The Detroit Lions Offense and the Subject of Risk


Life is risky. We all know it. There is risk driving to work in the morning, there is risk walking down stairs, there is risk in rolling in at 2:00 am with glitter on your shoulder when you told your wife you would be home by 10:00 (and probably not with any glitter).

Risk can, and should, be managed. But with risk, comes opportunity. Sure, you might get in an accident driving to work, but you might also get to that big game and see that big Tiger victory (bahaha). Sure, your wife might throw something at you, but that extra four hours with your buds might leave memories that last way longer than that scar from the frying pan.

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Risk in the NFL, at the quarterback position, equates to yards vs. interceptions. If you are willing to wait (and have the time to wait) and have the arm to throw it down the field, you get more yards. But with the ball in the air longer, it gives the defense more time to react, more time for an inaccurate throw to go astray or get intercepted.

Right now the Detroit Lions are trying to figure out how to manage risk. And in the opinion of this humble, good-looking internet blogger, they are doing it wrong.

They drafted a quarterback with a big arm. A quarterback who, when turned loose, is capable of throwing for 5,000 yards. They drafted a gunslinger, but have harnessed his arm, to the point where one of the greatest receivers in the game had 10 catches in last week’s game…for only 83 yards. They have limited the offense such that the Detroit Lions haven’t even attempted a pass longer than 20 yards this season.

That is like buying a Porsche and putting a governor on it in order to avoid a ticket.

Sep 20, 2015; Minneapolis, MN, USA; Detroit Lions wide receiver Calvin Johnson (81) catches a pass during pre game warm ups before a game against the Minnesota Vikings at TCF Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jesse Johnson-USA TODAY Sports

There is a great line in a recent movie that came out. The line is “but what is the risk of not doing something? That is an interesting question.” Sure, the Lions could throw five yards passes and never worry about an interception. But you don’t win ball games that way. You especially don’t win if your quarterback isn’t always accurate enough to hit the receiver in stride, but rather is throwing the ball behind him or at his feet. The Porsche is built for speed, not getting good gas mileage. If you want good gas mileage, you need to buy a Prius (or a diesel VW with illegal software, but that is a different story.)

If the Detroit Lions want to play safe, conservative football, than they need a super-accurate, smart, risk averse quarterback to lead this team. And Matthew Stafford probably isn’t that person. I think this is why, at times, fans liked Kellen Moore, or even Shaun Hill before that. They were super accurate passers, who weren’t asked to throw the ball down the field, so at times they looked quite good. But there is a reason they aren’t starters – they don’t have the arm to stretch a defense.

Matthew Stafford is the quarterback we have now for a reason, but the Lions need to unleash him and let him show his arm off. Sure, we all cringe a little bit when Stafford heaves it to Calvin in double coverage…but it has worked more often than not. And now instead of Nate Burleson, Stafford has Golden Tate. Instead of Brandon Pettigrew, he has…well, Brandon Pettigrew. But hopefully also Eric Ebron.

Will the risk of turnovers go up? Sure. Does he need sufficient time in the pocket to accomplish this (which is an entirely different story)? Absolutely. Will they lose with this strategy? Perhaps. But based on the first two games…the current game plan isn’t working either. Let’s let Matthew Stafford loose and see what he can do.

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