New Year’s resolutions for Sheila Ford Hamp, Matthew Stafford and the Detroit Lions

Detroit Free Press

Carlos Monarrez
 
| Detroit Free Press

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With the new year upon us, it’s time to reflect and look to the future might hold in 2021.

We can only guess at what will next but I can guarantee you this: It will be different.

To the Detroit Lions faithful, maybe different is good enough. At least it always seems to be, doesn’t it? The new thing always seems to be the better thing. Every new coach is treated as the possible savior before he arrives. And then, you know, the games start to be played and everyone’s perception changes.

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So here’s a list of resolutions I’ve come up with for the Lions in 2021:

It’s my sincere hope the team’s principal owner has the stomach to pursue excellence, even if it means making unpopular choices. So far, the jury is out on this. She caved to the will of fans and fired an unpopular coach and general manager, then she hired fan favorite Chris Spielman, who has nearly no executive experience, as her special assistant. But she signed off on firing popular and successful special teams coordinator Brayden Coombs.

Will Hamp give the new regime the freedom to trade, let’s say, a popular quarterback? Or gut a defense and start a rebuild that will take two or three years? Or hire a coach who isn’t soft and cuddly? It’s fine to have standards, but wanting to win and wanting to win the way you prefer to win aren’t always congruent.

Let’s be real. In all likelihood, Hamp isn’t going to hit a home run her first time out hiring a GM and a coach. But she should at least learn some valuable lessons about the process. If she can’t hire her ideal candidates, let’s hope this process at least guides her next search.

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New regime

The Lions’ new GM and coachshould fully understand what they’re getting themselves into. Forget all the pandering about blue-collar work ethic — like people in New York and L.A. don’t work hard. Please make sure you understand this franchise’s abject failure over the past 60 years. Believe it. Embrace it. It’s part of the organization you lead.

As unfair as it may seem, that failure is going to be part of the built-up resentment you’ll inherit and have to face from fans and media your first day on the job. Sorry. But it can work in your favor, because if you understand where fans and media are coming from, you can avoid unnecessary conflict and misunderstandings;  something the past two coaches struggled with.

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Lastly, have a plan and stick to it. Don’t worry about popular choices. Do things your own way. Build the team as you see fit. But try to listen to fans and media, because we’ve been here a lot longer than you have been or will be. You can believe in your own methodology, but fostering a healthy dialogue with the people who judge you and support you is important.

It’s time for the soon-to-be 33-year-old quarterback to leave Detroit. He’s done about as much as he can. No one knows what plans the new regime will have for Stafford but for Stafford’s sake, it’s time for him to start a new chapter with a good team that’s missing a good quarterback to get them over the hump.

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So where should Stafford go? Who knows? Maybe a place called New Indyburghorleansland.

If the new GM can get good trade value for Stafford and thinks he can pick one of the quarterbacks he likes in the draft, the timing would be right. But forget personnel logistics. I’m just talking about Stafford and what’s in his best interest. That means it’s better for him to move on now and try to join a winning team as soon as possible.

Stafford refused to ride a cart after his ankle injury. Here’s why. ]

How about a resolution of better health and fewer Instagram posts for the Lions’ primary receiver?

The Lions will either sign Golladay to a long-term deal or use the franchise tag to keep him. But he must prove he can put this injury-riddled season behind him and return to his 2019 Pro Bowl form. And with the receiving corps almost empty, Golladay will have to be the central piece of the passing attack if the Lions have any hope of being a good offense.

This year of inconsistency came out of nowhere for Prater. He still has plenty of leg strength, but his accuracy was among the worst of his career. Prater turns 37 in August, and I hope he can straighten out any issues he’s had because the Lions don’t need to go into a rebuild looking for a new kicker. And I also want Prater to hang around so that he can hook me up with more smelling salts to make Dave Birkett cry one more time in our Free Press videos.

It was a pleasure watching the young punter work this season on his way to the Pro Bowl. And to think he narrowly won his punting competition with Arryn Siposs. Let’s hope he continues to perform at such a high level and doesn’t worry about the pressure of trying to live up to the expectations of being a Pro Bowler.

I hope the rest of the NFLsees the Lions defensive end’s value as he enters free agency and rewards him with a fat contract. Not only does Okwara have nine sacks entering the season finale, but he made lots of plays and did a lot of the dirty, unglamorous work along the defensive line. No one has a metric for this, but Okwara probably led the Lions in pats on the back every time he came off the field.

Let’s hope the Lions’ best defensive player gets a full year of health. Flowers’ injury-shortened season has flown under the radar as one of the big reasons the defense struggled so much. He’s a versatile player who should fit any defensive scheme the Lions go with next season. He turns 28 in August and shouldn’t have a hard time producing around seven sacks next season like he did the previous two years.

How about a full year of real preparation for Okudah? We all knew the first year was going to be tough for the cornerback picked third overall. No real offseason at a position with a very steep learning curve didn’t bode well for Okudah. He’s one of the most studious and determined young players I’ve covered, which should be an asset as long as he doesn’t put too much pressure on himself to be great. Let’s just shoot for more consistency and go from there.

Swift and the Lions should resolve for him to have a great second season that ends in a 1,000 yards rushing, which would be the first for the team since Reggie Bush accomplished the feat in 2013 (and the first for a Lions draft pick since Kevin Jones had 1,133 yards in 2004). Swift bounced back from a terrible season opener and then concussion issues. If he can stay healthy, he could take another step toward becoming the Lions’ version of an elite versatile back, such as Alvin Kamara.

Lions fans

No, I’m not going to hope you get a championship next season. These are resolutions, not hallucinatory fever dreams.

But how about this: Let’s hope this franchise starts moving in the right direction with steady progress. Let’s hope the Lions figure out a way to get where they want to go by following their own path and not trying to follow the breadcrumbs laid out by other people in New England or Indianapolis or Kansas City or San Francisco. Let’s resolve to see who takes charge of this team and give them the benefit of the doubt in 2021 as they get to know us and we get to know them. And let’s all have a happier and healthier new year.

Contact Carlos Monarrez at cmonarrez@freepress.com and follow him on Twitter @cmonarrez.

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