Bob Quinn deserves the flak he gets. He might even be the first to (kind of, sort of) admit it. He's got more misses in the draft than hits, and his batting average is lower in free agency. But if nothing else, give Quinn full marks for his draft picks on the offensive line.
Of the seven offensive linemen the Lions have drafted over his five years at the helm, six remain with the team, and five have played significant snaps this season. The only one who's gone walked out of town last spring with a $44 million deal in free agency.
In particular, Quinn deserves credit for his two first-rounders: Taylor Decker -- the first pick of his tenure -- and Frank Ragnow. Right now, you'd be hard-pressed to find a better combination at left tackle and center in the NFL.
Decker, 27, has earned every penny of the $60 million extension he signed before this season. You've probably heard that he hasn't allowed a sack since last December. And Ragnow, 24, continues to play like a franchise cornerstone. He was recently named to the Pro Football Focus midseason All-Pro team.
Speaking of accolades, Pro Bowl voting started on Tuesday. And Decker and Ragnow belong in the center of the conversation at their respective positions.
"They should be," offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell said Tuesday. "I think they’re playing at a really high level. Hopefully the people around them see it, I think their peers see it, the guys they have to go up against every week."
Last week, Decker and Ragnow helped stymie one of the best defensive lines in football in Detroit's 30-27 win over Washington. The Lions surrendered just one sack to a team that entered the game with the fourth most sacks in the league, and their running backs averaged five yards per carry.
"We’ve faced some good fronts and there are some good fronts in our division, but that one was as good as it can get," Bevell said. "To hold the quarterback fairly clean throughout the game speaks well for those guys."
If they keep it up, Decker and Ragnow have a chance to do something we haven't seen around here in 25 years. The last time the Lions had two Pro Bowlers on the offensive line in the same season was 1995: Lomas Brown and Kevin Glover. The left tackle and the center. It's not a coincidence that team made the playoffs and ranked second in the league in offense.
OK, we're getting greedy. Detroit has sent just one offensive lineman to the Pro Bowl this century: TJ Lang, as an injury replacement, in 2017. Two in the same year is wishful thinking, especially on a mediocre team in a middling market. But Decker and Ragnow belong near the top of the ballot, whether they wind up there or not.
Here's the rub. Quinn's feel for drafting offensive linemen only makes his decisions in free agency more baffling. He whiffed with a $47.5 million deal for Rick Wagner in 2017, and the $45 million deal he gave to Halapoulivaati Vaitai last offseason looks like even more of a head-scratcher now. He also let Larry Warford -- now a three-time Pro Bowler -- Laken Tomlinson and Graham Glasgow walk out the door.
But Tyrell Crosby, a fifth-round pick in 2018, has stepped in ably this season at right tackle, even if that job was meant for Vaitai. (He kept Chase Young off the scoresheet last week.) Jonah Jackson, a third-rounder in 2020, has filled a hole at guard. At times, so has Joe Dahl, a fifth-rounder in 2016. Logan Stenberg, a fourth-rounder in 2020, has upside on the interior.
That would be a solid draft haul on its own. Add in Decker and Ragnow and you're looking at Quinn's best work in Detroit. The Lions might not stand behind him much longer, but at least something will remain standing in his wake.