Quinn: Lions Weren't Tough Enough Last Season

This admission guided the team's decisions in the draft.

Will Burchfield
April 29, 2018 - 2:03 pm

© Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

Categories: 

Lions fans were still scratching their heads on Thursday night, trying to figure out why the team drafted center Frank Ragnow – who? – 20th overall, when both Bob Quinn and Matt Patricia praised Ragnow’s snarl.

"I love the way he plays, his attitude about the game," Patricia said. "When he steps in between the lines, that’s what we’re looking for. We’re looking for that type of dominating attitude.”

It would set the tone for the rest of the draft. From Ragnow in the first round to fullback Nick Bawden in the seventh, Quinn and the Lions placed a premium on toughness, believing last year’s team didn’t have nearly enough.

 “I think it was lacking,” Quinn said flatly.

Toughness can a difficult trait to gauge. All teams claim to have it; only some teams actually do. For Quinn, the Lions’ impotence in short-yardage situations last season was a red flag. It rankled the GM that his team couldn’t dig deep when it really needed to.

And it probably had a lot to do with Detroit’s middling 9-7 record.

“NFL games come down to about five plays or less every week. And most of these plays are short-yardage, goal line, third down, red area, special teams,” Quinn said. “If you can get your team to perform better in those situational areas and you can win the majority of those four or five plays, you’re going to have a better chance to win.”

Take, for example, the Lions’ inability to line up in a power formation and plunge the darn ball into the end zone last season.

 “It’s goal line, and we can’t run the ball, like, half a yard. That bothered me,” Quinn said. “I took it upon myself to implement some changes in terms of what we want to do, what we want to look at, what we want to look like as a team.

“When Matt came in, I said, ‘Listen, this is what I think we need to do,’ and he was on board. That’s kind of what our plan has been since February 5, (the day Patricia was hired).”

They put that plan into motion in free agency, adding the stouthearted likes of LeGarrette Blount, Devon Kennard and Christian Jones. But it was crucial to double down in the draft. That’s where a team’s identity is formed for the long haul.

When evaluating players, Quinn said, “something we looked at long and hard (was) guys finishing plays.” Running back Kerryon Johnson, safety Tracey Walker, defensive lineman Da’Shawn Hand and tackle Tyrell Crosby – in addition to Ragnow and Bawden -- all appear to check that box.

“You go through the highlights they show on Ragnow, you watch Crosby play against good competition (in the Pac-12), you see how Kerryon carries the ball and finishes his runs. That was something we talked about in February when Matt and his staff came in about what we thought can make the team better,” Quinn said.

Their first discussion stemmed from a simple question: What should the Lions look like?

 “We want a big, strong, tough, physical team in the trenches,” said Quinn. “That’s my job to kind of fill those roles in terms of the player side, and then it’s (on) Matt and his coaches to kind of implement that style in terms of scheme. It was an emphasis, and I think so far, so good.”