Season grade: Below-average -- The season began with playoff aspirations in coach Matt Patricia’s first year. It ended with the team’s worst record since 2012. The offense, which was supposed to be the team's strength, sputtered and ended up ranked in the bottom third of the league in almost every major category. Jim Bob Cooter, the offensive coordinator who once looked like a future head-coaching candidate, could be out of a job, joining already fired special-teams coach Joe Marciano. Detroit, a year after firing Jim Caldwell following back-to-back 9-7 seasons, feels much closer to a rebuilding team than a contender.
Season in review: The biggest low came at the beginning, with a 48-17 blowout loss to the New York Jets on Monday Night Football that reset expectations. Detroit showed signs of progress at various points -- wins against New England, Green Bay, Miami and Carolina -- but too often it came in inconsistent increments. The trade for Damon Harrison gave the Lions hope. That’s a dangerous thing because the hope was often replaced by the real theme of Detroit’s season: inconsistency. The Lions, as safety Tavon Wilson pointed out, hadn’t won games in back-to-back weeks all year long (the Green Bay and Miami wins were separated by a bye). The offense, as mentioned above, faltered and then saw its pieces (Golden Tate) traded away and injured (Marvin Jones Jr., Kerryon Johnson), leaving the unit in tatters. And, now, it’ll lead to a long offseason in which changes are coming.
He said it: “Just to be completely honest, I don’t know if we won two games in a row this year. We didn’t. We haven’t. You can’t call yourself a consistent team if you haven’t done that.” -- Lions safety Tavon Wilson
Who is the offensive coordinator? There’s a chance, of course, that Cooter keeps his job -- but assuming the Lions go in a different direction, who handles the offense will be the main question of the offseason. Will Patricia go with someone he is familiar with, such as Rams passing-game coordinator Shane Waldron or former Jaguars OC Nathaniel Hackett? Or will he look outside his web of familiarity? Kliff Kingsbury was an obvious possible choice -- and someone Patricia knows -- but he’s off the market after becoming USC's offensive coordinator. Another possibility, if Cooter is let go and Miami fires Adam Gase, would be Gase. He knows the state well, went to college at Michigan State and had a home nearby until recently.
What happens with Glover Quin (and others)? The Lions have a lot of veterans who could be salary-cap casualties over the next few months, led by right guard T.J. Lang and safety Glover Quin. Detroit could keep one or both, especially with an escalating salary cap, but there could be a lot of roster turnover with both expected and unexpected names over the next two months as GM Bob Quinn and Patricia continue to remake the roster. That will also include the likely non-signing of veteran free agents, including defensive end Ezekiel Ansah. At least half of the 2019 Lions roster could be newcomers.
What does owner Martha Ford think? Lions owner Martha Ford and her family have not said anything about the franchise in at least two seasons. Since she spoke last, the Lions fired Caldwell, a coach she loved, and replaced him with Patricia. It went from a winning franchise to a losing one. The offseason is the time when owners usually speak. Will Ford break her silence?