Detroit Lions fans think they actually have something. The savior of the franchise is none other than New England Patriots defensive coordinator Matt Patricia. The bearded rocket scientist – yes, he has a degree in aeronautical engineering – is set to become the Lions new head coach after Super Bowl LII. It sounds like a no-brainer, right? Detroit gets one of the coveted Patriots’ assistants to turn around their franchise. Awesome!.
It’s actually pretty simple. The Detroit Lions are awful. Even when they are good, which isn’t often, they are awful. Let’s take the past four years as an example. Prior to the 2014 season, the Lions were in the same boat they are now. They searched for a head coach and chose Jim Caldwell, a guy who had considerable success as an assistant and a head coach in Indianapolis.
Caldwell took over in Detroit and actually led the Lions to a very respectable 11-5 season and a berth in the NFC playoffs. Detroit lost to Dallas in an NFC wild card game, but the season was a success especially for a franchise that has never even been to a Super Bowl.
After a 7-9 season in 2015, the pressure was on to get back to the postseason. Caldwell delivered, the Lions went 9-7, and made the playoffs again. It was an early exit for Detroit, which hasn’t won a playoff game since 1991. In fact, the Lions have only been to the postseason nine times since that ’91 season, the franchise’s best since the 1950s.
Then came 2017. Here’s where the delusion sets in. A franchise that is, for the most part, a perennial loser, watched its coach lead the team to another 9-7 winning season and proceeded to fire him. Caldwell went 36-28 in Detroit, leaving with the highest winning percentage of any Lions coach…ever.
Makes perfect sense, doesn’t it? And now, the Lions are on the road to change right? Wrong. Patricia might win some games and even get to the postseason, but it will never be enough for a franchise whose ownership sees its football team as a tax write off. Look, the Patriots and organizations like the Steelers are successful because the ownership, management, everyone is dialed in to winning.
Ask any Detroit Lions player the last time he saw a member of the Ford family in the locker room after a game. How about a Ford at a practice during the season? During training camp? Anybody around during minicamp in June? Yeah. The answer is a big, fat “No!”
Ask the same question of a Steelers player and he will tell you that Art Rooney II knows him by his first name. When the San Francisco 49ers built their 1980s and ‘90s dynasty, owner Eddie DeBartolo interacted with players on a daily basis. This doesn’t happen in Detroit. Never has, and never will. Dream as Detroiters do, their beloved Lions franchise will never be New England, never be Pittsburgh.
Matt Patricia is a very good football coach. So was Jim Caldwell. You know what? So was Jim Schwartz who was fired before Caldwell. Schwartz, the Eagles defensive coordinator, will coach against Patricia in this year’s Super Bowl. Detroit, it’s not the coach. The franchise’s problems run much deeper.
P.S. Drivers of the Ford Focus, model years 2012 through 2016, received notice that their vehicles were being recalled. Five years’ worth of automatic transmissions – you know, the same automatic transmission that Ford has built since the beginning of time – were defective. And this is the same group of people trying to win Super Bowls? No wonder it hasn’t happened.