Once again, the Detroit Lions blew a fourth-quarter lead.
Once again, this coaching staff couldn’t make the right second-half adjustments to pull out a win, even if it was improbable.
Once again, this flawed roster, which was created by general manager Bob Quinn and decimated by injuries, couldn’t win a game.
And finally, thankfully, this miserable season came to an end.
“We obviously have a lot of work to do here,” Lions coach Matt Patricia said after the Green Bay Packers’ 23-20 victory at Ford Field.
A lot of work?
After ending the season on a nine-game losing streak?
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If this season was scary to watch, here comes the horror flick: The offseason. It will be filled with drama and intrigue, not to mention a gnawing feeling in your gut, because Quinn will have the No.3 pick in the NFL draft and about $50 million to play with in free agency. Or botch, depending on your point of view.
Based on past results, you have to have more concern than confidence that Quinn and Patricia can make the right draft picks, identify the right players in free agency and not overspend.
“I’m proud of the toughness of this team,” Patricia said. “I think it’s the foundation of what we’re looking for. I think we want to be tough. I think we want to be a team that competes, and I think we’re a team that wants to go out and try to work hard every single day.”
Give me a break.
Yes, this injury-plagued team played with toughness and played hard. So what? So do thousands of high school kids every Friday night.
Stop talking about toughness. Just coach ‘em up, hold a lead and win a freakin’ game.
At one point, the Lions held a 17-3 lead against the Packers. Yes, it was improbable to think they would beat an actual Super Bowl contender. Yes, it was because Aaron Rodgers momentarily forgot he’s Aaron Freakin’ Rodgers.
But the Lions found a way to lose it — it was the 14th game in which the Lions have blown a lead.
Lions owner Martha Ford sees this as progress, just being close. She has said as much.
But it should be incredibly concerning. This was the seventh time this season the Lions have lost after they were leading or were tied going into the fourth quarter. And that doesn’t count their game at Arizona where they had a 24-6 fourth-quarter lead but blew it and finished with a tie. That was with Matthew Stafford, so don’t give me the injury excuse.
Put another way: The Lions blew half their games.
I blame the coaches.
And I blame Quinn for the roster he created. It was Quinn’s failure to sign a back-up quarterback who could win a game that is at the root of this losing streak.
I don’t know how that gives you any hope for the offseason at such a critical time for this organization.
Farewells? It felt like it
After the game, Damon Harrison fought back emotion, standing in front of his locker.
“I wasn’t able to ever get back to the form I’m used to,” he said, wiping away tears. “I have too much pride man. I’ve been doing this too long. So if I can’t be the player that I’m used to being, I think my teammates deserve better.”
Harrison didn’t announce his retirement, but it’s clear he is considering it.
Age has crept up on Harrison. The 31-year-old has battled injuries and did not look this season like the player he once was.
That happens to every player, at some point, but it’s important to point out that Quinn signed Harrison to a one-year contract extension in August, for $12 million, according to reports.
It’s Quinn’s job to sense a player falling victim to age before it happens. And that’s one of many reasons why I have concerns about this offseason.
“All year, I’ve been hurting,” Harrison said. “It’s something new every week. I was trying to fight through it.”
On the other side of the locker room, Darius Slay was holding a Rodgers jersey that was signed by the Green Bay Packers quarterback. Slay beamed with pride, reading the inscription.
Will he be back next season? He has no idea.
But it’s another decision that Quinn has to make.
The decisions Quinn will make over the next nine months will impact this organization for years to come.
Now, that’s truly frightening.
There were some positives this season.
The offense was humming with Stafford healthy. He might have been playing the best ball of his career. And the running game with Kerryon Johnson and Bo Scarbrough looks promising.
But Stafford’s health should be a major concern, heading into this offseason.
Even though Stafford has shown incredible toughness and durability, he has had fractures in his back the last two seasons.
Quinn has to address that. Quinn made an incredible gamble this year, not signing a suitable backup quarterback, and it blew up the season.
‘Long live Martha Ford’
There is one final thing to consider about this offseason.
It was a line in the letter that Martha Ford sent to fans: “We are committed to year three of Coach Patricia’s plan. To be clear, our expectation is for the Lions to be a playoff contender in 2020.”
Her candor was refreshing.
But there is another side to those expectations. How will that change Quinn’s decision-making? Will it change how he drafts? Will it change how he approaches free agency?
At some point, the Lions have to get the quarterback of the future. But will Quinn even bother, if he’s worried about winning now?
We don’t know.
But one thing is clear: Quinn must have a great offseason. And if he botches this draft or overspends in free agency, this organization won’t recover for years.
This has Packers fans thrilled. One held up a sign: “Long live Martha Ford.”
Follow Jeff Seidel on Twitter @seideljeff.