Lions mailbag, Part 1: For GM Bob Quinn, 9-7 still won't be good enough
Allen Park — Another week, another loss, another Detroit Lions mailbag. Here's Part 1 of this week's mail. Check back later for Part 2.
► Question. When does Bob Quinn take responsibility? 9-7 wasn't good enough so what's this? — @sabourin91
► Answer. It's not good enough then and it's not good enough now. If you think Quinn is going to defend this team's record, I don't know what to tell you. As for when he'll take responsibility, the Lions season ends Dec. 29 and the general manager typically holds his year-end press conference the following week.
As a refresher, here's part of last year's opening statement from that press conference.
"I understand there’s a lot of talk out there about our record last year compared to our record this year," Quinn said. "I understand that. To me, looking at it, both seasons are disappointments, because really, we’re not playing this weekend, and if we’re not playing this weekend, we can’t get to our ultimate goal. And those are the types of things that — the win-loss record is what it is, but really, I’m sitting up here in the same boat as I was last year with a couple less wins. My position as the general manager here, I’m accountable, I’m responsible. I put this team together and I feel like we have a good team. We didn’t win as much as we should’ve this year and those are things that Coach (Matt Patricia) and I are going to look back at and evaluate over the next coming months and make sure we have a better team going forward."
It didn't make you feel any better then and it won't make you feel any better now.
► Q. Has anyone ever explained why they take Graham Glasgow out and rotate Kenny Wiggins in each game? — @DJCO11
► A. Yes, but again, the answer isn't going to satisfy anyone. To paraphrase, the Lions thought Wiggins performed well enough throughout the offseason to merit playing time.
Why that isn't strictly at left guard, rotating with Joe Dahl, is beyond me.
► Q. What's the best/funniest/coolest name in the NFL that you've gotten to cover? — @Kfletch300
► A. There is an endless supply of great names in the NFL, but my favorite, and my last pick in fantasy drafts every year until he retired, was tight end Buck Ortega. That name sounds like the protagonist of a 1960's Western sitcom.
► Q. When USA Today predicted the lions to go 3-13 were they on to something? — @S_K_R24
► A. Not really.
While that publication might end up closer to correct than I did when I swung for the fences with a 10-6 projection, I think we can safely say the Lions weren't playing like a three-win team prior to Matthew Stafford's injury. They started 2-0-1 and lost heart-breakers to Kansas City, Green Bay and Oakland prior to losing their quarterback.
This team, with a healthy Stafford, remains firmly in the NFL's middle class, +/- two games either side of 8-8.
► Q. What would be the most fun way this season could end? — @SniffinGrits
► A. Lions sign Colin Kaepernick, debut an innovative two-QB, quadruple-option offense with Jeff Driskel, and score 35 points per game down the stretch.
► Q. If Bob Quinn had a chance to redo his 2019 first round draft pick would he still go with a TE or would he select a defensive playmaker? — @BlueSteel313
► A. It's an interesting question and the answer would obviously be influenced by hindsight. Going into the draft, one of the small group of players we routinely highlighted as a sleeper option with the No. 8 pick was edge rusher Brian Burns, and he's been pretty good for Carolina, who snagged him at No. 16. But even now, is edge rusher really an issue for the Lions? Trey Flowers has looked really good since shaking off the rust related to his offseason surgery, and Devon Kennard has more sacks and 55 percent more pressures than Burns.
As a third man in the rotation, Burns would look pretty good, but how much would he be playing ahead of Romeo Okwara, a player the Lions really like within their scheme?
Detroit's bigger issues have been at cornerback and defensive tackle. And you could argue they didn't feel either was a pressing need at the time of the draft.
The team had signed two cornerbacks in free agency, and still had their fingers crossed Teez Tabor finally would make the developmental leap to contributor. And it's not like there was a can't-miss cornerback in this class. Deandre Baker was the first off the board, going to the Giants at No. 30.
Defensive tackle is a more interesting conversation. The Lions clearly felt good about their core of Damon Harrison, A'Shawn Robinson and Da'Shawn Hand, but that didn't stop them from signing Mike Daniels when he came available early in training camp. That addition makes a stronger case for Ed Oliver, the dominant college lineman who went a pick after the Lions, to the Buffalo Bills.
Much like T.J. Hockenson, Oliver hasn't exactly lit the world on fire as a rookie. Both players are going through an adjustment period and likely have much better days ahead.
The only other player who merits a conversation is linebacker Devin Bush, but even more so after the selection of Jahlani Tavai in the second round, we realize size was a factor in that decision.
All those words really say is I think Quinn might take Hockenson again if he could do it over.
► Q. When the Lions lose to Washington, is there any chance ANYONE gets fired ? — @McJellieBean
► A. I'd lean no, because the absence of Stafford will be considered a viable, single-game excuse, but I guess it would really depend on how they lose.
In the past seven games, Washington hasn't gained more than 311 yards on offense. If they somehow manage to light the Lions up for 450 yards and 30 points, maybe that's enough of an embarrassment to trigger some kind of staffing change.
► Q. Should we really start worrying about Kerryon Johnson and drafting a durable running back, given his past and current injuries? — @Reeshy
► A. I really like Johnson's skill set, but I have zero problem acknowledging he's not cut out to be a workhorse over the course of a 16-game season. Do you know how many times Alvin Kamara has carried the ball more than 20 times in a game during his three-year career? Zero. You can still be an impact star splitting the workload.
Starting in Round 2, the Lions should absolutely consider another running back to be the Mark Ingram to Johnson's Kamara.
► Q. The Lions seem to have targeted certain players like Tavai who fit their specific system and seem to have valued guys like him much higher than other teams did. If they do let Patricia go, have they set themselves up for failure with the next coach/scheme? — @kejsphs
► A. By most accounts, the Lions weren't the only team that valued Tavai in that Day-2 range, but you are correct in noting his skill set is more scheme-specific than many players on the defense. There just isn't the demand for 250-pound, off-ball linebackers that there was 10 or 20 years ago.
But Tavai is really an exception. The Lions aren't loaded up with too many scheme-specific players, and among those, none are signed to crippling long-term contracts.
If, and it remains a big, unlikely if, the Lions were to move on from Patricia, it would be like any other coaching change, where there would be more aggressive year-to-year roster turnover to adjust to the next coach's schemes.
► Q. Would Lincoln Riley be a better fit than Patricia? — @JustinBracy2
► A. Let me say, I'm enamored with Riley's ability to design offensive schemes and plays for his talent at Oklahoma. He's one of the game's true innovative minds at that level and I hope he makes the jump to the NFL some day.
But is the Lions offense really the team's problem? I have no idea if Riley would be a better overall head coach in Detroit than Patrica. But I don't think the hypothetical swap addresses the team's biggest concern, which is the defense.
► Q. Where would you like the Lions to play a 17th game someday? — @SifferMichael
► A. Are we talking playoffs or the potential addition of a 17th, neutral-site regular season game being discussed in the current round of collective bargaining?
In terms of playoffs, I'd love for you guys to get a home game at Ford Field. You've waited long enough and deserve it.
As for potential neutral-site games, I'd prefer to go to Mexico City over London. But let's get creative and consider some other global destinations. I would never turn down a chance to return to Barcelona. The Olympic stadium from 1992 used to host NFL Europe games and can hold 60,000 fans. Brazil would also be incredible. But for me, nothing would top the possibility of going to Japan.
Book it, Roger, let's take the Lions to Tokyo.
► Q. Do you think Davis’ poor performance earlier this season could have been related to his ankle injury? He has strung together a couple of solid games lately. — @misterowens99
► A. It's not out of the question. High ankle sprains are hell and he's certainly the type of guy who would grit his teeth and try to play through discomfort. But even when healthy, Davis has shown consistent flaws in his play. He's not fluid in coverage, he can be overaggressive with his run reads and his tackling is inconsistent.
Yes, he's on a nice two-game stretch. And I thought he played well in the second half of last season. He's a serviceable player, but I've never seen him dominate a game at his position the way Luke Kuechly does on an almost weekly basis for the Panthers. I don't have any reason to believe Davis will ever be that guy.
► Q. Justin, you watch lots of game film and always have some keen analysis. You’re closer to the team than any of us. What do you see as the biggest reason for the defensive struggles? — @The_Johnny_Pop
► A: I really dug into the topic in this week's film review, and while I framed it around the narrow focus of the Dallas game, many of the problems have been consistent throughout the season. You should check that out.
Here's a quick refresher:
1. The Lions are getting almost no interior pressure. Missing Hand hurts, but they should further look to address the issue next offseason.
2. The edge pressure isn't great, but it's been adequate since Flowers has hit his stride. The team could use another contributor in the rotation. We'll see if rookie Austin Bryant can be that solution.
3. The linebacker play remains average. The unit has been effective in run support as of late, but inspire little confidence in coverage.
4. The cornerback play has been dismal. Rashaan Melvin can't consistently cover non-vertical routes, Justin Coleman looks far worse when his punch-out is ineffective, and even Darius Slay is playing a level below what we've grown accustomed to seeing.
5. Without Tracy Walker, the safeties aren't good enough. Will Harris needs more seasoning and Tavon Wilson's contributions are limited to the box.
► Q. Everyone is quick to blame Patricia/Pasqualoni for the defensive woes this year, but have they really been given enough time to overhaul the offense and defense? — @alexpenilla_
► A. Yes. Two years is enough time to reshape a roster. Look how many pieces on defense are new since Patricia arrived: Flowers, Harrison, Hand, Daniels, Kennard, Jones, Tavai, Coleman, Walker and Harris. That's just the high-round draft picks and big-money free agents.
Time is not a viable excuse.
► Q. Who are the five greatest rappers of all time? — @RobertKlemko
► A. This will inevitably be the answer that generates the most discussion, but it's my list, so I don't care what y'all think.
1. Tupac (Powerful lyrics and message still resonate two decades later.)
2. Nas (Arguably made the best rap album ever, great lyricist and storyteller.)
3. Eminem (He had a rough stretch in the middle of his career, but flow is tough to top.)
4. Biggie (Well-rounded, great flow and word play)
5. Lil' Wayne (His delivery isn't for everybody, and lyrically, not particularly deep, but I've always been partial to ability to play with syllables within words.)
Honorable mention: Rakim, Andre-3000, Kendrick, Ghostface