Detroit Lions should find QB in 2022 draft, get their own Russell Wilson or Aaron Rodgers

Detroit Free Press

I thought about beginnings and endings on Sunday.

Maybe it was the New Year spirit. Or maybe it was the total annihilation I had just watched for three hours on my television.

Whatever the reason, I thought about how things come to an end, but also and how they begin, as I watched Russell Wilson smiling and walking off a winner after throwing four touchdowns in the Seattle Seahawks’ 51-29 demolishing of the Detroit Lions.

It was possibly Wilson’s final home game in Seattle after a 10-year, Hall of Fame caliber career with the Seahawks, who might trade the 33-year-old quarterback in order to jumpstart a rebuild.

Wilson was a third-round pick, and a questionable one at that because at 5 feet 11, he’s considered too short for his position. He was the sixth quarterback drafted in 2012, No. 75 overall, taken after Andrew Luck, Robert Griffin III, Ryan Tannehill, Brandon Weeden and Brock Osweiler.

All Wilson did over the next decade was deliver Seattle a Super Bowl, two conferences championships, four division titles, nine playoff wins and 103 regular-season wins. And now it might be ending.

Then I thought of Tim Boyle, the Lions’ backup who was pressed into action for a second straight game and threw three interceptions. Boyle said something afterward that stuck with me.

“How many opportunities am I going to be given to make these mistakes?” he said. “And in my mind, in the NFL, it’s all about production. So I have to address and assess my ability to make decisions and be more accurate, and that’s going to be a conscious effort moving forward.”

Boyle’s words could be chiseled on a plaque as a sort of mantra to be hung on the front doors of 222 Republic Drive in Allen Park: “How many opportunities am I going to be given to make these mistakes? I have to address and assess my ability to make decisions and be more accurate.”

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The quarterback position has been a franchise-long problem for the Lions since the days of Bobby Layne. Even when it felt obvious the fit wasn’t there midway through Matthew Stafford’s tenure, the franchise refused to make the hard decision and move on, instead throwing guys like Joe Lombardi and Jim Bob Cooter and things like a ladder cam at him to fix the problem.

But sticking with Stafford had a cost, and it was high. Keeping him as the anointed starter also kept the Lions from drafting his challenger or his potential successor. They could have drafted Dak Prescott in the fourth round in 2016. They could have drafted Lamar Jackson 32nd overall in 2018. Heck, they probably could have moved up in 2017 to draft Patrick Mahomes 10th or Deshaun Watson 12th, instead of taking Jarrad Davis 21st overall.

Now we’re closing in on another ending, and a forgettable one in a season that will feature no more than three victories. Soon we’ll start looking ahead to another new beginning this offseason with the promise of free agency and the NFL draft.

Before that happens, I hope Boyle’s words resonate throughout the Lions’ headquarters as people start to formulate their plans for what this team will be in 2022: “I have to address and assess my ability to make decisions and be more accurate.”

Simply stated, this is one of the Lions’ most important drafts since they selected Stafford in 2009, because they will have a solid reason and ample resources to draft a quarterback with the expectation of developing him into the team’s future starter.

Drafting a quarterback last year would have been problematic in Jared Goff’s first season with the Lions. But after watching Goff for a full season, it’s clear he has ability and potential, but he also has a ceiling that will keep him from being an elite playmaker of extraordinary caliber that the Lions need him to be if they ever want to win the division or a playoff game.

DAVE BIRKETT: How Jared Goff’s hot streak has impacted Lions’ plans for his future

This draft is supposedly light on potentially great quarterbacks. But that shouldn’t be an excuse for the Lions, who have an abundance of picks, with five expected to come in the first three rounds.

I’m not saying the Lions should spend their top pick on a quarterback, though I’m not necessarily against it, either. I’m saying they have plenty of ammunition to move up as much as they want to, or stay put on the first or second day of the draft, and pick a quarterback who can sit behind Goff for at least one year.

The timing will never be better. Why would the Lions want to delay this decision another year when they likely would have less draft capital and almost certainly worse draft position, which would only make their decision about Goff in 2023 even more difficult?

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Players like Wilson prove it can be done — if team evaluators know how to earn their money and draft key, overlooked players. Players like Aaron Rodgers, who visits Ford Field on Sunday, also prove it can be done. He was a junior college transfer drafted 24th overall, who had to sit for three years before he started for the Green Bay Packers.

Sometimes NFL teams have a hard time looking to the future, even when blatant examples of success like Wilson and Rodgers are staring at them from across the field. For far too long around here, we’ve wondered how many opportunities this franchise is going to be given to make these mistakes, while team after team finds a better quarterback year after year.

Sunday will mark the end of the first year of this rebuild for the Lions. Let’s hope it also marks the beginning of a franchise’s ability to make better decisions and be more accurate moving forward.

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

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