The Curious Case Of Kyle Van Noy

Detroit Lions fans have endured a lot of pain this season. First, they blow a 2-game lead and lose the division to the Green Bay Packers. Then they get drummed out of the wild-card round by the Dallas Cowboy rookies. Now fans have to watch former Lions 2nd round pick Kyle Van Noy make big plays for the New England Patriots in the playoffs.

Let’s review how Kyle Van Noy ended up playing for the New England Patriots in the first place. The Detroit Lions traded the former BYU Cougar to the New England Patriots on October 26th for a swap of late round draft picks. A trade that was a blip on the radar as the Lions were beginning their mid-season winning streak. However, as the season wore on and the Detroit Lions stumbled down the stretch it became clear that linebacker was a hole that needed to be addressed for next season. Considering Van Noy’s apparent resurgence in the playoffs, many fans are wondering why the Lions sent him packing mid-season and for almost nothing.

The Motivation

From the Patriot’s perspective it was easy, they were looking for depth at linebacker after Dont’a Hightower’s struggle with injury and Jamie Collins’ feud with coaching staff.  Collins was traded just five days later to the Cleveland Browns.

The Lions motivations for trading Van Noy were unclear. As the 2016 season began, all indications were that Van Noy would finally start contributing on the defense after two awkward seasons for the Lions. As the season started he was living up to the hype until suddenly and out-of the blue being traded to the Patriots.

Playoff Performer

Kyle Van Noy has made a few big plays for the Patriots in the playoffs, exacerbating the sense of regret Lions fans may have about letting him go. Lets not overstate things, Van Noy isn’t the second coming of Chris Speilman but he is serviceable.  In 2016, Van Noy produced enough to earn a rating from Pro Football Focus of 55. The rating would have made him the highest rated linebacker on the Lions, (Josh Bynes 59, Tahir Whitehead 86). It is safe to say that Van Noy, who is currently starting in the playoffs for the Super-bowl bound New England Patriots, might have been able to help the Lions next season.

Questions Remain

So why is Kyle Van Noy successful in New England when he wasn’t in Detroit? Is it coaching, scheme or a simple change of scenery that is the reason behind his sudden waiver of consistency and  productivity? Given the tight-lipped nature of both franchises we are unlikely to find out any time soon.  So that leaves us to evaluate only the facts we know.

  1. Van Noy seemed to turn a corner this season and was showing flashes of the talent that caused the Lions to draft him in the first place.
  2. Without any warning, the Lions traded him despite having only Tahir Whitehead and Josh Bynes to fill the gaps. DeAndre Levy wouldn’t be a factor until later in the season.
  3. His departure leaves a need at linebacker because of the uncertain future of DeAndre Levy and the regression of Tahir Whitehead.

This was Bob Quinn’s first trade as Detroit Lions general manager and by all indicators it was a failure. The Lions gave up a starting NFL Linebacker for the opportunity to move up from 7th to 6th round in the draft. A trade is supposed to use a strength to fix a weakness not create more questions.

It would be interesting to find out what Bob Quinn’s reasoning was for trading Van Noy. Did he have a dispute with the coaching staff? Does Quinn think Caldwell’s staff failed in their attempt to develop him? Is the coaching staff convinced that Van Noy no longer fits in the Lion’s defensive scheme?

All of these questions deserve answers and winning answers all questions.  However if the Lions are unable to make a return trip to the play-offs questions about trades like this are bound to reemerge.

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