Spoiler alert: There is no blueprint to a ring
Sure, this year’s 49ers happen have to have some notable things in common with next year’s Lions. Still, anyone thinking that there’s some special formula that Bob Quinn can plug in to turn next year’s Lions into this year’s 49ers is sadly mistaken.
That much should be clear just by looking at the profiles of the final four teams in the playoffs from this year. All have vastly different playing styles and strengths, and took very different routes to get there.
The Chiefs have been knocking at the door nearly every year since 2013, were a hair away from making the Super Bowl a year ago, and appear to be set for at least the next decade with Patrick Mahomes playing like a first ballot Hall of Fame quarterback at 24-years old. They rely on an offense from the future and pure speed from all their skill position players.
The Titans got as far as they did behind a workhorse running back (league leader in rushing, Derrick Henry) and getting hot at the perfect time. Even by late December, with an unassuming quarterback and offensive/defensive units that were just a little above average, who thought Tennessee would actually have a puncher’s chance at punching a ticket to Miami?
As for the Packers, besides Aaron Rodgers, I’m not sure how they got as far as they did. They didn’t look very good any of the times I saw them this season, two wins against the Lions (where they didn’t lead either game for a single second) and two blowout losses at the hands of San Francisco. Did they happen to play great in all the other games?
All this serves as just further confirmation that there are a wide range of paths to success in the NFL. Broadcasters talk all the time on-air about it being a ‘copy cat league’, but it’s even more of an innovative one. Coaches, management, and ownership that can stay ahead of the curve rather than finding someone to imitate are going to be the ones holding trophies and hanging banners.
When the Lions finally break through, it’s not going to be because they followed the Patriot Way, or the 49er Formula, or revamp the old ‘Greatest Show on Turf’ that made the Rams worst-to-first champions. We can all agree that they need to find a way, and seeing what other successful franchises have done can help, but the Lions path to the top needs to be their own.