Rogers: As another season heads south, Lions need buzz, not buzzwords

Detroit News

Justin Rogers
| The Detroit News

The dictionary defines consistency as marked by harmony, regularity, or steady continuity; free from variation or contradiction.

If you rolled your eyes at that journalistic cliché, it was necessary to convey what it’s like listening to the Detroit Lions players and coach Matt Patricia daily attempting to identify what’s wrong with a franchise that’s been sick long before any of them arrived, and is currently at one of its lowest points in the past decade.

On Sunday, the Lions blew their third double-digit lead of the season, giving up 35 straight points to the New Orleans Saints. They couldn’t stop the run, they couldn’t stop the pass, they got worked over on third down. Now the team sits at 1-3 and all anyone seems to be pinning their hopes to is the inevitable changes coming at the top.

And yes, the Lions will tell you it’s a long season. That’s one of the many clichés they’re leaning on as they surf the wave of their current turmoil, but the length of the season only feels like part of the problem. This week, you’ll have the bye to stew on the poor execution and wasted opportunities, then 12 more games to see what creative ways they’ll find to one-up their recent failures. 

During his Monday press conference Matt Patricia used the word “consistent” or “consistency” seven times before he was asked for the recipe of that elusive trait the team has been unable to find, not just this season, but the three he’s been at the helm. 

“One of the interesting things about consistency is — how do you be consistent when things change?” Patricia asked, rhetorically. “And I think that’s always an interesting conversation, and a lot of it has to do with just the preparation through the course of the week, being consistent, in that way that when you get to the game and in the game situations, that that sense of understanding where everybody’s going to be and what the different adjustments are and what the different play calls are just kind of on the same page. And sometimes that takes a little bit of work. Sometimes that takes a little bit of time to really kind of come together with that. We also understand that there’s not a lot of time to get that done, and we’ve got to expedite that the best we can.”

If you’re thinking, well, isn’t that the job of coaching? After all, who is responsible for preparing the players and creating that sense of understanding? That’s what the weeks and weeks of practice, meetings and film study are for. 

But, as you might expect, the players are backing their coach publicly, pointing the fingers at themselves. That’s exactly what team captain Duron Harmon did on Monday, because that’s what leaders are conditioned to do in times of adversity. 

“At the end of the day, we’re the players,” Harmon said. “We got to make plays, you know? We’re out there in position to make plays, and in certain situations, we’re not making the plays we need to make, so it’s on us. Matty P, (defensive coordinator) Cory Undlin), (defensive backs coach) Steve (Gregory), they’re doing a good job of putting us in the right positions to make plays. But at the end of the day, we have to look at ourselves, the players, the guys who are out there making plays. We got to ask ourselves whether we’re doing enough to make plays.”

No. No they’re not. But Harmon is being generous to suggest the coaching staff is putting them in the best position. Good coaches identify player skill sets and put players in position to best execute to their ability.

Just sticking with the defense — seeing as the Lions are giving up more than 400 yards and 30 points per game despite it being the head coach’s area of expertise — what are they doing well? They definitely have too many moving parts.

To start the season, Will Harris was getting a ton of snaps, but that’s dropped to around 20 per game the past two weeks. Jarrad Davis has seen his role sliced to almost nothing. And the first three weeks, Jahlani Tavai was on the field at least 50 plays. Against New Orleans, it was nine. 

And within that playing time, roles change from week to week, part of the multiplicity Patricia also has wanted. But without any consistent pieces and roles to build that flexibility around, it’s led to overall issues with cohesion and execution. 

That’s coaching. And also personnel, where Patricia and general manager Bob Quinn have stated they’re tied at the hip in this roster’s construction. 

So through this bye week and beyond, you’re going to keep hearing the same words and phrases from this team. Patricia will say he needs to coach better, players will say they need to execute better, they’re going to work hard in search of consistency. 

And they’ll probably win some games here and there, just like they did in Arizona a week ago, before they quickly remind you they’re not capable of stacking success on top of success. 

It’s only fitting to close with a final cliché: It is what it is.

Twitter: @Justin_Rogers

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