On Sunday, the Lions looked really good early on. They were up 23-6 on the Chicago Bears and life was good. Finally, it seemed the Lions had learned their lesson. Finally, it seemed the Lions had adopted the correct mantra in “dagger time” and they were ready to put their collective foot down on the gas and win the right way.
Then the same problem that has plagued this team since head coach Matt Patricia took the job in 2018 reared its ugly head: blowing fourth quarter leads and losing games. It happened to this team seven times in 2019 and on Sunday, it happened again.
By now it’s crystal clear that the Lions, and, in particular, their head coach, have not learned anything about what their problem as a team is in the last three years. After the game, Matt Patricia seemed to prove that theory correct with his post-game comments.
When asked by ESPN’s Michael Rothstein if he thought there were any coaching issues that have resulted in these repeated fourth-quarter collapses, a clearly-frustrated Patricia responded like this:
Lions head coach Matt Patricia was asked if there's something in his coaching "that isn't happening enough in the fourth quarter."— Brad Galli (@BradGalli) September 13, 2020
"Yeah, I don't think so," Patricia said. "I think I got probably one of the biggest plays in the fourth quarter in the history of the NFL." pic.twitter.com/chcqBLXF6U
“I don’t think so, Mike. I think I’ve got one of the biggest plays in the fourth quarter in the history of the NFL where I think I did a pretty good job.”
Okay, here’s the thing. This was five years ago, and it has no bearing on anything that Matt Patricia has done with the Lions. He’s 9-23-1 as a head coach. You don’t get to bring your prior accomplishments to the new job and expect them to help you. Wilt Chamberlain didn’t show up to the Lakers in 1969 and say, “Hey Jerry West, I scored 100 points in a game in 1962. That means we’re guaranteed to win the championship this year.”
Last season we put out a piece about how Matt Patricia and Bob Quinn are displaying symptoms of “smartest guys in the room syndrome.” It’s the idea that while the world crashes down around them, these guys are convinced they’re doing everything right and nothing at all is wrong. People that behave like this are probably less likely to realize the errors of their ways.
The fact that this is the response after an embarrassing loss where the team suffered the same fate they’ve suffered numerous times under Patricia is solid proof they haven’t learned anything and have no intention of changing. It’s as if they have an idea of how things are supposed to work in their minds and refuse to deviate from that even when the feedback on the field is consistently saying, “CHANGE YOUR WAYS.”
Is this the type of attitude you want at the helm of your football team if you’re the Ford family? Your head coach, in a season where he’s supposed to be on the hot seat, is out here using whataboutism’s to defend his shortcomings instead of fixing them.
The Lions should really be evaluating Patricia’s performance as a head coach and think about what moving on from him immediately would look like. Because at this point, it’s not working and the Lions have become predictable once again. There’s still a season to salvage, and perhaps under new leadership, they can do just that.
I know it’s overreaction Monday, but it’s hard not to overreact at this point. The Lions have so much talent and a chance to be good. But they have someone running the team who can’t admit he’s wrong—outside of classic coach speak—and continues to run the same formula over and over again.
Maybe in January we’ll look at this article and remember the time we got it wrong. Maybe the Lions and its coaching staff finally learn from this and successfully change their approach and begin to win. But right now, it really doesn’t look that way.