Since the Detroit Lions lost the NFC Championship to the Washington Redskins in 1991, the Lions have been to the playoffs eight times, but every one of them was a Wild Card loss and that’s a trend that head coach Matt Patricia is intent on changing.
With a new coordinator now hired on the staff to fix their bottom tier offense, the Lions have spent this offseason using free agency and the draft to build themselves up on both offense and defense.
There is little confidence in the football gambling world that the 2019 Lions will do well at all, but we take a look at some of the biggest offseason moves that general manager Bob Quinn made to turn that around, as well as the odds and predictions of how Detroit will fare this season.
In head coach Matt Patricia’s first year at the helm, the Detroit Lions ended up posting a 6-10 record, their first losing record since 2015 and their second season in a row not playing in the postseason.
Franchise quarterback Matthew Stafford had his worst season to date, throwing for below 4,000 total passing yards in a full season for the first time in his NFL career (3,777 yards), though one bright spot did occur under Stafford’s watch with the team’s sweep of the Green Bay Packers for the second straight year.
In 2018, the Lions had a tenth ranked defense but a 24th ranked offense, one that averaged 20.2 points per game (25th in the NFL), and as a result, at the end of the season their offensive coordinator Jim Bob Cooter was let go.
The wonderfully named yet totally fired offensive coordinator Jim Bob Cooter had been with the Lions in that role since he’d been promoted to it in 2015, but the sudden lack of offensive production in 2018 cost him his job, though the New York Jets have since hired him as their running backs coach.
The Lions hired Darrell Bevell to breathe life back into Stafford’s offense, a man who has had experience with that same job for the Seattle Seahawks (2011-2017) and the Minnesota Vikings (2006-2010).
Bevell brought the Seahawks to two Super Bowls and even won a ring by defeating the Denver Broncos in Super Bowl XLVIII, but he is also the man who called the pass play on the goal line the following year in Super Bowl LIX, which was intercepted to secure the New England Patriots’ win.
It’s a fair question to ask in the modern NFL, since many head coaches don’t get more than a two-season tryout for the job, and especially given that the team took a three-win dip under his leadership.
His predecessor Jim Caldwell had the job for four seasons, and the Lions head coach before him, Jim Schwartz, was in charge for five seasons before he got canned, but both of them brought at least a season (or two in Caldwell’s case) of Wild Card Playoff games to Detroit.
Chances are if the Lions don’t go .500 or better this season, next year will be the short leash for Patricia, but nine or more wins this year would certainly guarantee him more time.
Since Matthew Stafford began under center full time for the Lions in 2011, he’s posted well over 4,000 total passing yards in each of those seasons except one – 2018.
Last year was his worst by far, with 3,777 total yards off 367 completions for 21 touchdowns with 11 interceptions.
Stafford is 31-years-old, not too old to be a modern NFL quarterback, so it will be up to Bevell to get Stafford up and running again, and one way the team apparently plans to do that is with multiple tight end targets.
This offseason, the Lions have drafted and signed multiple tight ends, probably because Patricia used to coach in New England and got to see firsthand with Gronk how effective having a talented soft-handed tight end on the roster can be.
In free agency, Quinn signed Jesse James, the Pittsburgh Steelers’ tight end who last season caught 30 balls for 423 yards and two touchdowns for the three-river gang.
And with the first overall pick in the draft, the Lions took the much-talked-about tight end from Iowa, T.J. Hockenson, and then in the seventh round, they selected Isaac Nauta from Georgia hoping one (or both) of them will turn out to be the next Gronk.
The big strategy for the Lions this offseason was to improve their ineffective offense, which they did by hiring a new OC plus they got Stafford some more targets, including Hockenson and slot receiver Danny Amendola.
By signing defensive end Trey Flowers and cornerback Justin Coleman and using over half his draft picks on defensive help, Quinn showed that his priorities lay on both sides of the ball this offseason.
Signing two backup quarterbacks was also a priority, and the Lions snagged Tom Savage and Connor Cook to compete for that role.
Defensive end Ezekiel Ansah, who signed a one-year prove it deal with the Seattle Seahawks worth $9 million, with $6 million of that guaranteed.
Safety Glover Quin, who currently remains an undrafted free agent.
Cornerback Nevin Lawson, who is signed with the Oakland Raiders for one-year, his contract worth $3.05 million, with $1.555 million of that guaranteed.
Right guard T.J. Lang, who announced his retirement after the Lions released him in March.
Defensive end Trey Flowers, who signed a five-year deal worth $90 million, with $56 million of that guaranteed.
Cornerback Justin Coleman, who agreed to a four-year deal worth $36 million, with $17.9 million of that guaranteed.
Tight end Jesse James, who took a four-year deal worth $22.6 million, with $10.5 million of that guaranteed.
Offense: Tight end.
Defense: Pass rusher, defensive back.
The Lions ended up with 9 picks in the 2019 NFL Draft, and they were:
Over the last decade, the Detroit Lions have been to the playoffs three times (2011, 2014 & 2016), all Wild Card losses.
The Lions have never been to a Super Bowl in their franchise history, and the closest they came was in 1991 when they lost the NFC Championship to the Washington Redskins, 10-41, the season Wayne Fontes was selected as the NFL Coach of the Year.
The old school Lions went to five NFL Championships (1935, 1952, 1953, 1954 and 1957) and won all of them but the ‘54 game.
The oddsmakers see the 2019 Detroit Lions as repeat last-place finishers in the AFC North.
In fact, there’s only one NFL franchise with worse odds of winning the Super Bowl next season, and that’s the Miami Dolphins.
But who knows, head coach Matt Patricia showed the football world that anything was possible in Detroit last season when his 0-2 Lions took down his old boss Bill Belichick’s New England Patriots, 26-10, so maybe the team will tap into some more of that magic.
Has Matthew Stafford peaked, or does he still have a lot more gas left in his 31-year-old tank?
Is Matt Patricia a legitimate head coach, or will he find himself back as a coordinator where he shined?
Can a new offensive coordinator fix things in less than a season, or will Darrell Bevell not be able to improve what ails them?
Of course, it will totally shock the football world if the 2019 Detroit Lions prove to be winners, but it takes a brave bettor to have confidence in these odds.
Detroit Lions Postseason
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Mike Lukas is a retired standup comedian turned freelance writer now living in Dallas, Texas, originally from Cleveland, Ohio. His love for the game of football and all things Cleveland Browns turned Mike into a pro blogger years ago. Now Mike enjoys writing about all thirty-two NFL teams, hoping to help football gamblers gain a slight edge in their pursuit of the perfect wager. Email: [email protected]More info on Mike Lukas
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