R.I.P. to Jim Caldwell’s stint as the Detroit Lions’ head coach. His four years as top dog with the Lions brought three winning seasons, including an 11-5 record in his first year.
Only four head coaches in the Lions history of 24 coaches have had higher winning percentages when coaching for at least an entire season, and Caldwell’s .545 win percentage is the highest in the past 46 years. Caldwell’s first year in Detroit brought about the Lions’ best single season record since 1991. Despite bringing about a somewhat refreshing level of success to a franchise that hasn’t seen a lick of success in my lifetime, Caldwell was unable to fulfill his main goals: lead the Lions to an NFC North title, a playoff win, and a shot at a trip to the Super Bowl.
Ever since the start of the new year, Lions General Manager Bob Quinn has been on the lookout for Caldwell’s replacement, and he might have found that person: Matt Patricia. The current defensive coordinator and unofficial right-hand-man for Bill Belichick and the New England Patriots is believed to be preparing to pack his bags and move to the Great Lakes State to fill in as the Lions’ new head coach.
After interviewing the likes of defensive coordinator Teryl Austin and offensive coordinator Jim Bob Cooter, among others, the Lions are shooting for Patricia – and, in my book, for good reason. Personally, I think Patricia is the single-best realistic option for Quinn and the Lions. Here’s why.
Pretty much everyone who’s worked with Patricia says he’s almost always the smartest person in the room. Which isn’t hard to believe, as he holds a degree in aeronautical engineering from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, the oldest technological research university in the nation, showcasing some of the United States’ more elite programs. If you’ve followed the Lions in the past couple decades, you’d see that having someone who’s crazy smart calling the shots wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world.
But Patricia doesn’t just ride his natural intelligence towards success. He’s been known to put in 20-hour days with the Patriots, revamping the way the organization functions in ways from organizing strategy, managing players, improving recruitment strategies, and, most of all, watching film. You know how the sports world goes gaga over the amount of hours Kobe Bryant put in at the gym or Peyton Manning spent watching game film? Well, Matt Patricia is the coaching version of those guys. His incredible drive to constantly make himself and those around him better in many different ways is an attribute the Lions can’t afford to pass up.
Another perk of a Patricia-led Lions is the way he interacts with players. Former Patriots linebacker Niko Koutouvides once said, “Matt’s work ethic, his personality, how he understands players. He’s demanding, but he understands players. He sees them as real people. He treats you with respect. He’s honest. And his work ethic is phenomenal.”
For Quinn to bring in someone who seems to keep integrity and respect at the forefront of his behavior, I think that’d go a long way, especially with the overly aggressive climate brought about by Jim Schwartz and company.
Professionals are professionals for a reason – they’re experts in their field because they have exceptional levels of experience which usually comes from exceptional levels of passion. Matt Patricia is no different.
The guy loves football. Not like how people love mac and cheese, or love “Die Hard,” but more along the lines of the way people love their kids. In fact, he loves it so much that he turned down an opportunity to have an incredibly lucrative career in engineering, something he started after graduating with his undergraduate degree. Despite six-figures, football kept calling. Patricia slummed through the ranks of low-level college programs and semi-pro teams, eventually making it to more prominent colleges and then the NFL.
Past co-workers, educators, colleagues, teammates, coaches, etc. say that Matt Patricia has a special reverence for the game of football that is rarely seen, even in the most dedicated students of the game. This passion, should it make its way to Detroit, could transform the Lions from being that team that has the potential to be great but hasn’t to being a team that is seen as an intimidating competitor year in and year out.
Lastly, but certainly not least, is Patricia’s resume. He has three Super Bowl rings under his belt, all due in part to his work with the team. Entering his eighth year as the Pats’ DC, Patricia has led a defense that has been ranked in the top 10 in points allowed each of those eight years. Patricia has been a part of a winning machine since 2004, delving into a climate of excellence for the past 14 years. That’s not to mention spending all that time learning from the greatest head coach in the history of the game.
In the end, we obviously can’t know for sure if Patricia could lead the Lions to something special until he gives it a shot. And we also have to remember how each year we get excited for the Lions to finally break through, only to disappoint. However, that Detroit hope might just come to fruition in the 2018-2019 season if head coach Matt Patricia has anything to say about it.