Both on the field and off the field, it’s been a rough season for first-time head coach Matt Patricia. He’s had odd spats with the media in Allen Park, and his football team has essentially been out of the playoff race since early November. For a team that had been relevant for the past few years under Jim Caldwell, this year has been a clear regression to the times in which the Detroit Lions were making the headlines for all the wrong reasons.
The latest example of that came on Wednesday. All year, Patricia has been consistently late for his near-daily press conferences with the media. While a minor annoyance, it didn’t seem to matter all that much. He clearly didn’t place his media sessions on high priority, so it didn’t come as much of a surprise that he continually showed up late.
But a former Lions player told the Detroit Free Press that his punctuality problem extends beyond the media room. According to the player—who asked for anonymity “to avoid reprisal from other coaches or teams”—Patricia was continually late for his own meetings with the team.
Patricia seems to have billed himself as a strict disciplinarian head coach. There were reports that certain rules—such as no social media posts with pictures or videos from the locker—rubbed Lions players the wrong way. He is also very clearly a stark change in personality from former Lions coach Jim Caldwell.
But does that kind of strict leadership ring hollow if Patricia himself isn’t adhering to one of the simplest rules that is almost universally viewed as important around NFL circles: showing up to meetings on time? Players routinely get fined and suspended over such infractions, and time is a valuable resources in this league. If players are regularly wasting time sitting in an empty meeting room, it’s not only potentially harmful to Patricia’s relationship with his players, but it’s also detrimental to implementing a game plan each week.
Patricia seemed to downplay the importance of punctuality in his press conference on Wednesday.
“I think it just depends on the situation,” Patricia said. “There’s a pretty busy schedule from those situations I think for everybody. I think fluidity is probably the best answer for you. I think, definitely in the game of football, you have to able to adapt and I think that’s a great kind of important way to be able to handle all the situations that come up, is to just be fluid in all of them.”
The questions is whether the Lions players will be willing and able to adapt to Patricia’s methods. Lions defensive tackle Ricky Jean Francois told the media after Sunday’s loss to the Vikings he believes there needs to be change within the team for Patricia’s message to connect.
“I’m not finger-pointing on who needs to be changed or who needs to go somewhere, but if you want a different regime, if you want a different buy-in or system like that, the only way you get a different culture is to change the people that sit in it,” Francois said per MLive.com.
Whatever the cause for the Lions’ current situation, it’s obvious that something isn’t sitting right. Changes will almost certainly come in 2019, but will it be enough and will it arrive on time?