With Detroit Lions coach Matt Patricia, it always goes back to where it began, namely who he replaced and why he was called to replace him.
That person was Jim Caldwell, who in four seasons with Detroit went 36-28 and reached the playoffs twice. The Lions went 9-7 in each of his final two seasons. Detroit fired him anyway, per the order of general manager Bob Quinn, who saw a talented roster not getting maximized (the Lions went 0-2 in those road playoff games).
“It’s wanting to take this team to the next level,” Quinn said at the time. “To me, that’s winning championships, that’s winning playoff games and that’s winning the Super Bowl.”
Fair enough. There was nothing wrong with wanting more, or even demanding more. This is professional football. The Lions have won just a single playoff game since 1957 (and none since the 1991 season). The setting of high standards was kind of refreshing for this franchise.
Except when Quinn went looking for a new coach, he hired Patricia, his buddy from their time together with the New England Patriots. Patricia was a first-time head coach. Quinn vouched for him.
It has been disastrous.
Caldwell at 9-7 wasn’t good enough. But Patricia, now 9-24-1 in his third season, remains on the sideline.
He shouldn’t for much longer, at least barring some reversal of fortune of which there is no earthly evidence coming.
The latest humiliation was a 42-21 beatdown courtesy of the Green Bay Packers (“a comedy of errors” the Detroit Free Press dubbed it). It dropped the Lions to 0-2 on the season and extended their losing streak to 11 games.
It was a testament to bad plays, bad players, bad errors, bad everything, especially coaching.
“We understand we can’t have penalties. We have to keep our composure. We can’t have turnovers. We’ve got to do everything we can not to give up big plays,” Patricia said.
They may understand it, but they keep doing all of the above. About the only positive was that Detroit blew the game in the first half, not their traditional fourth-quarter meltdown (this was the fourth consecutive game the Lions had a double-digit lead and lost). The early collapse freed up the good people of Michigan to enjoy some fine fall weather on Sunday afternoon.
This team isn’t headed to the Super Bowl, as Quinn once stated was the expectation. It isn’t headed anywhere but circling the drain. The “next level” has proven to be three levels down.
They’d love 9-7 now. They’d take 7-9.
Patricia has taken a nine-win team and won six games, then three games and … well, the trend line says zero. You’d normally say that’s impossible, especially with Matthew Stafford at quarterback, but then again ... the franchise has pulled that off before (2008).
“We’ve got to get better, that’s really the bottom line,” Patricia said. “We’re going to keep pushing and keep doing our work and improve. It’s early.”
That it is early is part of the problem. This looks like another lost autumn for Lions fans, and it’s still technically summer.
William Clay Ford Sr. owned the team from 1961-2014 and delivered just one playoff victory. His wife, Martha Firestone Ford, ran it until 2019 and brought in the current Quinn/Patricia regime — derisively dubbed “Quinntricia” by fans.
Now their daughter, Sheila Ford Hamp, is the franchise owner, and Lions fans can only wonder if failure will continue to be accepted.
Perhaps worst of all is that Patricia was brought in as a defensive coach, yet against Green Bay, the Lions defense was scorched all over the field. Bad personnel. Bad scheme. Bad efforts. The Packers offense tuned up for 488 yards — a near equal 259 rushing and 229 passing.
The Lions gave up a 75-yard touchdown run, like this was college football. Last week, they gave up three fourth-quarter touchdown passes to Mitchell Trubisky.
Maybe they could have used Darius Slay, who they essentially ran off and traded last offseason.
This is a never-ending train wreck in progress. Patricia has shown no ability to match Caldwell, the coach who Quinn said wasn’t nearly good enough to keep his job. At no point has either of them shown much of anything other than the ability to cash in on Bill Belichick’s shine.
The Lions will be significant underdogs next week when they visit 2-0 Arizona, a team that was 3-13 just two seasons ago but quickly rebuilt into an exciting club. After that, New Orleans.
They all could have been justifiably fired last year. They weren’t. The Fords believed in them. Now, it’s more of the same, only worse, all as Stafford’s prime gets wasted away.
For how much longer, though? For how much longer until these two are held to the lowest of standards the way Caldwell was once held to high ones?
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