The Detroit Lions know that Matt Patricia is currently their best bet. And they are betting plenty that Patricia can turn this thing around in 2020.
The Detroit Lions are one step closer to finishing this season on a high note with nine straight losses. That sentence is sad on so many levels. But it is absolutely true, as the Lions are guaranteed a top-three draft pick – as long as they lose their finale against the Green Bay Packers. Check out the current draft order (Source: Tankathon.com).
And the Detroit Lions could even climb up one more spot if the Washington Redskins beat the Dallas Cowboys. Everyone in Detroit should be rooting for Washington this Sunday.
Many are upset that the Detroit Lions decided to retain the services of general manager Bob Quinn and head coach Matt Patricia for the 2020 season. Sometimes I think my support for this decision was more based upon what I saw coming, rather than what I thought best for the franchise.
But the question for this team is whether or not they are capable of hiring the right person. Sixty plus years of ineptitude (minus ten years of running back Barry Sanders carrying the franchise) makes everyone uneasy when it comes to the hiring decisions of this organization.
Previously searches have resulted in the worst hire in NFL history (head coach Rod Marinelli) to destroying the career of a really good hire (head coach Steve Mariucci). Both of those hires were under the guidance (perhaps “guise” is more appropriate) of former Lions general manager Matt Millen, who should be recognized on an NFL 100 All-Time team for worst executive in the history of football.
Last week on Tiki and Tierney, CBS Sports NFL Insider Jason La Canfora posed a theory as to why the Lions chose not to look for another head coach. Jason’s thoughts were enlightening, but also a bit depressing (12-19-19, “Hour 2”):
"“I think this was the path of least resistance… Are we going to be able to complete with the Dallas Cowboys? The New York Giants? And maybe the Atlanta Falcons?… And even Carolina [Panthers]? How is this job gonna look? Our franchise quarterback is coming off another injury. Do we really want to fly around all over the place? And maybe end up with the fourth, fifth, sixth most qualified person?”"
No high-end candidate is going to pick the Detroit Lions over teams like the Cowboys, Giants, Falcons, and Panthers (depending which ones end up being open). The Lions might have a slight edge over Jacksonville or Cleveland, but they are clearly in the Jaguars and Browns class when it comes to job appeal – there is no appeal, by the way.
La Canfora called it uninspiring how the Lions see themselves when competing for a coach. And he’s exactly right about that. Simply stated: Detroit is not likely to get a good candidate for this job – and they seem very aware of it.
At this point, a young and smart coach like Patricia is the best bet for this team. And, yes, Patricia is inexperienced and has made some mistakes these first two years. But he is a better option than the likely untalented retread the Lions will attract.
Just like a player, Patricia is worthy of the time to develop him as a head coach. And his problems aren’t along the lines of being incapable of handling in-game situations or not understanding the strategic aspects of football. Matt’s biggest issue is that he hasn’t learned how to get the most out of his players.
Patricia might be too rigid when it comes to his schemes. He needs to tailor his ideas to the abilities of his players. And, Matt could certainly use better players on defense. And Quinn has to answer the bell with his acquisitions in this next draft.
The first-round pick needs to be a can’t-miss prospect, who can hopefully be a perennial Pro-Bowler, if not a future Hall of Famer – all tall orders, mind you. But beyond that, each round needs to provide another piece of the puzzle. This draft must yield at least five players of significance for this roster (a majority of them on defense).
The Detroit Lions are one loss away from finishing this season right. And then it falls to Quinn and Patricia to put together a winning roster.
Since it’s Christmas today, let’s shift to a want list for next year: By next Christmas, the Detroit Lions have locked up a playoff spot and are in the driver’s seat to win the division. Too much?