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Detroit Lions Fire Matt Patricia and Bob Quinn, What’s Next?

On November 26, the Detroit Lions played their traditional Thanksgiving Day football game. The Lions played the Texans, and lost 25-41. This made the Lions 4-7 in the 2020 season, with Matt Patricia in his 3rd year as head coach. 


In 2018, the Detroit Lions fired head coach Jim Caldwell and hired New England Patriots’ defensive coordinator, Matt Patricia as the Lions next head coach. In the 2018 season, the Detroit Lions went 6-10. In 2019, the Detroit Lions went 3-12-1. As of November 26, 2020, the Lions were 4-7. Both years, and currently in 2020, the Lions were in last place in the division.


On November 22, just 4 days prior to the Thanksgiving Day loss, the Detroit Lions played the Carolina Panthers, who are currently 4-9, and were shut out. The Lions scored 0 points, and the Panthers scored 20. For the first time in Matthew Stafford’s 11 year career with the Detroit Lions, he was shut out in a game. This would be one of the last straws for first time Lions owner, Sheila Ford Hamp. 


Sheila Ford Hamp took over ownership from her mother, Martha Firestone Ford, in June 2020. Once owner of the Lions, Sheila stated that if the Lions were not playing good football by December, changes would be made. That game on November 26 was the last game the Detroit Lions would play before December and, on November 28, Sheila Ford Hamp fired head coach Matt Patricia and general manager Bob Quinn.


In Patricia’s time as head coach, he went 13-29-1, a 31.4% winning percentage. Jim Caldwell, Lions head coach from 2014-2017 whom Matt Patricia replaced, went 36-28, a 56.3% winning percentage. In Caldwell’s time as head coach, the Lions were 2nd in the division every year except 2014, when they were 3rd in the division— but never last. Caldwell got the Lions to the playoffs in 2014 and 2016. Patricia never got the Lions to a playoff game, or a winning record. 


Since Patricia was fired, Darrell Bevell, Lions offensive coordinator 2019-2020, was named interim head coach. So far, Detroit is 1-1 under Bevell. On 12.6 the Lions won over the Chicago Bears, who were 6-5 at the time, 34-30, scoring 2 touchdowns within the approximate 2 minutes left in the game. This was a division rivalry game, so this game was big for the Lions and Lions fans alike.


On December 13, the Detroit Lions lost to the Green Bay Packers 31-24. This outcome may have been different however, if Matthew Stafford had not left the game in the fourth quarter for a rib injury after being tackled by Kenny Clark while running for the first down. While Kenny Clark should have never tackled Stafford because he was mid sliding motion and was clearly not going to keep running and should have received a penalty for doing so, that’s besides the point.


Matthew Stafford’s backup quarterback is Chase Daniel, who has started only 5 games in his 10 year NFL career and only thrown for 1,500 yards in that same time frame. (For reference, Matthew Stafford has thrown for 44,500 yards in his 11 year career and has started 162 games.) Needless to say, Chase Daniel does not deliver the same amount of experience or skill to the Lions offense that was needed when they got the ball back after a roughly 50 yard kick return by Jamal Agnew.


Matt Patricia tended to run the same plays and played the same style football against every competitor, so teams were able to study Detroit’s previous games and learn how to defend against every offensive play they used. This led to a lot of Lions defeat. In the last 2 games, Darrell Bevell has run new plays, risky plays, and changed the style of play from what Patricia had done. Even though he has improved the style and quality of play, he cannot be kept as head coach.


Even if Darrell Bevell were to take the Detroit Lions to win out the remainder of their season and go 4-1 as head coach, he was hired by Matthew Patricia and needs to go. Lions defensive coordinator Cory Undlin also needs to be fired. This will likely be done by the incoming head coach, and not Sheila Ford Hamp.


The Detroit Lions have scored a maximum of 34 points in a single game all season, and this was against the Jacksonville Jaguars who are 1-12. While scoring a lot of points is not necessary to win the game, it is when your opponents are able to put up points in the 30s-40s range every week, and a score in the 30s is rare for the Lions this season. 


The Detroit Lions need a better offense and offensive coordinator. Stafford is a good quarterback, and the Lions have good offense players, but it can be much stronger. Stafford is getting old in football terms, and the Lions need to draft a young quarterback now so that they can shadow Matthew Stafford, learn from him, and gel with the team. 


There are good ball carriers and receivers, but there needs to be more talent in that department. The Lions drop passes a lot, with balls that are thrown directly into their hands. The training and talent needs to be improved here.


The offensive line is poor at giving Stafford ample time to throw the ball consistently. If you watch Tom Brady, especially when he was on the Patriots, his offensive line gives him sometimes 10 seconds in the pocket, which is all the time in the world in the NFL. Stafford has been sacked 33 times this season, Tom Brady has been sacked 16 times and Patrick Mahomes has been sacked 18 times this season. The offensive line needs to be built tougher, and trained to block better.


However, the offense does show up most of the time. The Detroit Lions defense costs them a lot of games. The Lions defense has allowed 342 points to be scored against them. The Los Angeles Rams, argued to have one of the best defenses in the NFL in 2020, have allowed for 219 points to be scored against them this season.


A lot of the defensive players need to be traded or let go. Matt Patricia is responsible for those draft picks, which, as a self proclaimed very experienced defensive coordinator, he thought would be adequate in getting the job done. They do not stop other teams from scoring as well as they should, and it needs to be improved. Whoever the new head coach is, they need to draft or trade for more skilled offensive players and essentially get a whole new defensive line.


Firing Matt Patricia and Bob Quinn was a step in the right direction, and it’s easy to see the Lions are already playing with some improvement since they left. The next coach has a big mess to clean up, Patricia took a good team that just needed some stronger coaching and ran it into the ground. He drove pro bowl caliber players out of Detroit, and hurt the team more than helped. Whoever the next coach is, needs to wipe out whatever remnants of Patricia and Quinn are leftover on this team in 2021 and start anew: new general manager, new head coach, new defensive coordinator, new offensive coordinator, and some new players. A fresh start, already having a new owner, might be what the Detroit Lions need to be successful again.


It’s impossible to cure a disease if you keep around the thing that’s making you sick.

Marlana DeClaire is a senior at Michigan State University. She is studying Genomics and Molecular Genetics as well as Health Promotion. She is a plant and soil science laboratory technician at Michigan State. In her free time she writes poetry, reads, and enjoys attending concerts.
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