Lions’ coaching search, NFL power rankings, Chiefs-Bucs and more

The Detroit Lions finally fired head coach Matt Patricia. Now, they have to find a replacement who will restore the roar in the Motor City.

The easy part is done. The hard work now begins.

On Saturday, the Detroit Lions did the long overdue. They fired Matt Patricia after almost three full seasons as head coach, alongside general manager Bob Quinn. The 46-year-old Patricia packs his boxes with a record of 13-29-1.

For first-year owner Sheila Ford Hamp, her first hiring round is a critical one. The Lions haven’t won a playoff game since 1991, the second-longest drought in the NFL save for the Cincinnati Bengals.

To break the spell, Hamp needs to find a general manager with a knack for scouting. For years, Detroit has struggled to string together quality drafts. Over the past decade, only the Lions’ 2013 class has produced multiple Pro Bowlers, doing so with Darius Slay, Larry Warford and Ezekiel Ansah. None remain on the roster.

One candidate who jumps to mind? John Dorsey, who was ousted in both Kansas City and Cleveland, but is widely regarded as one of the league’s best personnel men. Dorsey largely built the Chiefs’ championship team, selecting Patrick Mahomes, Tyreek Hill, Travis Kelce, Eric Fisher and Chris Jones among others.

As for head coach, the Lions must be creative and well-researched.

Detroit isn’t going to be a. top destination for any coordinator with multiple suitors. Why? Here’s the potential list of openings and why the Lions will struggle to compete with the situations:

  • New York Jets: Trevor Lawrence is ready and waiting
  • Jacksonville Jaguars: Justin Fields, no income tax, patient owner, warm weather
  • Los Angeles Chargers: Justin Herbert, talented roster, patient owner, L.A.
  • Atlanta Falcons: Talented offense, great ownership, free-agent destination
  • Houston Texans: Deshaun Watson, no income tax

Detroit, if fortunate, is the sixth-most attractive job this offseason. The Lions might be moving on from quarterback Matthew Stafford, the roster is without any blue-chip stars, the weather is dreary and the first-round draft pick, while high, isn’t Nos. 1 or 2.

In short, forget Eric Bieniemy. He’s at the top of every list in the NFL. It’s likely a stretch to land Buffalo Bills offensive coordinator Brian Daboll either, unless the Lions hire current Buffalo Director of Player Personnel Dan Morgan, or Lake Dawson, Buffalo’s Assistant Director of College Scouting to fill the GM role.

Instead, Hamp should be targeting an up-and-coming coach who isn’t yet being widely assumed to be a multi-interview candidate. A few examples include Carolina Panthers offensive coordinator Joe Brady and Indianapolis Colts defensive guru Matt Eberflus. Brady, 31 and Eberflus, 50, both have strong backgrounds in elevating their personnel beyond expected levels.

Finally, the Lions need to understand their situation, something so many NFL team shockingly fail to do. Detroit isn’t close to a title. It needs to revamp the defense and make a switch at quarterback. While things change rapidly in the NFL, the Lions aren’t likely to make a quantum leap in 2021. It’s about the long game, and building a culture which isn’t reliant on a single player — thing Calvin Johnson and Barry Sanders — but the collective.

Detroit is a great football city which has been saddled by poor decisions and predictable results for far too long. It’s time to make sweeping changes, first by process and then in product.

Power rankings

Top 10 NFL throwback uniforms

1. ’76 Tampa Bay Buccaneers (Creamsicles)
2. ’66 Buffalo Bills (Standing buffalo)
3. ’50s San Francisco 49ers (Block numerals)
4. ’67 Atlanta Falcons (Red helmet)
5. ’50s Detroit Lions (Thanksgiving style)
6. ’72 Miami Dolphins (Old-school logo)
7. ’74 Los Angeles Rams (Blue and gold)
8. ’60 Dallas Cowboys (Thanksgiving style)
9. ’85 New England Patriots (Pat Patriot)
10. ’71 Los Angeles Chargers (John Hadl-era)

Quotable

“Yeah, I would say I’m optimistic [about next week] at this point right now. Now I don’t want to go ahead and say ‘Yay’ or ‘Nay’ because I don’t have the medical information at this time. So, again, once he talks to the doctors and we get the information, I’m sure he’s going to try everything he can.

“But I am optimistic just knowing what he’s played through before and how he’s handled different things. Again, I have to be fair to the player. I don’t know how he feels physically. I don’t know what the severity of the injury is. So I have to make sure I have that information. Obviously we don’t want to put any player on the field if they can’t properly defend themselves or compete.”

– New York Giants head coach Joe Judge on quarterback Daniel Jones’ hamstring injury

After beating the Cincinnati Bengals, the Giants are 4-7 and atop the NFC East. However, with Jones leaving in the third quarter with a balky hamstring, their hopes could be tenuous. Jones hasn’t been great, but he’s competent, more than can be said for veteran backup Colt McCoy.

Next week, the Giants travel to take on the Seattle Seahawks. If they’re going to hang with one of the league’s best offenses, Jones has to be ready and able.

Podcast

Random stat

The Cleveland Browns, Jaguars, Bengals and Buccaneers are the only teams without a win on Thanksgiving.

Info learned this week

1. COVID issues will only intensify as regular season goes on

Don’t look at this as an alarmist take. The NFL season will be played, the Super Bowl will happen and a champion will eventually be crowned.

However, we aren’t getting to the presentation of the Lombardi Trophy without major hurdles.

The past week ought to have made this clear. The Baltimore Ravens and Pittsburgh Steelers saw their game moved to Tuesday, with 17 members of the former being positive with the coronavirus, including MVP quarterback Lamar Jackson. The game has been reset for Tuesday, albeit with the Ravens essentially trotting out a preseason lineup in some spots.

On Sunday, the Denver Broncos were forced to play without a quarterback. Jeff Driskel tested positive during the week and although the other three men on the depth chart were negative, they spent time with Driskel, massless. Thus, high-risk, close contacts and five days on the COVID-19 reserve list.

The result was Kendall Hinton being activated off the practice squad to play quarterback in an impossible position. A former backup at Wake Forest, the current receiver was 1-of-9 for 13 yard and two interceptions.

Then there’s the San Francisco 49ers, who are no longer allowed to play in Santa Clara due to local restrictions.

However, the Broncos are instructive of how the NFL will proceed. Denver didn’t have a quarterback, making their game against the New Orleans Saints somewhat of a sideshow. The league didn’t care and the tilt was played anyway.

Roger Goodell and Co. are going to do whatever it takes to keep moving forward, but if more situations continue popping up, cancellations and postponements may become unavoidable.

2. Eagles are toying with benching Carson Wentz, and it’s dumb

Either make the move or don’t.

The Philadelphia Eagles have seen their season careen off the cliff, and Carson Wentz has been at the wheel. Leading the league in turnovers, he certainly deserves to be benched based on his play, and yet head coach Doug Pederson — likely understanding such a move would move him close to the unemployment line if it doesn’t work — hasn’t made the switch to rookie Jalen Hurts.

Now, a report saying Hurts has taken additional first-team reps this week before Monday night’s game against the Seattle Seahawks.

If Pederson wants to make a change, fine. Then make it. Don’t fiddle with Wentz while simultaneously letting the entire team know you’re contemplating the biggest move a coach can make.

Wentz is losing confidence, sure, but the larger issue is everyone else seeing the internal indecision on Pederson’s part. It’s a losing ploy.

3. Patrick Mahomes, Tyreek Hill showcase against Buccaneers

The Kansas City Chiefs are the most dangerous team in football. Just look at the. tape. Or the stats.

On Sunday, Kansas City beat the Buccaneers 27-24 in a game where Patrick Mahomes threw for 462 yards and three touchdowns … and didn’t have the most eye-popping stat line. That belonged to Tyreek Hill, who went for 269 receiving yards and a trio of scores. The yardage ranks 15th all-time for a single game.

So how ridiculous is Kansas City? Hill entered the day 14th in receiving yards this season. He’s now at 1,021 yards, ranking first. Travis Kelce added another 82 yards to his ledger, giving him 972 yards and putting him … second on the list. Mahomes leads the league with 3,497 passing yards, putting him on pace for 5,086.

The Chiefs have their issues. Kansas City is among the league’s leaders in penalties taken, and it took 10 more against Tampa Bay. Frank Clark and Chris Jones, signed for a cumulative $185 million, have been largely invisible the last few games. Combined, they have 9.5 sacks this year.

Still, with Mahomes, Hill and Kelce, the Chiefs have the ultimate trump card. They showed why and then some in an impressive win to move to 10-1.

4. Colts lost to Titans, largely because of one matchup

Derrick Henry rushed for 178 yards (6.6 YPC) and three touchdowns, most of that damage coming in the first half of the Tennessee Titans’ 45-26 win over the Indianapolis Colts.

Yes, Henry’s performance was the main reason for Tennessee’s win, but two absences on Indy’s part made it possible.

Two weeks ago, Henry ran for 68 yards on 21 carries. The difference? Colts defensive tackles Denico Autry and DeForest Buckner played. This weekend, the duo was out while on the COVID-19 reserve list. In response, Titans offensive coordinator Arthur Smith repeatedly pounded forward with Henry, and the Indianapolis line was caved in.

If the two match up in the playoffs and Autry and Buckner play, don’t expect a repeat. Sure, the Titans can win, but it won’t be with Henry running roughshod over one of the league’s best defenses.

5. Bears are finished, Mitch Trubisky did them no favors, and the questions begin

After being blown out by the Green Bay Packers on Sunday night, the Chicago Bears know they’re finished. At 5-6, Chicago has lost five straight and although it remains one game out of the NFC playoff picture, the quarterback play will keep them from making the ground up.

Under .500 and reeling, it’s fair to wonder where Chicago goes from here. The NFL has already seen a quartet of coaches fired this year, with a few more to come in Adam Gase, Doug Marrone and perhaps Anthony Lynn among others. Matt Nagy led the Bears to a 12-4 mark in 2018, but the last two years are trending down. He’s also given up play-calling. Why keep him around?

The same is true — and to a greater extent — about general manager Ryan Pace. And yet general belief around the league is each will survive for at least another year. Frankly, watching the Bears’ bumble with a barren offensive roster and declining defense, you wonder why.

If the Bears careen to a 6-10 or 7-9 finish, the McCaskey family will have a tough time justifying their continued appointment in a city furious with the duo.

Gambler’s game

On Sunday, the Washington Football Team invades Pittsburgh as a 10.5-point underdog. While taking the moneyline would be aggressive, the spread is tasty.

Alex Smith won’t make mistakes, Ron Rivera will have a good plan and Washington is still — somehow — in the division chase. Expect this to be within a touchdown.

Two cents

John Elway is the Broncos. How do you mitigate the duties of such an iconic figure?

The answer is both impossible and obvious. And while it’s unlikely the Broncos actually cut ties or minimize their long-time general manager, there’s overwhelming evidence the time has come.

To be clear, this isn’t about Sunday. The Broncos had no chance. This is about Denver being in the midst of its fourth-straight losing season and fifth consecutive campaign without the postseason.

The Broncos are on their fifth starting quarterback in that stretch, highlighted by Trevor Siemian, Paxton Lynch, Case Keenum, Joe Flacco and Drew Lock. In a division with Patrick Mahomes and the emergence of Justin Herbert with the Los Angeles Chargers, his misfires on quarterbacks are only looming larger.

The 2021 NFL Draft is loaded with first-round quarterback talent from Trevor Lawrence and Justin Fields to Trey Lance, Zach Wilson and Kyle Trask. Denver should be targeting one of the latter three, knowing Lawrence and Fields are almost certainly going first and second-overall.

Allowing Elway to make the decision with his evaluation record at the position (let’s not forget Brock Osweiler, either) should disqualify him from making another franchise-altering choice. Yet, it appears Denver will.

Since 2013, Elway has drafted 64 players. Only Courtland Sutton has earned an All-Pro or Pro Bowl nod. Of the 38 men taken between ’13-’17, Justin Simmons, Garett Bolles and DeMarcus Walker are the three remaining players on the Denver roster.

The Broncos were one of the NFL’s bedrock franchises for years. No longer.

Inside the league

On Monday night, Philadelphia is trying to maintain first place in the NFC East. While it seems comical considering their record, Eagles’ fans should enjoy the chase. They mayn’t have another for awhile.

With crushing cap issues looming in 2021 and the deterioration of Wentz, the Eagles have the look of a team descending into rough water. A few weeks ago, a former general manager spoke to FanSided’s Matt Lombardo about the state of Philadelphia and what to expect moving forward.

“They may need to pick and choose who stays part of that core. Seriously, they really need to start drafting well, like, yesterday. The quarterback isn’t going anywhere because he carries too much dead money.

“It almost feels like it’s time for a full rebuild for the Eagles, which would be the smart thing to do, in my opinion.”

Per source, Zach Ertz could be one of those core pieces who leaves this offseason either via release or trade. The understanding is talks for an extension broke down significantly this summer, and with Ertz injured much of the campaign, there’s little reason for either side to rev them back up. With Dallas Goedert in tow — who the Eagles love — Ertz’s future seems elsewhere.

Considering their contracts, look for right tackle Lane Johnson, defensive tackle Fletcher Cox, cornerback Darius Slay, edge rusher Brandon Graham, guard Brandon Brooks, center Jason Kelce, defensive end Malik Jackson and Wentz to be approached for restructures. Frankly, it’s the only way Philadelphia gets under the cap.

The Eagles are hitting one pothole after the next. Unfortunately, the road ahead isn’t smoother.

History lesson

The New York Jets are 0-11 after losing to the Dolphins on Sunday afternoon.

Since the 1976 Tampa Bay Buccaneers famously went 0-14, only nine teams have ever began an NFL Season with 11 consecutive defeats.

The good news? Of those teams, only two finished 0-16 (the 2008 Lions and ’17 Cleveland Browns). However, looking at the schedule, there’s no fair fight.

New York hosts the Las Vegas Raiders in Week 12 before visiting the Seattle Seahawks and Rams in Weeks 13 and 14. After that, Cleveland visits Gotham before the Jets have their rematch with the Patriots at Gillette Stadium.

Smart money — and history — says New York finds a way to win once. But it won’t be easy.

Parting shot

Enjoy watching Patrick Mahomes.

These days, the Chiefs are in a litany of primetime and standalone slots. The NFL is giving ample opportunity for fans across the country to see its biggest star, and to miss out is the football version of blasphemy.

On Sunday, Mahomes’ performance wasn’t simply about 462 yards. It was the nuances. It was Mahomes clinching the game on a controlled scramble before hitting Tyreek Hill on a comeback route for a third-down conversion. Kansas City could have ran the clock down to 30 seconds and punted, pinning Tampa Bay in an impossible situation. Still, head coach Andy Reid felt better allowing Mahomes to throw — and ice — the game.

For decades, the NFL has produced players who are so great they command your attention. Barry Sanders, Jim Brown, Peyton Manning, Tom Brady, Joe Montana, Jerry Rice, Lawrence Taylor and legions of others. The types of players other Hall of Famers want to meet during their annual trips to Canton.

Mahomes, at 25 years old, has a long way to go. Yet he already has one MVP trophy, a Super Bowl MVP and is the betting favorite to earn a second in both categories this winter.

On Sunday night, the Chiefs host the Broncos. Mahomes will take center stage at Arrowhead Stadium under the lights. Enjoy the greatness.

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