A few days ago, Sports Illustrated released the results of an interesting survey. They asked NFL agents to give their top five and bottom five free agency destinations based on how they perceive their clients’ preferences. The Detroit Lions finished in the bottom five, but particularly embarrassing was a quote from one anonymous agent.
Especially with Matt ‘I think I’m Belichick but I haven’t done s---’ Patricia,” one agent said.
Mix that in with the constant rumors that players were unhappy in Patricia’s first year as a head coach, and people understandably wondered if the Lions would have trouble attracting talented players to Detroit.
There’s another school of thought, shared with me by multiple agents and one personnel executive in Indianapolis this week (plus one Lions player earlier this year), that the team will have a hard time convincing free agents to take its money without overpaying because the Patriot way isn’t for everyone, especially when you’re not winning.
Obviously, the Lions were able to rope in a bunch of pretty high-profile free agents in the first wave of free agency. And while you can certainly argue that they had to overpay to get some of this talent to Detroit, it’d be hard to argue that Matt Patricia was a roadblock in negotiations after hearing the players speak.
In fact, all three of the Lions’ new additions—Trey Flowers, Justin Coleman and Jesse James—mentioned Patricia as one of the reasons they signed with Detroit.
With Flowers and Coleman, the fit was obvious. They both had direct experience with Patricia while with the Patriots and are comfortable within his defensive scheme.
“Familiarity was definitely one of the things that I had on my mind,” Flowers told Tori Petry on Thursday. “Knowing that I understand the style and techniques and things that he coaches and he prides himself on. So just being able to reunite with someone that you’re familiar with that knows your strengths, your weaknesses and can definitely take your game to the next level. So I would say he had a pretty a significant role.”
“Playing with him, I know he’s got a little edge,” Coleman told Petry. “The fact that he has that edge, you can bring it to the game and bring that same mentality just to have a little edge over someone else.”
But perhaps what was most interesting was what tight end Jesse James had to say about Patricia. James was the only one of the trio with no previous experience playing under Patricia, so he had to ask some friends what they thought of the Lions coach.
“I have some relationships with guys who have played for him before in the past that spoke so highly of him that it really drew me to Detroit,” James said in his introductory press conference. “I just think he’s the right guy to lead us on the path to be able to get some playoff success and win a Super Bowl.”
Of course, none of this disproves that there may be some players that are off-put by Patricia’s demeanor and tactics. There very well may be some free agents that scoffed at Detroit’s offers. But if the Lions were able to draw these three free agents, and all three pegged Patricia as a reason why they chose Detroit, then it looks like this may be another overblown issue.