 2016 draft class already has made their presence known on the Lions roster, and as a result Quinn received a 96 percent approval rating back in December.

But how much of the Lions’ success in 2016 can be attributed to the roster moves Quinn made in 2016? Did Quinn really fill the team with “his guys” already, or is that a process that takes well over a year? In his end-of-season press conference, head coach Jim Caldwell said you can expect a certain amount of roster overhaul every year.

“Your team changes, like we mentioned before, about 30 percent each and every year, so there’s a lot of work to be done.”

Although Caldwell expects a 30 percent change in roster every year, it’s safe to assume that when a new general manager is hired that number will often be higher. Obviously, when there’s someone new in charge of player acquisition, you can expect a larger overturn of previous regime’s players.

But is that what we saw with Quinn? If so, how did he build the team in 2016: through the draft or through free agency? Which side of the ball did he focus on more?

We sought out to answer all of these questions by looking at one simple thing: snap counts. It’s a very easy way to see which players had the most impact (positive or negative) on the team. I took every single snap count from every single player and placed them into categories. Here are the results:

[Note: Special teams snaps were not included in this total]

Offense

Bob Quinn truly made his mark on the offense in 2016. There was nearly a 40 percent turnover from last year’s roster, and a good chunk of that was from the Lions rookies. Taylor Decker—who did not miss an offensive snap all year—and Graham Glasgow alone accounted for over 15 percent of the offensive snaps this season. Detroit also got a little help along the way from Dwayne Washington, Cole Wick and Joe Dahl.

However, don’t underestimate some of Quinn’s free agency pickups either. Marvin Jones and Anquan Boldin were huge acquisitions and accounted for over 7.5 percent of snaps each. Other notable contributors were Andre Roberts (2.3 percent of offensive snaps and big special teams contributions) and Matthew Mulligan (1.5 percent).

Overall though, Quinn’s first year will go down as the year he began to overthrow the offensive line. That was a clear goal of his, drafting three offensive linemen with his first five draft picks. With two starting offensive linemen potentially hitting free agency this year, we may see a second-wave of roster overturn on the front five in Quinn’s second year.

Defense

As you can see above, Quinn didn’t make as much of an impact on the defensive side of the ball. There was a huge carry over from last year’s roster, with 72 percent of snaps being taken from players that were on the team in 2015. That being said, Quinn’s impact via free agency was nearly the same as the free agency impact on offense. Quinn went out and tried to add depth to the defensive line and safety positions in free agency. The additions of Wallace Gilberry, Armonty Bryant and Stefan Charles accounted for 4.1 percent of the snaps, while Tavon Wilson and Rafael Bush took on 10.7 percent. The Lions were desperately thin at safety, so this comes as little surprise.

The Lions’ 2016 draft didn’t have much of an impact on the defense. Quinn only used two picks on defense through his first five and it showed. Second-round pick A’Shawn Robinson was the only major contributor in 2016, accounting for 3.6 percent of the defensive snaps. To be fair, Quinn’s other defensive picks—Miles Killebrew, Anthony Zettel, Antwione Williams—were not expected to contribute at all in their rookie seasons, yet they all saw at least one percent of snaps.

Overall

In his first year, it’s clear Quinn made a concerted effort to fix the offense. He knew the team’s success would follow that of the offense, and he was mostly correct. His first goal of replacing the void from Calvin Johnson was met with relative success, but his primary goal of fixing the offensive line was his biggest accomplishment. With Riley Reiff and Larry Warford’s impending free agency, he may have an opportunity to finish the job in 2017, and the Lions running game could certainly use the help.

Though it isn’t represented in the graph above, Quinn also made a strong impact on special teams. The addition of Johnson Bademosi and Andre Roberts took a squad that ranked 13th in DVOA in 2015, to a top six unit last year.

Ideally, Quinn will focus on the defensive side of the ball in 2017. He didn’t put many resources into defense last year, even though there were some glaring needs at defensive end and secondary depth. As a result, the Lions had one of the worst defenses in the league. If Quinn can make defense a priority like he did offense last year, the Lions could potentially see a big improvement in 2017.