SI Lions Roundtable: Who Should Detroit Have Hired Back in 2018?
1.) What is your reaction to Adam Rank of NFL Network predicting the Lions will win only three games in 2020?
John Maakaron: Recall Nate Davis picked Detroit to finish with a 3-13 record last season. Everyone raised an eyebrow back then, but nobody foreshadowed all the injuries that Detroit would have to deal with.
Rank has made some wild predictions in the past, so you take his prediction with a grain of salt. Detroit will certainly win more than three games in 2020.
Vito Chirco: While I'm not going to put much stock in it because of the extremely early nature of the prediction, I will say this: if the Lions lose franchise quarterback Matthew Stafford to another season-ending injury, there is a real possibility of the team bottoming out and only winning three games for a second consecutive year.
However, as they're currently structured, I have them finishing 7-9 in 2020. Better than last year, but still not good enough to crack the playoffs.
Logan Lamorandier: I'm not trying to completely discredit Rank, but he is one national "analyst" who I couldn't care less about what he has to say.
Apparently, he also predicted three wins for the reigning NFC champion San Francisco 49ers last year.
I don't think the Lions necessarily deserve much love at this point, either, though. So, what Rank -- a well-known Chicago Bears fan -- predicted for the Lions also isn't all that unsurprising.
2.) Who scores more touchdowns in 2020: RB Kerryon Johnson or TE T.J. Hockenson?
Maakaron: I think Kerryon Johnson will surprise many with how many touchdowns he records this season. Detroit will have plenty of opportunities to score touchdowns since the offense returns so many weapons.
While both should have productive seasons if they remain healthy, Johnson will barely edge out Hockenson in touchdowns scored.
Chirco: I think Kerryon Johnson being in a potential timeshare with rookie back D'Andre Swift throughout the course of the 2020 campaign will ultimately hurt his output. Meanwhile, Hockenson, as the clear-cut No. 1 tight end on the depth chart, should be due for an uptick in production in his second season in the league. So, my money is on "Hock" to end up with more touchdowns this upcoming season.
Lamorandier: I'll go with Hockenson. He is a clear TE1 on the team. Johnson probably won't get as many opportunities being in a running back-by-committee rotation.
3.) Looking back now, was there a coach the Lions should have hired instead of Matt Patricia when they fired Jim Caldwell?
Maakaron: Everybody should wonder where Detroit would be if they hired Mike Vrabel back in 2018.
He has shown a willingness to make tough choices, and the Titans are one of the up and coming franchises under his leadership.
If Tennessee can win with Ryan Tannehill, what type of success could Vrabel have had working with Matthew Stafford?
Chirco: As I'm typing this right now, it looks like it should have been another New England Patriots disciple in the team's former All-Pro linebacker Mike Vrabel.
When he interviewed for the Lions job in January of 2018, he was still the Houston Texans defensive coordinator. After being passed up in favor of current Detroit head coach Matt Patricia, he was hired by the Tennessee Titans to be their head man.
In three seasons at the helm in Tennessee, he's gone 18-14 in the regular season and 2-1 in the playoffs, with both victories coming in this past year's postseason.
He's just 44 years old and is already considered one of the best head coaches in the game.
It looks like Detroit general manager Bob Quinn made a big-time misfire in not hiring Vrabel.
Lamorandier: The only coach I actually would have been truly excited for would have been Bruce Arians. However, he went into broadcasting for a one-year coaching hiatus in 2018.
Who knows if he was even an option for Detroit general manager Bob Quinn at the time of Patricia's hire. Arians' aggressive on-field approach and candid personality are a ton of fun to watch.
Outside of a proven NFL head coach like Arians, it's extremely difficult to predict if a former coordinator will be able to find long-term success.
4.) Who has the better first season in Detroit: Danny Shelton or "Big V" Halapoulivaati Vaitai?
Maakaron: Detroit invested in Vaitai based on his versatility and the organization's belief he can significantly aid the running game.
Vaitai was more of a high-risk signing, but hopefully, general manager Bob Quinn's decision turns out in Detroit's favor this time.
While I believe both will end up being highly productive for Detroit, Vaitai will have a better first season in Detroit.
Chirco: I think Shelton will end up being a solid contributor at nose tackle for the Lions. I'm not as sure about the chances of Vaitai in Motown. I think there's a good likelihood he ends up being a bust and never performs up to par while donning Honolulu Blue.
Meanwhile, I think Shelton will be the definition of a guy that does his job without much love or acclaim. And he's my pick for who will be the more productive of the two in their respective first years in the Motor City.
Lamorandier: It's not easy to live up to big-money expectations as an offensive tackle. Vaitai's mistakes will be magnified, while Shelton's errors will often go unnoticed as a nose tackle.
Overall, the right tackle position is paid more for a reason. But, relative to the position and the price tag, I'll pick Shelton as having the better season.