By Dylan Wittenberg
The Detroit Lions have been the epitome of a disastrous football franchise for nearly six decades. From failed coaches to failed to GMs to failed drafts to failed execution, the Lions have never been able to out together all the right pieces at the right time. When Barry Sanders was the most dominant running back in the game, the front office couldn’t put a successful offensive line or quarterback around him. When the Lions went year after year in the 2000s with high NFL draft picks, the origination had Matt Millen calling the shots, and failing to do so. Finally, however, it seems like Martha Firestone Ford and the rest of the Lions’ higher ups have finally found the right person to run their organization: Bob Quinn.
In only one season and two off seasons, Quinn has single-handedly built the Lions, piece by piece, into a very competitive team. And his done it the “Patriot Way”, addressing the team’s most important positions in both free agency and the NFL Draft. Here’s a breakdown of the two most important phases Quinn has addressed so far to build the Lions from a 7-9 garbage fire to a competitive NFC playoff team:
After a very decent season in the trenches that featured many quarterback pressures and a many rushes for no gain or less, Quinn knew that an improvement to the offensive line was necessary. Besides the quarterback position, it is most likely the most important position in football. First, Quinn let guard Riley Reiff and tackle Larry Warford walk on their contracts and into free agency. Reiff, the Lions first round pick in 2012, never panned out into the top offensive talent he was touted to be. Warford, on the other hand, had an excellent few seasons protecting Stafford, but 2015 and 2016 showed a steady decline in production. Reiff and Warford were decent. For Quinn, decent isn’t good enough. Not coincidentally, this theme hold true in New England, as well. Quinn has never dealt with decent, and he won’t in Detroit. Reiff has signed with the Minnesota Vikings, while Warford has signed with the New Orleans Saints. Step two was signing the lineman to replace Reiff and Warford. Quinn did this with flying colors, signing guard TJ Lang from the Green Bay Packers and tackle Ricky Wagner from the Baltimore Ravens. Lang was the Packers’ leader in the trenches from 2009-2016, winning a Super Bowl and many division titles with the franchise. He is widely considered a top 3 guard in the entire NFL. Wagner, on the other hand, is considered one of the ten best tackles in the NFL. Together, along with Travis Swanson and outstanding second year players Taylor Decker and Graham Glasgow, they will be dangerous and may be responsible for an extra win or two alone for the Lions. Behind a good offensive line, nearly any professional quarterback can thrive. Matthew Stafford isn’t just any professional quarterback. Quinn gets an A+ grade with the offensive line.
Quinn’s next project was rejuvenating a Lions’ defense that was both stagnant and energetic in 2016. One of the best moves he made was cutting DeAndre Levy, a middle linebacker that had none of the locker room qualities it takes to command a defense. Besides only playing a few games a year, Levy never seemed to have the best mindset for a middle linebacker. After getting rid of Levy, Quinn hit the draft to revitalize the Lions’ defense with young, athletic, and talent players. First round pick Jarrad Davis is everything you want in a middle linebacker. Besides being a supreme talent, he is strictly business and cares about winning and winning only. The Lions second round pick, Teez Tabor, was a menace on the field, although his slow 40 yard dash team surprised many people and left many teams hesitant. If his on field production translates to the NFL (from the SEC), he will be an asset in the Lions secondary. Jamal Agnew, the Lions’ fifth round pick, also will have an impact in the Lions secondary. On the line, Ziggy Ansah is primed for a bounce back season and 2016 second round pick A’Shawn Robinson improved throughout the entire 2016 season and is also primed for a big year. The Lions’ defense really looks like it will improve greatly in 2017 and could offset an improved offense very nicely.