Every Detroit Lions coach has their moment. For Jim Caldwell, it was the pass back and forth kind of thing. For Jim Schwartz, it was cussing out booing hometown fans. And for Rod Marinelli, his sharp shovel led him took him right down the hole of 0-16.
Matt Patricia lasted just 43 games in Detroit, fewer than all three of his predecessors, but he still a few doozies that will go down in Lions lore. Here are a few of our favorites.
Patricia was fond of saying he had to coach better and his players had to execute better and a bunch of other blather, but he went all Bobby Ross I-don’t-coach-that-stuff after a Week 1 loss to the Chicago Bears when asked if there was something about his coaching that kept costing the Lions second-half leads.
“I don’t think so,” Patricia said angrily. “I think I’ve got probably one of the biggest plays in the fourth quarter in the history of the NFL where I think I did a pretty good job.”
It’s true, Patricia was defensive coordinator of the New England Patriots when Malcolm Butler intercepted a Russell Wilson pass on the goal line in Super Bowl XLIX, and it’s true he prepared his players well for the situation in the build-up to the game.
But throwing your Super Bowl credentials on the table after you start the season with a fourth-quarter collapse is pretty sophomorish, like …
The Lions lost the first game of the Patricia era in unconscionable fashion, when the NFL appeared to give the team a gift of a season opener: At Ford Field, on Monday night, against a bad New York Jets team.
The game started off well enough for the Lions, when Quandre Diggs intercepted rookie quarterback Sam Darnold’s first pass and returned it 37 yards for a touchdown, but it was all downhill from there. The Jets scored 31 straight points in the third quarter to blow out the Lions, 48-17.
Days after the game, Patricia brought his team outside to the practice field and buried a game ball from the loss as a means to tell everyone to forget about the game.
I don’t know where that ball is now, but if it still is underground, it might have found a permanent home under the hill Patricia had built behind the Lions’ Allen Park practice facility before the 2019 season. The hill itself is fine; it’s a training method to help players with both conditioning and recovery.
But the fact that it somewhat resembles a hill the Patriots have on their Foxboro grounds is the real memorable part of the story: For all of the Lions’ attempts to duplicate New England’s success, it’s quite likely that one day the hill will be the only thing that remains.
There was not a signature loss of Patricia’s tenure in Detroit, so much as there was a signature way of losing. The Lions lost nine games in which they held double-digit leads under Patricia, and suffered 11 straight losses at one point during the 2019-20 seasons.
This year, the Lions squandered leads of 17, 11 and 14 points against the Bears, Green Bay Packers and New Orleans Saints, and the last two of those games turned into routs.
One game the Lions blew a big lead in but did not end up losing was a Week 1 tie against the Arizona Cardinals last year.
The Lions took an 18-point lead early in the fourth quarter, and had a chance to put the game away on a third-and-5 play late in the second half. Matthew Stafford appeared to complete a misdirection pass to J.D. McKissic on the play, but the gain did not count because the Lions called for a timeout from the sideline just before the snap.
Patricia was on crutches for the game recovering from summer surgery on his Achilles tendon, but his henchman, Kevin Anderson, scurried toward field judge Mike Weatherford to get the timeout. Patricia and offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell said the timeout was Patricia’s doing, but Stafford was not happy with whoever called it. After the play, TV cameras caught him twice yelling, “Trust me,” on the sideline.
To be fair to Patricia, there were plenty of contributing factors to the Lions’ struggles the last two-plus seasons. Most significantly, Stafford has dealt with a slew of injuries, including two instances of broken bones in his back and partially torn thumb ligaments this season.
The Lions went 0-2 with Stafford playing with a bum thumb in November, and he was not himself late in the 2018 season. But far and away the most debilitating injury was the fractured back Stafford suffered in 2019.
The Lions were fined $75,000 and Patricia ($25,000) and general manager Bob Quinn ($10,000) each incurred personal fines for their injury report shenanigans, but the real blow was Stafford missing the season’s final eight games. The Lions played well the first half of the season, especially offensively, then went 0-8 without their leader.
Going to work
One final Patricia-ism that can’t be ignored. He took a thinly-veiled shot at the 9-7 team he inherited when he tried to defend his performance as coach after an October loss to the New Orleans Saints by saying, "Certainly, I think when I came to Detroit there was a lot of work to do."
That comment raised the ire of plenty of ex-Lions, and who have not spared their thoughts in recent weeks on what should happen to Patricia as head coach.
This article originally appeared on Detroit Free Press: Ex-Detroit Lions coach Matt Patricia: Seven things we'll remember