Former Detroit Lions tight end Hakeem Valles is currently enjoying retirement. After just three seasons in the NFL—two with the Lions—Valles left the business with no regrets to pursue a livelihood in real estate that he can enjoy with his family without the many stressors that came with living an NFL life.
Now with a year of life outside of football, Valles is opening up about his time in the NFL and his time with the Lions. On a recent appearance on The Pride Podcast, Valles gave listeners a peek behind the curtains on what his time was like as he watched the Detroit Lions franchise transition from Jim Caldwell to Matt Patricia at head coach, a changing of the guards in which he described as “beyond night and day.”
Valles signed with the Lions in 2017 and immediately fell in love with Caldwell.
“The greatest coach, in my opinion, in the NFL of the coaches I know,” Valles said. “And the best player’s coach of anyone. I know the fans might not feel that way, but, man, Caldwell was unreal as a coach, to say the least.”
Valles survived the regime change into 2018 and even made the 53-man roster, but the culture quickly became too toxic for his liking. It was most apparent when Patricia took over in the film room after a game, where he would spend 90 minutes laying into the team.
“He’s just ripping anybody apart for an hour and some change,” Valles said.
A month into the season, Valles was cut. He viewed it as an opportunity to get out from the organization that he had fallen out of love with.
“I was hoping another team picked me up at that point,” Valles said. “I did not want to go back to Detroit, to be real with you. I could not give two shits because I’m not in the NFL anymore. I did not like Patricia as a coach. I was praying another team would pick me up and I didn’t have to go back to the practice squad.”
But Valles cleared waivers and ended up returning to the Lions practice squad. A month later he was released from the practice squad. A few weeks later he would join the New York Giants practice squad before announcing his retirement in February.
Looking back on his time in Detroit, Valles believes Patricia’s coaching methods were disrespectful. And he confirmed reports from last year that the Lions head coach was late to every team meeting.
“He’s creating a culture based on fear,” Valles said. “If you could put that into words, in the sense of, there’s too much ego involved. It’s a very Alpha-Beta type of room, meaning he’s the Alpha, everyone else is better be the Beta. However many meetings there was in the time that he was there, there was not one meeting where he came on time. Wild to me. Wild to me. So much disrespect in that, in my opinion. In the sense of we come late to a meeting, we get fined. (When) he did it, it was almost like on purpose to let you know that, ‘You’re beta, I’m alpha. You’re going to come on time, I’m going to come whenever the fuck I want.’”
Editor’s Note: Patricia was also late for most media sessions last year. However, that has completely changed in Year 2. Patricia has been on time for nearly every single press conference.
Of course, it’s not like Patricia’s methods are something novel. He obviously took a lot of what he learned from New England—an organization that has a reputation for no-nonsense football that has driven some players away.
However, Valles said what the Lions are doing under Patricia is something different, something worse.
“He was Bill Belichick with his own twist,” Valles said. “We had a lot of guys on our team that came from the Belichick regime out in New England, and all of them (were) like, ‘Yeah, this shit was not like this in New England.’ It’s Belichick with steroids added onto it.”
And Valles didn’t stop there, he even called out team owner Martha Ford, saying he has “zero respect” for her.
“Martha Ford has got to sell the team,” Valles said. “She’s still calling shots. That doesn’t make sense. I have zero respect for Martha Ford, mainly because I’ve met her 10-15 times, and every single time I’ve met her, she’s reintroduced herself.”
It’s worth noting, however, that Ford is a 94-year-old woman who doesn’t make any personnel decisions for the team. Getting to know every single player of a rotating 60-70 player roster may be a bit much to ask.
As for Patricia and his future in the NFL, Valles said he was surprised he hasn’t been fired yet. He admits his methods could work, but he doesn’t like his chances.
“It would work if every single player got on board with the shit he was pitching, but we’re all grown-ass men,” Valles said. “It would work in college, definitely, but you can’t talk to a grown-ass man any way you want. If you talk to one of your employees at any workplace across America, you’re going to get punched in the face or just quit on the spot. But where the issue comes in is there is so much money on the line (for the players), no one can do that.”
The entire interview is definitely worth your time (click here), as Valles also refers to Matthew Stafford’s stellar leadership and calls him the best quarterback in the NFL, talks about Eric Ebron and his social media presence, and his unbelievable story about being kidnapped in Haiti.