Lions finally hold Matt Patricia, Bob Quinn to same, high standard as Jim Caldwell

Editor’s note: This column originally ran in September and has been updated.

With now-former Detroit Lions coach Matt Patricia, it always goes back to where it began, namely who he replaced and why he was called to replace him.

That person was Jim Caldwell, who in four seasons with Detroit went 36-28 and reached the playoffs twice. The Lions went 9-7 in each of his final two seasons. Detroit fired him anyway, per the order of now-former general manager Bob Quinn, who saw a talented roster not getting maximized (the Lions went 0-2 in those road playoff games).

“It’s wanting to take this team to the next level,” Quinn said at the time. “To me, that’s winning championships, that’s winning playoff games and that’s winning the Super Bowl.”

Fair enough. There was nothing wrong with wanting more, or even demanding more. This is professional football. The Lions have won just a single playoff game since 1957 (and none since the 1991 season). The setting of high standards was kind of refreshing for this franchise.

Except when Quinn went looking for a new coach, he hired Patricia, his buddy from their time together with the New England Patriots. Patricia was a first-time head coach. Quinn vouched for him.

It was disastrous.

Detroit Lions head coach Matt Patricia, along with general manager Bob Quinn, have finally been fired by the franchise. (Duane Burleson/AP File)
Detroit Lions head coach Matt Patricia, along with general manager Bob Quinn, have finally been fired by the franchise. (Duane Burleson/AP File)

Caldwell at 9-7 wasn’t good enough. But Patricia, who finished 13-29-1, remained on the sidelines for nearly three seasons.

The latest humiliation was a 41-25 beatdown courtesy of the Houston Texans on Thanksgiving Day. It dropped the Lions to 4-7 on the season.

It was a testament to bad plays, bad players, bad errors, bad everything, especially coaching.

This team isn’t headed to the Super Bowl, as Quinn once stated was the expectation. It isn’t headed anywhere but circling the drain. The “next level” has proven to be three levels down.

They would have loved 9-7. Now the best reported replacement Darrell Bevell can realistically hope for is 7-9.

Patricia has taken a nine-win team and won six games, then three games and now four.

“We’ve got to get better, that’s really the bottom line,” Patricia said. “We’re going to keep pushing and keep doing our work and improve. It’s early.”

That it is early is part of the problem. This looks like another lost autumn for Lions fans.

William Clay Ford Sr. owned the team from 1961-2014 and delivered just one playoff victory. His wife, Martha Firestone Ford, ran it until 2019 and brought in the Quinn/Patricia regime — derisively dubbed “Quinntricia” by fans.

Now their daughter, Sheila Ford Hamp, is the franchise owner, and Lions fans are finally rid of this tandem’s specific failure.

Perhaps worst of all is that Patricia was brought in as a defensive coach, yet the Lions rank near the bottom of the NFL in most major statistical categories in 2020.

This was Quinn’s fifth season and Patricia’s third, and they’ve spent all sorts of resources on defense — high-priced free agents, top-five draft picks. None of it helped.

Maybe they could have used Darius Slay, who they essentially ran off and traded last offseason.

This was a never-ending train wreck in progress. Patricia showed no ability to match Caldwell, the coach who Quinn said wasn’t nearly good enough to keep his job. At no point did either of them show much of anything, other than the ability to cash in on Bill Belichick’s shine.

They all could have been justifiably fired last year. They weren’t. The Fords believed in them. Instead, this season it was more of the same, only worse, all as Stafford’s prime continued to get wasted away.

The Lions finally had enough. And finally held Patricia and Quinn to the same standard as Caldwell, one by which they fell well short.

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