ESPN.com has a story up titled, “Five teams that could be the 49ers of 2020, and all the similarities.” The first team they list is the Lions.
It’s long, so go there for the full write-up. But here are their bullet points:
Similarity: They spent most of 2019 without their starting quarterback. Matthew Stafford was playing arguably the best football of his career before missing the final eight games with a fractured back.
Similarity: They didn’t rack up many interceptions. While the Lions recorded more than the NFL record-low two interceptions that the 49ers generated in 2018, Darius Slay & Co. finished the season with just seven picks across 611 pass attempts, which resulted in a league-low interception rate of 1.1%. The Lions forced just six turnovers during their eight-game losing streak to end the season despite playing teams like the Bears, Broncos and Buccaneers.
Similarity: They have an X’s-and-O’s genius on staff. Shanahan is regarded as one of the NFL’s brightest offensive minds, and though the Niners didn’t show that frequently while Jimmy Garoppolo was out injured, they have been brilliant on offense in 2019. … (I)f you ask around the league, Patricia is regarded as a bright defensive mind. He was the one who initially tried to stop the Rams in 2018 with a 6-1 front, a move the Bears and Patriots emulated with better personnel to shut down the Sean McVay offense before the rest of the league followed suit in 2019 … With better personnel, Shanahan was able to show off just how creative of a playcaller and tactician he can be on the offensive side of the ball. Patricia is probably not on Shanahan’s level, but he’s clearly somebody who can come up with creative game plans. If Detroit can upgrade its defensive talent this offseason, Patricia might be the one directly benefiting from his ideas.
Difference: They (probably) won’t be able to use their high draft pick to add the draft’s best pass-rusher. Things fell perfectly for the 49ers in the 2019 draft, as they were able to use the second overall pick on Ohio State pass-rusher Nick Bosa after the Cardinals took Kyler Murray first. Bosa was an immediate difference-maker along a defensive line that morphed into one of the league’s best in 2019.
The Lions would likely love to grab another stud pass-rusher out of Ohio State, Chase Young, at No. 3, but he’s likely to come off the board at No. 2 to Washington. The Lions could get lucky if a team trades up with Washington to draft one of the quarterbacks, but they probably shouldn’t print any Young jerseys in Honolulu blue just yet.
Similarity: They could use a high draft pick to address a key defensive point of weakness. Barnwell cites Okudah.
Similarity: They blew a lot of games late. The 2018 49ers lost four games in which they had a lead at some point during the fourth quarter, ranking among the worst in the NFL. The 2019 Lions are in a similar space, as they were the only team in the league to post a losing record in games in which they led heading into the fourth quarter. Detroit was 2-4-1 when it held a lead with 15 minutes to go; the rest of the league was 198-33.
Even that stat sells the Lions short. They lost or tied three games they were winning with one minute to go and lost a fourth that was tied in the final minute. Three of those four games were against teams that made it to conference title games.
Difference: Their coach doesn’t have a track record of success in multiple places. While Shanahan succeeded as an offensive coordinator with the Texans, Washington and Falcons before getting his head-coaching opportunity in San Francisco, Patricia spent his entire NFL coaching career before Detroit with the Patriots. It’s unclear whether he can succeed without working alongside arguably the best coach in NFL history, and the early returns haven’t been impressive.
My take: I think he’s WAY overselling both Patricia’s head-coaching acumen and how ready to win the respective rosters are (Quinn’s failings).