Detroit Lions' Darrell Bevell isn't nearly as old-school as you think
He’s been there. So there is that.
And even if it’s just a vicarious experience, the Lions now have an offensive coordinator who has won a Super Bowl. Yeah, he’s lost one, too.
Darrell Bevell thinks about his play call that led to that loss in Super Bowl XLIX, back in 2015.
Do you blame him?
Second and goal from the 1-yard-line. Twenty six seconds left. Bevell had the league’s most bruising running back in Marshawn Lynch and instead called for a pass. It was intercepted. His Seattle Seahawks lost to the New England Patriots. The NFL’s cognoscenti lost their minds. Bevell lost a lot more than sleep.
“It's a terrible memory," Bevell told ESPN two years ago. "Every time it comes up, it sticks in your gut …it's always going to be there. There's always a scar there."
“It’s something I learned from,” he said.
I could spend the rest of this column picking that play apart. But there's no need to. It’s been done. Besides, as with much of life, the context of that play is more complicated. It wasn’t all his fault.
Yes, he’s likely to get asked about it when he meets with reporters for the first time as the Lions new offensive coordinator. That’s how this works. Yet that play doesn’t tell us much about what he’s going to do next fall at Ford Field. Other than he’s got a willingness to stick his neck out in a big moment.
Remember that as you consider Bevell’s resume, as you think how his run-heavy bio fits in with modern football. Or at least how the Lions are supposed to keep up with the Chiefs and the Rams and the Saints.
Because that’s the question here, right?
The game seems headed one way. The Lions are headed in another.
That's the easy takeaway, anyway. That Lions head coach Matt Patricia just hired a relic. A man whom Seattle no longer trusted to run its offense and fired after the 2017 season. A man who didn’t coach this past season.
Yet Bevell lasted seven seasons with the Seahawks. He was part of five playoff appearances and two Super Bowls.
So … he liked to run the ball. The Rams and the Saints and the Patriots do, too. Almost every team that makes it to the conference championships does. And as often as those teams like to throw the ball down the field, it’s often the ability to run that makes this possible.
Which means an emphasis on the run game needn’t ruin dreams of a playoff run. Nor does Bevell’s desire to run the ball mean he can’t coach quarterbacks.
He helped Russell Wilson develop in Seattle. And in Minnesota? He oversaw the finest year of Brett Favre’s late-career renaissance.
Favre threw for more than 4,000 yards under Bevell in 2009, back when fewer quarterbacks reached that threshold. He also led the league in touchdowns that season (33) and threw just seven interceptions.
That Minnesota team fell three points shy of making the Super Bowl, losing to the Saints in the NFC title game, 31-28, in overtime. Offense wasn’t an issue. Nor was it most years in Seattle.
Now, those Seahawks teams won because of defense, highlighted by a swarming, physical band of playmakers. And the Lions don’t have that sort of outfit.
But that’s the goal. Just as it’s the goal of Patricia and his boss, Bob Quinn, to roll out an offense that is physical and that can run and pass and adapt week to week.
Remember what Quinn said when he met with the media a couple weeks back:
"We’re looking for someone that improves the offense ... We want to be able to run the ball, we want to be able to use our quarterback because he has a ton of talent. We want to be diverse. We’re not going to sit there and be in 'four wide receivers, shotgun' every play and throw it 45 times. That’s not good for anybody. On the other hand, we’re not going to be 'three tight ends and run the ball 40 times.' ”
In other words, the Lions did exactly what Quinn said they were going to do. They didn’t go after a young — possibly bearded — coordinator in an attempt to turn Matthew Stafford into Patrick Mahomes or Jared Goff, the quarterbacks who lead the Chiefs and the Rams, respectively.
This isn’t about passing attempts, either. Of the five quarterbacks who led the NFL in attempts, only one — Andrew Luck — made the playoffs.
It’s about efficiency. It’s about explosive plays. The Lions had little of either this season.
Think about it this way: Mahomes threw just 25 more times than Stafford did this season. And Goff threw just six more times.
You’ll hear Bevell talk plenty about balance in the run-up to next season. He’ll mean it, too. Look at his track record.
His successful offenses didn't come from a notebook leftover from the 1960s. Bevell likes to get the ball down the field. He just likes to do it when the defense is just as worried about the quarterback handing it off.
That's what Patricia and Quinn wanted: For an offensive coordinator to operate like Patricia does on defense.
“We need to do a better job of going into each week looking at the opponent and say, ‘How are we going to beat this team?’ ” Quinn said. “If they have a great run defense and a poor pass defense, maybe we throw it 45 times and vice versa. So we want someone that thinks that way.”
Bevell surely does. Which means Patricia and Quinn have their guy.
Now that they do, they have no more excuses, either. It’s time to see if their vision will work.
Contact Shawn Windsor: 313-222-6487 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @shawnwindsor.