What a long three years it’s been. It wasn’t supposed to be like this. Come back in time with me for a moment. Remember 2017? More specifically, I mean the last day of 2017. The Lions had played their final game with Jim Caldwell as their head coach. The team finished the year at 9-7 and everyone knew what would happen the next day. We all knew Jim Caldwell was done, but optimism was high.
The idea at the time was that the Lions were good team that just needs the right captain to drive the ship in the championship direction. Everything the Lions had done since 2009 was leading up to this moment. Jim Schwartz dug the team out of the grave, Jim Caldwell made them a team that could compete with anyone, and the next guy was going to be the guy that finally took the Lions over the hump. The guy that was going to bring NFC North titles, playoff wins and dare I say, a Super Bowl?
But that’s not what happened. Instead, the last three years have been a complete and utter nightmare. The Lions, who were supposed to be taking the next step, have a record of 10-25-1 since that day.
After an embarrassing loss to the New Orleans Saints on Sunday, Matt Patricia finally placed the final straw on the back of already struggling camel when he said “Certainly I think when I came to Detroit there was a lot of work to do.” Matt is, of course, referring to the 9-7 team he inherited and drove into the ground.
I’m sure Lions fans will never forget Patricia having the third worst winning percentage in Lions history, but it will be his delusional attitude that he’ll ultimately be remembered for.
This obviously isn’t the first time Patricia has acted this way. It’s not even the first time this season. When Patricia was asked about the team’s struggles in the fourth quarter three weeks ago, he without hesitation brought up that he had one of the best fourth quarter calls of all time, referring to Malcolm Butler’s game winning interception in Super Bowl XLIX.
These are just two of Patricia’s greatest hits. There’s so much more. Like the time he scolded a Detroit beat writer for leaning back in his chair and not “respecting the process” as if Matt didn’t just show up looking like he just rolled off the couch and put on his favorite hoodie. What about the time he told his All-Pro corner he wasn’t elite and embarrassed him in front of the team during a meeting? What about going to a team that had a locker room full of happy players and sucking the joy out of it like some sort of joy sucker.
This is a team that wasn’t in need a culture change. Patricia walked in and day one treated the team like it was coming off an 0-16 season. He was like a coach in a movie who showed up and thought a quick montage of the players running and conditioning would turn this little last-place team into winners... but they were already winning.
There’s a lot wrong. I say this all time and I’ll probably always say it. It would be really nice and refreshing if just one time a head coach would step to the podium and say “we suck right now and here are the things we plan to do to get better.” That’s not asking for too much. It’s not like we’re asking for a Jim Mora moment. I think fans would simply like to know that you’re as frustrated as they are. They don’t want to hear you talk about how great you are.
In March of 2019 Robert Klemko wrote a piece for Sports Illustrated after talking with agents about the best and worst cities for their free agent clients. A quote from that piece has been haunting me ever since. Lions fans dismissed it at the time, but right now it just feels like the most apt comment ever made.
“The fourth-worst destination, Detroit, has the added knock of a locker room that appears dysfunctional to players looking in from the outside,” Klemko wrote. Then came the quote from an anonymous agent. “Especially with Matt ‘I think I’m Belichick but I haven’t done s---’ Patricia.”
That’s what we’re dealing with right now. We all know someone like this. We all know someone with narcissistic tendencies. Someone who’s incredibly sure of themselves even though they have no right to be. That’s Matt Patricia. It goes back to the “smartest guys in the room” article I wrote last year. These guys, Patricia especially, are fully buying their own hype and a 10-25-1 record isn’t stopping that.
That’s why Patricia continues to run the same game plan over and over again like it’s magically going to just work someday, even though multiple players and coaches from opposing teams have come out saying they knew exactly what the Lions were going to do.
It’s why he’s chasing great players like Glover Quin and Darius Slay out of town. It’s why the Lions traded Quandre Diggs. Only Patricia is right and if these great players don’t fit his vision for the team, he’ll just jam some former Patriots in there and that’ll work.
That’s a giant problem. Matt Patricia is sure that his brand of football not only works, but is THE way to play football in the NFL. He’s doing right while everyone else is doing it wrong. There is no compromise. It this vision or it’s nothing at all. When you refuse to adapt, you can’t grow.
The Lions are dying because of this attitude. Looking at the Lions right now, it’s not hard to see what the future holds. In three years, the Lions have gone from a team that was ready to take the next step to a team that’s about to go into full rebuild mode with multiple high-contract players who only fit Patricia’s scheme in New England, not Detroit.
Matt Patricia is like Thanos. He came to Detroit, snapped his fingers and left the world in complete disarray. Only this isn’t a movie. The Avengers aren’t going to save this team when guys like Kenny Golladay disintegrate and leave Detroit. They aren’t going to restore another lost three years for Matthew Stafford.
Who knows how much longer Matt Patricia will be the Lions head coach? Who knows if he’ll ever get another head coaching job again. My money is on him running back to New England to do something. The saddest part of all of this is that Detroit Lions fans didn’t deserve this and the people who should care about that still think they’re doing a good job.