Week 17 typically means the end of the regular season in the NFL, and for this year, I wished it was still the same.
The Detroit Lions took the field in Week 17 bruised, battered and physically ill, and it showed. A minute into the second quarter, the team was already down three scores, and even a three-touchdown second half couldn’t bring Detroit within 20 of the Seattle Seahawks by the time the clock hit zero.
On one hand, that would have been a terrible way for the Lions’ 2021 season—which has actually borne some real reasons for optimism—to end. On the other hand, it’s time to stop this fight. Detroit has been punching above their weight class all year, but this team is now barely conscious, sprawled out on the mat on a nine-count. I’m not sure even the most brilliant of coaches could pull anything meaningful out of this grotesque creation called Week 18.
Lions-Seahawks Song of the Game: ‘See You in September’ by The Happenings
Bye-bye, so long, farewell
The 2021 season was quite possibly the most fun two-win season I’ve ever seen or experienced. The coaching staff was a bundle of joy who actually gave straight answers to the media and did so in a way that was both brutally honest and never disrespectful. On the field, we got a scrappy team who was completely unafraid to take risks on fourth down or run a fake punt or two or three.
This coaching staff has pulled unlikely performances out of unknowns like Jerry Jacobs, AJ Parker and Craig Reynolds and has-beens like Charles Harris, Jalen Reeves-Maybin and Josh Reynolds.
The Lions were a part of four of the 32 most exciting walk-off finishes in 2021, according to ESPN. That includes the No. 1 and No. 3 games on their list, and they probably would have had another top-five had it not been for a clear clerical error from ESPN.
See you in September
See you when the summer’s through
Some of that fun still exists. We’re just a couple weeks removed from Detroit’s unbelievable domination of the playoff-bound Arizona Cardinals. And even in Sunday’s ugly performance in Seattle, the Lions managed to throw two passes to offensive tackles and recover an onside kick.
But for the most part, it feels like the magic is gone. The optimism surrounding the offense and Jared Goff was stolen by COVID and a knee injury. The defensive lineup is so bad that not even Aaron Glenn can concoct a game plan to mitigate 50-points worth of damage.
And with the Packers on tap, and those cocky bastards still planning to play their starters, I say we all just skip Sunday and start looking forward to football in September.
Have a good time but remember
There is danger in the summer moon above
Hope springs eternal in the offseason, and I get the feeling the Kool Aid will be vigorously flowing this spring and summer with how much this fan base loves Dan Campbell and the rest of the coaching staff. To a degree, I’m right there with y’all. There has been far more good than bad, and the development of certain players has unequivocally been positive.
But I feel like there’s some selective memory happening within this fanbase, too. While Penei Sewell and Amon-Ra St. Brown have been home-run hits in the draft, there is reasonable concern about the (lack of) development from Levi Onwuzurike and Derrick Barnes.
This team gets constantly praised for their endless effort and their “fight to the finish,” but they’ve also been completely blown out of the stadium four times this year, and that may be a conservative number. Each time it happened, the word “out-coached” has come up both internally and externally.
Dan Campbell has been aggressive to an almost uncanny degree, but we can’t forget about some of the concerning in-game mistakes the coaching staff has made. Whether it be the conservative defensive play-calling that allowed the Vikings and Ravens to pick up last-second wins or the double timeout in Chicago, significant mistakes were made.
Are all of these red flags for the future or learning opportunities for an inexperienced coaching staff and front office that will lead to change?
Those are the kind of things that will be debated for the next eight months. There will also be annoying Thibodeaux vs. Hutchinson debates, arguments over who (if anyone) to add at quarterback, and more will scream BUST for Jeff Okudah just to hear their own voices heard. The offseason is a terrible place filled with arguments no one can possibly win, because nothing is actually happening.
I’ve got little interest in those petty debates. I just want to fast forward to the 2022 regular season. See you in September.
Each week, we’ll be providing a Song of the Game to create a full-season playlist. You can listen to previous year’s soundtracks right here: 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019, 2020
You can find the 2021 playlist here (or below):