Earlier this year I went on a rant about Michigan football and it’s about high time I did one for the Detroit Lions. This team makes me sick right now. 6-3 to 7-7? Just absolutely brutal. Two of those losses during the 1-4 stretch were to teams with losing records and 2 of them were at home. They can’t figure it out and I don’t know why. The defense played well against the Baltimore Ravens, really they did, they held the Ravens to six field goals and the offense should have been good for three touchdowns, easily. And quite frankly, aside from the second half of the Philadelphia Eagles game and the second half of the Pittsburgh Steelers game, I haven’t been overly upset with the defense. They’ve played well and they just keep getting trapped on the field by the offensive inefficiency. As a team, they’ve been a disgrace the past month. Of their 7 losses, they’ve held a 4th quarter lead in 5 of them and been tied in 1 of them, that is absolutely inexcusable. Offensive inefficiency and turnovers have been the name of the game the second half of the year and quite frankly, the parallels between the Michigan football team and the Detroit Lions are frightening. I’m still convinced that there is a possibility that Al Borges and Scott Linehan are the same person.
2013 has been a pretty bad year in the world of Michigan Sports Fans. Ever since the Clowney hit, it’s like the whole year has been off; not to mention having to watch that hit 1,000,000,000 times on ESPN. Seriously, every time I see the hit, I wish the refs had made the right call and said Michigan didn’t get the first down on their fake punt.
The Michigan basketball team was the sole highlight of the Michigan sports teams, and they lost in the National Championship game. Sure the Tigers won the division, but who cares about winning the division if you choke in the playoffs. The Michigan football team had an awful year that was capped off by Da’Shawn Hand and George Campbell giving the stiff-arm to Michigan. Campbell had been a commit and is the #1 receiver for 2015, but he decommitted this past week. The Michigan hockey team missed the NCAA tournament for the first time in 22 years, the Detroit Red Wings choked away a 3-1 lead against the Chicago Blackhawks only to lose in overtime of Game 7 in the Playoffs, the Detroit Pistons passed on Trey Burke, etc, etc.
Now the Lions. 6-3 to 7-7…I can’t get that out of my head. They had the division in a stranglehold with the NFL’s easiest remaining schedule and managed to go 1-4. They simply cannot get out of their own way. Too many turnovers, too many dropped passes, too few halftime adjustments, too vanilla of play calling, too much Matt Stafford not setting his feet before throws, too many defensive break downs at the wrong times. I mean, I could go on forever. You don’t lose 4 of 5 without an epic collapse. I didn’t even expect the Lions to win the Super Bowl this year, I just wanted a home playoff game. That shouldn’t be too much to ask. It would have been the first home playoff game in 20 years, since January 8th, 1994 when they lost 28-24 to the Green Bay Packers. They were in the driver’s seat and they pissed it all away. Every coach on this staff must be fired. If I was William Clay Ford Sr., I would have literally fired every single coach on the payroll after Monday Night.
Who can the Lions get to replace Schwartz and Co.? That’s the problem, there aren’t a lot of great candidates. In fact, I think all the candidates suck. David Shaw, Kevin Sumlin, Bill Cowher and Jon Gruden all have a 0% chance of taking the Lions job. Why do I say that about Gruden? No one seems to realize that he has an EXCLUSIVE CONTRACT with ESPN, meaning he cannot coach for five years. That extension was signed in 2012, so three more years after this one of Gruden rumors that have no basis. Could he get out of the contract and coach? Theoretically if he wanted it bad enough, he could probably find a way out of the contract, but I don’t see that as even a remote possibility. He’s got a cushy job, he’s got kids in high school, so let’s just stop it. Trust me, no one would love to see Jon Gruden on the sidelines for the Lions more than me.
Some other candidates for the Lions? Lovie Smith, Ken Whisenhunt, Gary Kubiak, and other assorted recycled failed garbage. I honestly don’t know who the Lions would get as a coach, which is quite concerning. At the end of the day, it’s not going to be an exciting candidate. It’s going to be a recycled failed coach that is handed the keys to the Detroit Lions, and that is a frightening thought. The candidate I would like that won’t get hired, you ask? Bill O’Brien. He’s coached in the pros, done wonders at Penn State, but I don’t see him leaving Happy Valley so soon. O’Brien would be my second choice to coach the Lions behind Gruden, so technically my first choice since Gruden isn’t going anywhere.
The Lions offense is far too talented to be having the issues they are having. The issues have all stemmed from Matthew Stafford, who has completely regressed as of late, and the offensive play calling. Stafford used to be a clutch 4th-quarter quarterback, but now is falling a part in the 4th quarter.
These stats are concerning (the last two). The sidearm throwing doesn’t bother me as much as it does most people, but it’s still a bad habit. My real issue is that he never steps into throws. He relies too much on arm strength and doesn’t rotate his hips and step into throws, which causes the ball to sail on him. Anyone who has watched a Lions game knows that Stafford has throws sail on him. The play calling by Scott Linehan certainly isn’t helping Stafford any. All of the repetition is brutal and teams know what is coming, then Stafford tries to put the team on his back and be “the guy” and makes some mistakes throwing into too tight of a space. Let’s be clear, I still stand behind Stafford and I actually like Stafford. I like the gunslinger mentality, but he has some bad habits that need to be fixed. And if you think that the Lions are going to get rid of him this offseason, you’re literally too stupid to insult. They have too much money invested in him to dump him so quickly after giving him a contract extension and no one would trade for him after the year he has had. Stafford got $53 million in new money, with $41.5 million guaranteed with his three-year extension, that piles onto his six-year rookie contract that was worth up to $78 million with $41.7 million guaranteed. He’s signed through 2017, so give up any idea of getting rid of him right now.
The running game has been a massive improvement with the addition of Reggie Bush and Joique Bell getting into phenomenal shape in the offseason. The improvements at offensive line have been major, which is surprising to say considering right tackle La’Adrian Waddle is an undrafted rookie. There have been some serious fumbling issues with the two backs, but there are holes for them to run through. The offensive line has not been the problem, which is a major change from the past. Riley Reiff has had a seemless transition to left tackle and Larry Warford has been consistently graded as one of the best guards in the NFL this year by Pro Football Focus, more specifically the 4th best guard in the NFL. Stafford has time to throw and hasn’t been hit much, which makes the execution problems that much more frustrating.
At the receiver position, it’s clear that Calvin Johnson is the best receiver of my generation. It’s too bad that his supporting cast has not done nearly enough. Ryan Broyles can’t stay healthy, Nate Burleson is a ghost even when he is healthy, Kris Durham is a serviceable receiver but he can’t be the #2 and Brandon Pettigrew is a blocking tight end that can’t catch or hang onto the ball consistently. Joseph Fauria has been a great red zone addition, but he needs to start having more of an impact between the 20s. I’ve been very pleased with him as an undrafted free agent, don’t get me wrong, but there is still room for improvement. If I’m the Lions, I’m looking for a second wide receiver in the 1st or 2nd round of the draft…again. This is why hitting on draft picks is so important, you know, so you actually solve the problems.
The defensive line has been dominant all year except for the second half of the Philadelphia Eagles game. Ziggy Ansah has been a beast and I couldn’t be happier that I was wrong about him. He’s been a major impact rookie and his absence was felt when he was out with an ankle injury. Devin Taylor has also been great as a rookie, which is encouraging that this rookie class has done so well. It’s just too bad that the other draft classes have been so bad that they can’t win the division. Nick Fairley and Ndamukong Suh have been working well in the interior, but you have to wonder how much extra help Jason Jones would have been on the d-line had he been healthy all year. He would have been great on the strong side rotating with Willie Young and fitting into the defensive tackle rotation.
The linebackers are another position of need here, specifically Ashlee Palmer’s spot. Stephen Tulloch and DeAndre Levy have been great this year, particularly in pass coverage, but another linebacker that can pass rush is crucial. This is going to be a serious need to address in the offseason despite how well Tulloch and Levy have played. The secondary meanwhile is a disaster. Ravaged by injuries and straight up bad play. Chris Houston was having an average year, Darius Slay had one good game before he got hurt. Bill Bentley is looking a lot like a wasted draft pick at the moment, though he did play well the last two weeks. Rashean Mathis has done okay, but the secondary’s job is easy when the defensive line gets a pass rush. If they had some better rush linebackers, this would help the defensive line get more pressure on the quarterback and help mask the secondary better. Glover Quin has been a huge addition and a healthy Louis Delmas has been good, but Delmas is still a boom or bust player. He misses a lot of tackles and and gives up too many big plays. Cornerback is going to be a serious area of need to address as well this offseason.
The special teams have been a joke for most of the year. Jeremy Ross should have been the returner far sooner because Michael Spurlock was complete garbage. David Akers is trash and misses way too many kicks. Yes, 76% on field goals is not good enough for me, not when you kick a hall of famer out the door for him. I can’t even talk about Sam Martin rationally. I don’t care that he has a high punting average, he has cost you two games. One, for a horrible shank against Cincinnati and two, for not holding onto the ball on a 4th down conversion. Whether they should have even gone for it on 4th down is a completely separate issue. Andre Ellington has 909 total yards and 4 total touchdowns, and he would have been a great guy to have as a replacement for Reggie Bush when he got hurt and could have been returning kicks and punts all year. I’ll never forgive the Lions for taking Sam Martin over Andre Ellington.
One of the stat boxes are the stats for 5th round pick Sam Martin and the other is for undrafted rookie punter Ryan Allen (New England Patriots). Using a 5th round pick was totally worth the extra .9 yards net, 1.4 yards average and 6 fewer punts downed inside the 20. Sure, Sam Martin does kickoffs, but David Akers seemed okay doing kickoffs on Monday Night. You don’t draft punters, you just don’t. Not when you have other major needs that get exposed during the season by your opponents.
But I digress. If I’m the Lions, right now I’m drafting a WR, CB and LB with my first three picks, no exceptions and whichever order you want. Though, I’m partial to Marqise Lee in the first round if he is there at #15, where the Lions will be picking if they don’t make the playoffs. Hell, if they lose out, they could be picking a lot higher than 15.
What do the Lions have to do to make the playoffs? Win out with some serious help. More specifically either the Green Bay Packers or Chicago Bears have to lose this Sunday. It doesn’t matter which one, but one of them has to win and it would be best if they both lost. Then, whichever one of the two loses this week, they have to beat the one that won next week. Fortunately for the Lions the Bears and Packers play each other week 17. For example, say the Packers beat the Steelers then the Bears lose to the Eagles, then the Bears have to beat the Packers and the Lions have to do their job, which is win. I don’t have a lot of confidence that the Lions can get this done and as far as I’m concerned they are eliminated. It’s depressing being a Lions fan, especially when it’s the same old stuff year in and year out. And when they actually have a good team, they can’t get out of their own way to actually mow down bad teams and win the division for once.
[Jim Schwartz Angry]
[GIFs via: @DieHardSport]