Dave Birkett and Carlos Monarrez debate why the Lions should and should not tank the rest of the season, and preview Panthers game, Nov. 15, 2018.
Carlos Monarrez, Detroit Free Press

Tank, Lions, tank! Tank, Lions, tank!

Come on. Say it with me. It’s fun.

Tank, Lions, tank! Tank, Lions, tank!

It’s time, folks. It’s time to start seriously rooting for the Detroit Lions to lose out, because at 3-6 they’re going nowhere — except higher in the NFL draft order.

So … tank, Lions, tank!

Let’s be real. The season is over. The Lions need a miracle to reach the playoffs.

According to the New York Times’ Playoff Machine, the Lions have a 3 percent chance to make the playoffs and a 1 percent chance to win the NFC North. The blue-sky optimists at give the Lions a 4 percent chance to make the playoffs and a 2 percent chance to win the division.

But you don’t need a bunch of math nerds to tell us what we already know. You can see it with our own tear-soaked, bloodshot eyes: The Lions stink.

Here’s the good news: The Lions can, and should, make the best of a bad situation by being, you know, really bad. If they play their cards right and lose Sunday to the Carolina Panthers — and the New York Giants and Arizona Cardinals win — they could potentially climb four spots and take over the position for the third overall pick in the 2019 NFL draft.

Third overall!

The Lions have a 35.6 percent chance of earning a top-5 pick, according to Football Outsiders.

Tank, Lions, tank!

Glover Quin: History says don’t count the Lions out of playoff hunt yet

That means they could potentially draft Oregon quarterback Justin Herbert. Because when has an Oregon quarterback not worked out for the Lions?

Sorry. Too soon?

No, of course the Lions aren’t drafting Herbert. But he is a big reason why the Lions need to tank. Herbert likely would be the top QB taken if he enters the draft. And that’s a big if because there’s a lot of speculation he wants to stay in Eugene to play with his younger brother, Patrick, a 4-star tight end prospect committed to attending Oregon in 2019. 

If Herbert stays in school, a draft class that’s already thin at quarterback gets even thinner. A lot of early mock drafts have just three or four QBs going in the first round, with Duke’s Daniel Jones, Missouri’s Drew Lock and Ohio State’s Dwayne Haskins among the popular choices.

That means next year’s draft could turn into a buying frenzy. Teams that desperately need a QB should be very willing to trade up with teams near the top of the draft order to snag one of the few elite arms available. And that means — are you listening, Bob Quinn? — a potential windfall of extra draft picks.

Trading up for a QB has been very popular recently. In 2016, the Los Angeles Rams gave the Tennessee Titans a king’s ransom in order to move from No. 15 to No. 1 and draft Jared Goff. The same year, the Cleveland Browns corralled a load of picks from the Philadelphia Eagles, who moved up six spots to draft Carson Wentz second overall. In 2017, the San Francisco 49ers charged Chicago two third-rounders and a fourth-rounder just to move back one spot so the Bears could draft Mitchell Trubisky. And last year, Indianapolis moved back three spots so the New York Jets could take Sam Darnold, and the Colts gathered three second-round picks for their troubles.

Tank, Lions, tank!

And it’s not just about the QBs. It’s about any highly valued player other teams don’t want to miss out on. That’s why picking near the top of the draft is gold for an NFL GM. It’s an extremely valuable commodity. The Lions are already in great position with nine picks in next year’s draft, with at least one pick in each round. But as the old saying goes, more is more.

The Lions certainly need immediate help in specific areas like defensive end, but they could use help almost everywhere. Quinn did the right thing by trading up this year to draft immediate impact players Kerryon Johnson and Da’Shawn Hand. But he needed draft capital to do that. A better draft position gives him a lot more flexibility to make these moves.

Tank, Lions, tank!

Let me be clear about tanking. In general, I don’t like it. There’s too much at stake in an emotional game like football to risk all the negative effects attached to sustained losing. I don’t advocate tanking early in the season or when there’s a reasonable chance at making the playoffs.

But that’s not the case with the Lions right now. The team knows what’s happening as well as you do. They have a rookie coach in Matt Patricia, who has had a rocky start to his tenure. The players, and coaches, know all they’re playing for this season is their jobs next season.

The only thing winning a few more games does is burnish a bad record for Quinn and Patricia. But are you going to tell me 6-10 is any better than 3-13 at this point? If Quinn and Patricia are going to ask you to swallow that idea, I hope they at least have the courtesy to pass out some Honolulu Blue Kool-Aid to make it go down easier.

Tank, Lions, tank!

Birkett’s Lions mailbag: Tanking not the answer with 7 games to play

More: Bob Quinn and Matt Patricia have no excuse next season

Contact Carlos Monarrez at or follow him on Twitter @cmonarrez.

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