It’s easy to point to the Detroit Lions offense and diagnose it as broken. They’re averaging just 16.0 points per game, ranking them 30th in the league, and their efficiency numbers are just horrible. They’re averaging 5.0 yards per play (28th), they’ve got the 31st ranked offense by DVOA, and the worst ranked passing offense by the same metric.
Head coach Dan Campbell tried to fix some of the team’s problems by taking over playcalling duties two weeks ago, and while that has resulted in a much more efficient and impactful running game, it hasn’t resulted in what really matters: points. Detroit has scored just 16 and 10 points with Campbell calling plays, while punting the ball 16 times in two weeks.
At this point, the question isn’t how do you fix the Lions offense, it’s is this Lions offense even fixable this season?
So today’s Question of the Day is:
What would you do to “fix” the Lions offense?
My answer: Obviously, there’s nothing that can be done that would suddenly make this offense—particularly the passing offense—even an average unit. That ship has long sailed. And there really isn’t anything the Lions can do to shake up their personnel to provide a spark. The only unturned rock on the offensive roster right now is David Blough, and nothing I’ve seen out of his career and training camp this season suggests he will be any better than Jared Goff or Tim Boyle.
So all that is left is to just empty the playbook. Be aggressive. Take the game to the opponent, and just see what happens. I understand the philosophy of what Campbell is doing right now. If the team leans into what it does best, run the ball, they won’t turn the ball over, they may not find themselves behind the sticks as often, and they have a pretty good chance of keeping the score low and close. Eventually, the theory goes, one of these 50/50 close outcomes will fall Detroit’s way.
Is there more inherent risk in dropping back into the pocket, asking either your inexperienced or struggling quarterback to just uncork it loose? Of course there is. You could get sacked or throw an interception. But you’re 0-9-1. What is the true downside of playing a risky ballgame? You potentially lose by 14 instead of 3?
The upside of being aggressive is that when a team is essentially handing you the ballgame—like the Browns and Steelers did in the past two weeks—you could jump ahead by several points. Those games shouldn’t have been close. They were asking you to blow them out, and the Lions decided they weren’t going to do anything to risk keeping the score close.
Obviously, just “throw the ball deep” doesn’t work if you don’t have the personnel to do it. But give me a break. Their receiving corps may be among the worst in the NFL, but there is still some talent there. Kalif Raymond has a 100-yard game this season. Amon-Ra St. Brown continues to do things with the ball in his hands. T.J. Hockenson is a top-10 tight end, and D’Andre Swift was being compared to Alvin Kamara just a few weeks ago. If you can’t make something out of that, you don’t belong among NFL coaches.
What is the point in having two potential All-Pro tackles on this team if you aren’t going to utilize their ability to shutdown some of the best pass rushers in this league? You have talent on that side of the ball. Act like it. Act like third-and-10 isn’t a death sentence.
Obviously, the last piece of this puzzle is the quarterbacks themselves. I won’t sugarcoat it. Jared Goff looks bad. Tim Boyle looks bad. But the offensive staff isn’t doing them any favors, either. Because while early on, it looked like Goff simply refused to throw the ball downfield, when Boyle came in and did the same thing, suddenly it looks like they’re simply being told not to throw it downfield.
A few weeks ago, it really seemed like Campbell was committed to start opening up the passing game, noting the importance of just giving the receivers a chance to make plays and the need for explosive plays in the passing game to open everything else up. Instead, Campbell has made the Lions as one-dimensional as humanly possible, and it’s killing the team’s opportunity to get their first win.