By: Will Burchfield
Lions general manager Bob Quinn believes the team underachieved in his first two years on the job.
Asked in the wake of the Jim Caldwell firing if Detroit was capable of more than a 9-7 record each of the past two seasons, Quinn said flatly, “Yes.”
And while he didn’t have much of a choice to answer otherwise (he had just dismissed the head coach for coming up short), Quinn added later, “I think we have more than a competitive team to be competing for championships.”
Former Lions quarterback Dan Orlovsky isn’t so convinced.
“They’ve obviously got good players, but I think the record kind of marries the talent level. Look at the teams that have 11 or 12 wins. You just go piece by piece and you’ll say, ‘Okay, there’s a leg up there, there’s a leg up there, there’s a leg up there,'” Orlovsky told 97.1 The Ticket.
After a seven-year NFL career, including three seasons in Detroit, Orlovsky has taken his experience and expertise into the media. He breaks down film on Twitter and writes for The Athletic. When he takes a critical view of the Lions, he sees a 9-7-type team.
“I guess you could make the argument, ‘Should they have been 10-6, something like that?’ Sure, but I don’t know if it’s a three- or four-win better team talent wise,” Orlovsky said.
On defense specifically, he doesn’t think Detroit has enough playmakers. (Quinn would agree.) After Darius Slay, Glover Quin and Ziggy Ansah, the latter of whom isn’t a lock to return next season, the talent pool dries up.
“You’ve got a premier corner and you’ve got a really good safety, but you’ve got some other holes on defense that you would say, ‘Well, there’s better players on other teams that are getting more wins.’ I don’t think that’s really much of a debate,” Orlovsky said.
He admitted the Lions were somewhat undone this year by injuries.
“Losing a guy like Haloti (Ngata) inside was paramount, you didn’t really have an impact player opposite Ziggy, and then you had some issues up front offensively,” Orlovksy said. “I don’t know if I go, ‘Wow, look at that team. They should have 11 or 12 wins talent wise.’
“But you can say that for a lot of different teams. I always say if you look at the teams that get to 11 or 12 wins in the NFL, show me their IR roster because it’s going to be smaller than the teams that don’t get there, more often than not.”
Heading into the offseason, the Lions’ most glaring needs are at running back and defensive line. Without a reliable ground game and a more dynamic pass rush, nine to 10 wins will remain their ceiling.
Quinn said he “absolutely” intends to add a running back, and there are several appealing options in the draft. He’s likely to target a defensive end in the early rounds as well.
With the right additions, the Lions can realistically set their sights on more than what they’ve achieved of late, namely a division title. But their current talent level falls short of that potential, at least in the eyes of Orlovksy.
And many would likely agree.