The Lions May Go 0-17 — And That's Not a Bad Thing

Photo Credit: Robert Hanashiro (USA TODAY Sports)

The Detroit Lions showed resilience and kept things close against the Los Angeles Rams in Week 8. Ultimately, it wasn’t enough, and they lost their seventh consecutive game of the season. Although they have a legitimate chance to beat the Philadelphia Eagles, the prospect of going 0-17 isn’t unrealistic — and that’s not necessarily a bad thing. In fact, it could be precisely what they need. Here’s why.

Think about it: If the Lions go something like 3-14, they might not fully commit to rebuilding and could try some half-measures instead. Keep in mind that the Matthew Stafford trade netted two first-round picks, one in 2022 and another in 2023. Having the worst record in the league would ensure they have the chance to select the best player available on top of the guys they get with the Rams’ picks, which are likely to be later in the round.

The Lions would benefit from clinching the first-overall pick in 2021

Look at how things play out for those teams that have drafted first overall in the last four years. The Cleveland Browns got Baker Mayfield in 2018. The Arizona Cardinals, who are currently the best team in the league, took Kyler Murray the following year. In 2020, the Cincinnati Bengals drafted Joe Burrow, and they’re currently the top team in the AFC North. Even Trevor Lawrence, who went first overall this year to the lowly Jacksonville Jaguars, is showing flashes of being a franchise quarterback.

Taking the single best player available in any given draft gives a team a realistic shot at turning things around. Going 0-17 and clinching the first-overall pick in 2022 would ensure the Lions get the top prospect available. Nobody likes to lose, and not winning can become taxing on the players. However, the Lions must think about the long-term future.

How much of a difference will it make if they beat the Philadelphia Eagles in Week 8? The truth is that Detroit is better off losing the rest of the year.

Fans will forget the Lions went 0-17 if they start winning

They say winning cures everything in the NFL. Start racking up victories, and you won’t hear rumors about locker-room friction or a head coach’s job security. Also, it means fans and talking heads won’t endlessly rehash past failures. Only three NFL teams have failed to win a game in a season during the Super Bowl era. Coincidentally, the Lions were one of the three clubs that achieved the dubious feat in 2007.

The Browns also went 0-16 in 2017, and you won’t see many analysts bring it up. Why? Because they underwent a rebuild and are set for the foreseeable future thanks to top picks such as Baker Mayfield and Myles Garrett. Even though they are 4-3 heading into Week 8, they are in significantly better shape than three years ago. The fact that they had the top pick in back-to-back drafts helped immensely.

The Lions used the fifth-overall pick in 2021 on right tackle Penei Sewell. The Oregon product has been far from perfect. However, he has looked promising and has the potential to become a cornerstone player. Detroit could take Matt Corral if they think he can become a franchise quarterback or edge rusher Kayvon Thibodeaux if they want to build a formidable defensive front. It may be too early to tell what path the Lions want to choose, but either prospect could become a building block in the rebuild.

Dan Campbell has the Lions on the right path

You may or may not like Dan Campbell’s hyper-competitive and upfront style of coaching. But one thing is for sure; he has his team ready to play every week. They haven’t been blown out this year and have lost a game by 16 points or more just twice this season. They have given opposing teams everything they could handle and were on the brink of winning one or two games. Campbell deserves plenty of credit for keeping his squad even-keeled, even though he doesn’t have much talent at his disposal.

Regardless of the number of games the Lions win, it looks like they have the right man to lead the team during the rebuild. You won’t hear reports about him losing the locker room or getting frisky with someone who isn’t his wife. Campbell is deeply invested in helping the Lions win games. Owner Sheila Ford Hamp and general manager Brad Holmes know their head coach was dealt a bad hand. They’re also aware he needs time to help install his vision.

It’s not a given that the Lions will go 0-17. They could beat the Eagles. Maybe the Denver Broncos in Week 14 or even the Atlanta Falcons in Week 16. But all things considered, it wouldn’t be a bad thing if they become the first team in NFL history to go 0-17. Will it matter if it helps them get the right pieces in place to build a winning team?

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