Detroit Lions: Will the Patriots Midwest experiment finally succeed?

Bill Belichick, New England Patriots, Matt Patricia, Detroit Lions (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)
Bill Belichick, New England Patriots, Matt Patricia, Detroit Lions (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images) /

Over his first three years with the Detroit Lions, Matt Patricia has turned to ex-Patriots in an attempt to win. Will he finally find success in 2020?

There’s security to be found in the familiar. But can there be success as well? The current regime at the helm of the Detroit Lions certainly hopes so. In fact, they’re likely banking their livelihoods on it.

As the former defensive coordinator for the New England Patriots, Lions head coach Matt Patricia experienced unprecedented success. In that role, Patricia helped lead the Pats to six-straight conference championship games, three Super Bowl appearances, and two Lombardi Trophies.

So when the first-time NFL head coach came to Detroit, it was expected that Patricia would turn to some of his former players to help bring that winning culture to the Motor City. After posting a disappointing 6-10 record that initial season, that trend of adding ex-Pats to the roster continued into his second year.

Despite posting an even worse 3-12-1 record in 2019, and a not-so-subtle mandate from Lions owner Martha Firestone Ford to become a playoff contender this upcoming season, general manager Bob Quinn and Patricia having continued the Patriots Midwest experiment.

This offseason, the Lions acquired more former Patriots. Names like linebacker Jamie Collins, defensive tackle Danny Shelton, and safety Duron Harmon are all expected to play significant roles this year. They join other former Pats on the roster including defensive end Trey Flowers, wide receiver Danny Amendola, cornerback Justin Coleman, defensive tackle John Atkins, and various others.

Unfortunately, the experiment has yielded poor results in Patricia’s first two seasons. The former Super Bowl-winner inherited a 9-7 Lions team who had made the playoffs twice during his predecessor’s tenure, Jim Caldwell. Patricia’s hiring was viewed as a move to push the franchise over the hump, to get them their first postseason victory since 1992.

Instead, the Lions have fallen deeper and deeper into the basement of the NFC North. And by once again doubling-down on the Patriots Midwest experiment, one NFL insider believes Detroit did themselves no favors by orchestrating a mediocre offseason.

Here’s what Bill Barnwell of believes the Lions did wrong this offseason after ranking their moves 29th in the NFL, just ahead of the Patriots themselves at 30.

"“What [the Lions] could have done differently: Resisted the urge to go after as many former Patriots as possible. The Collins deal is a mess, and under Belichick, the Patriots have exhibited the ability to develop players such as Shelton and Harmon into useful contributors. Patricia and Quinn are trying to buy them instead.”"

Will this be the season where the Patriots Midwest experiment finally succeeds? The Lions are undoubtedly hoping it will.

Last year, Detroit started the season 2-0-1, with solid victories against the Philadelphia Eagles and Los Angeles Chargers. Then, the Lions went toe-to-toe with the eventual Super Bowl champions in Week Four, the Kansas City Chiefs, losing in the final seconds, 34-30, at Ford Field.

After a Week Five bye, the season quickly went downhill for Detroit, losing all but one of their final 12 games. Albeit, many of those contests were without quarterback Matthew Stafford under center.

But for the first four weeks of last season, the Lions flashed their potential. And it appears that was enough to convince Quinn and Patricia to stay the course this offseason.

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Some say the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result. The Detroit Lions have chosen to go back to the ex-Patriots well once again this offseason, hoping, this time, it will bear a much different result. If not, the experiment may finally be over.