Holy $%^&. What a season.
The Detroit Lions were out. They were done. Although not mathematically eliminated from the playoffs, they were dead in the water. But this isn’t your papa’s Lions. These Detroit Lions, as Dan Campbell says, can and will. They exploded for an 8-2 finish, rolling through 5 divisional wins. There were rough points, sure. But all of a sudden, the light at the end of the tunnel is a lot closer than it was. This was a rollercoaster of a season. Detroit had to slog through a tough uphill to start smashing downhill. This season was not a failure because we didn’t sneak into the playoffs. This season was an unmitigated, unprecedented, success. The Lions are fun again.
So where do we go from here? This is going to be a pivotal and exciting offseason for Holmes and Co. There will be a shopping spree, on both in-house free agents and new faces, and the front office gears up for draft number three. But before we figure out how to make this team even better, we should celebrate this win a little more. Here, I’ve compiled nine takeaways – things I noticed during the Packers game that have some bearing on the offseason for Detroit.
Dan Campbell has a ton of job security.
Remember early in the season when everyone everywhere figured that MCDC’s seat was starting to considerably heat up after a 1-6 start? Me too. Things couldn’t look more different this side of the season. Campbell had the culture down, but he needed to show some results. He brought those this season. He’s not going anywhere, even if the Lions start slow again next year. It wouldn’t be optimal, but he’s shown that no matter their record, Detroit is no longer an easy out or a “get right” game.
Kerby Joseph. That’s it.
Here’s a fun statistic: last night, Joseph tied Brian Urlacher for most picks off Aaron Rodgers – 3. He almost had a fourth. He’s a rookie. Kerby Joseph is now Aaron Rodgers’ personal boogeyman.
There are some tough free agent decisions coming up.
Let me pitch some names here. DJ Chark, Jamaal Williams, Evan Brown, Will Harris, Deshon Elliot, Isaiah Buggs, John Cominsky. And that’s just a few. The Lions need to decide how to balance these talented vets with their youth-infused core and the players they get back from IR, like Tracy Walker and the Okwara brothers. We’ll have more in-depth pieces later in the offseason on our predictions, but there’s going to have to be some budgeting and some tough decisions.
Brad Holmes: Draft God.
Is it too late to call this the best draft class in the NFL this year? Holmes found bonafide starters in Aidan Hutchinson, Kerby Joseph, and Malcolm Rodriguez. Jameson Williams, Josh Pascal,Chase Lucas and James Houston are rotational pieces, and given time, could work their way into being part of the long term plan here. Holmes takes no rounds off. This is a masterclass in talent scouting.
Jared Goff may not be The Guy, but he’s earned another year.
There will rightfully be questions this offseason about who the Lions will roll out under center next year. That being said, Jared Goff has assuaged most of my fears. He works in this offense, which has been filled with explosive playmakers and versatile pieces. Ben Johnson looked at his QB and said, “I can work with this.” Look at Goff now! He’s throwing deep, he’s making better decisions, and he has a 17:1 touchdown to turnover ratio. I’m not ruling out someone developmental like Anthony Richardson or a late round pick bursting onto the scene, but until further notice, Goff is in the driver’s seat for this team.
Safety is a position of interest.
The backfield is very top-heavy right now. Let’s assume, for simplicity’s sake, that Deshon Elliot resigns and Tracy Walker is off of the PUP list for Week 1. Where does Kerby Joseph slot in? He’s been dynamic, and has earned some playing time. He also plays a different role. Elliot and Walker come up to the line of scrimmage more often to play the run, while Joseph is more of a ballhawk and plays like an extended cornerback. It’s also not impossible that the Lions draft one. There are quite a few that I like for the Lions in various roles on the defense.
Records are made to be broken.
I love Jamaal Williams. This man is the embodiment of the culture the Lions are trying to build, and he’ll probably be back next year. Yes, Barry Sanders is the GOAT (if anyone says it’s Emmitt Smith, I am prepared to fight), but I can’t think of anyone more deserving to have the record right now. Williams is the face of the new-look Lions, and the face of progress for Detroit – simply because he wants to be here. He deserves his name on a wall or in a book somewhere.
Ben Johnson Watch starts now.
As of now, the Colts, Texans, Panthers, and Broncos are looking for head coaches. All these franchises are moderately dysfunctional (the Texans are the football equivalent of a dumpster fire) and need new faces to steer the ship. Would Ben Johnson be one of them? He certainly has offensive skills, but he’s young and relatively inexperienced. It’s a little too early to say for sure, but Lions fans, start praying.
Can the North run through Detroit in 2023?
Dan Campbell said it. He said the thing. The words “We need to be competing for division championships next year” fell from his mouth. Holmes and Campbell planned to burst onto the scene in 2023 anyway, but now, the secret is out a year early. Detroit is here and they’re not going away. So the question remains: can the Lions topple the Vikings or the Packers for the 2023 division title? Never say never. Detroit went a remarkable 5-1 in the division this year, almost going undefeated if not for some blunders against Minnesota in Week 3. Next year, the Lions are almost certainly going to be in the mix for not just the playoffs, but maybe even a home playoff game.