Fans should embrace the Detroit Lions tanking the rest of their season

DETROIT, MICHIGAN - NOVEMBER 28: T.J. Hockenson #88 of the Detroit Lions battles for yards after a first half catch against Ha Ha Clinton-Dix #21 of the Chicago Bears at Ford Field on November 28, 2019 in Detroit, Michigan. (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
DETROIT, MICHIGAN - NOVEMBER 28: T.J. Hockenson #88 of the Detroit Lions battles for yards after a first half catch against Ha Ha Clinton-Dix #21 of the Chicago Bears at Ford Field on November 28, 2019 in Detroit, Michigan. (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images) /

The Detroit Lions are out of playoff contention with four games to play. Will the Pride actually tank the rest of this season for success in 2020?

The idea of tanking for draft position has definitely grown in popularity in the past decade, for both Detroit Lions fans and fans of every team in all four major sports. But has tanking actually grown in practice?

Not in the NFL. We’d all like to believe that if only the Lions sucked for the rest of the season we could land our LeBron James and it will be skittles and rainbows from here on out. But that’s rarely the case in the NFL for two main reasons.

One, unlike LeBron James and the NBA, one player isn’t likely going to bring you to the promised land in the NFL. Two, it can literally be dangerous in football – both sub-par effort and playing sub-par players is an injury risk for the individual and their teammates.

Also unlike the NBA and MLB where a tank can last an entire season, most of the NFL examples of teams throwing games with the coaches involved happen in Week 17. Like in 2014 when the Tampa Bay Buccaneers blew a 20-7 fourth-quarter lead to the New Orleans Saints after benching ‘plenty of key players‘ in the second half.

That loss secured the Bucs the No. 1 overall pick in the 2015 NFL Draft. Although karma resulted in that selection being Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston.

I don’t believe NFL players purposely lose games, therefore I don’t believe there has ever been a true full organizational tank in the NFL, ala the New York Knicks. However, there are levels in these situations. Like the four levels of personnel that make up an NFL team in 1.) Ownership 2.) Front Office 3.) Coaching Staff and 4.) Players.

I do however believe ownership and front offices have strategically not put their best product on the field in various ways with both eyes on the future, knowingly sacrificing wins in the now. I also believe that is what the Detroit Lions are doing now.

The easiest way to tell if your team is tanking in the NFL is how quickly they sit players due to injury. Now I’m no doctor. So this isn’t me saying any of the following player examples should be on the field. But, in the NFL, players often play hurt. And I would bet a lot of money the Lions inactives lists wouldn’t be as long if they felt good about their playoff chances season.

Here’s a list of the players who have been inactives at any point since quarterback Matthew Stafford hurt his back in Week 9 against the  Oakland Raiders: Stafford, Trey Flowers, Damon Harrison, Frank Ragnow, Graham Glasgow, Tracy Walker, Mike Daniels, Da’Shawn Hand, Ricky Wagner, Romeo Okwara, Rashaan Melvin, Jamal Agnew, Amani Oruwariye, Miles Killebrew, Oday Aboushi and Beau Benzschawel.

Stafford being the biggie there. Anytime your starting franchise quarterback is out for the year there’s a very good chance your general manager is just evaluating and retooling for next season. That’s unless you have a backup quarterback like Shaun Hill or Nick Foles.

But wait, is Stafford actually out for the year? That’s to be determined, though I do find it strange that he was questionable all the way up until Sunday morning (allegedly) of Week 10. Stafford practiced the whole week, only to now have missed the past four games with no path to the field in sight. Not that I’m complaining, it just isn’t the way you normally see a guy who had a streak of 136 games started go out for the year.

Here’s what Lions head coach Matt Patricia told Justin Rodgers of The Detroit News about the possibility Stafford plays again this season.

"“We’re obviously going to keep that door open and see what happens here with all of the stuff that were doing with the doctors and everything. Out of respect for Matthew and his competitiveness and what he means to this team and what he brings every single week, we’re just going to kind of take it week-by-week and see what happens.”"

Patricia is now keeping Stafford on the active roster out of ‘respect’. That’s cool and all but that’s still a roster spot not being used.

Backup quarterback Jeff Driskel was also quick to go from questionable to active to Injured Reserve (IR) after injuring his hamstring against the Washington Redskins. Driskel was day-by-day throughout last week but was still able to back up rookie passer David Blough on Thanksgiving versus the Chicago Bears.

On Saturday the Lions placed Driskel on IR, which makes you have to question why so early? If he had a chance to be healthy enough to play by season’s end, he gives the Lions their best shot to win. There’s really no better way to cushion a hard landing to the season than to trot out your third-string quarterback.

Next. Ranking the top 10 quarterbacks in Lions history. dark

As Detroit Lions fans, this is something we should embrace. Whatever you want to call it … #tanking ….#chasingyoung (my favorite) … or just #gettinghealthy for next season; the Lions are doing it as it presents the best opportunity for the team to succeed in an ever so critical 2020 season for both general manager Bob Quinn and head coach Matt Patricia.