| Detroit Free Press
The rest of the county was treated to a Detroit Lions game Saturday afternoon at Ford Field, the day after Christmas, also known as the day the rest of the football viewing country learned what it is like to love and, ahem, watch this team.
Not that anyone stayed after the first couple of series, when Tampa Bay — and Tom Brady — scored two touchdowns as easily as I dunked a half-dozen molasses cookies sometime during Christmas. But forget about my sugar stupor for a moment (I got in real trouble when I sandwiched the last four cookies around a couple scoops of vanilla ice cream) and focus.
And while we break down what happened after the Lions, missing about half of their coaching staff, including interim head coach Darrell Bevell, due to COVID-19 protocols, were throttled by the Buccaneers, 47-7, one fact emerges.
There is just one game left in this miserable, interminable season.
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A new front office. A new coach. Some new players. Maybe a new quarterback.
If that’s the case, and Matthew Stafford played his last snap Saturday … well, it was fitting, no? A hand-off. An incomplete pass and roll of his ankle. A 2-yard completion. A trot to the sideline. No, a limp to the sideline to visit the trainer and watch the punter take over on the field.
He lasted three plays. Not even 70 seconds. And his day was done. So might be his Lions’ tenure, though you never know with Stafford; he played last Sunday in Nashville with a rib injury and, knowing his tolerance for pain, if he can walk and move around at all, he’s likely to give it a go in the season-ending game next Sunday against Minnesota.
So, yeah, maybe it’s too soon to think about his send-off. It’s not too soon, though, to think about next April and the Lions’ draft, where they could have another top-10 pick. Maybe even the top 5.
If they climb that high — this assumes a loss to the Vikings and a host of other teams losing and winning to help the Lions climb in the draft order — the franchise will have to decide if it wants a quarterback or Micah Parsons, the Penn State linebacker who opted out this fall and is the kind of playmaker the Lions haven’t had in that part of the field since, well, forever.
You saw the Lions play Saturday, right?
You saw Brady toss it over the middle to Rob Gronkowski — who has already retired once in his career — again and again with no resistance? You saw Gronkowski outrun the Lions’ linebacking core like my 23-year-old son outruns me? (Ok, not really, I’m still much faster, but never mind.)
The Lions don’t just need help on defense. They need a defense – they aren’t far from the worst statistical effort in organizational history, set in 2008, the year the Lions lost every game.
In fact, the best defense of the afternoon came on offense, when Tampa cornerback, Herb Miller, intercepted backup quarterback David Blough and receiver Mohamed Sanu tackled Miller with purpose.
The exchange led to a bit of shoving and a few players jogging in from the sidelines and, for a moment, a fracas looked possible. Then it fizzled. Which is just as well. America had been suffering long enough.
What did they watch?
The worst loss of the season, the spiritual end to the Matt Patricia and Bob Quinn era, the pain and suffering of the Lions fan base.
And now, with the playoffs out and the quarterback out and the coaches out, the future is just about here.
One more week and you won’t have to think about the stink of 2020. One more week the coaching and general manager search is at the front and the draft position should be set and you can ponder whether the reboot includes the franchise quarterback of the last decade-plus.
If not, if he stays for another year or two — then the Lions will begin to address the league’s worst defense and the franchise’s worst defense in 12 years. If he is traded, and if Saturday was his last time taking snaps in a Lions uniform, he will leave a complicated legacy.
But unpacking that is best left for another day. For now, think about the spring, when it’s warm, and folks who aren’t here yet try to reset the franchise path, and the possibility of a new quarterback or a promising playmaker on defense.
There are a few of both out there.