Before the Detroit Lions can think about winning a Super Bowl, they need to focus on winning their division. There’s one coach who would help most.
Circulating all over media outlets, the Detroit Lions are pegged to sign New England Patriots’ defensive coordinator Matt Patricia as the new head coach. Given the recent success of the Patriots, one would imagine this makes for the best signing. Not entirely.
Understandably, nabbing Patricia would kill two birds with one stone, assuming he calls the defensive plays. Thus lessening the burden and pressure of finding a better defensive coordinator.
First you have to ask yourself this question, what is the Lions’ biggest weakness? If you said defensive line, especially interior pass rush, you’re getting warm. If you said offensive line, you hit the nail right on the head.
By far, the worst position was the offensive line. They were tied for seventh most sacks (47) allowed in the league and were dead last in rushing yards per game (76.3). That’s a lot worse than where Detroit’s pass rush ended up, they ranked 20th in sacks with 35.
In comparison, there’s serious doubts the defensive line is the biggest weakness given how they finished 2017. Both sides of the ball in the trenches took some major hits injury-wise, but the most effected was on offense. What hampered the offensive line the most was the coaching and scheme.
How do you fix the issue? Sign a head coaching candidate who is proven and qualified in turning an offensive line around and helping out his quarterback. Look no further than Minnesota Vikings’ offensive coordinator, Pat Shurmur. Adding a better offensive line coach is the other obvious answer.
In his first full season as the offensive coordinator, he turned the Vikings into an offensive juggernaut. Everywhere Shurmur has been in the NFL, he’s helped quarterbacks turn in some overachieving performances, most recently his quarterback Case Keenum. Another thing present in his offenses, a running game. These things happened in 2017 by adding four new lineman in the starting lineup too.
Having played at Michigan State as a center and linebacker has helped him set the foundation for what a quarterback really needs to succeed, an offensive line. Shurmur being from Dearborn Heights also makes him a solid hometown connection.
Granted, Patricia was an offensive lineman himself at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and began assisting in New England on the offensive side of the ball in 2004-2005. The next dozen years, he has coached on defense and calling the Patriots’ plays since 2009, even though he wasn’t crowned defensive coordinator until 2012. New England has consistently been among the league leaders in fewest points allowed under his watch.
Defense isn’t the Lions’ biggest issue though. They ranked third in takeaways and defensive/special teams touchdowns.
Without some of their gutsy performances, on many occasions the Lions would have lost because of the offense’s inability to sustain drives or outscore the opposition’s offense. The Lions might’ve been seventh in scoring and 13th in yards, but the defense had a huge hand in helping the offense achieve those marks.
Is Patricia a bad head coaching candidate? Having spent 14 years with Bill Belichick and company, I’d say the Lions would be well off with him as their leader and potentially defensive play-caller. He’s also had the great benefit of being surrounded by the likes of offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels and possibly the greatest quarterback to lace them up in Tom Brady.
Although Shurmur wasn’t so successful in Cleveland, he did manage to squeeze out nine victories in two seasons as head coach. That is Browns Ring of Honor material given their recent failures, including an 0-16 finish this season. What a sigh of relief that is for most Lions fans.
To write off Patricia because he hasn’t been anywhere else in the NFL or never been a head coach is unfair. Should he come to Detroit, which seems obvious at this point, I will be show my unwavering support.
By all accounts, with the Lions biggest struggles coming on offense and the franchise quarterback Matthew Stafford being the biggest asset, Shurmur makes the most sense for the job. A more efficient offense will keep the defense more fresh, helping them make even more turnovers and touchdowns.
Prying the offensive coordinator away from NFC North champion and potential NFC/Super Bowl champion Vikings also gives the Lions a much clearer shot at winning the division. Another bonus for Shurmur as head coach.
Regardless, Detroit has their work cut out for them this offseason. It’s all hands on deck from here on out.
Change is needed, but hopefully that change is for the better. With Shurmur destined to sign with the New York Giants, I’m becoming more accepting of Patricia and what he can bring to the Lions organization.