Written by: JT Bowen
How much can change in six months?
There was a time, not too long ago, that this was supposed to be the Lions year.
After the excitement in the opening day of free agency: Winning the Trey Flowers sweepstakes, upgrading positions of need with Jesse James and Justin Coleman, and adding stopgaps like Danny Amendola. Detroit looked to be going all-in on Matt Patricia’s second year, throwing cash at big-name players, something largely uncommon in Allen Park.
And the 2019 Draft, too. Though the Lions had edge rusher Josh Allen snatched from their clutches by Jacksonville, they were able to add the tight end of the future. They added linebacking depth with Jahlani Tavai. They bolstered an already-young secondary with Will Harris and stole consensus top-3 corner Amani Oruwariye in the fifth round. While many fans were split on the Lions’ selections given some of the moves made in free agency, the excitement for a new class of rookies, year in and year out, is contagious.
This wave of enthusiasm, the “hey, we have a solid team here” mentality carried into training camp. In spite of a few injuries, the Lions looked to have a productive preseason. Young players, like Teez Tabor, looked like they were turning the corner and veterans, like Matthew Stafford, appeared to be improving from a disappointing 2018 campaign. The majority of the team seemed to be buying into Matt Patricia’s mindset and attitude, and the hushed sentiment of “we’re underrated” only grew larger.
An exclamation point on the offseason was undoubtedly the Mike Daniels signing. Detroit was able to bring in the former Pro Bowler and divisional rival after his untimely release from Green Bay, a veritable shock to fans and national media alike. And when asked about why he came to Detroit, his answer added another surprise — “Matt Patricia,” he replied succinctly.
This wholly encapsulated the theme of Detroit’s offseason. Daniels received calls from roughly a dozen other NFL teams, most of which were notably better than the Lions. Sure, some of it could be attributed to wanting to exact revenge on Green Bay, but the high praise Daniels gave Patricia and his beautiful, erudite mind for football seemed legitimate. Daniels wanted to come to Detroit, to play for a gridiron genius and rocket scientist in Matt Patricia. To return to his form as a star defensive tackle in the best defensive schemes. To play alongside stars like Damon Harrison and Trey Flowers, and form one of the most fearsome defensive lines in the league.
Despite the Lions’ rocky 4-0 preseason, hopes remained high, at least among fans. National media still, weirdly, thought the Lions weren’t that good. They thought that, somehow, Matt Patricia might not be a great coach, and that there were three definitively better teams in the NFC North. ‘Detroit vs Everybody’ chants continued to surge, as fans confidently felt that this team was different.
Things remained quiet in the front office. Bob Quinn and Patricia, our knights in shining armor, maintained the tight-lipped, blinds-closed approach. They would never, and still won’t, voice excitement. Won’t address media headlines, and won’t take heed to criticism. Power to them, I suppose. If only it served any purpose, or made the Lions better.
So, what happened?
The whispers began Week 1 in Arizona, against a rookie quarterback in Kyler Murray. Detroit played a really solid first half and a really awful second half. They allowed the listless Cardinals to claw their way back from a blowout loss to a tie. It was embarrassing, but we stayed hopeful. Still 15 games, right?
The Lions bounced back in a big way the next two weeks, securing victories over two tough opponents in the Chargers and the Eagles. They weren’t pretty, but a win’s a win.
Perhaps the most polarizing game came against Kansas City. Our boys in blue went toe-to-toe against the league’s best team at the time in the Chiefs, and although they lost, they seemed to have proven themselves as a real threat.
Detroit, despite the defeat, looked to solidify themselves in the NFC North against Aaron Rodgers. But they couldn’t, squandering an early lead. And they couldn’t make up divisional ground the following week, either, being out-dueled by the Vikings at Ford Field. Take some solace in an ugly win over the Giants, but any hopes of season revival were squashed after the past two losses to Oakland and Chicago, respectively.
Things aren’t spiraling out of control anymore — they already have. This season is over. No playoffs. No thrilling wins over divisional opponents to contend in a tight NFC North or commanding victories over objectively-worse teams like New York that we thought were feasible earlier this year. Another year of futility and irrelevance for Detroit, and a common finish probable in the NFC North’s basement. At this point, the Lions are solely playing for jobs.
How quickly things can change.