The Detroit Lions spent the offseason tweaking the roster and culture to fit the image of their young head coach. Can Matt Patricia deliver in year two?
The honeymoon period for Matt Patricia as the Detroit Lions‘ head coach was brief, to say the least. Almost as soon as Bob Quinn poached the up-and-coming coordinator from New England, the questions started to pile up for the man handpicked as Jim Caldwell’s successor.
Was the stink-bomb of a performance by Patricia’s defense in the Super Bowl loss to Philadelphia a bad omen? Should a guy with zero head coaching experience at any level really be seen as such a slam dunk candidate to take the Lions from decent to dominant? Is it insane to attempt a page for page remake of another franchise’s entire culture and expect anything remotely close to the success of the original?
At the time, it was mostly Bob Quinn answering those questions, and the answer was always the same: Patriots. Trust me, I know what I’m doing, I was one of the Patriots. Trust me, Matt Patricia will be a great head coach, he was one of the Patriots.
With a fresh start after a rookie year that even Bob Quinn readily admits was an abject failure, 2019 is Matt Patricia’s opportunity to answer for himself.
Growing pains, or going backwards?
From a rocky training camp, a junky preseason showing (even by preseason standards), an embarrassing opening night performance, and all the way through a 6-10 season that felt even more dismal than that through the final two months, the questions continued to stack like a set of unread emails for the Matt Patricia-led Lions.
This is what we got rid of Jim Caldwell for? What happened to ‘9-7 is no longer the goal’? Did we really just throw away the first legitimately solid Lions coach in 25 years for Marty Mohrninweg 2.0?
Bob Quinn’s implicit message in the coaching change after the 2017 season was that he felt the team was good enough to contend for championships and win eleven or twelve games right away . So what does it say for Matt Patricia that his first team barely got halfway there? Does that mean the heat intensifies this time around, or is there a perverse sort of freedom that comes from having already lost and lowered everybody’s expectations?
If Jim Caldwell can consistently win and still get the axe after only four years, it doesn’t seem likely that Patricia could last the season if it goes anything like the last. The only correct answer for Matt Patricia is to start winning right away, and it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure that out.
Pressure, or primed?
As fans, we talk a lot about whether or not Matthew Stafford is surrounded with the correct supporting cast to lead the Lions to success. While the front office spent a lot of resources this offseason helping out Stafford, it’s safe to say that the main objective was to surround Matt Patricia with his own type of players.
The Lions absolutely appear to be in better shape heading into 2019 than they were a year ago. Patricia’s grating personality is a little more of a known entity now, and there are plenty more people in the system who know him and are cool with that.
While the team as a whole combusted down the stretch, his defense quietly gelled into one of the best in the league by season’s end. The team probably overpaid for Trey Flowers and may have overcompensated at the tight end position, but free agency and the draft yielded plenty of upgrades and a pretty good overall haul.
At no point again in his coaching career will Matt Patricia have the board tilted more in his favor. Both sides of the ball have been rebuilt in his image, and Quinn has seemingly tried to purge the locker room of all personalities who might clash with him (and fill it with all of his old favorites). Going into year two, nearly every move the organization has made is to prime the young head coach to be successful.
So then what if early November rolls around, and after all this, the Lions are sitting at 3-5 again? As far as I’m concerned, the pressure at that point would be suffocating for the former Patriot running the show. Not the one on the sidelines though; I’m referring to the one in the front office.
All things considered, my thought is that around Detroit, Matt Patricia has less pressure on him in 2019 than he did last year. Bob Quinn though, has exponentially more.