PSO: How Do The Lions Do Right By Their Next Quarterback?


Drew R. Abrams, Sports Columnist, Editor

The biggest story throughout the ongoing NFL season has been quarterback Mathew Stafford’s first year off the Detroit Lions after he was traded to a now stacked Los Angeles Rams team.  On the Rams, Stafford has notched his first two career playoff wins, one of which included out-dueling Tom Brady in a classic game to advance to the NFC Championship.  Throughout the season the debate amongst analysts and fans alike has been who takes the most blame for the Lions struggles.  Was it the Lions ownership and front office, or was it the now ex-Lion in Stafford?

While an answer will likely never be agreed upon, it is clear now that the Lions did not do their job in setting up Stafford for success, even though he does shoulder plenty of blame himself.  So for a rational fan, the question should turn from who’s fault it is to what do we need to do to make sure this doesn’t happen again?  How do the Lions make sure that when they do find their quarterback of the future that they don’t waste what is obvious talent?

The first step is stability in the coaching staff.  While Stafford was here, he dealt with three head coaching changes and countless coordinator firings and hirings.  After the inept Matt Patricia was fired, Stafford made the decision to request a trade.  What this means is that the Lions need to make sure that before they draft their quarterback of the future, they need to have their coach of the future hired first.  If you think that’s Dan Campbell, then great.  Problem solved.  If not, then he needs to be fired before the Lions bring in (most likely) a rookie quarterback in next year’s draft.  In the next era of Lions football, you cannot have constant staff turnover.  Stability should be the top priority on the sidelines.  Constantly changing staff can hinder a quarterback’s development as they need to constantly learn new systems and can potentially shift them into different roles, and the Lions can’t make that mistake with their next quarterback.

The next thing that Lions general manager Brad Holmes needs to do is make sure that the new quarterback is insulated with talent upon arrival.  Plenty of teams make the mistake of drafting the quarterback before they have completed their offensive lines and receiving core.  It’s basically that old saying “don’t put the cart before the horse”.  I’m not saying the Lions need to do what the Rams or Buccaneers did and bring in ex-Pro Bowl receivers or future hall of fame tight ends.  But they do need to have reliable targets to throw too.  Due to the presence of Frank Ragnow, Taylor Decker, and Penei Sewell, the offensive line is just about complete.  But by the end of the year, the only serious receiving threat the Lions had was Amon-Ra St. Brown, who proved he can be a great player but probably shouldn’t be your primary receiver in your offense.  This is where the Lions need to make a preemptive strike in free agency and go out and get a receiving threat to be ready and waiting.  Think along the lines of a Michael Gallup.  You don’t need to bring in Deandre Hopkins, but you do need someone who can be a difference maker.  In order for a young quarterback to develop, he needs weapons.  He needs weapons that can get open consistently and make plays.  Otherwise he will feel like he has to win the game by himself, or worse get frustrated and have his confidence severely damaged.

The third and most important thing the Lions need to do in order to make sure they don’t repeat history is this.  When you think you have a shot at a deep playoff run or a super bowl, go all in.  Push the chips to the center of the table and let the players play.  In no way am I advocating to trade all of your first round picks for a decade like the Rams have, but when the time comes the Lions need to do something they’ve never really done and take the risk.  Spend a second or first round pick to bring in a star, spend big in free agency.  In doing this, you don’t need to rely on one player to win you games.  There needs to be big talent in multiple positions on the field, and this is becoming the model of success in the NFL.  It worked for the Cardinals early in the year, it worked for the Buccaneers last year during their super bowl run, and it’s working pretty well this year for the Rams.

If the Lions take care of the tasks at hand, then hopefully the career of the next franchise quarterback isn’t wasted.  Hopefully the Lions can win a playoff game or more with him under center.  The Lions made a lot of mistakes with Mathew Stafford and even more in the last sixty something years, but they have the opportunity soon to learn from those mistakes and not repeat history.  They need to take that opportunity.