Even in misery, we found 5 things Detroit Lions can be thankful for

Dave Birkett, Detroit Free Press
·5 min read

There is not much good going on with the Detroit Lions right now.

With six games to play, including Thursday against the Houston Texans, the team looks destined for another losing season. A coaching change is all but a given, and an entire regime change remains potentially in the cards.

But it’s Thanksgiving week, so enough with the negative. There’s lots to be positive about, too.

OK, maybe not lots. Some things.

Lions coach Matt Patricia reacts after the Lions' 20-0 loss to the Panthers on Sunday, Nov. 22, 2020, in Charlotte, North Carolina.
Lions coach Matt Patricia reacts after the Lions' 20-0 loss to the Panthers on Sunday, Nov. 22, 2020, in Charlotte, North Carolina.

OK, even some is a stretch. But in honor of Thanksgiving and all the turkey and gravy you can eat, I decided to hold off a week on bringing back the Draft Watch column —Need some advice: Do we go with “Gack for Zach (Wilson)” or “Play like bile for Kyle (Trask)” this year? — and offer up five things we all should be thankful for when it comes to your Detroit Lions.

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No. 1: Jack Fox

This says all you need to know about the team right now: Fox would be my vote for Lions MVP if the season ended today.

Usually the award goes to the quarterback, but Matthew Stafford is not having a great year, or a top skill player, but I’m not sure the Lions have an all-NFC North player at the skill positions, let alone a Pro Bowler. Frank Ragnow deserves consideration at center, and on defense, Romeo Okwara has had a nice year, though it’s baffling why coaches would not start their best pass rusher Sunday against the Carolina Panthers and inexperienced quarterback P.J. Walker.

Anyway, Fox has been the Lions’ best, most consistent player all season — and as Pat McAfee said, punters are people, too. Fox saw his net punting average drop to a still astounding 46.3 yards Sunday and he actually had a good game, blasting a 56-yarder out of the gate and dropping four more punts inside the 20.

He was a great practice squad stash late last season, and he’s developed into one of the best punters in the NFL. Be thankful for Fox.

No. 2: D’Andre Swift

The running back position is underappreciated in the NFL, but not here in Detroit where we’ve been waiting for a replacement for Barry Sanders for 22 years. Swift is no Sanders, but the great thing about today’s NFL is that he does not need to be.

Lions running back D'Andre Swift runs by Washington Football Team defenders during the first half at Ford Field on Sunday, Nov. 15, 2020.
Lions running back D'Andre Swift runs by Washington Football Team defenders during the first half at Ford Field on Sunday, Nov. 15, 2020.

Swift showed in last week’s win over Washington, racking up 149 yards from scrimmage, why the Lions were so excited to get him with the No. 35 overall pick. He’s electric in the open field, can impact games running the ball or catching passes, and, frankly, the Lions don’t have much else in their backfield.

Swift did not play Sunday against the Panthers, and his status for Thursday’s game against the Texans remains in doubt while he’s in concussion protocol. But when you sit down to say grace on Thursday, you’ll at least know the Lions have a keeper (as much as any running back can be) at the running back position.

No. 3: The franchise tag

Look, this one is simple. Kenny Golladay is unhappy with how contract talks have transpired and by all accounts is looking forward to becoming a free agent in March. Only thing is, the Lions still can control his rights with that pesky franchise tag.

At an estimated $15.5 million, using the tag should be a no-brainer for Bob Quinn or whoever is calling the shots for the Lions this spring. Golladay has had some injury issues, yes. But he’s a beast of a receiver and you need only look at the Lions’ 1-4 record without him this year to see how he affects a game.

Lions wide receiver Kenny Golladay makes the catch against Falcons cornerback A.J. Terrell during the second half of the Lions' 23-22 win on Sunday, Oct. 25, 2020, in Atlanta.
Lions wide receiver Kenny Golladay makes the catch against Falcons cornerback A.J. Terrell during the second half of the Lions' 23-22 win on Sunday, Oct. 25, 2020, in Atlanta.

Maybe the two sides can rekindle contract talks this winter and find middle ground on a long-term deal. Maybe Golladay will play out the 2021 season then cash in big elsewhere in 2022.

Either way, be grateful the tag stayed in the new CBA or else you might be down to your final few games of watching Golladay in a Lions uniform.

No. 4: Troy Weaver

This may be a Lions column, but we all can be thankful for new Detroit Pistons GM Troy Weaver, too.

The Pistons may not be very good this season, but Weaver has proven in the last week or so that fans and media, as cynical as we are, are more than willing to get behind someone with a plan.

The Lions have been afloat in the NFL abyss for far too long, putzing their way through mediocrity and never doing enough to chase greatness. I don’t know if Weaver’s plan will work with the Pistons. Chances are, it won’t.

But give the man credit for taking a sledgehammer to a middling roster and trying to build something fresh and long-lasting. The time has come for the Lions to follow suit.

I believe in Weave, do you?

Lions owner Sheila Ford Hamp makes her way to the field before the game against the Saints on Sunday, Oct. 4, 2020, at Ford Field.
Lions owner Sheila Ford Hamp makes her way to the field before the game against the Saints on Sunday, Oct. 4, 2020, at Ford Field.

No. 5: December is almost here

That means this dreadful season is coming to an end, and we can finally stop with the we-have-to-play-better, we-have-to-coach-better, we-have-to-execute-better nonsense. True as those platitudes may be, the people worth hearing from right now are Sheila Ford Hamp and, so long as he’s in charge of football operations, Quinn.

Six weeks — minimum — from now, one or the other will have to make themselves available to answer questions about this season and more importantly what lies ahead.

And be it through the draft, a coaching change or something else, what lies ahead is hope, and we can all be thankful for that.

Contact Dave Birkett at dbirkett@freepress.com. Follow him on Twitter @davebirkett.

This article originally appeared on Detroit Free Press: Detroit Lions fans should be thankful for these 5 things