Detroit Lions wrap up yet another losing decade

Shaping up to be worst season since 2009

If the Detroit Lions lose to the Green Bay Packers on Sunday — and remember they’re 13-point underdogs — this 2019 season will be the worst of this decade for the franchise.

A loss will give the Lions a 3-12-1 record, the least number of wins in this 10-year stretch. 

As we head into 2020, let’s take one last glance at yet another Lions’ decade of futility.

The 72-86-1 record from 2010 through this season so far, included four winning seasons along with two wild-card games under coach Jim Caldwell and one with Jim Schwartz at the helm.

On a positive note, it’s much better than the previous decade (2000-2009) when the Lions posted a 42-118 record with only one winning season (9-7 in 2000) and no trips to the playoffs.

Ten years, zero division titles, three coaches, three general managers, one Matthew Stafford, one Calvin Johnson, more losses than wins and still no playoff victory. 

Stafford and long-snapper Don Muhlbach are the only roster constants since 2010.

Stafford, who turns 32 in February, became one of only five quarterbacks in NFL history to pass for 5,000 yards in a season in 2011 with 5,038 yards. The next season he came up just 23 yards shy of 5,000 despite the fact the team went 4-12. The only two seasons he didn’t reach at least 4,000 yards were in 2018 (3,777 yards) and this year when he played in only eight games (2,499 yards).

Calvin Johnson, a future Hall of Famer, left after nine seasons and 11,619 receiving yards. He finished six straight seasons (2010-15) with at least 1,000 receiving yards shattering all previous franchise records. Like Barry Sanders, Johnson’s gifts were wasted at a time the Lions should have made the most of them. And also like Sanders, he was a joy to watch.

Three coaches defined this decade.

In 2010, the Lions were coming off a 2-14 season and hopes were high that coach Jim Schwartz in his second season would turn the page for the franchise. It was a tough task, rebuilding the roster, adding new schemes and trying to change the culture and reputation of the team still suffering since the 0-16 2008 season.

Schwartz was sent packing with a 27-37 record after the 2013 season. He did start the turn-around from the worst in the league, but did not get the team over the hump and into the land of NFL respectability.

Coach Jim Caldwell (2014-17) owns the only winning record (36-28) of the three coaches in the decade. He guided the Lions to an 11-5 record and wild-card playoff game in his first season (2014). In his four seasons Caldwell led the team to two playoff appearances. After a 9-7 season in 2017 and no playoff berth, he was fired. Lions general manager Bob Quinn said the team was better than its 9-7 record. 

Quinn and Matt Patricia knew each other well from their days with the New England Patriots. Patricia was the well-respected Patriots’ defensive coordinator who had never been a head coach at any level.

So far Patricia is 9-21-1. If they lose to the Packers, the Lions will have three less wins than they did in his first year (6-10).

Certainly improvement was expected, but the defense has been a mess and stands at 29th in the league for yards allowed per game. Still owner Martha Firestone Ford has guaranteed Patricia and Quinn another season to become playoff contenders.

The last playoff win was on Jan. 5, 1992.

The last NFL championship was in 1957.

The Lions’ faithful await as the page turns on yet another disappointing decade.

RECORDS

  • 2010: 6-10
  • 2011: 10-6 (wild-card game)
  • 2012: 4-12
  • 2013: 7-9
  • 2014: 11-5 (wild-card game)
  • 2015: 7-9
  • 2016: 9-7 (wild-card game)
  • 2017: 9-7
  • 2018: 6-10
  • 2019: 3-11-1 (so far)

Lions Darius Slay on Pro Bowl, contract situation, Matt Patricia and more

ALLEN PARK — Darius Slay said it doesn’t get old being named to the Pro Bowl, even for the third time.

“I told my kids the other day we were going to DisneyWorld,  free too, we love that,’’ the Detroit Lions cornerback said on Wednesday.

Slay appreciates that he wasn’t in the top 10 of fan voting, but the players and coaches know his value so they put him over the top.

“Coaches watch film enough, players do as well. I appreciate the respect they gave me because I go out there and work hard. I compete at a high level,” Slay said.

Five more thoughts from Slay:

1. Slay, whose contract expires after the 2020 season, was much more open to talking about the Pro Bowl than his contract situation. He sat out the offseason workouts last spring aiming to get a new deal from the Lions without any results. Will he sit out again? It’s up to him and his agent but he didn’t have an answer ready. One thing is for certain, when he signs a new contract — no matter which team it’s with — Slay has his eye on a Rolls-Royce truck. He joked he might even have a driver bring him to practice on the first day. When asked what three-time Pro Bowl corners make, Slay had a short answer: “Hoo-hoo-hoo!”

2. Slay didn’t have much to say about the announcement on Tuesday that Matt Patricia will be back next season. “II thought it was already automatic,’’ Slay said. He added that the players don’t worry or talk about it. “Not really that’s their personal business. I just play. He could be up and gone, I could be up and gone.’’

3. The expectations from ownership next season are that the Lions are a playoff contender. Slay said he thought that was the goal of every team. “Some of us have been here with Patricia for two years going on three, we’ve got a better understanding of him as a coach and his program that’s basically where we’re at,’’ Slay said.

4. The cornerback said the key to improving is finishing and he puts that on the players not the coaches. “We’ve been in there every game, fourth quarter get in there, don’t finish. Definitely on the defensive end we have to finish,’’ Slay said. “Coaches doing a good job putting us in the predicaments at practice, we’ve just got to execute as players. I’m mean we’re out there. They tell us the play, obviously it’s mostly on us, it’s a team effort. As a player and me personally I take it to the chest, I feel like it’s out on the field, so we’re the ones who could fix it.’’

5. Slay was wearing a chain with a pendant photo of his grandmother. “My baby, my heart and she raised me. Yes, it’s so nice, it’s my angel,’’ Slay said.

Lions’ Matt Patricia forges on; focuses on final 2 games not his future in Detroit

ALLEN PARK — Matt Patricia is focused on the Lions’ final two games this season more than his immediate future.

With the Lions at 3-10-1, there is no guarantee the coach will return for a third season.

“For me, one of the things that you realize pretty quick when you get in the game of football – college, NFL, it doesn’t really matter what it is – coaching is a tough profession. Playing is a tough profession. It’s a mindset that you probably just develop early on,’’ Patricia said on Monday following the 38-17 loss to the Bucs on Sunday.

“When I was in other places and worked at other places, part of the thing that just makes me, me, is that I go into work every single day trying to earn my job that day. I would go in and make sure that my key card worked, and I was in the building and I was OK,’’ he added.

Patricia, who often spends the night at the Lions facility, even showed a little sense of humor in his reply.

“It’s most of the reason why I don’t leave the building because they’re going to have to throw me out, like I’ve said before,’’ Patricia said. “From that aspect of it, that’s all you can control is just your effort that day and your drive that day to be better as a player, as a coach, as a team, and that’s all I really worry about.”

He was seen talking at length on the sideline prior to Sunday’s game to owner Martha Firestone Ford and her daughter Sheila Ford Hemp but he never discloses the content of their discussions. If he knows his future with the team, he is not saying.

 “I just expect to be here every day until they tell me not to. Hopefully, that’ll be a long time,’’ Patricia said.

The Lions went 6-10 in his first season and have fallen on hard times this season. They’ve been hit with a ton of injuries. When they placed Kenny Wiggins and Mike Daniels on injured reserve on Monday they joined a dozen other teammates in that classification.

Despite seven straight losses, Patricia always emphasizes that the team continues to fight. The toughness and competitive spirit of the players is a foundation for building a perennial winner.

 “I think that’s where you need to start, and I would say that’s where we’re at right now,’’ Patricia said. “We obviously need to add some pieces, and we need to get better, and we need to improve, and hopefully stay a little bit more healthy than where we’re at right now. I think those things will build on top of each other from there.”

The Lions play at the Denver Broncos (5-9) on Sunday and then wrap up the season against the Green Bay Packers (11-3) at Ford Field on Sunday, Dec. 29.