Passing on Odell Beckham Jr. proves Detroit Lions are sticking to plan

Detroit Free Press

Greetings from the bye week. I have returned from a week of vacation refreshed and reinvigorated.

No, I didn’t go to some fancy pants resort at a lavish destination like the U.S. Virgin Islands. I’m merely a humble sports writer for your morning friendly, where I toil alongside my fellow ink-stained wretches in the hopes of scraping together enough Dogecoin to power my Philco and eat my Dinty Moore by the flickering light of Lawrence Welk reruns.

Journalism. It ain’t for everyone.

[ Taylor Decker ‘feels good,’ could return at LT if all goes well this week ]

Instead, I found another way to nourish my soul during the bye. My sustenance came in the form of renewed hope, which I now deliver unto you, my dear Detroit Lions fans.

And the hope is this. While the Lions remain the NFL’s only winless team at 0-8 and have been outscored in their past three games, 106-36, they have an opportunity to win one of their next five games. There’s also no superteam in front of them for their final nine games, with the possible exception of the Arizona Cardinals.

Because if the Jacksonville Jaguars can beat the Buffalo Bills, 9-6, then anything can happen. If the Denver Broncos can stomp the Cowboys in Dallas, if mighty Matthew Stafford can throw two interceptions and the Los Angeles Rams can lose at home to the Tennessee Titans, then anything can happen.

That’s not to say the Lions still won’t go 0-17, because as easily as fate can point its finger at any side of the field, a bounce, a tip and a call can go either way. And, if you’ve taken notice around these parts for the past, oh, say, 60 years give or take, you know exactly how often it tends to go the Lions’ way.

For the record, I don’t think the Lions will go 0-17. I won’t go into detail about the Lions’ 0-16 season, other than to say the circumstances surrounding the team that year — Matt Millen’s firing, Roy Williams’ trade, Jon Kitna’s injury — led to the clear and slow implosion of a team on the precipice of a franchise reset everyone knew was coming.

Say what you will about Jared Goff, but until he’s unavailable or starts running out of the back of his own end zone, and both running backs are lost for the season, and T.J. Hockenson can’t play, the Lions will have hope this year. Those players are good enough to spark a victory, even it comes by the slimmest of margins.

LIONS MIDSEASON GRADES: Lots of D’s but one A among the 0-8 mess

And should that first victory never come? Well, the Lions are good there, too. Because an 0-17 season brings with it the top pick and better positioning throughout the 2022 NFL draft.

Everyone on the Lions wants to win a game. But you have to understand that this season was never about this season. Even as coaches and players stare into the gaping maw of NFL futility over the next nine weeks, they know that no one is coming to save them from a fate that will be entirely of their own doing.

No Odell Beckham Jr. No DeSean Jackson. No cavalry coming to the rescue. Just the Lions, these Lions, galloping by themselves toward NFL ignominy as they try to improve and build for the future.

As hard as it might be to watch for the final nine weeks, the Lions seem OK with it all. Through last week’s trade deadline and this week’s waiver-wire clearance-rack shopping spree, the Lions have held firm and avoided an expensive quick fix that would have cost them draft capital, salary or locker-room balance.

Nothing says more about the Lions’ commitment to the future they envision than coach Dan Campbell’s willingness to say directly Monday that the team did not want to claim Beckham off waivers.

“Anybody we feel like does upgrade us and is our type of guy,” Campbell said, “if we really feel like it’s a true upgrade or somebody that’s worth looking at in any of these positions, yeah, we’ll do it.”

Our type of guy.

The fact is, which high-priced, difference-maker in the NFL would want to join the worst team in the NFL? Even journeymen like Tyrell Williams and Darren Fells have floated away on lifeboats.

You have to respect the consistency shown by Campbell and general manager Brad Holmes. They’ve been far from perfect this season, new in their jobs and learning as they’ve gone along. But they have held strong to their beliefs and their plan, unwilling to mortgage the future for short-term results.

Maybe no one expected a season this drastic, but when you ask for a house cleaning you never know what you’ll find under the rug. And that’s where the Lions are, rearranging their meager furnishings and making the most of what they have left. A right tackle playing on the left. A slot receiver moving outside. Another slot receiver moving outside. The drummer from Spinal Tap getting a look at cornerback.

Believe me, I get it. Sometimes you just have to make do, no matter how hungry and desperate you are. Now turn on “Hee Haw” and please pass the salt.

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

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