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On Sunday, during another Detroit Lions loss, amid another lost Detroit Lions season, the Detroit Lions fans who still bother to attend Detroit Lions games tried to send a message to the team’s detached ownership.
It begged for Martha Firestone Ford to either fire general manager Bob Quinn and head coach Matt Patricia or sell the team to someone who would.
There were T-shirts, homemade signs and paper bags covering their heads. Fans chanted. Fans shouted. Fans all but begged Firestone Ford to put an end to a regime that has driven a team that seemed capable of actually doing something a couple years ago into a 3-10-1 embarrassment.
On Tuesday, Firestone Ford responded, summoning the team’s beat reporters and informing them that: a) she wasn’t selling and b) Quinn and Patricia would be back for a fifth and third season respectively.
Bad records, a bad roster, bad excuses … it doesn’t matter.
May everyone have a happy holiday and a boss as forgiving as Martha Firestone Ford is with Quinn and Patricia. You can overpromise, under-deliver, hire your friends and run the company into the ground … but you’re still welcome to another chance to fix your own disaster.
These are the Lions, of course, the worst franchise in professional sports, the owners of a single playoff victory since 1957. That’s 62 years and counting. Sixty-two! The oft-derided Jacksonville Jaguars have been to twice as many AFC championship games as the Lions have playoff victories. Detroit wishes it had the Jags.
This is a franchise that isn’t famous for heartbreak because it is so abysmal it never gets to a place where hearts can break.
Left in the middle is a generationally beaten-down fan base stuck shouting into a vacuum at a family that inherited their money, their team and their stature, yet keeps telling the fans to ignore what they see with their own eyes or hear with their own ears.
These people gave Matt Millen eight years as general manager, after all.
After all these decades of being wrong, they are due to be right one of these days, correct? Maybe. Anything is possible, of course. Maybe these are the next San Francisco 49ers, ready to make a quantum leap no one (other than Martha Firestone Ford) saw coming.
It would require remarkable clairvoyance.
Consider this scenario: Almost exactly five years ago, the Fords hired Bob Quinn as general manager even though he had never been a general manager. He came from the New England Patriots, so there was hope he knew what he was doing. He inherited a club with a franchise quarterback in Matthew Stafford who was one season removed from 11-5.
In his four drafts he has selected just one player who became a Pro Bowler, and that was for special teams. The Lions went 9-7 in each of his first two years, but he decided that he needed to fire the coach, Jim Caldwell, because Caldwell didn’t appear to be capable of winning a Super Bowl.
“I think we have more than a competitive team to be competing for championships,” Quinn said at the time. “… At the end of the day, it’s wanting to take this team to the next level … To me, that’s winning championships, that’s winning playoff games and that’s winning the Super Bowl.”
Quinn wasn’t necessarily wrong. Caldwell didn’t maximize those Lions teams. They were capable of more.
However, as his replacement, Quinn hired Patricia as head coach even though he’d never been a head coach. He came from the Patriots, so there was hope he knew what he was doing (and this wasn’t just Quinn hiring his old buddy.)
The team that went 9-7 and 9-7 suddenly went 6-10. Now this, 3-10-1 and counting.
Just for the record: The Lions didn’t win the Super Bowl last season and won’t this season.
They did, however, complain about injuries this year. It’s true, injuries decimated a thin roster. Then again, who is responsible for the thin roster?
And the team wasn’t doing anything when it was healthy. Stafford was great before getting hurt. Detroit was 3-4-1.
But why dwell on that when you can sell Martha Firestone Ford on being the victim of misfortune?
Despite this track record of two guys with no track record other than Bill Belichick once hired them as entry-level assistants for the NFL’s greatest dynasty, the Fords are still convinced they’ll get it this time.
This is who she entrusts for an offseason where Detroit will likely have the No. 3 overall draft pick, about $50 million in salary-cap space and are likely to trade Pro Bowler Darius Slay because he hasn’t exactly expressed much confidence in the team. Someone who knows what they are doing could do a lot with that.
It actually stands to reason everyone will be back in 2021, too. The new goal is not to win the Super Bowl, but merely be in “playoff contention.”
With a last-place schedule, the return of Stafford, a top-three pick and some free agents, being in “playoff contention” would be nearly impossible not to achieve. Just get to 7-9 or 8-8 and everyone will probably get another year due to “progress.”
Perhaps Lions fans should save their signs.
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