What The Lions Are Building Is Unprecedented 

We've seen succesful rebuilds all across sports but the Lions are the blueprint for how it should go
Denver Broncos v Detroit Lions
Denver Broncos v Detroit Lions / Ryan Kang/GettyImages

When the Lions traded Matthew Stafford to the Rams on January 30th, 2021 it signaled the start of a rebuild.

A rebuild that the Lions face swore they had been in for decades. Detroit had not made the playoffs since 2016; even worse, they hadn’t won a playoff game since 1991! 

Star players like Barry Sanders and Calvin Johnson retired early due to the team not surrounding them with the requisite talent and not sending them to other teams to allow them to compete for a championship. 

Detroit sent Stafford to the Rams in exchange for

  • Quarterback Jared Goff
  •  2021 third-round pick
  • 2022 first-round pick
  • 2023 first-round pick

The Lions turned those picks into what is a legitimate core of talent. They were able to flip their haul into QB Jared Goff, RB Jahmyr Gibbs, WR Jameson Williams, TE Sam LaPorta, DL Josh Paschal, DT, Brodric Martin, and DB Ifeatu Melifonwu. 

While every one of these players minus Goff has under three seasons in the NFL and not all of them are stars it has been an absolute win of a trade for the Lions one of the rare win-win trades in NFL history. The Rams won the Super Bowl in their first year with Stafford but that’s not why we’re here.

Goff, who was thought to be regressing after his time with the Rams has turned in three productive seasons,12,258 yards, 78 touchdowns to only 27 interceptions, with a 96.5 passer rating, and a 66.5 completion percentage. The completion percentage and passer rating are higher than his time with the Rams.

Jahmyr Gibbs and Sam LaPorta both made the Pro Bowl as rookies. At the same time, Jameson Williams whose time with the Lions started rocky began to show his potential as an explosive wide receiver in the second half of the season including a 67 total yard two-touchdown performance in the NFC Championship game. 

All of this has happened due to the culture built by general manager Brad Holmes and head coach Dan Campbell. Campbell was no one’s first choice to be the head coach and his introductory press conference certainly didn’t do him any favors with his speech about “biting kneecaps”. Campbell was the Saints tight ends coach and Holmes was in the Rams scouting department for 17 years. 

Holmes has been fantastic when it comes to drafting. Outside of the names I listed he also went on to select, Aidan Hutchinson, Penei Sewell, Amon-Ra St.Brown, Jack Campbell, and Brian Branch. 

The work these two have put in has taken the Lions from a 3-13 record in their first season with Holmes and Campbell to a 12-5 record and an NFC Championship appearance in which they held a 24-7 lead over the 49ers before faltering in the second half. 

Detroit also has one of the best young offensive minds in football offensive coordinator Ben Johnson who has been the hottest name to be the next great head coach. Johnson has gotten the absolute most from this Lions offense the past two years as they’ve finished 4th in total offense (380 YPG) and 5th in points per game (26.6) in 2022. Johnson and the Lions offense did even better in 2023 finishing 2nd in total offense (394 YPG) and 5th once again in scoring (27.4). 

With the culture built in Detroit, Ben Johnson has elected to forego being hired on by a team as a head coach in the last two coaching cycles signaling one just how good the culture is in Detroit and two that he is more than fine seeing this through with the Lions until a team is capable of meeting his salary and team needs. 

The Lions sit with the 29th pick in the Draft and signed defensive tackle DJ Reader arguably the best run-stopper in the league and brought back Graham Glasgow who is versatile and can play both guard spots. 

Detroit is set to make a run at their first Super Bowl appearance and if they continue to hit on their Draft picks 2024 could be the year the Lions rain atop the NFC.