I Dodged A Bullet With Lions In 2017

This was the year. This was the season that Bill Keenist, Kelly Stafford and the intern who runs the @Lions Twitter feed should have made me eat my words.

Anyone who follows this website or my Twat account knows there is nothing that brings me more joy on social media than mocking the inept Detroit Lions organization. I created Hashtag 1PlayoffWinInXAmountofYears and I’ve had fun turning the calendar each season the franchise has missed another opportunity for a postseason victory.

But this year SHOULD have been different. 2017 should have been the season that this team won its second playoff game since 1957. Jim Caldwell and Matthew Stafford SHOULD have contended for an NFC title and prohibited me from extending the hashtag to #1PlayoffWinIn61Years.

But they didn’t, and that’s why, earlier this morning while Martha Ford was probably still wearing her sleep mask over her sunglasses, GM Bob Quinn axed the Comatose Wonder without first alerting his players.

Look, everything had fallen into place for the Reverend Jim in 2017 — from the schedule, to divisional injuries, and his own team. But the inept ex-head coach took all of the prosperity that was provided him and turned it into a 9-7 season and a playoff miss.

Thus Caldwell exits town with the worst scenario possible for an NFL team. The Lions were the BEST team to miss the postseason — meaning they possess the worst draft selection of any team not preparing for the playoffs. For someone who roots against this embarrassment of an organization, it was a best-case scenario. But it didn’t have to come to this.

I could go back to 2016 when Martha ridiculously pressured Quinn to keep Caldwell as the head coach — an arranged marriage of a longtime New England Patriots executive who for years witnessed firsthand Caldwell’s lousy in-game managing while Caldwell was in Indianapolis.

Nobody will ever be able to convince me that Quinn had a legitimate opportunity to replace Caldwell when he got the Detroit gig because, during the Tom Brady/Peyton Manning battles, Quinn was front-and-center watching Caldwell’s terrible Sunday gameplans.

If Quinn was somehow shocked at some of Caldwell’s dubious decisions regarding instant replay challenges, questionable timeout usage or getting 11-men on the field, he must have long-term memory issues.

But no, let’s just focus on the gift horse Caldwell looked into the mouth in 2017. It all started with the first game at Ford Field against the Cardinals.

With four minutes to go in the third quarter, Arizona was in complete control of the game, leading Detroit 17-9. The Cardinals had just gotten the ball back after another Lions’ failed offensive series and stud running back David Johnson carried the ball for a nice 5-yard run on first down.

The only problem was that on an earlier Cardinals’ drive, arguably the best running back in football had dislocated his left wrist and that injury caused Johnson to just drop the ball on that run, leading to a turnover.

The consensus first-overall fantasy football pick would never play another down in 2017 and the Lions would go on to score on that drive and pull away for the eventual victory.

It was the first incredibly lucky break Caldwell would be handed this season — but far from the last.

The next week the Lions traveled to New Jersey to play an awful Giants team that would go on to win just three games and fire their head coach halfway through the season. It started a pattern of Detroit getting to travel to play the horrid teams on their schedule while getting the quality opponents at home.

At the time of the Sunday Night victory against the Giants, Lions fans were convinced the team was for real at 2-0. Even Mike Valenti went on the 97.1 airwaves to admonish any fan who didn’t think this team was legit.

I wasn’t fooled. It was easy to detect that they had played a couple of patsies … and their head coach was still Jim Caldwell.

 

I was eventually proved correct and was spared dining on a pocket calendar.

Caldwell was the beneficiary of playing an awful Bears team twice. He got Green Bay two times without Aaron Rodgers. He even played one team that matched the Lions’ own pathetic accomplishment of going 0 and 16.

They were lucky enough to play the Vikings on the road before Case Keenum realized he was Joe Montana incarnate … in a game where Minnesota also lost their star running back Dalvin Cook for the season.

And all the Vikings did with their third-string quarterback and backup running back is win the division and earn a first-round bye. Seriously, without either their starting QB or their excellent RB, Minnesota won 13 games. An accomplishment the Lions have never achieved in the Super Bowl era. Or in ANY era, for that matter.

The Lions got Atlanta, Carolina and Pittsburgh at home and couldn’t win any of those games. Hell, even the Bears manned up and defeated the Steelers on their own field. Caldwell could do no better than 4-4 at home, even though one of the games was a free bingo chip (the winless Browns.)

And while Carson Wentz, Deshaun Watson, Rodgers, Sam Bradford, Carson Palmer, Ryan Tannehill and others went down with serious injuries in one of the worst years in the history of the NFL in terms of QB missed games, Stafford was playing almost every single down in Detroit.

Stafford’s backup (Jake Rudock) only threw five passes the entire season.

And Caldwell parlayed all of that good fortune into a playoff elimination in Week 16 after crapping the bed against a Bengals team that had lost their previous two games by a combined 53 points.

But that’s the bad news, folks. And, believe it or not, I am going to give you some reason for hope. Yes, Joff Myst is actually fairly bullish on the Lions moving forward.

And I am not the only one who thought this team was better than its 9-7 record this year. Luckily, Quinn confirmed the same moments ago in his presser announcing that Caldwell was gone.

I could have told Quinn when he came to town that he was making a huge mistake by keeping Caldwell (actually, I did) but at least he learned his lesson after two disappointing seasons.

As I wrote a few weeks ago, if Sean McVay were the head coach of the Lions, do you think their season would be over right now? Fuck. No.

There is no sport where coaching is more important than it is in football and the Lions have gone into almost every game in the last four seasons with an inherent in-game disadvantage.

That’s why they haven’t won a playoff game. That’s why Caldwell was 4-23 against winning teams and that’s why four years of Stafford’s prime (when he barely missed a snap) was wasted — along with the last couple of seasons of Calvin Johnson’s career. I warned of this the day Caldwell was hired based on his long history of mediocre and worse results.

While many members of the media and the fanbase lauded Caldwell for his calm, Terri Schiavo-esque demeanor, it’s my belief that it was his downfall. You can get away with having zero killer instinct or sense of urgency against the garbage teams in the NFL, but you have no such luxury against the elite.

Hence 4 and 23.

Trying to establish a run game that is non-existent is one thing against the Bears and Browns, but quite another versus the Panthers or Steelers.

How many times did you see the Lions foolishly run on first- and second down during the Caldwell era, inexorably leading to an excessive number of third-and-longs? Or my personal favorite, throwing an incomplete pass on first down, only to watch Ameer Adbullah eke out two yards on second, thus setting up another long third-down conversion opportunity.

With all of the downs he would just flat-out forfeit, its almost like Caldwell longed for coaching in the Canadian Football League. Which is why any discussion of Jim Bob Cooter returning is asinine.

(A chance he will get because no NFL team is hiring him as their head man.)

I don’t care how comfortable Stafford is with the mechanic from “Dukes of Hazzard,” Quinn should have learned his lesson about heavy-handed nuptials from Martha’s “suggestion” about keeping Caldwell.

Which finally leads us to the inevitable discussion of who replaces the Sleepy Preacher. There is only one candidate I am remotely interested in: Matt Patricia.

And please spare me the line that no New England assistant coach has done anything after leaving the Bill Belichick cocoon. The least interesting thing to me about the Patriots’ defensive coordinator is that he made his bones in Boston.

I like the fact that his background is in aeronautical engineering. It leads me to believe the man has a brain, which is a considerable factor when you could be hiring a lunkhead ex-jock to run your team.

I will take my chances with the RPI grad knowing when to utilize his timeouts (for instance, when you have nine men on the field on defense) and why you shouldn’t punt on 4th and 1 after entering enemy territory.

I also appreciate that Patricia was responsible for introducing advanced metrics to Belichick a decade ago.

Read this Sports Illustrated profile of Patricia and try not to get jacked up about the potential for this man to hold the same position as folks like Monte Clark, Darryl Rogers and Bobby Ross.

Finally, Patricia seems like a fucking madman. The dude had the chutzpah to get off the airplane after the Patriots defeated the Falcons in Super Bowl LI wearing a Barstool.com t-shirt depicting commissioner Roger Goodell as a CLOWN ….

Like, WHO does that? A man who gives less than zero fucks, that’s who. And considering the Lions just dismissed a boring, staid, holy roller …… please, please, please give me the psychopath willing to wear Bozo the Goodell gear when he knows he is going to be photographed.

And if he is wearing Barstool swag, maybe he’ll actually read the DSR.

There are some Lions fans who desire the other Patriots’ coordinator. I am not the least bit interested in Josh McDaniels and I will tell you a little story as to why.

In 1998 a movie came out called “Wild Things” starring a young actress named Denise Richards. I fell in lust with Richards while watching that film because of scenes like this ….

and this …..

and finally this ….

For years after that, I would see Richards in movies and be hypnotized by her looks. She’d appear on Howard Stern and give interviews that would make you want to pull off on the side of the road and rub one out.

I was utterly obsessed with everything Denise Richards.

And then in 2002 she married Charlie Sheen, which was so insane and incomprehensible that I was forced to question everything that I thought I knew about her.

For Josh McDaniels, his Charlie Sheen is Tim Tebow. And I am pretty sure that’s the first time the HIV-positive warlock with tiger blood has ever been compared to the virgin QB, but you probably see where this is headed.

Everything about McDaniels’ tenure in New England before he left to become the head coach in Denver and everything he did after getting fired by the Broncos and returning to the Patriots as their offensive coordinator is wonderful.

But this is a man who once thought it was smart to tie his career to the THROWING ARM of Tim Tebow. McDaniels wanted Tebow so badly that he TRADED UP IN THE DRAFT TO GET HIM.

Nobody else was taking Tebow in the first round (barely anyone thought he could play QB in the NFL in the first place), yet McDaniels was so sold on the Florida quarterback that he mortgaged a second-, third-, and fourth-round pick to get him.

And just like Richards can never get the Charlie Sheen stink off of her, I can’t ever think of Josh McDaniels without tying him to Tebow.

None of the other head coaching candidates mentioned (Steve Wilks, Mike Vrabel, Pat Shurmur or Dave Toub) as possibilities get the heart racing at all.

Now, this isn’t some earth-shattering news, but I spoke with a former Lions employee this afternoon and was told Quinn is all-in on Patricia and anyone else would only come into play if the Patriots’ D.C. either decided to go somewhere else or stay in New England.

I was also advised by another source that Quinn has had his sights set on partnering up with his ex co-worker for quite awhile now and that some back-channel discussions have probably already taken place gauging Patricia’s interest.

I have been on this planet for 45 years and this franchise has NEVER employed a GM and a head coach that any other organization in the NFL would take as a package deal.

Like, ever.

The combination of Patricia and Quinn would literally be the first time in the history of Ford Family ownership that they’d have competent people in the team’s two most important positions.

Not William Clay Ford, Sr.’s golf drinking buddy or his penny-pinching accountant as General Manager or Martha’s boyfriend as coach.

Two guys other teams would actually like to have.

And they are going to need all of the help they can get to avoid #1PlayoffWinIn62Years with this schedule on the horizon…

Hire Patricia and I will even consider not throwing that hashtag in your face ever again.

(You can follow Moss on Twitter @JeffMossDSR. You can discuss this article on Facebook by clicking here. You can also go fuck yourself if you’d like. Totally up to you.)