By Chris Morgan
The Detroit Lions are currently 4-9, ensuring themselves a losing season. At best, they will probably go 6-10, with 5-11 seeming more likely and a 4-12 season possible if Detroit can’t beat the lowly Arizona Cardinals on the road. No matter how it shakes out, this is going to go down in the books as a disappointing season. Sure, the Lions made the playoffs last year, but there have been many a bad season in recent memory, and when disappointing seasons stack up, sometimes this leads to a shake up for a coaching staff. Might that be in the Lions’ future? More importantly, would it be a good idea?
To put it simply, no. Major changes for Detroit’s coaching staff or front office would not be that shrewd. The Lions have been unfortunate this season. Their current point differential is indicative of a team with a better record. Case in point, their point differential is better than the Colts’, and they are headed to the playoffs. Additionally, when you look at process over results, the coaching staff seems fairly sound for the most part. Jim Schwartz made a couple notable mistakes in that Thanksgiving Day loss to the Texans, but overall he has done a good job, and hasn’t done enough to merit being let go, thereby starting the process all over again. Additionally, both Scott Linehan and Gunther Cunningham are very good coordinators, which is partially why they were both head coaches at one point.
However, when you delve deeper into the coaching staff, there is one position where a change probably should be in order. Most Lions fans, and most NFL fans, probably do not recognize the name Todd Downing. Downing is the current quarterback coach of the Lions. The reason to bring him up is the play of Matthew Stafford this season. While he is completing 60 percent of his passes, which is solid but unspectacular, his mechanics have been shaky, and he has made some baffling throws. He seems to be developing bad habits, the kind that could be an issue going forward. This is a former first overall pick with a huge contract and the hopeful future of the Lions at quarterback. Detroit needs him to be more than merely solid under center, and Downing may not be the man to make that happen.
Admittedly, maybe a change won’t make a huge difference. Head coaches in sports are overrated in terms of their impact as is, and the deeper you delve down into a staff, the less impact a coach has. That being said, Downing has no track record. He has only been a quarterbacks coach for three seasons, and it is his first job as a position coach. All we know is that Stafford doesn’t seem to be progressing while Downing is working as Detroit’s quarterback coach. If the Lions have invested so much money in Stafford, why not invest money in an elite quarterback coach. There is no salary cap on coach’s salaries. They can get somebody who does have a proven track record to mentor Stafford and, hopefully, help lead him into being one of the league’s top quarterbacks.
The Lions don’t need to make big changes in their staff after this season, but if there is one move to make, it should involve their quarterbacks coach.
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Chris has been a diehard Detroit Lions fan through the good (Barry Sanders) and the bad (Matt Millen) and that love has led him to take jobs writing about sports, including as a fantasy sports “expert.” His work can be found on Examiner.com.