Detroit Lions: Matt Patricia not as ready as we thought
By Matt Bosko
After the Detroit Lions‘ 24-9 loss to the Minnesota Vikings this past Sunday, maybe Matt Patricia was not as ready to be a head coach as originally thought.
As with every season, the Detroit Lions came into this season with high hopes and playoff aspirations. Fresh off a 9-7 campaign, general manager Bob Quinn and the Lions’ front office felt that a new direction was necessary in order for the franchise to take the next step.
Jim Caldwell was fired after three out of four winning seasons and two playoff appearances. He brought the Lions to the precipice of success.
The theory was that a new head coach, the defensive guru behind the New England Patriots’ success, was the missing link that was to bring it all together. After all, the Lions were playoff contenders and had more talent on the defensive side of the football than the Patriots.
What could possibly go wrong?
The Lions’ inconsistent play this season is emblematic of a rookie head coach trying to find his way.
Fresh off their second consecutive loss and dropping to 3-5 on the season, the Lions are on the cusp of the season spiraling completely out of control. What has become plainly obvious is that Patricia, for all of his seasoning in New England, is still very much learning this head coaching thing on the fly.
That is not to say this is a failed experiment. The Lions are not going to fire Patricia, nor should they. He was signed to a five-year deal; the team is not going to cut him loose any time soon.
It is time, however, to accept a simple reality: a new head coach, especially a first-year head coach like Patricia, will come with ups and downs. Prodigies like Sean McVay of the Los Angeles Rams are the exception, not the rule. Instant success is a mirage.
The Lions’ inconsistent play this season is emblematic of a rookie head coach trying to find his way. It is evident in their week-to-week Jekyll and Hyde triumphs and tribulations. It was evident in his press conference earlier this week, where the stress of his all-encompassing responsibilities led to an awkward and adversarial exchange with a reporter.
As time goes on and Patricia is able to shape his roster and scheme, the Lions will improve. As it currently stands, however, this team is accomplishing about as much as it did under Caldwell. Some of the same problems attributed to Caldwell persist in 2018 under Patricia.
The defensive line still fails to apply enough pressure or stop the run. The offensive line, even with upgraded personnel and new coaching, just allowed Matthew Stafford to endure 17 hits and 10 sacks. The offense continues to find consistency, and trading away Golden Tate will only make that more difficult.
Some weeks, including this past Sunday against the Vikings, the team looks decidedly flat and over-matched – just like the Caldwell days.
The next several weeks will help us learn a lot about Patricia and his ability to make the necessary adjustments to turn this season around. The upcoming schedule includes a brutal four-game stretch, but it also presents an opportunity for the Lions to re-enter the NFC Playoff Picture.
First, they travel to Chicago to take on the Bears next week, followed by a home contest against the Panthers, then a short week against the Bears on Thanksgiving Day, and the Rams ten days after that.
Let’s see what Matt Patricia can pull off. Hopefully, the rookie head coach can give Detroit Lions fans plenty of reasons to be excited, for the present and future of the franchise.