Matt Patricia was rightly criticized for many missteps he took during his maiden voyage into the waters of being an NFL head coach this past season. But the truth of the matter is that many great coaches would have never made their mark in the NFL if they had been fired after their first season as the top dog on the sidelines.
Tom Landry, Chuck Noll, and Bill Belichick are just some of the names that had first seasons to forget as head coaches in the NFL. Today Landry and Noll reside in the Hall of Fame and there is no doubt that Belichick will join them one day.
I don’t make this comparison to say Matt Patricia is going to be next on that list, but I do want to make the point that being a head coach in the NFL is about learning from your mistakes and improving.
Matt Patricia has plenty to improve personally, but it shouldn’t be lost on any of us what he has accomplished.
The Lions discarded several players that had been mainstays on their roster before the start of this past season. Especially on defense. Then proceeded to play like the punch line to every joke we’ve ever heard about this sad sack franchise.
But a shrewd trade by Bob Quinn gave Patricia the man in the middle he needed in the form Damon ‘Snacks’ Harrison and everything fell into place from there as they improved to become the number 10 overall defense by seasons end.
This was the follow up to Patricia’s claim that teams are built ‘from the ball out’. So despite a disappointing first season as the Lions head coach, this is evidence that he can still coach.
The Lions also demonstrated an actual ground game that averaged over 100 yards per contest and featured a blossoming young star in Kerryon Johnson. So to say that Patricia didn’t accomplish anything is just not true.
But it didn’t help Patricia to have been hired so late in the game that only the table scraps were left to choose assistants from. That has been a theme this offseason as he has corrected those mistakes by making wide-sweeping changes on his staff. Especially on offense where they floundered overall last season.
The Lions are a work in progress. It may not have been as much progress as we all wanted or anticipated last season, but clearly this much is true. Bob Quinn and Matt Patricia are on the same page with what they want and are moving in that direction.
Could players like Antonio Brown or Le’Veon Bell help? Sure they can, but Quinn and Patricia seem intent on looking at this team from the big picture angle. They are about assembling as many young pieces as possible to build this franchise into contender status. Then comes the key acquisitions to put them over the top.
There are many ways to build a contender but rarely do the short cuts lead to anything but eventual frustration. Something we’ve seen plenty of here in Detroit, because the only ‘musts’ in life are death and taxes.