Why Sheila Ford Hamp would be wise to begin Detroit Lions coaching search today

Detroit Free Press

Jeff Seidel
| Detroit Free Press

Detroit Lions coach Matt Patricia walked slowly across the turf in Ford Field — perhaps for the last time.

He hugged Houston interim coach Romeo Crennel, an old friend, after the Texans embarrassed the Lions, 41-25, on Thanksgiving Day.

Patricia turned and walked alone — after his team had lost its fourth game in its last five games, all by double digits — and he disappeared into a tunnel. 

There were no boos — the traditional Thanksgiving Day exit in Detroit — only because there were no fans in Ford Field because of the coronavirus pandemic. But up in the owner’s box, Sheila Ford Hamp was photographed with her head in her hands, covering her eyes. 

Which means she is officially a Lions owner now.

Welcome to the club, Mrs. Hamp. Now it’s time to prove you are different. Hopefully, she can see what is painfully obvious. She has to fire Patricia, who has a miserable 13-29-1 record since being hired in February 2018, and she has to fire general manager Bob Quinn, who has watched the franchise regress in his five years in Detroit. 

Under Patricia and Quinn, there is no sign of hope, no sign of progress, no sign they can turn this around.

“Obviously, the game wasn’t how we wanted it to go,” Patricia said. “It’s not good enough.”

No, it’s not. 

Former Lions running back Reggie Bush summed up the feelings of many Lions fans when he wrote on Twitter: “Our Detroit Lions Team was better with Jim Caldwell.”

Remember, Quinn fired Caldwell because nine wins wasn’t good enough.

But this team is regressing at 4-7.

Former Lions backup quarterback Dan Orlovsky, now at ESPN, tweeted out: “The Lions may be one of the worst coached teams in the NFL.”

The last two losses have been the most soul crushing. When they had a chance to get to the .500 mark last Sunday — and the playoffs were still within reach — they got shut out against the Carolina Panthers, a team that had lost five straight.

And when they had a chance — perhaps the last chance — to fight for Patricia’s job on Thanksgiving, they lost another game by two touchdowns against a team that came into the game with just three wins and fired its head coach, Bill O’Brien, in early October.

Think of it this way: The Lions lost by 16 points on Thursday and it wasn’t the worst defeat of the week. 

That’s the state of the Lions.

After the game, Patricia did a Zoom call with reporters and his voice kept cutting out.

Which seemed symbolic.

Because there has been a giant disconnect between Patricia and this team. He says all the right things, but his team keeps getting worse.

TIME TO CLEAN HOUSE? Why firing Matt Patricia on Friday might not be best move

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‘That’s not my decision’

Before the game, I drove around Detroit to look at the scene. I love Thanksgiving in Detroit. All of the excitement. But it looked like a ghost town because of the pandemic. There was no parade. No Turkey Trot. No traffic jams. 

Nobody on the streets. 

It felt so sad and empty. Everything about this day felt different — other than the losing. It was Patricia’s third straight Thanksgiving Day loss. And it was the Lions’ biggest Thanksgiving loss since getting crushed by the New England Patriots in 2010, 45-24.

After the game, Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford was asked: “point blank, what would be your reason at this point to keep Matt Patricia as your head coach?”

“That’s not my decision,” Stafford said. “That’s for somebody else. Ask me about the game.”

Which is not exactly a ringing endorsement.

But later, Stafford did express his appreciation for Patricia. “He’s a passionate football coach,” Stafford said. “He loves the game. He loves the X’s and O’s, loves the players, all that he wants to do is win like the rest of us.”

But wanting to win doesn’t mean you’re cut out to be a head coach.

And this team just hasn’t improved under Patricia. It’s going backward, evoking memories of some of the worst coaching tenures in franchise history. 

The particulars of this game almost don’t matter. The Lions had a rash of turnovers — three in the first half. And they couldn’t stop Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson, who threw for four touchdowns. That was basically the story of this one.

The Lions played without wide receiver Kenny Golladay and Danny Amendola, running back D’Andre Swift, defensive lineman Da’Shawn Hand and cornerbacks Jeff Okudah and Mike Ford.

But that doesn’t fully explain why this team has been blown out so much and plays so inconsistently.

‘Why hasn’t this worked?’

As a rule, I’m not a fan of firing coaches in the middle of the season.

Because it’s hard to believe that it will help.

But firing Patricia now would have one benefit — it would show that Hamp cares as much as the fans.

It would buy her credibility and give her a chance to start searching for replacements.

But Patricia shouldn’t be alone.

Quinn is tied at the hip to Patricia. He was the one who fired Caldwell, who set the expectation that a regime change would lead to more wins. 

He was the one who hired Patricia. 

You don’t get a second chance to make a hire after that disastrous decision.

“Where do you feel like you’ve gotten better this season?” a reporter asked Patricia.

“Um, I mean, obviously, it’s hard to come off a game like this,” he said and his voice went out again.

“Why hasn’t this worked?” he was asked.

“Yeah, um, no, just focused on right now. Just got done with that locker room. I love those guys.”

Which sounds like a guy who just doesn’t have the answers.

And doesn’t even know where to look.

Your move, Mrs. Hamp.

Contact Jeff Seidel: jseidel@freepress.com. Follow him on Twitter @seideljeff. To read his recent columns, go to freep.com/sports/jeff-seidel/.

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