Detroit Lions: The operative term isn’t ‘building’, it’s being smart

Detroit Lions helmet (Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports)
Detroit Lions helmet (Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports) /
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Kyle Van Noy, New England Patriots (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)
Kyle Van Noy, New England Patriots (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images) /

The formula to build a contender

There is a popular formula to build a contender around the NFL. Draft well, develop that talent with good coaching, make sure you have a franchise quarterback, and when the team is ready to compete, then free agency becomes a tool to add the final piece or two.

On Paper, it’s really not all that difficult of a formula, but it’s amazing how many teams haven’t gotten it right. Especially the Lions.

But there are key pieces that have to be in play to make it happen. The general manager and his scouts have to be good at their jobs. The ability to identify talent and get starters in the third, fourth, fifth-round, and beyond has separated the ‘haves’ from the Lions for years.

Cutting edge coaching staffs that can identify players’ strengths and get the most out of them creates winners on the field.

Think of the Lions drafting Kyle Van Noy who was lost in Detroit, but blossomed into a play-maker in New England. Getting talented players is a must, but it means little if the coaches don’t get production out of them.

And kind of the final piece of that formula, though not specifically mentioned, is patience. Don’t start breaking the bank on free agents before the time is right.

Spending has been the Lions modus operandi for years. Try to sign high-priced free agents, like they were some sort of prize to be won at the fair, and watch the whole experiment fail because either the player didn’t fit what Detroit was doing or there simply wasn’t enough talent on the roster to make a big signing, like Trey Flowers for example, really pay off. At least so far.

There are a number of reasons their efforts haven’t worked, despite some of the smug faces that have come through Detroit pulling the strings of the Lions franchise. For example, these Lions haven’t been stocked with enough talent to simply ‘retool’.

One of the favorite ploys of the Ford family has been ‘retooling’. For any Lions fan who knows the teams’ history, it hasn’t worked yet. Thank goodness for Sheila Ford Hamp and a completely new direction.