The Detroit Lions are 3-10-1, but better things are on the horizon. They better be, or else team owner Martha Firestone Ford won’t be happy.
Ford expressed disappointment in the team’s performance in 2019 in an open letter to fans, but stressed that she expects the Lions “to be a playoff contender in 2020.”
We see signs of this foundation in our team’s toughness, competitiveness and culture. Injuries happen in the NFL and are never an excuse. Nonetheless, our team has played through serious injuries this season to some of our best players. Despite the injuries, we have remained competitive in each game and our team depth showed up as a strength.
We also believe that the most successful teams in our league have a long-term plan, stability in leadership and exhibit patience to follow their plan. To that end, we are committed to year three of Coach Patricia’s plan. To be clear, our expectation is for the Lions to be a playoff contender in 2020.
That statement comes a day after the team announced head coach Matt Patricia and general manager Bob Quinn would return in 2020. Patricia has won just 9 games in two seasons as the team’s head coach. Quinn hired Patricia in place of Jim Caldwell, who led the Lions to a 9-7 record in 2017.
Ford’s statement can be read two ways. Fans can view it as a vote of confidence for Patricia and Quinn. Perhaps Ford truly believes in what the two are building and thinks better things are on the way. Fans can also look at it as Ford issuing a warning to both men: Make the playoffs next season, or you’re done.
While worst-to-first turnarounds aren’t impossible in the NFL, the Lions could face a particularly tough road to the top in the NFC North. Both the Green Bay Packers and Minnesota Vikings are likely to make the playoffs this season. The Chicago Bears have been a major disappointment, but the team will still bring back an impressive defense in 2020, and could make upgrades on offense.
Getting Matthew Stafford back at full strength will help. Stafford, 31, was in the midst of a bounce-back season before a back injury forced him to miss games. The Lions have gone winless in six games with Stafford out.
Still, that might not be enough. The Lions’ success will ultimately depend on whether Patricia can get the defense turned around, and Quinn can add impact players via the draft and free agency.
If Patricia and Quinn are going to do that, they better act soon. It doesn’t sound like Ford will tolerate another disappointing season in 2020.
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