The Detroit Lions are headed to the NFL playoffs this weekend. After finishing with a 9-7 record, they will travel to Seattle this Saturday as the #6 seed in the NFC. Three weeks ago, the Lions were in control of the division with a 9-4 record and looked to be in great position to lock up a home playoff game for the first time in forever. Sadly, the team went on to lose three straight games and after dropping the regular season finale to the surging Green Bay Packers, the dream of a division championship is dead, for now.
Losing the division after having such a commanding lead on it a month ago is certainly disappointing, we must remember that this is a team that nobody believed in before the season began. Well, almost nobody. I had them winning 10 games in my prediction for how the season would shake out, and though they narrowly missed that win total, most people had them winning 4 to 6 games and getting a high draft pick. I did, however, have the team pegged as the #6 seed in the playoffs, so that just shows that I know what I’m talking about. But enough about me, this is about the Lions and what this season says about their future.
We’ve established that the team ended the season by going a paltry 1-3 in the final quarter. That is coupled with a 1-3 first quarter of the season that had fans of the team getting out their pitchforks and torches, and calling for the head of coach, Jim Caldwell. Luckily for Caldwell (and his employment status) the team was very strong in the middle of the season. Some timely turnovers by the defense and the incredible play of Matthew Stafford has them heading to the playoffs for the second time in three years. For a team with such low expectations (at least from everyone outside of Detroit) this is quite the surprise.
For those in Detroit, there’s a lot to feel good about. Besides the fact that their QB cemented himself as the franchise guy this year, it looks like they’ve finally found the right guy to lead the front office, and his name is Bob Quinn. The current general manager of the Lions was brought over from the New England Patriots, where he was the team’s director of pro scouting. After the Lions relieved their former heads of front office during the 2015 season, the team was determined to bring in someone who had experience building a winner. And there has been no bigger winner in the last decade than the New England Patriots.
In year one as the top dog in the Detroit Lions organization, Bob Quinn has shown the ability to add productive players to the roster via the draft and free agency, without breaking the bank on over-priced free agents. After the retirement of Calvin Johnson, Quinn went out and snagged the top free agent wide receiver on the market, Marvin Jones, at what now looks like a team friendly price tag. Injuries in the secondary are making it evident that he probably could have done a little more to add depth to that unit, but his acquisition of safeties Rafael Bush and Tavon Wilson and their relative success has shown that he has an eye for talent where others might not see the potential.
If Bob Quinn is truly going to turn the Lions into Patriots 2.0, then he has to find the best value he can in the draft, and with what we have seen out of this year’s draft picks, he seems more than capable of doing that. Six of the team’s nine draft picks have seen extensive playing time this season. First r0und left tackle, Taylor Decker, has started since day one and though there have been the usual rookie struggles, he has held up admirably and has proven that he is the future of that position on the team. Third round guard/center Graham Glasgow has also proven to be a great pick and replaced former first round pick, Laken Tomlinson, in the starting lineup early on in the season and has proven he can hold onto the job. The team has also seen a ton of things to be happy about from second round defensive tackle, A’Shawn Robinson (7 passes batted down at the line). Safety Miles Killebrew, running back Dwayne Washington, linebacker Antoine Williams and defensive end Anthony Zettel have also seen a lot of action.
Having that many players from the top to the bottom of your draft board see extended action says two things. That the team has dealt with its fair share of injuries, and that they have a guy in charge who knows how to find talent. Bob Quinn’s eye for talent has helped to add a ton of depth to this team and is a big reason why they are going to the playoffs. While some may be upset that this trip to the postseason almost surely means that Jim Caldwell will be back for at least one more year as head coach of the team, you can’t deny that this team is trending in the right direction.
I fully expect the Lions to get bounced from the playoffs this Saturday when they head to Seattle. They’ve withstood a fair amount of injuries and it’s admirable that they’ve made it this far to begin with. But Lions fans should be very encouraged by what transpired this year. Another year under Bob Quinn should see this roster improve dramatically. By building off what he has already done for the team, and assuming they aren’t looking for a new defensive or offensive coordinator, this should be the worst Lions team we see for years to come. And considering that this is a playoff team, that is a big reason to be excited for the future in Detroit.