| Detroit Free Press
Detroit Lions’ Matt Patricia on what he knows about Everson Griffen
Detroit Lions coach Matt Patricia addressed the media on Wednesday, Oct. 28, 2020, one day after the team traded for defensive lineman Everson Griffen.
It’s official. The Detroit Lions are all-in.
Get ready for the playoff push, folks, because it’s coming.
Even if the trade isn’t actually official, the Lions’ intent is. Their reported trade to acquire Dallas Cowboys defensive end Everson Griffen means every one of the team’s decision-makers has bought in. As they should.
The Lions are 3-3, but they should be 4-2.
They’ve won two straight games and three of their past four.
But most important, they’re in the thick of the hunt for the NFC wild-card spot.
And with the 5-2 Bears running out of quarterbacks to bench and turning back into Chicago-style pumpkins, and the 1-5 Minnesota Vikings imploding, there’s a small chance the Lions could make a run at the 5-1 Green Bay Packers for the NFC North title.
Yeah, I know you’re probably laughing at the notion of the Lions winning their first division title since 1993. But you’re probably laughing just a little less with the addition of Griffen, a four-time Pro Bowler with 77 career sacks who remains an elite player at 32.
And if you’re still laughing, what I’m about to tell you might turn that smile upside down. If you’re not convinced about coach Matt Patricia and general manager Bob Quinn, this trade is proof that Sheila Ford Hamp likes what she has seen so far from the pair, because trades like this don’t happen without ownership signing off on them.
And Hamp should be enjoying her view. I guarantee you she loved what she saw during Sunday’s dramatic comeback victory in Atlanta.
It was the kind of win that buys a coach and a GM on the hot seat a lot of credibility — and some ventilation. Hamp was right to reward them by allowing Quinn to part with some draft capital: a conditional 2021 draft pick that can be as high as a fifth-rounder, according to the Cowboys’ website.
I know this organization doesn’t make it easy for fans to believe. But ask yourself this: If not now, when? Even if you’re fed up with “Quintricia,” do you think another rebuild is going to be any easier? Why not seize on the window for improvement that exists right now?
Hamp isn’t likely to provide an update any time soon on the futures of Quinn and Patricia. But it’s clear they’re headed in the right direction and fulfilling the “expectation,” as Hamp and her mother wrote in a letter to season ticket holders in December, “for the Lions to be a playoff contender in 2020.” When they take the field Sunday against the Indianapolis Colts, the Lions will officially be a playoff contender in November.
This is my read on the organization and its future. And if you’re sick of Quinn and Patricia and the Fords, I’m sure you aren’t in the mood to be optimistic about a .500 team.
But maybe you can still be hopeful about this team. Because if you set aside the hot-seat drama and the team politics and focus just on the player, it looks like the Lions are getting a pretty good one who could play an instrumental role.
Griffen has always been an excellent high-motor pass rusher, but he also has been a stout run defender. Even though he turns 33 in December, it looks like he still has plenty of juice left. He’s hovering around playing 50% of defensive snaps, which is typical for defensive ends. And in Sunday’s loss to Washington, he had five tackles with a sack and two quarterback hits. He comes to the Lions with 2.5 sacks, which would place him second on a team with only eight sacks.
The key thing lacking on the Lions’ defense has been generating consistent pressure on the quarterback, even though that has improved lately. In the past two games, the defense has done a great job stopping the run and has registered 10 quarterback hits. But against a veteran quarterback such as Matt Ryan — and with veterans Philip Rivers and Kirk Cousins coming up next — the Lions’ lack of pressure allowed him enough time to complete 31 passes for 338 yards.
Patricia and defensive coordinator Cory Undlin can dial up all the stunts and disguised pressures they want, but great play designs aren’t a substitute for a great player’s execution. One doesn’t work without the other.
I don’t expect Griffen to come in and instantly dominate. But I do expect him to make the defense better as a whole. And he will arrive just in time. Because of COVID-19 protocols, he isn’t eligible to play his first game with the Lions until Nov. 8 against his longtime team, the Minnesota Vikings.
That gives Griffen more than a week to settle in. One of the theories behind the Lions’ slow start this season has been the lack of an offseason, especially on a defense that added two new tackles and a rookie cornerback and has been hit with key injuries in the secondary. It has been a bad recipe. But now the defense seems to be jelling and getting more comfortable playing together.
Before the trade was announced, Undlin spoke with reporters on a conference call and he had to walk the tampering tightrope by not speaking specifically about Griffen. He said a veteran, as opposed to a rookie, would have an easier time fitting in at this point, and noted how the “great leadership” on the defense would smooth the transition for any new player.
“The biggest thing for me,” Undlin said, “would be hey, we’ve got to get the guy — when it happens, if it happens, whenever it does — then you’ve got to get that guy in and everyone’s got to open their arms to the guy and welcome him and then we’ve all got to help him get caught up.
“The scheme is the scheme. He’ll learn that part. The familiarity from both parties is really the key for me and how fast you can get that penned up or mesh together. That’s the biggest thing for me.”
One of Patricia’s favorite sayings about urgency is, “We’ve got to just go.” It’s that time for this team. The Lions have to just go. And adding Griffen should help them get there.
Editor’s note: A previous version of this story misspelled Sheila Ford Hamp’s name.
Contact Carlos Monarrez at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @cmonarrez.