Detroit Lions mailbag: How desirable is the Lions’ head coaching job?

Detroit Free Press

Dave Birkett
 
| Detroit Free Press

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Eight games down, eight to go, and eight Detroit Lions questions on your mind. Let’s get to this week’s mailbag:

What are the odds Matthew Stafford, Bob Quinn and Matt Patricia are all still members of the Lions organization September 2022? – @jimbocndn

As we sit here at the midpoint of the 2020 season, the odds are extremely low that all three are members of the organization next September, let alone in 2022.

In asking around about the Lions’ future this week, I got consistent feedback from people around the league that, barring a miraculous run over the final eight weeks, they expect a change to be made in January, if not sooner.

Patricia has an inferno burning underneath him right now. The Lions have been brutal defensively, they look poorly coached with recurring substitution errors, and several key players have regressed or are not performing up to expectations. A home loss Sunday to lowly Washington might signal the end of his tenure in Detroit, though with three games upcoming in a 12-day span there’s no telling when a move would be made.

Seidel: Why the Fords must start Lions head coaching search now ]

Quinn is facing similar pressure, but the odds are better he survives. My read is his future will be evaluated after the season, though it’s hard for some to distinguish between the two given their New England Patriots ties.

Stafford’s future is a different story. He has two years left on his contract after this season, and the Lions would need to have some sort of succession plan in place in order to move on from their 32-year-old quarterback. Quinn and Patricia, if they survive, won’t have the leash to lead the kind of rebuild that would come with jettisoning a proven QB, and a new regime might prefer to keep a talent like Stafford around rather than roll the dice with the unknown.

It’d be one thing if the Lions land a top-five pick, which I don’t see happening, or had a young quarterback in the wings. But they don’t, so at this point, I could see Stafford here well into the future.

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What do you see/anticipate as the most desirable Head Coaching opportunities after the season, and where do the Lions rate on that list? Will we be behind the power curb by waiting to fire Quinn/Patricia at the end of the year? #LionsMailbag – @TayyWhite1

My sense from talking to people around the league is here could be as many as seven head coach openings. Houston and Atlanta already have vacancies, the New York Jets and Jacksonville Jaguars almost certainly will, and I was told to keep an eye on the Chargers and Broncos as well.

If the Jets get the No. 1 overall pick, they’d be hard to top, given Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence is viewed as a generational talent. Working with Deshaun Watson in Houston and Justin Herbert in Los Angeles also would appeal to people, though the Texans don’t have a first-round pick in 2021.

Both the Falcons and Texans have GM openings, and how they fill those positions (or handle those searches) will impact how those jobs are viewed. One thing the Lions traditionally have had going for them, as much as it might surprise people around here, is the Fords are generally considered good owners to work for, and that absolutely counts for something in the tie-breaking process.

Birkett: As Tua Tagovailoa shines in Miami, Lions seem hopeless as ever ]

Man draft prospects. If we have a shot at Fields should we pull the trigger? What are biggest immediate needs DE, LB, or another CB? Do we look at OT early after paying Decker and signing Vatai? – @CHEN313

Ohio State quarterback Justin Fields should be the second pick of the draft, behind Lawrence, and if the Lions are somehow in the position to draft him, they absolutely should jump at the chance to get a talented, young quarterback like that in the system.

I think that’s highly unlikely. The Lions aren’t nearly as bad as some of the NFL’s other quarterback-needy teams. Among the other positions the Lions could target with, say, a top-15 pick are defensive end, defensive tackle and wide receiver. Defensively, the Lions have a ton of holes, but this draft looks light on pass rushers.

As for the offensive line, Taylor Decker is playing exceptional this season. There’s no reason the Lions need a left tackle given the investment they made in Decker this offseason. I’d rather see the Lions try and lock Tyrell Crosby up this offseason than use another first-round pick on a lineman, but ultimately this will be for the GM to decide.

I need hope. What are the top 3 things to be hopeful about with the Lions moving forward? And how bad could it get? (Worse case scenario) – @TeachingZeus

Three things to be hopeful about:

1. The offensive line has played pretty well, and Quinn has done a nice job infusing talent there: Decker, Crosby, Frank Ragnow, Jonah Jackson.

2. Jeff Okudah has had his struggles in Year 1, but the Lions have a promising young cornerback tandem in Okudah and Amani Oruwariye, and cornerback is an in-demand position in the NFL.

3. Special teams. First-year coordinator Brayden Coombs has done a wonderful job with this group, and should be back regardless of who the coach is next year. And punter Jack Fox is under team control for three more years, too.

As for worst-case scenario, I expect the Lions to win two of these next three games, so we’re not talking about a 3-13 season. Ultimately, I think the Lions end up in the 6-10 range, which probably means they miss out on a top-10 pick, which I realize is worst-case in some people’s mind.

When is the time coming for Swift to be the feature back – @chillin072

I could have put D’Andre Swift in the something-to-be-hopeful about category. He’s averaging a respectable 4.6 yards per carry, is tied for the team lead with five touchdowns and is the Lions’ best option at running back.

I agree, the Lions need to feature Swift more in their running back rotation, but the reality is he has outsnapped and out-touched both Adrian Peterson and Kerryon Johnson in every game since the bye. Given his stature, his relative lack of experience and the nature of the running back position in the NFL, I’m not sure how much bigger Swift’s role can get this season.

What is the word on Golladay? Is there any reason for any hope in the short term with this team considering lack of talent and bloated ex-NE contracts? – @otistwit

The hold-up with a new contract for Kenny Golladay is money. I’ve heard the difference is around $2 million per season, though contracts are much more complicated than the round numbers reported in the media. And, yes, I believe negotiations have gotten contentious. My understanding is Golladay’s “This shit gone cost you!” Instagram post in October came after an exchange of contract proposals that he was not fond of.

I don’t believe Golladay and the Lions will strike a deal before the end of the season, and why would either side budge now? Golladay is eight games from landing a big deal in free agency, and from the Lions’ standpoint, he’s about to miss his fourth game with injuries this year.

Ultimately, I think the Lions use the franchise tag on him in March, and perhaps that’s the impetus to getting a deal done.

OPINION: Why Lions’ Kenny Golladay shouldn’t whine on Instagram

Do u think one of the reasons our defense is so bad is because of our lack of team speed? Jamie collins got ate up by dalvin cook in the passing game! These guys look like they’re running in quick sand. Could the NE big slow defensive players be outdated? – @DirtyJerzFinest

I don’t have a great way to quantify this, but I agree the Lions look slower than most teams. That’s the way they constructed the roster for this defense, however, preferring bigger linebackers to withstand the pounding they take – and deliver – in the middle.

Age, of course is another factor. The Lions added Collins, 31, Duron Harmon, 29, and Desmond Trufant, 30 – though he still can fly – this offseason. Building a faster, more athletic defense is a necessity this offseason.  

Will Tiger contend at the Masters? – @PoundTown10

My golf game is rotten, and I don’t watch much of the sport, but it’s pretty weird to see The Masters in November, isn’t it? To answer your question, yes, I think Tiger Woods will contend. This is his course. I doubt I’ll watch any of the tournament, but I will be tuning in when the Woods documentary comes out in December.

Contact Dave Birkett at dbirkett@freepress.com. Follow him on Twitter @davebirkett.

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