We’re at that point in the Lions season right now. Really we’re at that point in the Lions existence. Things are at an all time fever pitch with Lions fans that are strongly upset with their football team.
It’s easy to see why this is might be the highest point of unrest that I can personally remember. The Lions have talent, they have one of the best quarterbacks in the league and they hired guys from the franchise that’s done nothing but win or contend for championships for the last 20 years.
Yet here we are at 3-8-1, and the Lions are the second team in the league to be eliminated from the playoff run. Every single thing that could go wrong with this team has gone wrong. It’s bad enough that many Lions fans want their second-year head coach fired from the team.
Can you blame them? Through two seasons Matt Patricia has posted a 9-18-1 record. That’s not at all good for the guy that’s supposed to be a genius and was supposed to be the guy to bring championships to the city. Fans want him gone and the media insists his seat is hot.
A strong case can certainly be made about Matt Patricia being the biggest issue with this team. I can’t really stand in the way of that. He has been an issue with this team. His defense, of course, is the biggest indictment on him.
Some players both current and former are telling a different story, though. That story is one of how much they love Matt Patricia and they are with him until the end. Just last week Devon Kennard told the media he was “riding with him until the wheels fall off.” Every Lions player I’ve spoken with has said something that’s in line with this.
I know what you’re thinking. “What are they supposed to say?”
These players aren’t required to say anything at all. We can ask them and they can chose to answer or not answer. While saying good things looks good and all, they don’t have to. And you can usually tell when it’s just lip service. Far too many players have said this type of thing to me believe that this is something they feel they need to say.
Again, it’s totally fair to point out that while the players are riding with Patricia, there’s definitely something here that isn’t working. It’s not just Matt Patricia, though.
In fact, I’d argue that real problem is here is general manager Bob Quinn. I have a few reasons why and today I’d like to talk about them.
So we already determined that there’s an issue with Matt Patricia. The team is on the verge of ending its second straight season with a losing record, and it’s really hard to tell if anything will get better from here.
At a certain point you really have to blame the guy that hired Patricia, especially after firing a coach that had just produced back-to-back winning seasons. Even if those records don’t really tell the full story about where things may have been headed under Patricia.
Right now it’s hard to look at the hire of Patricia without seeing Bob Quinn hiring with his heart instead of his head. Everyone knew this would be the hire the moment Quinn got in town, and it’s no secret the two are friends.
Right now, it just kind of looks like Bob hired his buddy and didn’t really put as much thought into it as he could have. It feels like the only way anything changes at the head coaching position is if Bob Quinn goes down with the ship and everybody gets fired.
Bob was given a lot of credit for his scouting early on. His early draft choices seemed to pan out nicely, and Teez Tabor was the anomaly in what looked like a lot of great choices. Now it seems like Kenny Golladay, Frank Ragnow, Graham Glasgow and a couple others are the anomalies in a group of bad apples.
Kerryon Johnson can’t stay healthy, Taylor Decker and Jarrad Davis are hot and cold all the time. Joe Dahl never turned into the guy we thought he’d be, Da’Shawn Hand can’t stay healthy and there’s a gang of draft picks that are no longer on the team. In some cases, these players aren’t on any teams.
In free agency, Bob has a really bad habit overly focusing on one position or one mission and ignoring other needs. This past summer, he went all in on the defensive line and completely ignored the guard and linebackers positions. Not only were those positions left woefully thin, but Quinn’s plan to fix the defensive line blew up in his face.
It remains to be seen if the Lions are going to re-sign Graham Glasgow this offseason and that seem just crazy right? That’s another issue with Quinn. When there’s a no brainer move on the line, you have no idea whether or not he’s going to attack it or get distracted by another move that makes him look smart. You just can’t run a football team like this.
There’s an issue swirling around this team right now
I don’t really know what it is, but there’s something going on with this team right now and it’s showing. Darius Slay talked a lot about the loyalty or lack thereof on this team after the trade. Based on his comments and Detroit’s unwillingness to sign him long-term, there’s a good chance he might be gone next. After Quinn has already excused Golden Tate, Glover Quin and Diggs, it wouldn’t be a surprise.
Quinn’s message is clear: Nobody is safe. While players know this is a business, the thought of renting instead of buying becomes a little more pronounced when the best players are moved. It can create uncertainty and discomfort. Just look at the comments from Diggs and Slay for proof of that.
It would be one thing if these bold moves were paying off in the form of wins, but they’re not. He’s testing the interpersonal relationships in a team sport, and not getting any positive results. Quinn is really ruffling feathers with his way of managing. If not careful, he could ruffle a little too hard and lose all of those feathers altogether.
On top of that, there’s a lot of talk from former Lions recently about how the team treats its players. Former Lions receiver Jace Billingsley spoke out this week about how he believes the team is “deceitful at times” and that “they make many decisions that have their own interests prioritized over what is best for the team.”
Then there were the comments made by Quandre Diggs after the trade where he talked about how the Lions are trying to control their players and the players voices. Even going so far as to claim that’s why he was traded. Oh, and let’s not forget what Calvin Johnson thinks of Quinn and team president Rod Wood.
Why would any player looking for a new team in March want to come here after seeing stuff like this? Why would any player that’s already here want to re-sign?
The obvious response here is that some of these players speaking out are full of spite. All of them except Darius Slay were traded or cut or slighted in some way. They’re clearly out for some sort of vengeance or something, right? That would be understandable if the complaints weren’t all so unified in their topic.
Should all of this mean that Bob Quinn’s seat should be hot? It’s hard to say right now. There’s likely a lot more to the story and we’ll learn the answers to it much later.
Right now what we know is the Lions are 27-32-1 since Quinn took the reigns from Martin Mayhew. We also know that there hasn’t been any public sign that he’s being held accountable for anything by Lions ownership. We also know that Quinn avoids the media for the majority of the year—including after he makes a huge midseason trade.
While players seem to love Patricia and signs point to players not trusting the people in the front office, the very real truth is that there is a pretty big excuse that may bail everyone out for 2020: The injury bug.
Injuries are a real part of the game and everyone knows this. But what the Lions have gone through in the last two seasons is scorched earth compared to an average season. You can’t watch a game without seeing an important player being walked or carted off the field by medical personnel. The injury report is 10 players deep every week, including one pretty important player in Matthew Stafford. It may not be right, but if I were a coach or a GM trying to keep my job, this is the card I’m playing. I’d bet that card would work more often than not, too.
Right now it’s hard to tell if this is all reactionary. As I mentioned at the start of this article, things are at a fever pitch right now. Lions fans want blood and they’ll get it from any place they can. They say winning cures everything. I know it will cure whatever ails the fans. But if there truly is a disconnect between the front office and the players, will winning cure that? That’s an answer we’ll have to wait and see if we get.