DETROIT – Matt Patricia has been in Detroit for 36 games. Too often in his tenure, the results have been the same. Losses after losses, big leads blown after big leads blown. All of which leads to the simple, pressing question surrounding the future of the Detroit Lions.
Is Matt Patricia still the right coach to lead this team?
Patricia’s players – including Matthew Stafford and Taylor Decker – supported their head coach Sunday after the team’s latest loss, 35-29 to New Orleans. They talked about how they needed to execute plays better and do their jobs better.
That is true. But the head coach has to be much better, too – something he has yet to accomplish during his 10-25-1 tenure in Detroit. When Patricia was asked after Sunday’s loss why people should still believe in him after what they’ve seen so far, he mostly wanted to talk about the Saints.
And he wanted to talk about this season, where he's 1-3, and not the years past, where he went 6-10 and then 3-12-1 taking over a franchise with back-to-back 9-7 records.
When Patricia was hired, the thought was he could take the Lions over the edge from mediocrity to contender. Instead, they’ve fallen back, record-wise, to the depths of the start of the recovery after the Matt Millen era when Jim Schwartz, in 2009 and 2010, took over an 0-16 team and had double-digit losses in back-to-back seasons as he started to rebuild.
“I know we’ve got a lot of work to do. Certainly I think when I came to Detroit there was a lot of work to do and that’s what we’re trying to do,” Patricia said. “Talking about this year, right now, and we’re talking about right now and these first four games and obviously today wasn’t good enough. I think after four games a team can really take a look at itself and say, ‘Hey, how do we need to play the games? What do we got to do?’
“We got some work to do during the bye week, which I think will be good for us to kind of take a look at we play going forward. And I think that’s the most important thing from that standpoint. What do we do going forward and how do we win?”
That’s the biggest question within the Lions and the one no one really seems to have an answer to. Detroit has lost 14 of its last 16 games under Patricia. The last six games the Lions have had a double-digit lead in, they’ve lost those, which according to Elias is an NFL record.
Three came this season – to Chicago, to Green Bay and to New Orleans.
“If you want to break it down, Chicago was the end of the game where we didn’t do a good enough job. Green Bay was the halftime swing and we never really recovered and this game we obviously jumped out early, but it was so early in the game I don’t really, that’s in the first quarter,” Patricia said. “I think after that, we didn’t play very well in the middle of the game, and I thought that we came back at the end of the game, and battled to try to give ourselves a chance to win and obviously we didn’t come through.
“So, I think from that standpoint, those are different. Last week’s game is different. The biggest thing for us, really, what we’ve got to do, is obviously consistency. That’s what we’ve got to do is we’ve got to be consistent.”
So the Lions head into their off week needing to do something to change the direction of their season because it’s clear what they’ve been doing so far isn’t working. The defense can’t stop the run and too often is similar against the pass. Stafford has completed under 60 percent of his passes in two of his four games.
Detroit’s running backs have shown promise -- from Adrian Peterson on down -- and there have been times when Stafford has looked like the Pro Bowl-level quarterback he was a season ago. It just hasn’t been there nearly enough. Not against some of the NFL’s best teams and not against the Saints, a high-level team down six starters, including Pro Bowlers Michael Thomas and Marshon Lattimore.
“We see flashes of how good we can be,” Decker said. “You see flashes of it. You see spurts here and there of what we can do when we execute and we know we have all the pieces that we need in this locker room and on this team.
“But at the end of the day, it’s a full group effort and everybody has got to do their jobs. We’ve seen flashes of it. We just need to see it more consistently.”
Their schedule lightens up now, as the next six opponents were a combined 6-16 entering Sunday afternoon’s games. So there will be opportunities.
It’s just on the Lions to figure out how to fix it. If they don’t, it’ll be just another lost season in a franchise with far too many of them.