DETROIT – At the end of his first game as the Detroit Lions coach in 2018, Matt Patricia and his team could hear chants of "JETS, Jets, Jets, Jets" in a largely empty Ford Field as his team was relocating on Monday night football.
At the end of his last game, two years later, on national Thanksgiving TV, there was complete silence as no fans were allowed in due to the COVID-19 pandemic. If fans had entered the building, they wouldn't have had much to do other than boo.
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There wasn't much going on for Patricia between the first and last game. And it resulted in his sacking and that of his boss, General Manager Bob Quinn, on Saturday afternoon – a sign of a complete regime change and total failure of the New England Patriots Midwest Experiment.
Quinn's biggest mistake was trusting Patricia to bring the Lions from the middle of the NFL pack to a competitor to replace Jim Caldwell, who had won three seasons in four years. At the time, Quinn said he wanted a coach who could beat the better teams on Detroit's schedule, which Caldwell didn't. Instead, Patricia brought the team closer to what it was a decade ago and looked at a basement remodel.
Ownership gave Patricia a mandate to "improve significantly" and play meaningful games the December before this season. Patricia & # 39; s Lions never met these standards. In his more than two seasons Patricia finished the game 13: 29: 1, ahead of only Marty Mornhinweg and Rod Marinelli, who won percentage points among the coaches of modern times for Detroit.
"We were hoping this year, third year, things would go well and Matt's process and coaching skills and everything would go well together," said Lions owner Sheila Ford Hamp on Saturday. "And then it just became clear that it didn't work."
Nothing worked for Detroit. Patricia was hired for his defensive skills, and the Lions saw her defenses go down every year during his tenure without solving their problems. Detroit couldn't stop its last two seasons. Patrick's insistence on playing a people-heavy system that is little able to generate constant defensive pressure left cornerbacks and certainties ill-positioned for success.
He preached aggressively that he wanted a team that could let the ball run. The Lions ranked 20th or worse for each season. He went from 6-10 to 3-12-1 and then 4-7.
Quinn's draft picks didn't work out, especially the ones he did when Caldwell was head coach – linebacker Jarrad Davis and cornerback Teez Tabor. Not all of Quinn's picks were bad – Frank Ragnow, Taylor Decker, and Kenny Golladay – but they didn't take enough stars and didn't bring enough hit-free agents.
Then Quinn hired Patricia, and while Patrick's first year in the field was his best, it was a disaster everywhere.
Matt Patricia finished his Lions run with a 13-29-1 record for more than two seasons. AP Photo / Gerry Broome
Before his first season began, sexual assault charges surfaced again a quarter of a century ago – allegations Patricia labeled false and which proclaimed his innocence with the dismissed case – and forced him to address her. Lions ownership supported him, but Patricia said that was also not mentioned in his interview.
In the locker room, Patricia alienated some of his best players when he arrived, including cornerback Darius Slay, swapping key players and popular locker room characters in Slay, Quandre Diggs and Receiver Golden Tate.
He was often rough with the media and was consistently late for press conferences. He handled criticism poorly – including a four-minute 900-word defense for practicing in the snow in November 2018.
Hamp downplayed these factors, saying they didn't add much to her decision to deviate from Patricia.
“The players will have different ideas. Some players will think that way, others will think differently, ”said Hamp. "Not really, no. I mean, I was hoping it would all come together. I think in a lot of ways – I think we have a really talented team, or a talented team. I think we should have gotten together better than us. I think "We just had the feeling that the leadership didn't do the job."
In his off-the-field businesses, Patricia made significant improvements in his sophomore and third years as head coach. There were also players like Trey Flowers, Danny Amendola, Duron Harmon and Jamie Collins, former patriots who knew him and understood his coaching style. He also improved his relationships with players who had been there in his first season. Patricia also became more approachable to the media, shooting less at reporters to improve those relationships.
In December 2019 the property decided to keep Patricia and Quinn for 2020 with the expectation of improvement. Yes, Detroit had been 3-12-1, but the Lions were without quarterback Matthew Stafford for the last half of the season.
At the time, then vice-chairman and current owner, Sheila Ford Hamp, said she knew this was not the popular decision. She believed then that it was the right thing to do. Improvement would come.
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It turned out that was wrong.
While Patricia has seen far less grumbling from the players this season – and there seemed to be a real connection between Patricia and his players on social justice issues – it never resulted in any improvement on the field.
Too often, Lions looked disorganized and unprepared, which was the hallmark of coach failure. The players blamed the execution for the team's mistakes, but it often comes down to how they are trained during the week.
Throughout the 2020 season, Detroit made critical mistakes in key games, including 10 men standing on the field for three games in two weeks and a penalty kick that obliterated a touchdown in a 20-0 loss to Carolina Panther on Jan. November.
The Lions consistently lost the fourth quarter lead in Patrick's tenure in Detroit, losing four of their last five games by double digits. Patricia never won more than two games in a row during his tenure.
Patricia kept talking about making improvements and just getting back to work. But those improvements, from Game 1 to Game 43, never got through. Too often it was more of the same every week – the main reason Patricia has been unemployed less than three seasons after taking over and Quinn has been with him for less than five seasons.