DETROIT – Mobile to Miami.
That’s what was printed on the shirts the San Francisco 49ers were wearing after they beat the Green Bay Packers in the NFC Championship game last week. The shirt refers to where the 49ers started the year, and where they are ending it.
Like the Lions coaching staff this year, last year it was Kyle Shanahan and the 49ers that were coaching in the Senior Bowl in Mobile, Alabama. Now, a little over a year later, San Francisco will play in Super Bowl 54 in Miami.
Is it crazy to think the Lions could make the same turn around next season, and have shirts made saying Mobile to Tampa, where Super Bowl 55 will be played?
On the surface, yes, it is absolutely crazy to think that -- but if you look a little closer, there are some similarities between the 49ers and Lions.
Lions vs. 49ers
Let’s start with the quarterbacks. Last year it was Jimmy Garoppolo that got hurt and missed most of the season causing the 49ers to finish 4-12, netting them the No. 2 overall pick in the NFL Draft.
This year, Matthew Stafford missed the last eight games of the season -- and the Lions lost all eight games, finished 3-12-1, and find themselves picking No. 3 in the NFL Draft.
So next year, much like the 49ers this year, the Lions will have their franchise QB back under center, healthy and ready to go.
How about the coaches? Remember, it was Matt Patricia that got the best of Kyle Shanahan in Super Bowl 51, when the Patriots erased a 28-3 deficit to beat the Atlanta Falcons.
Shanahan was the Offensive Coordinator for the Falcons that year, and although his team got off to a fast start, it was Patricia that made the adjustments late in the game, helping New England capture the championship.
The point here isn’t just that Patricia’s team beat Shanahan’s team. It’s more about the experiences these coaches have had in their careers. Shanahan used that loss as a learning experience, retooled some of his offensive schemes, and has now led his team to the Super Bowl.
For Patricia, the following year, he had one of his worst coaching performances in Super Bowl 52 against the Philadelphia Eagles. The Eagles, led by backup QB Nick Foles, put up 41 points against Patricia’s defense.
The difference right now, between Patricia and Shanahan, is that Shanahan used the loss, and changed up his game. Patricia still seems to be stuck in the same defensive philosophy he used with the Patriots.
For the Lions defense to turn the corner, Patricia needs to make the necessary adjustments to his game plan like Shanahan has done with his offense.
Finally, the draft pick. This year, the 49ers struck gold with Nick Bosa. The rookie defensive end had nine sacks in the regular season, and has been making play after play in the playoffs. He is a sure-fire game changer on defense.
In April, the Lions are going to have a chance to draft their own game changer. In a perfect world, Chase Young falls to them at No. 3, and he goes on to duplicate Bosa’s rookie season.
If that happens, maybe we will see some Mobile to Tampa shirts passed out at Ford Field next year.