According to reports, Detroit Lions defensive coordinator Paul Pasqualoni has decided to step away from football. What impact will his departure have?
In February of 2018, the Detroit Lions signed former New England Patriots defensive coordinator Matt Patricia as the franchise’s newest head coach. During his six-years in charge of the Patriots defense, and under the watchful eye of legendary head coach Bill Belichick, Patricia guided his squad to six-straight conference championship games, three Super Bowl appearances, and two Lombardi Trophies.
Patricia’s pedigree made him the top head coaching prospect back in 2018. And his reputation as a defensive genius seemed to ensure that the Lions would, at the very least, improve on that side of the football.
Almost immediately after being hired, Patricia pegged Paul Pasqualoni to be his defensive coordinator. The latter being the former head coach for Syracuse University, the two had a prior relationship. Patricia was an offensive graduate assistant at Syracuse from 2001-03. Pasqualoni was the defensive line coach at Boston College before landing in Detroit.
In their first season together, the Lions defense initially struggled under both Patricia and Pasqualoni. But following a midseason trade for defensive tackle Damon Harrison, the defense improved. By the end of the 2018 regular season, the Lions defense had cracked the NFL’s top ten, ranking tenth in yards allowed per game. (335.0)
That late surge seemed to indicate a bright future for this unit heading into their second season under Patricia and company. And with a free agency class that added big-name signings like defensive end Trey Flowers and cornerback Justin Coleman, plus of draft class which added second-round linebacker Jahlani Tavai and safety Will Harris in the third, this group should have put the “D” back into Detroit.
Instead, the Lions defense regressed this past season. After starting the year strong with a 2-0-1 record, including limiting the Los Angeles Chargers to only 10 points in Week Two, it was all downhill from then on. The Detroit defense allowed an average of 26.4 points to opposing offenses in 2019, the seventh-highest average in the league. And the Lions allowed a total of 6,406 offensive yards, ranking their defense 31st out of 32 teams in the NFL.
Lions owner Martha Firestone Ford squashed all rumors about Patrica and general manager, Bob Quinn, losing their jobs this offseason, essentially giving the duo an ultimatum of making this team a playoff contender in 2020. So some staff changes were expected in the coming weeks.
On Tuesday, the Lions reportedly fired special-teams coordinator John Bonamego, linebackers coach Al Golden, defensive backs coach Brian Stewart, tight ends coach Chris White, strength coach Harold Nash, and assistant strength coach Rodney Hill.
And those changes continued on Thursday with both Pasqualoni and offensive line coach Jeff Davidson reportedly not returning to the Lions this upcoming season. The former stepping away from football entirely to spend more time with family.
So how might Paul Pasqualoni’s departure impact the Detroit Lions defense in 2020? That is to be determined. Although hiring a new defensive coordinator could be the spark this unit needs, Matt Patricia remains the head coach. How much control Patricia gives to the incumbent defensive coordinator could make all the difference.