While many take the Detroit Lions’ trade of Golden Tate as a sign that the team no longer believes in its chances at a 2018 title and is, instead, prioritizing for the future, head coach Matt Patricia is expressing the exact opposite to the team.
Addressing the media for the first time since Tuesday’s trade deadline move, Patricia said that he told his team on Wednesday that this move should be interpreted as a belief in the players that remain the locker room.
“The biggest point for me to make sure everyone understands is that this also shows a lot of confidence in the people that are in that room,” Patricia said “There’s great players in that room, and there’s a lot of them. And there’s a lot of guys that have the opportunity to make plays and go out there and play at a high level, and we’re all good with that.”
That may be a hard point to sell on the team. Tate has contributed so much to this roster—90 catches in every season since acquiring him, 1000 yards in three of four full seasons—and the Lions receiving depth doesn’t have a player that has shown they’re capable of replacing that kind of production.
However, Patricia emphasized that they aren’t looking at the situation as “replacing Golden Tate” but rather moving forward as team.
“You never try to walk in and say, ‘Hey, we’re going to replace this guy with this,’” Patricia said. “It’s a team effort. It’s totally just however we think scheme-wise will help us win this week and it might be different the week after that.”
Whether that means more two-receiver sets or a more focused rushing attack, or the increased use of TJ Jones or Brandon Powell, Patricia won’t say. However, we’ve already seen a significant increase in two-receiver sets from last year. According to Sharp Football, the Lions were in 11 personnel (1 tight end, 1 running back, 3 wide receivers) 72 percent of the time in 2017 (second highest in the NFL). This year, that number is all the way down to 62 percent (19th).
But one thing is clear, Patricia still has a lot of confidence in this team, and although the trade certainly prioritizes their long-term issues over the short, Patricia isn’t giving up on the year.
“We have a lot of guys that are really good on this team that can produce and, honestly, we have confidence in everybody that’s on this team right now, that everyone can go out and do their job. And I think we’ve seen through the course of multiple different examples of years in the NFL where these things happen and people move on and they keep going and they keep winning. Is it difficult to win in this league? 100 percent it is, every single week is hard. So we’re just going to have to work harder.”