Time to root hard for NFL losses (from Detroit Lions and Matthew Stafford)

Detroit Free Press

We’re down to the final five.

The Detroit Lions are heading down the 2021 NFL season’s last stretch after winning their first game of the season. That improved the Lions’ record to 1-10-1 and saved Detroit reporters from having to call Dan Orlovsky, revisit 2008 and book some therapy sessions.

But with that pesky first win out of the way and Dan Campbell judo-flipping the monkey off his back with a dramatic victory, it’s time to reset expectations for what’s left of the season.

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Warning: You’re about to read some hard truths, so please control any violent impulses you may have, like biting someone’s kneecaps or wanting to “punch a guy in the face for no reason.”

Let’s do this.

Tanking for 2022 NFL draft

I feel like I write this every year. (Gee, I wonder why). But it’s December and that means only one thing: ‘Tis the season to tank for the Lions.

The Lions hold a slim lead over the Jacksonville Jaguars and the Houston Texans, both 2-10, for the No. 1 overall pick in 2022. The New York Jets are right behind at 3-9. So don’t blow it now, Lions.

Let me explain something important here. Other than boosting morale, winning means nothing this season. If you’re a Lions fan, you should want them to lose out and improve their draft pick in every round. That’s the only real value left in the season.

Beating bad or mediocre teams does nothing to help this team. It might feel great in the locker room — which will see a significant turnover in the offseason. For those who remain, however — and especially for Lions fans who have no choice — losing means winning in the draft.

I know you can do it, Lions. I know you can drop that easy pass, miss that extra tackle and take that stupid penalty when it counts most. We’re all counting on you.

Root against Stafford

Sure, former Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford blew me off in Los Angeles even though I covered him for 12 years and attended many of his promotional events over the years. But I’m not bitter, this isn’t personal and I assure you there isn’t the slightest hint of schadenfreude in my tone when I say Lions fans must root — and root hard — for Stafford and the Los Angeles Rams to lose.

Hey! Someone just threw a soft pretzel at me! Come on, people, I asked you to control your violent urges. Maybe some of us need a vacation in Cabo.

Anyway, there’s simply too much riding on the Rams’ record not to root against them and their quarterback. As part of the trade sending Stafford to L.A., the Lions received the Rams’ first-round pick in 2022 and ’23.

The Rams are 8-4 and hold the No. 24 pick with games left against Arizona, Seattle, Minnesota, Baltimore and San Francisco. If the Rams lose out, that pick could land somewhere in the mid-teens.

So no, it isn’t pretzel logic to root against Stafford. Now let’s book that vacation. Does StubHub offer discounted tickets?

Throw deep, Goff

Speaking of quarterbacks, Jared Goff is the reigning NFC offensive player of the week after a strong game and engineering a dramatic winning drive.

Here’s what’s important for Goff and the Lions: He was most effective in the first half of the win, when he took several deep shots. I’ve said all along that the Lions never gave Goff enough weapons — specifically, deep-threat receivers — to accurately judge his talent this year.

Now that doesn’t matter. The season is virtually over; Goff has shown he has the capability to be a very good quarterback, but he has tended toward the conservative. It’s hard to tell whether that’s play-calling or his own decision-making.

But now he and Dan Campbell have to throw caution to the wind and more deep balls to receivers. It’s still not a fair exercise for Goff, but I’d like to see Campbell emphasize to Goff that he needs to execute a vertical offense first and foremost on every drive. If there are a few pick-sixes that come with that strategy, so be it.

Sit down, Swift

Second-year running back D’Andre Swift had another strong season and sits at 984 yards from scrimmage with six touchdowns.

And that’s about all we need to see from him this year. He’s dealing with a sore shoulder, so there’s no need to risk further injury that might require surgery and delay his readiness for next season.

Sitting Swift would also give us a better look at young running backs Jermar Jefferson and Godwin Igwebuike. It has been a pleasure to watch the consistent effectiveness of the Lions’ run game this season under assistant Duce Staley, so getting more of an evaluation of the youngsters can only help.

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

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