When I began writing for the Echo about a year ago, one of the first articles I wrote was on why Detroit’s major sports teams are stuck in such a state of mediocrity. I outlined general things they could do to get better again (tanking, upgrading stadiums, competent coaching, etc.) but I didn’t do it specifically for each team. With the Lions’ recent firing of head coach Matt Patricia and GM Bob Quinn, I think they can finally start to take some steps towards success again.
The first step right now is obviously to hire a new coach and GM. The Lions promoted offensive coordinator Darrell Bevel to interim head coach, but unless he wins most of the games left on the schedule, I see the Lions going with an outside hire for the head coaching job. Some names I would love to see on their short list for a head coach are Eric Bieniemy, Joe Brady, or Matt Campbell. I believe any of these men would be great additions to the team and could help instill a winning culture in the locker room.
The GM spot doesn’t matter as much as the coaching position, so as long as they fill the position with someone competent, the Lions will be fine.
The next step is try to end the season with a good draft pick. The Lions are currently 4-7 and since they are in such a state of disarray as a team, should try to tank the rest of the season and end with a top ten pick in the 2021 NFL Draft. There will be some very talented players the Lions could grab in next year’s draft, and they’ll need the highest pick they can get.
Once we get to the offseason, a lot of different things could happen. Rumors have been swirling that the Lions are finally ready to trade Matt Stafford, and I am a huge supporter of it. I love Matt Stafford and what he’s done for Detroit, but his contract is so large that we can’t afford to surround him with talent to win. I think Detroit should trade Stafford to a team like Washington or Denver that is in desperate need of a quarterback. Both of those teams have high draft picks and young talent to offer the Lions in return, so it makes sense for both sides.
After Matt Stafford is gone, you have to start trading some of the other bad contracts on the roster. The Lions have a few horribly bad contracts, notably Jesse James’ four-year, 22 million dollar deal and Jamie Collins’ 3-year, 30 million dollar deal. Jesse James is a backup for us and Collins is 31 years old. There is no reason why the Lions should be paying either of these guys so much cash, and they need to try to get them off the roster by any means necessary, even if it means trading them for a bag of peanuts (okay maybe that’s an exaggeration but you get my point).
When trading the bad contracts away, I would try to get as many draft picks in return as I could. Neither of those players are worth first rounders, but if Detroit could somehow pick up a second or third round pick that would be great.
Next is free agency. If the Lions are successful in trading Stafford, James, and Collins’ they'll have a nice chunk of change to work with in signing free agents. I would target offensive lineman or defensive stars, and of course a quarterback if they aren’t high enough to grab one in the draft. Some names I would love to see the Lions target in free agency are Ronnie Stanley, Shaq Barrett, Justin Simmons, and Trent Williams.
Finally, we have the draft. There is no telling where the Lions will be picking in this draft, but I will assume it’s in the top ten. Should the Lions somehow be in the top three, I say they easily pull the trigger on Trevor Lawrence or Justin Fields if they are available. Both of these QB’s are franchise changers, and will immediately bring the spotlight back to Detroit. Other players will want to come play with Fields or Lawrence and would make the Lions relevant almost immediately.
If the Lions can’t grab either Fields or Lawrence, then they should go after any of the following players: QB Zach Wilson, QB Trey Lance, LB Micah Parsons, WR JaMarr Chase or WR Jaylen Waddle, and DE Greg Rousseau. All of these players have good chances of developing into stars in the coming years and would make great additions to the team.
If the Lions managed to follow this rough outline, then I have no doubt in my mind that they would be in a far better position next September than they are now. The Lions have cleaned house and earned themselves a blank slate. If they waste it, we’re doomed to see the Lions suffer for the foreseeable future.