It’s Week 12 and the Detroit Lions are about to go into a game at home against one of the best teams in the NFL. Are the Lions in first place in the division? No. Are the Lions in the playoff hunt? Sort of. Are the Lions in last place in the division again? Yes.
This can’t be what Detroit Lions general manager Bob Quinn had in mind for this season. It can’t be what he thought would happen back in January when he fired Jim Caldwell after two consecutive winning seasons and an overall winning record during his tenure.
No sir. This was supposed to be Bob’s first big season. Despite being two years on the job, it felt like Bob was going to get control of the reigns for the first time ever. That’s when he hired former Patriots defensive coordinator Matt Patricia to be the team’s new head coach. Now it was time for Bob to truly put his vision for this team into reality.
Fast forward 10 months later and the Lions are 4-7, riddled with injuries, have a coach that’s formed an adversarial relationship with the media and the team has gone radio silent about everything. What happened?
Bob Quinn had a bad year. That’s what happened. After so much promise, it seems nothing has gone right. Here are 4 reasons why Quinn has had that bad year.
Releasing Eric Ebron
Right before free agency officially opened up in March, the Lions suddenly decided to cut Eric Ebron. The move did free up some money, and the chances that Ebron would decide to stay in Detroit after being harassed by Lions fans since the moment he was drafted were slim. So the move wasn’t that shocking at the moment.
Now that Ebron plays for the Colts, his name seems to keep coming up more and more in Detroit every day. Maybe it’s because he’s a touchdown machine in Indianapolis. He’s scored 12 touchdowns this season and may see even more balls coming his way now that fellow tight end Jack Doyle is out for the season. As of last week, he was fourth in Pro Bowl voting for tight ends and generally looks to be becoming the star Lions fans hoped he would be.
Which begs the question, why didn’t Quinn get anything for him by trading him? There was interest in Ebron going all the way back to last year’s NFL Combine.
A name to watch in coming days: Lions’ TE Eric Ebron, whose name surfaced in trade discussions at last weekend’s combine, per league source. Lions were listening.— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) March 7, 2018
And the calls were reportedly flying in during the 2017 trade deadline. Whether Ebron’s hefty cap hit was the breaking point or whether Ebron sabotaged trade efforts himself, it’s still a mistake from Quinn sending away a valuable player and getting no compensation in return.
At this point, Quinn should have just held onto Ebron, especially when you look at the Lions’ depleted receiving corps and the fact that the most any Lions tight end has done in Ebron’s absence is the 100 yards and three touchdowns Michael Roberts has. This was Quinn’s first mistake.
It’s not like the Lions didn’t have money. They had a pretty decent amount going into free agency. The Ebron release opened up over $8 million for the team and made everyone think the Lions were going in on their defense, and they certainly looked like they were doing that when they signed Devon Kennard.
Then the Lions lost out on Richard Sherman and proceeded to sit on their hands for the remainder of free agency. Sure, they made other signings like Christian Jones and Kenny Wiggins, but for the most part, it’s been a major bust—Wiggins especially. It’s crazy to think that guy started for the Chargers.
Looking back, it’s hard to figure out why the Lions didn’t make any other moves, especially on a defense that desperately needed a pass rush and still, to this day, doesn’t have one.
The Lions are still feeling it today. Their lack of improvement is seen in the record and the Lions’ inability to do things on both offense and defense.
Trading Golden Tate
I understand the idea of getting something for a player that you’re not sure is going to stay with the team, and a third-round pick for Tate was a great get in retrospect. But boy was it still a bad move.
The Lions were a game out of first place in their division and the team suddenly decides to pack it up going into the biggest stretch of the year after acquiring an elite level defensive tackle the week before. It was a move that understandable had many scratching their head in befuddlement.
It’s hard to predict the future. There’s no way Quinn could have known that Marvin Jones Jr. would get hurt just two weeks later, but he had to know his offense would take a major hit without its best safety blanket. He had to know how much the offense would break down after getting rid of its leading receiver.
But he apparently didn’t, and the Lions are paying for it. His highly-paid quarterback is really paying for it. Trading Tate has led to more sacks, killed the short passing game and has just generally made the offense way less capable than it was before the trade.
The relationship with the media
Look, I get it. I work in the media and I understand how we can be the last people you would want to talk to after a loss or when things are going bad. But we have to do our jobs and the NFL requires that players and coaches talk with the media.
This year, more than ever, there’s been an adversarial relationship and it doesn't seem to be getting better at all. Whether it’s Matt Patricia’s scolding of a reporter for “slouching” or the defensive and condescending explanation for why the team practiced outdoors before four-straight indoor games, it’s something that breeds a bad feeling in the building for everyone that works there.
It’s also something that’s leaked into the locker room. On both occasions that I was in the locker room post game, players were openly telling other players not to talk with media and, in one case, a player physically moved a reporter out of his way and yelled at him.
Maybe it’s because things aren’t going well for the team right now. This can be understood on a human level. But on a professional level, it can’t be. It would be wrong to place all of the blame on Bob Quinn for this, but it’s happening under his watch, and he should be the one to correct it. But Bob Quinn is nowhere to be found.
Which brings me to another issue: Why won’t the Lions talk to its fans? This has been a bad season and it only keeps getting worse. We’ve heard from general managers of other teams like Mark Dais of the Raiders, but we haven’t heard peep from the Lions’ front office in months—other than Rod Wood’s vote of confidence for Matt Patricia.
From a fan standpoint, it makes it hard to understand both some of the team’s more puzzling moves when the team has gone silent. They don’t have to talk to us, but I’m sure a lot of fans would feel a whole lot better if they did.
What’s been good?
It hasn’t all been bad, though. I must and will give credit where credit is due. Quinn went out and got Devon Kennard. That’s a signing has paid dividends for the Lions defense all season long. He’s a young player that could be the centerpiece of this defense before you know it.
Quinn also drafted really well this April. Frank Ragnow has turned out to be a stud, as have Kerryon Johnson and Da’Shawn Hand. Both Tracy Walker and Tyrell Crosby have also showed some promise. Drafting has been a real strong point for Quinn in his time in Detroit.
The acquisition of Damon Harrison Sr. was phenomenal. For Quinn to go out and not only get a good defensive tackle, but a great one with an elite skill set, really shows that the Lions are not afraid to go after an extremely coveted player. The trade of Golden Tate did net a third-round pick for the Lions, which could seriously work in their favor since they have drafted so well during Quinn’s time.
A lot of what’s happening this year seems to point to the future rather than right now. That’s a pill that’s hard to swallow for Lions fans that have been waiting for their team to be successful for a long time. And I’ll give it to Quinn, while this year was bad for him, he seems to have an actual plan, which is something that couldn’t be said for Matt Millen or Martin Mayhew.
That plan appears to be growing the team through the draft while fixing big problems one at a time. I’m guessing that by 2020, this team will be going all in on trying to win it all. whether they do or not will be interesting to see, But there appears to be a feeling inside the locker room that rings familiar for sports fans: “Trust The Process.”
Maybe there’s a reason for all of this? Maybe the players already know what that reason is.
Maybe we’re just hoping too much.