The Detroit Lions had the right intentions when they moved on from head coach Jim Caldwell after a 9-7 record in 2017. General Manager Bob Quinn based this move on the idea that being a slightly above-average football team wasn’t good enough.
The decision to fire Caldwell (36-28 in four seasons), while somewhat controversial, was expected by most. Lions fans want, need, and deserve a championship. Plus, if Caldwell wasn’t the answer after four years, it was time to find the right guy.
Current Lions head coach Matt Patricia wasn’t just a former co-worker and buddy of Bob Quinn’s, he was a highly-touted defensive mind who coached under the great Bill Belichick for over a decade.
Many teams wanted Patricia, including the current dumpster-fire New York Giants. As a coach, he checks all the boxes. He’s experienced, he’s intelligent and he’s coached on both sides of the ball. Most importantly, though, Patricia was regarded as a defensive genius.
The problem? Patricia is 3-5 after Sunday’s 24-9 loss to division-rival Minnesota and well on his way to a last-place finish in the NFC North.
Things look fairly grim for the Lions, to say the least. Unless something changes, this could be a one-year stint for the pencil-carrying coach. But what is going wrong exactly?
First, the offense has generated 23 points combined over the past two weeks. With Matthew Stafford, Kerryon Johnson, Marvin Jones and Kenny Golladay, this shouldn’t be an issue. As I wrote about prior to the season, Stafford and the offense would need to carry the defense as they figure things out.
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So far, that’s not been the case. Patricia’s defense is streaky at best and the Lions offense seems to be struggling with their transition to a more balanced attack.
Some of this falls on ten-year veteran quarterback Matthew Stafford, who was sacked 10 times by the Vikings Sunday. As former Lions QB Dan Orlovsky pointed out, this could be directly correlated to Detroit trading Golden Tate.
I’ll keep it real-there’s been 7 sacks in the @Lions game. 4 of them wouldn’t have happened if @ShowtimeTate was on team. He was always the easy completion guy-either by scheme or execution. The moves made, and I get it 100%-just pointing it out.
— Dan Orlovsky (@danorlovsky7) November 4, 2018
Getting rid of Stafford’s favorite target hurts for a number of reasons. First, the Lions hurt themselves this season by only getting a draft pick back for a productive player still in his prime. But second, the team has been using Tate as a short-route specialist to make up for what had been a non-existent run game over the past few years.
Stafford has one of the quickest releases in the NFL. While Theo Riddick possesses a similar skill-set to Tate, he’s nowhere near as dynamic of a weapon. A lot of Stafford’s sacks came from a lack of separation from the WRs and awful pass protection.
Kerryon Johnson has been less effective for two-straight weeks. The big plays that we’ve grown accustomed to haven’t been there for this Lions offense. Jim Bob Cooter has taken the mantle from Steve Sarkisian as most scrutinized offensive coordinator.
It’s unclear if Patricia will stick with Cooter, who was never his guy in the first place. The only thing that’s clear thus far in 2018 is that the Lions are not where they were hoping to be when they brought in a new head coach to finally get over the hump.
Whether or not Patricia is the right guy remains to be seen. To earn the belief of the fans, however, his team needs to play a hell of a lot better.