The Detroit Lions put an end to the Quinn-tricia era Saturday, firing general manager Bob Quinn and head coach Matt Patricia two days after their team’s 41-25 Thanksgiving loss to the Houston Texans.
A four-time Super Bowl champion with the New England Patriots, Quinn replaced Martin Mayhew as general manager in January 2016 and two years later brought his friend, Patricia, to Detroit.
The two were tasked with elevating the Lions from their perpetual state of mediocrity to a perennial playoff contender, and instead brought more despair to a franchise that has not won a playoff game since 1992.
The Lions went 13-29-1 with Quinn and Patricia in charge and are in the midst of their third consecutive losing season. Patricia’s .314 winning percentage was far below that of the man he replaced. Jim Caldwell, who Quinn fired after going 9-7 in 2017, won 54.5% of his games, best among full-time Lions coaches in the expansion era.
Offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell will take over as interim head coach and XXXXXX as general manager.
Mired in a two-game losing streak, having lost four of their last five games by double digits and facing widespread fan acrimony, the Lions, in their first major move of Sheila Ford Hamp's tenure as owner, made the rare decision to fire their chief football leaders in-season.
In 2015, Hamp’s mother, Martha Firestone Ford, fired Mayhew and president Tom Lewand after a 1-7 start in a move that led to Quinn’s eventual hire. In 2005, Lions GM Matt Millen dismissed Steve Mariucci as head coach on Thanksgiving weekend.
Hand-picked by Quinn to turn the Lions into Super Bowl contenders, Patricia’s time as coach instead was marred by embarrassing moments and unacceptable defeats.
Months after Patricia was hired, it was revealed he was indicted on a sexual-assault charge as a college student at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in 1996. Patricia denied the claim and the case never went to trial, but the accusation marred the rest of his tenure in Detroit.
He alienated large portions of the locker room his first two seasons with an overbearing approach that many Caldwell holdovers despised, and this year his defense — his area of expertise as an assistant — ranked among the worst in the NFL.
The Lions lost nine games in which they held double-digit leads under Patricia, most in the league, and suffered 11 straight losses during the 2019-20 seasons.
This year, they squandered leads of 17, 11 and 14 points against the Chicago Bears, Green Bay Packers and New Orleans Saints, and were wholly uncompetitive for long stretches of two of those games.
They entered their October bye week 1-3 and tied for last place in the NFC North, then failed to take advantage of a favorable schedule coming out of the bye that included six games against sub-.500 teams in seven weeks. After beating the Atlanta Falcons and Jacksonville Jaguars after the bye, the Lions lost four of their next five games, all by double digits, including on Thanksgiving against the Houston Texans.
Patricia tried to defend his late-game coaching acumen after the Bears loss by pointing to a defensive stop the Patriots made in Super Bowl XLIX, when he was defensive coordinator and Bevell was on the opposing sideline, saying, "I think I did pretty good job." And he angered former players a few weeks later by casually referring to the size of the rebuild he inherited with the Lions, saying, “Certainly, I think when I came to Detroit there was a lot of work to do.”
The Lions won nine games in each of the two seasons before Patricia arrived in Detroit, and made the playoffs as a wildcard in 2016. In Patricia’s first season as head coach in 2018, the Lions stumbled to 6-10 and lost to rookie quarterbacks Sam Darnold and Josh Allen.
Last year, the Lions went 3-12-1, their worst record since 2010, as Matthew Stafford missed half the season with a back injury. Stafford played at an MVP level early in the year, but has not had the same success this fall.
At 32, Stafford’s future, like that of many in the organization, is in doubt as the Lions embark on hiring their fourth coach in 12 years. Over that period, which spans Stafford’s entire career, the Lions have had four winning seasons, made three playoff appearances and won zero postseason games.
Two years ago, Quinn interviewed five candidates in addition to Patricia for the job, though Patricia was the runaway favorite: Mike Vrabel, now the coach of the Tennessee Titans; Pat Shurmur, who was fired last season as Giants head coach; Winston Moss, who last worked as a general manager in the XFL; and former Lions coordinators Jim Bob Cooter and Teryl Austin, who were considered token interviews at the time since they remained under contract and had little chance of getting the job.
This year’s pool of top coaching candidates still is sorting itself out, but Kansas City Chiefs offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy and San Francisco 49ers defensive coordinator Robert Saleh, a Dearborn native, are considered rising stars. Buffalo Bills offensive coordinator Brian Daboll, a former Patriots assistant who previously worked with Quinn and has helped the Bills become an AFC power, and Tennessee Titans offensive coordinator Arthur Smith are other top candidates.
In the college ranks, Oklahoma’s Lincoln Riley and Stanford's David Shaw have long been sought after by NFL teams, though it’s unlikely the Lions have the cache to lure either to the NFL. Former Ohio State coach Urban Meyer acknowledged last year he is open to a return to the sidelines, and Iowa State's Matt Campbell will be of interest to teams looking for previous head coaching experience.
The Lions are one of three teams currently with a head-coaching vacancy, though as many as five more jobs could open by the end of the year.
Both teams are looking for new head coaches and GMs.
This article originally appeared on Detroit Free Press: Detroit Lions fire coach Matt Patricia, general manager Bob Quinn