The buzz word of the day Monday during both general manager Bob Quinn's and head coach Matt Patricia's end-of-the-year press conferences was 'finish.'
"Bottom line for our season, and I'm going to say this word a lot, is we didn't finish," Quinn said. "I know Matt (Patricia) has said it a couple times, I'm going to say it over and over again this whole offseason because when I look at everything – and we're just in the beginning stages of evaluating the season as a whole. It just was a season we didn't finish."
The Lions led in 14 of their 16 games this season and were ahead in the fourth quarter in 10 of those contests, and yet the team won just three games all year and finished with the league's third worst mark at 3-12-1.
The frustrating part for Quinn, Patricia and the players who talked in the locker room Monday as they cleaned out their lockers, was they couldn't put their finger on one particular area to explain why they couldn't finish.
We can look at a defense that struggled most of the year and had trouble closing out games, starting Week 1 in Arizona, surrendering a 24-6 fourth-quarter lead in an eventual tie. Three weeks later, a 4th and 8 stop instead of a Patrick Mahomes first-down scramble probably wins them that Week 4 matchup vs. Kansas City. It was a theme that would play out throughout the course of the season.
The offense had multiple opportunities to close out games, starting with the Cardinals in the fourth quarter in Week 1. Detroit settled for three second-half field goals and four field goals total in a 23-22 loss to Green Bay Week 5 at Lambeau Field. It was another theme that would play out throughout the course of the season.
Even special teams played a role. Washington's only touchdown in a 19-16 Week 12 win over the Lions was on a 91-yard kickoff return touchdown.
"We didn't win enough ... our responsibility here is to look at that over the coming months, look at everything from A to Z," Quinn said. "We're going to take a hard look at everything from players, to scheme, to coaching, to organization, to injury prevention. We're going to evaluate it, and do everything in our power to make it better for next year."
First, Quinn has to acquire more playmakers this offseason, whether it be in free agency or the draft -- Players who can make the one or two plays that make the difference late in close games. This was a roster short on those dynamic playmakers.
Second, Detroit has to find a way to stay healthy. Quinn ended up placing 16 players on IR and signed 14 players from their practice squad and three from other teams' practice squads. Most of those practice squad players were playing key roles for this team down the stretch.
"I'm never going to sit up here ever and say that injuries are an excuse," Quinn said. "They're not. We had a lot of injuries this year, and we have to look at that and see what happened there, and see where we can get better."
It's an important offseason for Quinn and Patricia to dive into what went wrong in 2019, and come up with the answers of what needs to be done this offseason. Detroit is armed with a high draft pick (No. 3 overall) and plenty of cap space to add important pieces. Coming off a three-win season, all the right buttons need to be pushed.
"There's a lot of things we need to get better at," Quinn said. "There's a lot of things when you win three games – it's not just one thing.
"This was an abnormal year for us. It's something that we're really going to have to dive into because we sit there scratching our heads every week where we didn't finish, or we were two plays away or bad call here, bad break there, dropped pass there and it adds up to our record.
"We're going to own our record. That's what it is, and we can't change it. We're going to accept that, and we're going to look forward to try to give this team and this city and this organization a better record going forward."