Detroit Lions: Will the coaching carousel bring more offensive thrills?
By Robert Jones
So as we wait to hear about who will be the new running backs coach, let’s try to figure out where the Lions offense is heading and if they have any chance of making it there without injuring themselves or those of us who will be watching.
While general manager Bob Quinn’s offseason acquisitions will certainly play a major role in whether the Lions offense moves forward or is stuck in reverse again, there are three absolute keys beyond those moves for turning around the Lions offense and making them a productive unit that can carry their own weight on a playoff caliber team.
The first is the continued growth of the ground game. Kerryon Johnson is the star running back this team has missed since Barry Sanders retired. Provided he can stay relatively healthy and Bob Quinn finds a reliable number two back that can produce when he’s on the field, this will be the foundation the Lions offense will be built around.
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Second will be the play calling. Darrell Bevell is highly respected by almost everyone who has played under him. He has built solid running games, but he also is very much a players coach. He values their input and uses it to get the most out of his players. This allows them to run plays they feel comfortable with, which in turn breeds confidence.
Bevell is being asked to field a playbook that will not only continue the growth of the ground game, but also re-open the passing game. This is to give the Lions the ability to spread out defenses occasionally and stretch the field. Just the sort of complimentary plays that help out the rushing attack, which the Lions virtually stayed away from this whole season.
And last, but certainly not least, is Matthew Stafford has to rebound from his poor season and play like he did in 2016 and 2017. We get that Stafford battled injuries this season and that he had no real contributions from the tight end position and that beyond Kenny Golladay he was throwing to random guys off the streets most weeks after the Golden Tate trade and Marvin Jones went down to injury.
The point is this; if Matthew Stafford is going to continue to be the Lions quarterback, he has to play at an acceptable level. He has to play at a winning level.
New quarterbacks coach Sean Ryan did some nice work with Deshaun Watson the past two years in Houston, now he needs to deliver with Matthew Stafford. But the point is simple; the onus is on Stafford to rebound and play better.
For the common Lions fan to fathom all of these keys going right is probably unimaginable. The Lions are the dream breakers, they seem to get our hopes up every offseason only to dash them in the most cruel way possible.
But what if Matt Patricia has learned from his growing pains in season one and has made the right hires to create an offense that can score by land or air? What if the magic we all expected this season just needed to be built instead of being ready made.
Rome wasn’t built in a day and togas never really took off except for frat parties. So what if Patricia is the coach this franchise needs? What he did with the Lions defense this season from the clueless start to the very respectable ranking of the 10th overall defense in the league by seasons end was impressive.
Especially considering he was playing players off the streets on that side of the ball too.
Despite the mistakes, it isn’t too hard to see what Patricia is creating. His vision of what he wants his team to be was played out by several of this years playoff participants. Tough ground game, opportunistic passing and big defensive plays when they were needed the most.
Winning is a process and turning a team like the Lions around doesn’t happen overnight. There is still plenty that Patricia and Quinn need to get right this offseason, but provided they do, Patricia may be one rocket scientist who is ready to boldly lead this team where they haven’t gone for decades; to competitive respectability.