Lions mailbag, Part 2: Draft trades, win-now costs, no fire for Wood
Allen Park — Welcome to Part 2 of this week's Detroit Lions mailbag. Please make sure to go back and check out Part 1 from earlier today.
► Q: How does Matthew Stafford’s back-to-back back issues compare to Tony Romo's back injuries and are we seeing an end of an era? - @BURNZY32RB
► A: Understand with this answer, we're basing it off reports, as Stafford and the Lions have routinely declined to comment on the specifics of his injuries. Last year's issue was reportedly a transverse process fracture, which is something Romo also suffered. A transverse process is a wing-like protrusion from each vertebrae.
The injury can be painful, but in many cases, a quarterback can play through it and fully recover with rest.
Romo's second, more major injury was a compression fracture of the L1 vertebrae, the top-most vertebrae in the lower back. That essentially ended his career. He also had back surgery a few years earlier on a herniated disc in his lower back that was causing him hip and nerve pain.
Stafford's current issue is reportedly non-displaced fractures in the thoracic region of the spine, or the upper back. Of the few public comments Stafford has made, he's said there's no concern about recurrence once the injury has healed.
Stafford's injuries are serious, but the lower back is usually a much bigger concern to athletes. Romo's injuries were all lower back and more extensive. He was also 37 years old when he hung them up. Stafford is 31. The two situations have some overlap, but it's minimal.
► Q: If the Lions get the third pick, are there teams that are still high enough on Tua to trade up to two? Could Chase Young slide to the Lions? - @joshb_916
► A: Absolutely, and it's a scenario not being mentioned enough. We presume that the Bengals are taking Joe Burrow, which makes all the sense in the world for a team that benched Andy Dalton mid-season. At No. 2, Washington drafted Dwayne Haskins a year ago, and if they're committed to him, they could shop their pick.
All these hypothetical scenarios obviously hinge on Tua Tagovailoa's health. But if the prognosis is good heading into the draft, there should be a market for the quarterback at the top of the draft, freeing Young to land in Detroit's lap at No. 3.
► Q: What do the three ghosts of Christmas tell Bob Quinn going into the draft? -@GameBangersShow
► A: I love this question.
OK, so we've got the ghost of draft past, present and future. In the original story, the ghost of the past reflects on Scrooge's painful childhood memories and how they shaped him, the ghost of the present focuses on ideals, and the ghost of the future represents fear and death.
We can work with this, I think.
In the movie "Scrooged," starring Bill Murray, he revisits his childhood self receiving a five-pound slab of veal from his father for Christmas. I could absolutely see Bill Belichick giving his pupil's the same, or the football equivalent.
But what the ghost would show Quinn is the Patriots' willingness to keep trading back and back, stockpiling picks and building the depth needed to contend year in and year out.
The ghost of the present might challenge Detroit's quarterback situation. After all, Patrick Mahomes and Lamar Jackson are about to go back-to-back for MVP awards. But there is enough of the old guard — Tom Brady, Drew Brees and Aaron Rodgers — showing you can get things done without a young, cheap QB.
Instead, he should remind Quinn of his own philosophy that football is won in the trenches. The Lions need to re-invest heavily on players who can consistently win rushing the passer, open holes for the running back and protect Stafford.
The ghost of the future will show Quinn his firing if he can't change the franchise's ways. That means he has to do better in the early rounds of the draft. The contributions of the past four years of first- and second-round picks has been modest, at best, during the general manager's tenure. Of that group of eight players, only Frank Ragnow looks like an above-average starter to date, although it's admittedly too early to assess last year's additions.
Quinn needs impact starters this year more than ever. No more getting cute with a tight end in the top-10 or a slow cornerback everyone else was down on in the second round. Draft well or pack your things.
► Q: Do you subscribe to the notion that a one-year, must-win mandate is misaligned with long-term franchise success? - @NightMoves212
► A: It can, but only in the most extreme cases. Take this year's Houston Texans, for example. They traded away two first-round picks, a second-rounder, two third-rounders and a sixth-round pick this year to acquire NFL talent. That earned them a division title in 2019, but at what cost going forward? They have some great cornerstones, but will have a difficult time building around them in the immediate future.
I can't see the Lions moving that aggressively going forward. More realistically, Quinn could pull off a trade similar to one he did a few years back to land Da'Shawn Hand, surrendering a future third-round to get back into the fourth round that year.
But don't count the general manager surrendering a slew of future assets to make a one-year run at the postseason.
► Q: If you could ask Jim Caldwell one question what would it be? - @ThoseDetGUYS
► A: Honestly, I just want to genuinely know how he's doing. On a personal level, I really like Caldwell and was saddened by the news he had to step away from coaching last year to tend to a personal matter. It was recently reported he received a clean bill of health, which is awesome news, but I'd love to hear from him about how he's feeling and whether he's planning on coming back to the profession he loves.
► Q: Both Jamie Collins and Kyle Van Noy are free agents this upcoming offseason. What are the chances that the Patriots pipeline brings us one or both? - @_Smails_
► A: Patricia has professed a love for Van Noy, on multiple occasions, but I don't know if there's a spot for him on this current roster, or whether he would even entertain coming back to Detroit, where his career bottomed out.
As for Collins, Patricia has spoken fondly of him, as well. Collins has rehabbed his career during his second stint with the Patriots, and at 30 years old, he isn't likely to command the same type of contract as Van Noy.
Still, I'm struggling to see where he fits on the depth chart, with Devon Kennard, Jahlani Tavai and the recent re-signed Christian Jones, even if Collins appears to be an upgrade.
► Q: If the Lions stay at No. 3, do you think we’re likely to take Jeffrey Okudah? - @michaelman1212
► A: Likely is an impossible term to use right now. Combine and pro day testing, as well as the individual meetings at those events, is going to influence the construction of the draft board.
At this point, the Ohio State cornerback logically seems to be in play. He's the consensus best player at his position, which overlaps with a clear need for the Lions. Personally, I think there are bigger holes along the defensive line, but if the team is able to fill some of those in free agency or via a trade, the focus in the draft could shift.
Additionally, Darius Slay's status plays into the conversation. If the Lions opt to part with Slay prior to this season, they'll need to be more aggressive addressing the team's secondary.
► Q: Why isn’t Rod Wood getting called out like Quinn and Patricia? - @metrichead
► A: Because Wood has little to do with the football side of things and most people aren't overly concerned about the operational side of Ford Field.
The Lions opted to separate their team president from football decision-making when they hired Wood. Where that might matter, in a concerning way, is if the team does need to hire a new general manager next year. While there are outlets to assist in a search, both through the league and third parties, it certainly weakens a franchise's decision-making to not have a knowledgeable football mind in on the process.
► Q: Correct me if I'm wrong, but i get the impression that press boxes are an enclosed, climate controlled space. However, most announcing boxes seem to be open air and the announcers are bundled up during cold whether. Do you know what the logic is behind this? - @BigBitingPig
► A: I called friend of the program Dan Miller to get this thoughts. Unlike Wojo, Miller actually picks up his phone when I ring.
As Miller explains it, feeling the energy and the emotion of the stadium is an important element to calling a game. If you work in a closed box, which a couple of stadiums have, he said it feels like you're shouting about a game in your living room, not a stadium full of fans.
Writers do operate in open-air press boxes in most of the indoor stadiums, including Minnesota, where we're seated between the upper and lower bowls. That's my favorite game day experience.
But when it comes to writing, we obviously prefer climate control. It would be tough to type 6-7 hours with exposed fingers in 25-degree weather. Announcers can throw on gloves. We really can't.
Plus, can't risk the laptop getting wet if rain were to hit.
► Q: Are fewer turnovers a product of Patricia's defensive scheme? How did his defenses in New England rate as far as turnovers caused? - @DAVIDDalexish
► A: This isn't something I'd previously researched, so I was interested in seeing what the results would be. Here are the turnover numbers and rankings for New England's defense during Patricia's six years as the team's coordinator.
2012: 41 (second)
2013: 29 (10th)
2014: 25 (14th)
2015: 21 (22nd)
2016: 23 (14th)
2017: 18 (25th)
Interestingly, it's almost a steady decline, outside of a slight uptick in 2016. And since Patricia has left New England, the team finished fifth in takeaways last year and are first through 15 games this season. Without a month-long research project into the personnel changes and a film study, it's difficult to assess what has caused the trend. Still, it's troubling at first glance, no doubt.
As for whether the scheme has been the problem in Detroit, let's separate interceptions and fumbles. Fumbles are inherently fluky. Sometimes you have personnel that excels in jarring the ball free, like Justin Coleman on the current roster. But even if the ball is forced out, there's still an element of luck that goes into recovering it.
Interceptions, on the other hand, can be tied directly to the scheme. Patricia's defense relies far more heavily on man coverage, compared to zone. That means corners are more focused on their coverage assignments than keeping eyes in the backfield. Combine that with a lack of a viable pass rush, which limits rushed throws, and you're going to end up with fewer picks.
Embarrassingly, the Lions have just 13 interceptions in Patricia's first 31 games. That's worst in the NFL during that stretch.
► Q: Do you see a realistic scenario where the Lions trade back to 4-6 and take Jerry Jeudy? - @Vretz2121
► A: A few weeks back I created a list of 10 players I could see the Lions drafting, depending on where they landed in draft order. I included Jeudy on that list and wrote the following.
"The Lions certainly don’t have an immediate need at the position, but the long-term view comes into play in 2021, when both Marvin Jones and Kenny Golladay’s contracts are set to expire. Jeudy is nearly a perfect prospect at the position, with masterful route running and elite long speed. He’s up to 23 touchdowns over the past two seasons. And here’s the kicker. He has plenty of experience playing in the slot, meaning it will be easy to put him on the field right away."
Drafting Jeudy is risky, not because he's not an exceptional talent, but because it ignores many of the roster's other holes. The long-term justification is easy, but this coaching staff and front office have to place a little more emphasis on the short-term than they normally would.
If the Lions aggressively address other needs in free agency, maybe the conversation changes, especially if the trade down you're pitching nets another high-round draft pick, potentially even Miami's second first-rounder.
► Q: How soon after the season ends could we see coaching staff changes? - @RandyOsb
► A: It won't be long, probably within days.