Even in weird year, Detroit Lions stay true to form — an absolute mess

by | Dec 27, 2020 | Detroit Free Press, Comment, Sports | 0 comments

It’s the holiday season, traditionally when Detroit fans root for the Lions to lose so they can move up in the draft.

In that case, Merry Christmas, fans!

Otherwise, what happened Saturday at Ford Field was an embarrassment, even by Detroit Lions’ standards, and that bar is so low, a worm couldn’t get under it.

Only the Lions could lose the bulk of their coaching staff to a COVID-19 issue, so that their interim head coach, Darrell Bevell, had to be replaced by a one-day-only head coach, Robert Prince, and their defensive plays had to be called by a 32-year-old research analyst.

Only the Lions would be of so little consequence to the NFL that postponing the game, even by a day, was deemed unnecessary.

Only the Lions, who have squandered Matthew Stafford’s immense talent for more than a decade, could see him gamely make another start, with lingering hand and rib issues, only to roll an ankle on the first series and hop into the locker room, never to return to action.

Let me review Saturday’s entire game against Tampa Bay for you. Ready? Here we go.

The Lions kicked off.

Three hours later, they lost 47-7.

What else do you want to know?

“On offense, we couldn’t stay on the field,” Prince said, “and on defense we couldn’t get off the field.”

So the problem was … the field?

Sheila Ford Hamp, who is now running the Lions, was last seen holding her head in her hands during the Thanksgiving game. On Saturday, she must have been looking for a manhole.

This team is a holy mess. It’s flotsam on top of jetsam, floating on a sea of indifference. Ford Hamp may have a host of excuses for now — fired head coach and general manager, COVID interruptions, injuries to Stafford, Kenny Golladay, virtually anyone plays the secondary, etc. — but those excuses end next weekend.

And it’s on her to stop the world from laughing at her football team.

No laughing matter

Because when a team gives up nearly 600 yards of offense, as the Lions did on Saturday, opponents laugh.

When you sack Tom Brady on third down of the very first series, only to have it negated by an offsides penalty, as the Lions did on Saturday, critics laugh.

And when Brady, who played down the street and whom the Lions could have drafted five times but didn’t, has the best first half of his entire career, as he did on Saturday, fate laughs.

Laughter is good — if you’re running a comedy club. But in the NFL, you want to be taken seriously. Too often, the Lions are not. Matt Patricia, by his third year, was not taken seriously. His defense — supposedly his specialty — was not taken seriously. This franchise, year after year, is not taken seriously.

Now the question becomes will it be taken seriously by the next top candidates for GM and head coach? Detroit won’t be the only potential landing spot. Given the history here, how badly will the real game changers want to come?

That’s what Ford Hamp and Rod Wood and newly-hired Chris Spielman will have to spin. And performances like Saturday won’t inspire much confidence.

“Everybody processes these kind of beatdowns differently,” backup quarterback Chase Daniel said. “Some take a few days. Some take a few hours.”

Some take a minute. They say, “It’s the Lions.”

And that’s what the front office has to stop.

When will this end?

Look, nobody expected Detroit to win this game. They were 5-9, eliminated from the playoffs, without half their coaching staff including the interim head coach, and going against arguably the greatest quarterback of all time.

But those are the type of games, for certain teams, that can bring inspired performances. Better-than-expected performances. The Jets beating the Rams performance. The Bengals beating the Steelers performance.

Instead, the Lions lived right down to the lowest expectations. Their defense is a paper curtain. Brady had 348 yards against it — in the first half!

The offense, without Stafford, didn’t score a point all day. The lone touchdown was on a 74-yard punt return by Jamal Agnew. And because irony also likes to laugh, the Lions just fired their special teams coach.

“We had our team, they had our team,” said Prince. He meant to say “they had their team” but he actually said it right. The Bucs had the Lions all day. For lunch.

It was a meaningless game, from a standings point of view. But every game shows you something about your franchise. Saturday seemed to show that when a team is not taken seriously for so long, it lives down to that reputation.

Draft position, improved. Everything else, embarrassed. We ask the ownership: is this really how you want more seasons to end?

Contact Mitch Albom: malbom@freepress.com. Check out the latest updates with his charities, books and events at MitchAlbom.com. Download “The Sports Reporters” podcast each Monday and Thursday on-demand through Apple Podcasts, Google Play, Spotify and more. Follow him on Twitter @mitchalbom.


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New book, The Little Liar, arrives November 14. Get the details »

Mitch Albom writes about running an orphanage in impoverished Port-au-Prince, Haiti, his kids, their hardships, laughs and challenges, and the life lessons he’s learned there every day.

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