Detroit Lions: Season failure could mean more instability

MIAMI, FL - OCTOBER 21: Kerryon Johnson #33 of the Detroit Lions runs with the ball against the Miami Dolphins during the first half at Hard Rock Stadium on October 21, 2018 in Miami, Florida. (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images)
MIAMI, FL - OCTOBER 21: Kerryon Johnson #33 of the Detroit Lions runs with the ball against the Miami Dolphins during the first half at Hard Rock Stadium on October 21, 2018 in Miami, Florida. (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images) /

The Detroit Lions need to show some signs of progress. Another reset for this franchise will only bring more apathy from the fans.

The Detroit Lions win loss record for last season (6-10) was a disappointment, and that’s putting my best spin on it. Simply put: a lot of things went wrong.

Quarterback Matthew Stafford was beginning his mega contract extension (five years, $135 million), but had his worst season as a pro (at least when playing all 16 games). Although, he did suffer (and played through) a back injury that had to hinder his performance.

So, hopefully, 2019 will be relatively pain free for Stafford. Although, if he suffers another injury, 50% of Matthew is loads better than a healthy dose of presumed backup quarterback Tom Savage.

The Detroit Lions invested heavily in the run game last season. And running back Kerryon Johnson provided what might be the first franchise running back since Barry Sanders retired after the 1998 season. It only took 20 years.

But if Kerryon is healthy for all 16 games this season (instead of the 10 games in 2018), he is someone to watch. Not to mention the fact that he is exactly the kind of guy you want to build a team around: modest, loves the game, and talented as heck.

The one major thing that last season counted upon was rookie head coach Matt Patricia transforming this defense into something special. It did not go down that way. There are signs that things improved as the season progressed. But in the NFL, every season is anew, and the defense needs to be consistently good – start to finish – for this team to take any steps forward.

On the The Adam Schefter Podcast, host and ESPN Insider Adam Schefter talked about Patricia’s first year, and what would happen if things go sour again this season (06-26-19):

"“[Patricia] had a rough start. It didn’t go great last year. Listen, I think he should be kept on. I don’t think [the Detroit Lions] should make any changes… When you have that type of instability, it’s a setback for the entire organization.”"

Here’s the problem, and it comes down to one word in Adam’s statement: Instability. Schefter spoke of a “hopeless season,” which would encompass five wins or less for the year. And that kind of season could make a shake-up very possible for this franchise.

But then there is the flip side. The Detroit Lions have another bad to mediocre year, but stay the course and keep everyone in place – including, of course, general manager Bob Quinn. The problem is ascertaining if stability is the right answer. Is it a sign of discipline and sound decision-making – or just another case of ineptitude?

I don’t believe this team is Super Bowl bound this year – I hold out hope, but I just don’t see it. But it would be nice to see this franchise change their reputation – to show the rest of the NFL that they’ve got it together, they make smart moves, and that they can compete at the elite level.

This is especially important against a division that looks strong this season, and probably for the next several years. Falling behind isn’t an option.

Signs of change are the only real hope for the Detroit Lions. This change will reveal itself with a 2019 draft class that looks good. With a running game that is finally formidable. And with a defense that is ahead of the curve, instead of always being behind it. And, of course, Stafford will need to be the one to elevate the team when the games are close, but without throwing it 40 times a game.

It is hard to swallow six to eight wins, no playoffs, and a draft pick that would be in the middle of the pack. But it feels like that is where this team is headed.

Next. Ranking the Detroit Lions’ first round picks since 2010. dark

And if 2020 (I know… I’ve already blown past 2019, and I hope I’m wrong) brings more disappointment, then ‘instability’ would have been the better choice. Yes, it looks terrible to anyone from the outside. But it could be the only way to accidentally get this thing right. Let’s hope it doesn’t come down to blindly switching regimes in the hopes of hitting the NFL lottery.