By Matt Meyle – The Collegiate Staff
On Jan. 14, reports surfaced from ESPN’s NFL inside-reporter, Adam Schefter, claiming sources have leaked information from the Detroit Lions’ front offices stating the current defensive coordinator of the New England Patriots, Matt Patricia, is speculated to become the Lions’ new Head Coach following the finish of the Patriots’ season.
If Patricia is hired, the Lions would be looking to Matt, Matthew, and Matt for victories in 2018. Head coach Patricia would run the show, with quarterback Matthew Stafford running the offense and kicker Matt Prater coming up clutch with game-winning field goals (something he has been an expert at since coming to Detroit in 2014). The three could band together to try to undo the destruction the Lions’ former General Manager Matt Millen induced during his seven years with Detroit. Millen was fired in the middle of the 2008 season, the infamous year the Lions finished the season without a win.
Patricia was one of six coaches the Lions named to be interviewed, including 2017 Offensive Coordinator Jim Bob Cooter, and former Defensive Coordinator Teryl Austin, who accepted the same role for the Cincinnati Bengals organization. Mike Vrabel, Defensive Coordinator of the Houston Texans, Winston Moss, Linebackers/Associate Head Coach of the Green Bay Packers, and Pat Shurmur, the Minnesota Vikings’ offensive coordinator rounded out the head coaching candidates. Although, Patricia has been the top candidate from the start of the Lions’ search for a coach.
Reports claim Patricia has not signed a contract and will not until the Patriots season is over. The Patriots play this Sunday, Jan. 21, at 3:05 p.m. in the American Football Conference (AFC) Championship game. If they win, they will go to the Super Bowl, and an official announcement would be put off for another two weeks, regardless if they win or lose in the Super Bowl since the NFL season would be officially over after the game, regardless of the outcome for the Patriots. If the Patriots lose on Sunday, Patricia could be announced as the Head Coach of the Lions as soon as Monday.
However, there is still a chance Patricia might not become the Lions Head Coach, due to his decision to wait until the end of the season to discuss his future. Patricia has only responded to questions about the head coaching rumors by saying, “I’m on to a very dangerous Jacksonville team,” according to Mlive.
The hope in Detroit is that Patricia will fix the defensive woes while bringing in a championship mentality. Something Detroit has never had. Patricia has been with the Patriots since 2004 and was promoted to Defensive Coordinator in 2012. Patricia has coached in five Super Bowls, winning three in 2005, 2015 and 2017, and losing two to the New York Giants in 2008 and 2012, which is ironically the other reported team that Patricia was speculated to be pursued by as the new Head Coach.
General Manager Bob Quinn has been with the Lions for two full seasons and has yet to select a Head Coach. Experts believed Detroit would pursue Patricia with intensity, due to Quinn’s former association with the Patriots organization. Quinn was hired by the Patriots in 2000, became a talent scout in 2002 and left the organization as the Director of Pro Scouting, holding the title from 2012 through 2015 until he was offered a promotion to General Manager by the Detroit Lions.
Quinn inherited former Head Coach Jim Caldwell, who was fired following the 2017 season, after failing to meet higher expectations. Caldwell was the winningest coach in Detroit Lions history with an overall win/loss record of 36-28 and a 56.3 percent win record. Unfortunately for Caldwell, his success with the Lions was unmatched by any other coach in franchise history, taking the team to two playoff appearances in his four years, and posting only one season with a losing record, but he never won in the playoffs, resulting in his termination.
The Lions currently have the highest paid player in the NFL in Stafford. Although often criticised for his inconsistency and inability to beat teams with winning records, Stafford is number one in almost all of the Lions’ statistical categories at the quarterback position. In his ninth season, Stafford hit career highs in 2017 and showed he has matured as a leader of the team. He finished the season with a 99.3 quarterback rating, limited himself to 10 interceptions, and ended the season with his fewest passing attempts in a full season with his second-highest completion percentage of 65.7.
However, he was sacked 47 times in 2017, also a career high. Stafford had little-to-no run support the entire season. The Lions finished dead last in the league in rushing and failed to have a running back gain over 100 yards in a game, solidifying the Lions’ inability to protect Stafford and produce a run game. Which seemed to be a current trend in Detroit during the Caldwell era.
The Lions have not had a 100-yard rusher since Reggie Bush in 2013. Bush ran for 117 yards and the Lions beat the Green Bay Packers 40-10 on Thanksgiving. Currently, the Lions have gone 68 games without a 100-yard rusher, only four games shy of the NFL record. A stat almost as bad as going an entire season without winning a game, something this perennial bottom feeder was the first to accomplished since the league changed to a 16-game regular season in 1978. Fortunately for the Lions, the Cleveland Browns took some heat off of Detroit in 2017, by joining the 2008 Lions, as only the second team to finish a season 0-16.
Stafford’s success under Cooter has raised questions as to whether or not Cooter will be returning as Offensive Coordinator. Stafford has voiced his trust and beliefs in Cooter’s knowledge of offensive schemes and stated that he would like to see Cooter be reinstated as coordinator. Many fans and experts are also questioning whether or not the slow start on offense stemmed from Caldwell’s lack of team preparation or Cooter’s offensive gameplan.
Caldwell’s biggest downfall was his lack of fire and conservative game planning. He was mild-mannered and never showed any signs of weakness, allowing the Lions to obtain eight come-from-behind-wins in 2016. This is a direct result of Caldwell’s lack of preparation in his game planning and his inability to keep his foot on the gas while winning, allowing teams to stay in games. The trend continued in 2017, but unlike the magic in 2016 when they won eight games after trailing in the fourth quarter, this season the Lions were just 3-5 in one possession games.
The 2017 Lions were almost a mirror image of the 2016 team, finishing with the same record of 9-7, but slightly better statistically in 2017, further frustrating fans since they failed to make the playoffs by one game with multiple attempts to beat lesser skilled teams. Caldwell was let go because he could not catapult the Lions to be a consistent top 10 team in the league, and if a team is paying their quarterback more money than any other player in the league, that team better be successful and sell out Ford Field on a weekly basis.
Patricia is a man with experience, success, and a bachelor of science degree in aeronautical engineering from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in New York. If a rocket scientist with multiple Super Bowl rings cannot bring success to this historically failing franchise, then perhaps the Lions have overstayed their welcome in Detroit and it’s finally time for the Ford’s to sell the team. But every true Lions fan knows if Patricia fails in Detroit, well, there’s always next year.