Fans and analysts can sometimes be a little crass when discussing the firing of a coach. Some fans will celebrate the firing of an ineffective coach for understandable reasons, but the personal side of things are often overlooked. A person just lost their job, a family publicly humiliated and oftentimes children are displaced from school and newly-made friends. Sure, it comes with the territory of being and NFL coach, but that doesn’t make it any easier.
It’s also not easy for some of the coaches in that building. And whether he was liked or hated by some former players, Detroit Lions former head coach Matt Patricia made some friends inside the coaching staff, and you could sense their feelings of loss on Tuesday in their first Zoom session since ownership made the move.
Defensive coordinator Cory Undlin had a shared history with Patricia from their overlapping days in Foxborough. On Tuesday, Undlin called Patricia “one of my closest friends on the planet, coaching and personal.” And to see him fail and get fired after specifically seeking his help, well, it sucks.
“I think you could probably imagine if one of your buddies calls you and asks for you to come over and help, and then you came over and helped and it didn’t work... it’s not a good situation to be in,” Undlin said.
For special teams coordinator Brayden Coombs, Patricia meant something different. He wasn’t a longtime friend that he couldn’t save from firing, he was the first coach to give him a real opportunity in this league as a coordinator.
“Personally, I’m just disappointed and hurting for Matt,” Coombs admitted. “To me, he’s the first guy that really believed in me to be a coordinator. Gave me my first opportunity. So, on a personal level, I’m eternally grateful and indebted to him for that.”
And while the product on the field was nowhere near where it needed to be, Coombs believed it wasn’t from a lack of trying from Patricia. And from his personal experiences, he didn’t see the same Matt Patricia that maybe came out of his public persona due to tiffs with the media or stories from former players.
“Whatever public perception has been or whatnot, Matt Patricia’s probably one of the most selfless people that I’ve ever been around,” Coombs said. “All he cared about from the time I got here was the Detroit Lions. Doing everything he could to bring as much success to this team as he could. Obviously didn’t work out that way, but I have a lot of respect for the way that he believed in doing things the way that we did.”
Obviously, both Coombs and Undlin know that this is all part of the business. They’ve gone through it themselves, and it’s their job to now focus on the last five games of the season as they try to build their own resume for whatever the uncertain future brings.
“We all know what this business entails and that’s if you don’t play good and you don’t produce, you lose your job,” Undlin said. “I think in the grand scheme of things we both understand that. Obviously, I feel terrible about the situation, but that situation is what it is right now, and we’ve got to move forward. There’s no other option.”