A recent NFL Power Ranking has listed the Detroit Lions as the league’s worst team. Here’s why it’s wrong as the battle to break misconceptions continues.
Under former head coach Jim Caldwell, the Detroit Lions seemed destined to break their playoff curse. Not having won a postseason game since January 5, 1992, and 1957 before that, the Lions have been an NFL franchise too long associated with losing.
Caldwell appeared close to leading Detroit back to the Promised Land after posting winning records three out of his four seasons at the helm, including two playoff berths. Given more time, he may have pulled it off.
Unfortunately, the patience of the Lions’ ownership, front office, and fanbase wore thin, despite ending the 2017 season with a 9-7 record. And with the opportunity to move on from Caldwell and hire former New England Patriots defensive coordinator Matt Patricia in his place, all seemed happy to hand the league’s hottest head coaching candidate the keys to an underperforming playoff team.
But instead of building on the previous regime’s success, general manager Bob Quinn and Patricia went about the business of tearing it down, all in the name of a culture change. And after posting a disappointing record of 6-10 in their first season together, better days were promised. Yet, a 3-12-1 record in their second year threatened to put both Quinn and Patricia on the street.
Granted one more season with the caveat of fielding a playoff contender in 2020, the duo of Quinn and Patricia must now prove their New England-inherited methods can work in the Motor City … or face the consequences.
Regrettably, Patricia’s presence has done little to shatter misconceptions about the state of the Lions’ franchise. In fact, quite the opposite. Detroit continues to be associated with losing. And there’s no bigger evidence of that than a ranking published by the league’s official website, NFL.com, on Tuesday.
In the latest edition of NFL Power Rankings by Around the NFL writer Dan Hanzus, the Lions were ranked as the worst team on the list. Here’s what Hanzus had to say about Detroit after ranking them 32nd …
"“The Lions’ defense was a mess in 2019. Couldn’t tackle. Couldn’t get to the quarterback. Couldn’t cover. Couldn’t make a stop. None of this was a good look for defensive-minded head coach Matt Patricia, but Detroit brass opted to go the route of preserving continuity rather than making a change in the big chair. So now what?”"
It’s certainly true that the Lions’ defense struggled in 2019. And that has undoubtedly damaged the reputation of Patricia, who was touted as a defensive guru having won two Super Bowls and helping New England go to six-straight conference championship games during his tenure as the Patriots’ defensive coordinator.
After finishing in the top ten in yards allowed in 2018, the Lions defense dropped all the way to 31st last season, allowing 400.4 yards to opposing offenses. Detroit’s defense also allowed a scoring average of 26.4 points per contest, the seventh highest in the NFL in 2019.
But do these statics alone make Detroit the worst team in the league? Or is this just more of the losing stigma being placed on this franchise unfairly? A closer look would reveal that the Lions weren’t as bad as their record indicated last season. After all, Detroit actually held the lead in 14 of their 16 games in 2019.
But a deep dive into the numbers isn’t really required as two other NFL teams actually posted worse records than Detroit last year. Those franchises being the 2-14 Cincinnati Bengals and the 3-13 Washington Redskins, both of whom are selecting in front of the Lions in the first round of the 2020 NFL Draft in April.
If defensive statistics are the measuring stick, the Arizona Cardinals’ defense actually allowed more yardage (6,432) and scoring (27.6) than the Lions last season. In fact, there were six other NFL teams that allowed more points than Detroit in 2019.
If it’s poor offense that landed Detroit in the final spot in this ranking, the Lions finished 17th in offensive yards per game (346.8), 10th in passing yards (243.8), 21st in rushing yards (103.1), and tied for 18th in scoring (21.3). And they did so without the services of quarterback Matthew Stafford for eight games.
No friends, the Detroit Lions are not the worse team in the NFL. Although the franchise itself has done little to dispel the notion that they are anything but. It appears the Lions are fighting more than just their opponents on gamedays. They are fighting their own well-earned reputation as one of the league’s worst teams. Even when that’s far from the truth.