Free Press columnist Shawn Windsor and sports writer Dave Birkett react to another painful Lions loss to Cowboys, 26-24, Sept. 30, 2018.
Dave Birkett, Detroit Free Press
How do you not pay Golden Tate?
The Detroit Lions receiver took it to another level Tuesday morning when he reportedly stopped to help people involved in an accident on the Southfield Freeway.
“Just glad everyone was ok,” Tate later tweeted. “Especially the little 3 year old girl.”
He even included a crying emoji.
A crying emoji, people.
Basically, when Tate isn’t scoring two touchdowns in a game, when he’s not busy being the Lions’ leading receiver, when he’s not occupied being on pace for a 1,500-yard season, he’s prowling our roadways and saving lives. The dude might have to skip the Pro Bowl to accept a humanitarian award.
As the kids say these day, that’s so fire. That’s so extra. Tate is all that and a bag of chips.
I might be getting my decades mixed up.
But how do you justify not paying Tate? Now the final season of his five-year deal, all he’s done as a Lion is accumulate 400 catches, 4,613 yards, a Pro Bowl selection — and now the key to our hearts.
Unfortunately, most of Tate’s Avenger-style heroics were mostly lost on coach Matt Patricia, who said he wasn’t aware of Tate’s good deed when I asked him in a teleconference Tuesday.
“I’m not in the tweet program, no,” Patricia said. “So I didn’t hear about it. But if something like that happened, it doesn’t surprise me. Golden is great guy. He’s very giving, caring person. So I’m unaware.”
Sadly, the Interwebs and the Googles haven’t yet reached Patricia’s office in Allen Park.
Maybe the Lions can upgrade their dial-up modem and buy Patricia a Twitter account with the money they’ll save if they don’t end up re-signing Tate. Because I think that’s where they’re headed: discarding one of the franchise’s all-time most productive players.
Tate’s 4,613 receiving yards ranks eighth on the Lions’ career list. All he needs is 632 yards to pass Brett Perriman for fourth place, with only Calvin Johnson, Herman Moore and Johnnie Morton ahead of him.
But Tate is a slot receiver, which historically has been an undervalued and underpaid position. It’s considered the position of smaller, quicker guys who can win matchups inside but aren’t big enough to win on the outside, a place reserved for deep passes and glory.
But Tate is different. He’s a unique slot receiver in the Lions’ offense who can win on the outside and opens up so much more. He’s also a favorite target of Matthew Stafford. I asked Patricia on Tuesday how invaluable and irreplaceable Tate is.
“Like I said before about the game of football, I think it’s a complete team game,” Patricia said. “All three phases, offensively, defensively, special teams. So, we’re always preparing every single week to go win whatever way that we have to.
“And we look at everybody in the same manner and understand that we’re going to have situations where guys can or cannot play and then the next guy up has to be able to step up and perform at a high level. It’s a great team game, that’s what we love about it.”
Offensive coordinator Jim Bob Cooter also spouted the company line Tuesday and said “when the ball gets in Golden’s hands, he tends to make something pretty positive happen. So, we’re going to try to keep that going offense-wide. … we’re going to keep pushing to find those guys and let them play for us.”
Dudes. Really? You don’t have to find Tate. He’s already here.
Patricia follows the Patriot Way and doesn’t like to dish out praise for any one player. It’s always team, team, team, which loosely translates to coach/GM, coach/GM, coach/GM. Players are largely interchangeable pieces under the Patriot Way, in which geniuses at the top can turn slot receivers like undrafted Wes Welker and seventh-rounder Julian Edelman into productive stars.
My guess is the Lions believe they can let Tate, 30, walk in free agency and replace him next year with Brandon Powell, an undrafted rookie free agent from Florida who made the initial 53-man roster.
But there are a couple of issues here. The NFL loves to pay for potential, but Powell is completely unproven. He’s also only 5 feet 8 and 181 pounds, so his durability could be a concern.
The other issue is something Patricia and general manager Bob Quinn should think about very carefully. If they don’t sign Tate, he could end up with an NFC North rival and not only torment the Lions for years but also serve as a black mark against Quinn and Patricia’s personnel record.
Here’s one last thing Patricia and Quinn need to consider about Tate. He’s an entertaining fan favorite. Football is a game with serious consequences. But it’s still just a game. And that means it’s entertainment. Whether Tate is taunting the Dallas Cowboys by high-stepping into the end zone or whether he’s helping a family in trouble, he has made a connection with Lions fans and the people of Detroit.
It’s hard to put a price tag on that. But whatever it is, the Lions should pay it.
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Contact Carlos Monarrez at email@example.com or follow him on Twitter @cmonarrez.