While continued losses have much of the Detroit Lions fan base screaming for the removal of Matt Patricia and/or Bob Quinn, wisdom dictates otherwise.
For Detroit Lions fans, Sundays in the fall is the opportunity to tailgate outside the stadium before a home game, gather in front of the TV with food, drink, and friends, some clad in the jersey of their favorite player.
Or, just a guy, enjoying the game with a beverage in hand sitting in his favorite chair. It’s what they’ve been looking forward to all week, the NFL, their team’s game, and the precious escape from life’s daily struggles.
It’s fair to say that Detroit fans are more deprived than most other cities. But, despite over 60 years of disappointment, the Detroit Lions have some of the most loyal and passionate fans in the league.
The Motor City faithful are never shy about voicing their frustrations There is always plenty of blame to go around. Ownership, general manager, head coach, play selection, a particular player, and so forth. But the one most commonly heard is “same old Lions”.
But are they? The win-loss record would seem to indicate it. But upon closer examination, this Detroit team has been close nearly every game, only to lose at the very end.
If not for a critical play or two, they could reasonably be looking at 10-2 and a division lead rather than at the bottom. Win/loss record aside, it’s a valid argument that the talent has been there to win maybe all but one or two games.
Talent certainly needs to be added but this group has demonstrated great character even in defeat. Injuries are more of a factor this year than in the past but it’s never used as an excuse.
Martha Ford is determined to bring a winning team to the city. Upon taking over as head of the organization in 2015, the 94-year-old matriarch fired the existing brain trust and brought in long-time Ford family advisor Rod Wood as president.
Two months later, he hired New England Patriots Director of Pro Scouting Bob Quinn to be his new general manager. Analytics were employed to evaluate current and future players as well as situational strategies.
After two seasons of mediocrity, the new GM felt he could not get much farther with Jim Caldwell. Quinn brought fellow former Patriot Matt Patricia as head coach, believing that together they could develop the Lions to be a consistent winner, based on their shared experiences in New England.
Shortly upon arrival, Patricia concluded that a complete makeover was needed. The new, highly regarded defensive guru embarked on a near-total overhaul. Different practices, an aggressive coaching style, a focus on toughness and a completely new system was brought to Allen Park. Offensive Coordinator Darrell Bevell was brought in to bring his extensive resume to that side of the ball.
When Rod Wood first took charge of the club, he was quoted as saying “If you’re only motivated by this quarter or this year’s results, eventually you’re going to crash and burn,” This precisely describes the Lions of the past two decades. Knee jerk reactions without proper long-term planning is rarely effective in sports as well as business. Lions fans have long suffered from that faulty example.
Patricia recently admitted that they are in “the process” of rebuilding. Despite the outrage of the fans and the media, to change course now would be repeating past mistakes. Complete transformation of a team cannot successfully be done in less than two years.
Despite key injuries and only in Patricia’s second season the Lions offense appears to have greatly improved, averaging almost 24 points per game. Starting all over once again will not provide the instant victories the faithful so desperately deserve.
Painful though it may be, the prudent choice is to allow more time. If Wood remains true to his philosophy, ownership will stay on this course until sufficient time can be allowed for proper assessment. The president cannot abandon his core philosophy simply because it’s been absent long before he arrived. Arguably, it’s the primary reason why it’s so critical to stay with it.
This Detroit Lions team is better than its record. They are not the same old Lions. You’ll never see them give anything less than their all. But if leadership returns to past practices, one can only expect similar past results.