Should Detroit Lions Veil of Secrecy Trouble Fans?

Feb 24, 2016; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Detroit Lions general manager Bob Quinn speaks to the media during the 2016 NFL Scouting Combine at Lucas Oil Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports
Feb 24, 2016; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Detroit Lions general manager Bob Quinn speaks to the media during the 2016 NFL Scouting Combine at Lucas Oil Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports /

Since coming over from the New England Patriots, Bob Quinn has instilled their level of secrecy to the Detroit Lions, much to the chagrin of local media. But what does this mean for fans?

When the Detroit Lions compiled their first injury report of the 2016 regular season, prior to their thrilling 39-35 win over the Indianapolis Colts to open the season in Lucas Oil Stadium Sunday, they listed five players as questionable, two of which–Eric Ebron and Golden Tate–were almost certain to play, and, of course, did play. So why list them as “questionable” when they really should have been listed as “probable?”

Well, the easiest answer here is that “probable” is now history, after the NFL decided to get rid of it to go from four injury classifications to three (out, doubtful, questionable). So, the Lions’ did what they were supposed to do, however would they have listed the players as probable under the old system?

That would be doubtful–or questionable–whichever designation you prefer.

The Dawn of the “Lion Way”

Since the dawn of the Bob Quinn era, the Detroit Lions have kept things a little closer to the vest than before. While this is nothing new for the Lions, or teams throughout the NFL while attempting to gain a competitive advantage over their opponents, Quinn’s veil of secrecy is much larger than that of his predecessors in Detroit.

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A lot has been made of Quinn’s New England connection in his transition to the Motor City. This is an intriguing storyline because the Patriots have represented the best play, best ownership, and the best front office (albeit with questionable on-field tactics, i.e. alleged game day cheating) for nearly two decades, while the Lions–well, they’ve (to put it nicely) trailed in those categories since 1958.

Quinn comes from an organization that regularly listed Tom Brady as questionable under the old injury designation, even though he’s played nearly every game since taking over for an injured Drew Bledsoe in New England’s first Super Bowl season of 2001. The only exception was when he missed the final 15 games of the 2008 season due to injury, and his current, dubious four-game “ballghazi” suspension.

Frustrated Beat Writers

The “Patriot Way” in Detroit has been met with consternation from local media, used to a little more insight into the day-to-day operation of the team during the Martin Mayhew and Matt Millen eras.

Many of the beat writers were not happy with limited access to OTAs and early training camp practices. Many of them also took the Lions’ to task for lack of transparency for a number of issues, particularly Calvin Johnson‘s retirement decision, Stephen Tulloch‘s status with the team approaching Training Camp, and DeAndre Levy‘s health.

Lions’ beat writers are arguably the most negative, sarcastic, glib, and snarky of the four major sports in Michigan, and that’s okay. This is because we, as Lions’ fans, are just as negative, sarcastic, glib, and snarky when talking about the team that has tortured us way too much over the years.

The reporters are representing our interests when covering the team between games from every Sunday evening to the following Sunday morning.  The front office’s reluctance to speak frustrates the people who cover the team for a living. They’re not shy about taking to social media to give it to the team in a passive-aggressive way when players refuse to talk, and announce injuries more sparingly than other teams.

Reduced Fan Experience?

The point they’re making, through the sarcasm, is that by the team limiting media exposure and information, it limits fan exposure to the team in which we invest so much of our time, effort, and money.

But does the average fan care that the team is not forthcoming? Unless Lions’ fans have several Detroit players on their fantasy football rosters, it’s probably a nonissue. It would be especially a nonissue, if the Lions can one day find a way to consistently win by using the “need to know” strategy. Of course, they could also continue to lose while being more secretive than ever.

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While we can feel empathy for the beat writers getting a brick wall, because most seem like really good people just trying to do their job, it’s probably not something that will irritate the fan base as much as it does the media.

Will the strategy work? Probably not. But if the Lions are going to pretend a guy is in worse shape than he is to gain a competitive advantage for a series or two of a game, than more power to them. As lifelong Lions’ fans, we’ll take any slight advantage that our team can possibly give us.