| Detroit Free Press
Can Detroit Lions end season with win? Is this Matthew Stafford last game in Detroit?
Dave Birkett and Carlos Monarrez break down the Detroit Lions’ finale against the Vikings and whether this will be Matthew Stafford’s finale hurrah in Detroit.
Dave Birkett and Carlos Monarrez, Detroit Free Press
Matt Prater was in this situation once before, a decade ago when the Denver Broncos took a blowtorch to their organization after their own New England Patriots experiment went bad.
The Broncos fired Josh McDaniels late in the 2010 season and spent the next few months rethinking everything about the way they did business.
They hired a franchise legend (John Elway as president) to bring credibility to the front office, used their top draft pick on a transformational defensive player (Von Miller, who went No. 2 overall) and hired a veteran head coach (John Fox) who overhauled the roster and eventually led them to the Super Bowl.
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The end result was undeniably good. The Broncos won five straight division titles from 2011-15 and, after another coaching change, beat the Carolina Panthers in Super Bowl 50.
But the days and weeks that immediately followed that tumultuous 2010 left players on edge.
“It’s definitely not easy,” Prater said Friday. “I just try to get away from it and enjoy time with my family and not waking up to get swabbed first thing in the morning every (day), so enjoy sleeping in and hanging out with the kids.”
Prater is one of 18 Detroit Lions who will be an unrestricted free agent after this season, and there are dozens of others — from quarterback Matthew Stafford to interim head coach Darrell Bevell — who face uncertain futures in Detroit.
Stafford, dealing with ankle, rib and thumb injuries, could be playing his final game as a Lion on Sunday against the Minnesota Vikings, either because he wants a fresh start with a ready-made contender in 2021 or because the team wants to go young at quarterback.
The defense, on the verge of setting franchise records for yards (and perhaps points) allowed in a season, is expected to undergo a complete rebuild.
And Bevell and the rest of the Lions coaching and front office staffs could be out of jobs, though Bevell should have a chance to interview for the full-time gig — especially if the Lions close the season with a win after all the turmoil of the past month.
Bevell replaced Matt Patricia, who was fired along with general manager Bob Quinn on Thanksgiving weekend, and in the past two weeks has had to navigate the firing of special teams coordinator Brayden Coombs, after a rogue fake punt call, and a difficult COVID-19 situation in which the Lions played with Bevell and four assistants in quarantine.
“These five weeks, as you guys know, has been crazy,” Bevell said. “A little bit of a baptism by fire in a short period of time with the things that I’ve had to – I would say, been able to deal with, so that I have some experience in that. … It’s just been a whirlwind of five weeks.”
As chaotic as the past five weeks have been, the Lions (5-10) could be headed for an even crazier next 21 days.
Lions president Rod Wood and owner Sheila Ford Hamp, with the help of recently hired ex-player-turned-front-office-executive Chris Spielman and cap guru Mike Disner, will make general manager and coaching hires in the coming weeks that they hope will have a Broncos-like impact on the franchise.
The Lions already have interviewed at least seven GM candidates, and after Sunday’s game will begin notifying the league of their intentions to interview other coach and GM hopefuls. They could make a big splash at general manager and, at a minimum, are expected to have a dance card full of coaching interviews.
Marvin Jones, one of the Lions’ pending free agents, said this week that he is excited to see what free agency holds, while Adrian Peterson, another pending free agent, said he hopes to return Detroit but does not want to take part in a full rebuild.
“We got a lot of talent on this team and I really believe that we got what it takes to go all the way,” Peterson said. “A couple pieces here on defense, on offense, things that can be patched together during the offseason. So yeah, I would love to be a part of this organization, but if the future holds something else for me then I’ll be fine as well.”
Bevell, whose players have praised the job he’s done as interim head coach — “He’s done great. I love Bevell,” Pro Bowl center Frank Ragnow said — said his experience manning the big chair the past five weeks has only made him more eager to be a head coach full-time.
That is not his focus for now, however. It’s winning one final game for everyone involved Sunday against the Vikings.
“I’ve been pouring everything into this week,” Bevell said. “Obviously, I wasn’t even in the building last week, so it gives you that moment to kind of step back where you know how special these moments are, so I want to be in it. And I’m living this moment day to day, I’m talking to the players day to day, loving every minute of this opportunity. And then the future happens in the future. If we worry about that, we could lose track, so I’m just excited about this day.”