Dan Campbell and Brad Holmes have work to do.
The Detroit Lions’ new coach and general manager inherited a mess. Matt Patricia pushed for players who knew “The Patriot Way,” passing on better talent to do so, and he pushed a lot of talented players out of the door with his personality. The Lions don’t have a lot of young talent to work around. Quarterback Matthew Stafford was traded to the Rams on Saturday.
The Lions’ poor history is well-known by football fans. They haven’t won a championship since 1957. They have won just one playoff game since then, and that came at the end of the 1991 season. Detroit hasn’t won a division title since 1993. The last three seasons under Patricia were a complete waste.
BetMGM recently launched online betting in Michigan, and it would be nice for Lions fans to place a futures bet on their team to win the division or even the Super Bowl (it’s not like the success of Detroit’s other pro teams are distracting fans there), and have some confidence in it. Maybe that won’t take as long as it appears.
Brad Holmes, Dan Campbell bring new ideas
Holmes, who was the Los Angeles Rams director of college scouting, impressed the Lions when they interviewed GM candidates. He was the unanimous pick of the team’s decision-makers for the job. Holmes doesn’t view his new job as a major rebuilding project.
“The ultimate goal is to make sure that the most competitive team is on the field and that starts right this year entering the 2021 season,” Holmes said, via the Detroit Free Press. “So not viewing this as, 'Oh, this will be a long-term.' I don’t know how long it’s going to take. That’s not the approach, that’s not the mindset going into it. The approach is to make sure that we can put the most competitive team possible team out there on the field in 2021.”
Campbell probably doesn’t want a long-term rebuild either, even though he got a six-year deal. The truth is, coaches don’t get that long in the NFL. Campbell is a former NFL tight end and he was hired to change the culture and bring some passion to the job. Players on teams Campbell has been with have talked about the respect they have for him. It’s hard to see him suffering through a long rebuild.
Holmes was part of a Rams team that turned things around quickly. With the Lions, he’ll bring over an analytical approach that Los Angeles adopted. While analytics is an empty buzzword to some teams, coaches and GMs, Holmes believes in it.
"I've always said that technology is truly an accelerator," Holmes said. "I think it's very critical to utilize the technology as the accelerator it truly is. There's so many different avenues and so many different areas in scouting and personnel where the use and acceleration of technology can be utilized in a very critical way.”
The Lions will need Holmes’ analytical approach and Campbell’s energy, especially early on. Because there’s a lot of work to do on the roster.
Lions roster starts with new QB
As with any NFL team, the Lions’ roster evaluation starts at quarterback. And Jared Goff is the guy after the team acquired him in the Stafford trade.
Goff wasn’t great this past season, although he did played admirably in the playoffs with a broken thumb on his passing hand. The Lions offense was much more conservative in 2020 for some reason. Could that continue with Goff at the helm?
There are some interesting young pieces — cornerback Jeffrey Okudah, running back D’Andre Swift, tight end T.J. Hockenson, center Frank Ragnow, receiver and free agent-to-be Kenny Golladay — to build around. But the Lions need to find pass rushers, receivers whether Golladay re-signs or not, linebackers and cornerbacks.
Teams can turn things around quickly in the NFL. That’s what the league wants. It’s not crazy to believe that the Lions, with Holmes’ new way of thinking, have a productive draft and the holdover players are more excited to play for someone like Campbell, who has a reputation as a strong leader. Other than the Green Bay Packers, the NFC North isn’t too intimidating, and even the Packers aren’t guaranteed to be on top for long. No NFL team is.
The Lions have been on a merry-go-round at coach and GM for a long time. Holmes and Campbell are exciting new hires, and hopefully for the Lions they’re finally the right combination after so many years of searching.
There is plenty of work to be done, but perhaps they’ll be better than expected next season. And a fun team to bet on, as well.
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