Following their second consecutive 9-7 season in 2017, the Detroit Lions surprised many people as they decided to move on from Jim Caldwell as their head coach. But what was more surprising was who the Lions decided to replace him with. The Lions would tab Matt Patricia to become the 28th head coach in the history of the franchise. Patricia spent the last 14 years as an assistant coach with the New England Patriots which included serving as the team’s defensive coordinator for the last six. Patricia has never served as a head coach at any level as he has spent the majority of his coaching career learning at the feet of current Patriots head coach Bill Belichick. Like Belichick, Patricia is known to generally wear a hoodie on the sidelines to go along with his scruffy look. And aside from choosing to go in the same wardrobe direction as his mentor, Patricia was brought to Detroit to instill some of the Patriots winning culture into the Lions locker room. But like so many other coaches who have worked under Belichick, Patricia’s style is only fit for Foxboro.
Through nine games this season the Lions find themselves with a record of 3-6 as they are on pace for their worst season since 2012. Patricia inherited a team that was on the cusp of being a playoff team, but he has instead chosen to put his own personal stamp on things which is threatening to have him lose his locker room.
After suffering consecutive losses to begin this season, the Lions were able to battle back into contention as they were 3-3 after six games. And following Detroit’s Week Seven win over the Miami Dolphins, they appeared to be all in to make a run for the playoffs after they acquired defensive tackle Damon “Snacks” Harrison from the New York Giants. But following the Lions Week Eight home loss to the Seattle Seahawks, Patricia traded the team’s best wide receiver in Golden Tate to the Philadelphia Eagles. Since then the Lions offense has not been the same as they’ve only managed to score a combined 31 points in their last two contests which were both losses, and more importantly Patricia appears to have lost the team. Following the trade of Tate, the Lions don’t appear to be the same team as they are failing to compete as this appears to be another long season in Detroit.
What is hurting Patricia is the same thing that has hurt so many assistant coaches who have honed their craft under Belichick and that is they attempt to do what he (Belichick) does with their new team. Belichick is in a very unique position due to the fact that he has a high level of cache with Patriots owner Robert Kraft due to the fact that he was won five Super Bowl Titles with the organization, and he has also has Tom Brady as his starting quarterback. Former Patriots assistant coaches go to their new team and the only thing that they have going for themselves is that they were a cog in the wheel of the Patriots machine, but they lack an identity, and more importantly they are not Belichick.
We saw this in 2009 when current Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels became the head coach of the Denver Broncos. McDaniels was handed one of the better offenses in the National Football League to work with, but he was not a fan of Broncos quarterback Jay Cutler which led to him being traded to the Chicago Bears, and shortly thereafter, wide receiver Brandon Marshall was dealt to the Miami Dolphins.
After McDaniels began his tenure with the Broncos by winning his first six games that year, Denver would fall off of a cliff as they finished the year with a record of 8-8. And after the Broncos began 2010 with a mark of 3-10, McDaniels was fired. In a matter of months, McDaniels went from trading a Pro Bowl quarterback and wide receiver, to looking like a boy genius, to looking extremely foolish for trading up in the round of the 2010 National Football League in order to select quarterback Tim Tebow.
Now in trading Tate last month, the Lions will receive a third-round pick in next year’s draft for a player who is scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent at season’s end, but what message does shipping him off now serve to the other 52 players on the Lions roster who are trying to win now?
The questionable moves by Patricia would not stop there as Lions who play their home games indoors, practiced outside in the snow this week. Patricia elected to move a portion of the team’s practice sessions this week outdoors in the snow in spite of the fact that Detroit is not slated to play another game in cold weather until Week 15 when they visit the Buffalo Bills.
Also in Patricia’s brief time in Detroit, he has also clashed with some members of the media even going as far to criticize a reporter who was slouching in a chair during his press conference. And if there is one thing that we’ve seen over the years is that battling with the media is generally a losing battle.
Patricia does have an engineering background, but the current blueprint that he is using to build the Lions in his own image is not going to work as he will have a mutiny on his hands real soon with Detroit’s locker room at the current pace that he is operating. And if that is case, Patricia will just be another Patriots assistant coach like McDaniels, Romeo Crennel, Eric Mangini, and several others who have struggled on their own.
Belichick is arguably the best head coach in National Football League history, but unlike someone such as former San Francisco 49ers head coach Bill Walsh, or his own mentor in Bill Parcells, he does not properly prepare his assistants to step out on their own to become leaders of men, and Patricia is just another example of this.