Why the Fords won’t fire Detroit Lions’ Matt Patricia — even with a loss Sunday

Detroit Free Press

Shawn Windsor
| Detroit Free Press

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Matt Patricia reached out to a couple of NFL head coaches who lost their jobs recently. Of course he did. It’s a tough business and small fraternity.  

And he understands he could be next if his team doesn’t start winning. 


Like this Sunday in Jacksonville, Florida, where the Detroit Lions will play the Jaguars. A loss to the 1-4 Jaguars could be enough for even the Fords to say goodbye to Patricia, though that isn’t likely.  

This is a franchise — and family — that once kept a coach through 16 losses in the 2008 season. And this was after Rod Marinelli entered that 0-16 season with a 10-22 record.  

So, no, Patricia’s job isn’t on the line Sunday, even if it should be by the standard of other NFL franchises.  

Why aren’t the Lions likely to pull the plug on the Patricia and Bob Quinn experiment before the end of the season? 

It’s not their style, for one. For another, there aren’t any fans to placate at the stadium, and there may not be any at any point this season.  Which means there isn’t much money at stake by keeping Patricia and Quinn around until January.

Sure. Fans can turn off their televisions and radios at home. But that doesn’t matter much this season, either. Those contracts were set a while ago.  

Besides, the Fords understand that fans will be back a year from now no matter how many games the Lions lose, coaching change or not. Because it happens every September. Self-loathing has its charm. 

So does masochism, which explains why you will almost certainly watch the game Sunday, or at least part of it, despite your protests. You can tell yourself you need to rake the leaves or clean the gutters or go for a walk or call your mom.  

But you won’t do any of that until after the first few series. The Fords know this. Worse, you know this.  

Patricia may know this, too, though surely he isn’t worried about it as he tries to ready his team to play a game that feels like the beginning of playing out the string. He has no choice, really, but to do what he always does to prepare.  

“For us, every week, we’re just trying to go out and compete and win and do everything that we can to get better,” he said. “We come in and we do our job. That’s what we do. I don’t think you get into anything other than that, and you don’t ride that wave. You just try to go out and do the best you can that week.” 

Is he aware of speculation about his future? 


Does he address it with the team? 

No, he said Friday. 

Does he think it’s too early in the season to fire a coach? 

He didn’t want to get into that.  

But, he said, “obviously we all know that this business is tough.” 

And when another head coach loses his job this early in the season? 

“I just think about how (that coach is) doing, how his family’s doing, those are the most important things just to make sure that everybody’s OK,” he said. “We know what we sign up for … other than that … it affects people’s families, and you want to make sure everybody is all right.” 

So, yes, Patricia reached out to Bill O’Brien, who lost his job coaching the Houston Texans, and to Dan Quinn, who lost his job in Atlanta.  

O’Brien is part of the Patriots’ coaching tree, who had some success in Houston, making the playoffs in four of his first six years. Quinn, meanwhile, got the Falcons to the Super Bowl, but lost … to the Patriots, whose defense was coached by Patricia.  

Each coach had at least six seasons — O’Brien was in his seventh. Yet each coach earned that time by getting their teams to the postseason quickly. That each team fell off from those perches made it easier for their teams to fire them so early in this season. 

Does Patricia have a similar peak? 

Not based on what he has done so far, especially not based on what we’ve seen this year. The Ford family may believe this, too. 

And yet, a 1-4 start isn’t going to be enough to cost Patricia just yet. Making coaching changes during the season is just not something the Lions do. It’s a messy look.  

It also admits defeat. 


And whatever else you say about the merit of sacking a coach now or waiting until after the season, the franchise is tired of admitting defeat.  

Contact Shawn Windsor: 313-222-6487 or swindsor@freepress.com. Follow him on Twitter @shawnwindsor.

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