Edson: Lions’ Problems Start At The Top

It’s hard to fault Detroit Lions quarterback Matt Stafford.

He passed for more than 400 yards and tossed three touchdown passes. But the Lions still lost to the Oakland Raiders on Sunday evening 31-24 when Stafford’s pass intended for third-string tight end Logan Thomas fell incomplete.

And that typifies what is wrong with the Lions.

The finger pointing for this frustrating franchise should start right at the top with general manager Bob Quinn and head coach Matt Patricia. You know, the two football gurus brought in because they used to work for the New England Patriots.

Let’s use the bonehead final play of Detroit’s latest loss as a prime example. It actually ties back to two years ago.

That’s when the Lions decided that former first-round pick Eric Ebron wasn’t worth trying to develop with this new coaching staff. So they let him walk. He wound up with the Indianapolis Colts, where he led all NFL tight ends in 2018 with 13 touchdown catches.

Fast forward to the 2019 season. In a game played earlier Sunday, former Lions tight end Darren Fells hauled in his sixth TD catch of the season to help the Houston Texans whip Jacksonville, 26-3. Fells was cut by Quinn.

So the Lions decided to go all in on the tight end position in 2019. They used their No. 1 draft pick to select T.J. Hockenson from Iowa. He has shown promise, but hasn’t been used extensively since he had a breakout game in the opener. The Lions spent millions on him.

Same with backup tight end Jesse James. They spent $7 million on the Pittsburgh Steelers free agent in the off-season.

On Sunday, with the Oakland game on the line, Detroit didn’t throw it to either of these tight ends. They also had their two best receivers – Kenny Golladay and Marvin Jones – on the sidelines for the final pass play.

All Golladay and Jones had done on Sunday was combine to catch 12 passes for 258 yards and two touchdowns.

They watched from the sidelines as Stafford’s pass fell incomplete to Detroit’s third-string tight end.

Between the play-calling of Matt Patricia’s staff and the roster put together by Bob Quinn, the Lions are falling short again. They are 3-4-1 at the halfway point of the season.

It’s nothing new to long-suffering fans. There are so many games that fans can look back on and say “What if?”

Instead, we’re reaching the point of the season where we shrug our shoulders again and say, “What’s new?”

Nick Edson is a retired Hall of Fame columnist and sportswriter. He worked 25 years at the Traverse City Record-Eagle, 18 as sports editor. He is a two-time president of the Associated Press Sports Editors Association and a member of the Michigan Basketball Coaches Hall of Fame.

Categories: Football