New England Patriots defensive coordinator Matt Patricia, the expected next head coach of the Detroit Lions, speaks to the media after the Eagles won Super Bowl LII, 41-33, on Sunday, Feb. 4, 2018, in Minneapolis. Video by Dave Birkett/DFP
This is all about Bob Quinn.
Yes, the Detroit Lions finally announced the hiring of Matt Patricia on Monday as the 27th head coach in franchise history. It will be interesting to put the latest Lions coach under the microscope and examine how he handles himself and how he prepares his team.
But Patricia’s hiring is really about the Lions’ general manager and what it says about his strategy and his vision for the team.
And what it says is that his strategy is unoriginal and uninspired. This was Quinn’s first chance to hire his own coach and he made the most obvious hire he could:
His old pal from his old job.
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I’m guessing the conversation went something like this.
Quinn: “Wanna come to Detroit?”
I’m not saying hiring Patricia is a bad decision or even the wrong decision. Maybe he leads the Lions to 10 straight Super Bowl championships and Woodward Avenue gets renamed Patricia Parade Route. Or maybe he’s fired after 2 years. Who knows? He has no coaching track record, only an extensive and impressive apprenticeship under Bill Belichick in New England.
All of which might mean nothing because everyone has to start somewhere. The Lions took a chance on Quinn as a first-time GM, and he’s taking a chance on Patricia as a first-time coach. They both came up as grunts in the Patriots organization and worked together for 12 years. Makes sense.
My problem with the hiring, and other big moves Quinn has made, is that it lacks originality. The NFL, maybe more than any other sport, consists of a small club of men who usually hire their buddies and former coworkers. So maybe it’s not too surprising that when Quinn finally got to make the move that likely will define his tenure, he reached for the most familiar and lowest-hanging fruit.
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But it has been the other moves as well.
He needed a receiver and he went and got Marvin Jones, the most expensive guy on the market who had a disappointing first season but rebounded with a great second season.
He needed a right tackle and signed Rick Wagner, the highest-priced free agent who had an average year.
He needed a right guard and signed free agent T.J. Lang, who had a good year but who is 4 years older and costs $1 million more per year than Larry Warford.
These aren’t bad moves. They just lack originality, and even that hasn’t gotten the Lions anywhere in the past. Quinn’s job isn’t to make the obvious choice. Almost anyone could do that. He needs to find great value and discover talent and ability where no one else sees it.
But that hasn’t happened much. His only great draft success has been taking punt returner Jamal Agnew in the fifth round. Anthony Zettel, a sixth-rounder, has been a decent player, third-rounder Kenny Golladay has shown promise, and free agent Jeff Locke was a good fill-in for injured punter Sam Martin.
But Quinn had no answer for two crucial problems: Replacing injured left tackle Taylor Decker and for producing a run game. And his one and only original move has been to draft a long snapper. I still can’t believe it.
I will give Quinn credit for landing Patricia. No one knows how heated the competition was among the other teams that interviewed Patricia, one of the most sought-after candidates on the market. So maybe Quinn was a cold-blooded poker player when it came down to negotiations that secured Patricia. Martin Mayhew failed to hire his former teammate, Ken Whisenhunt, in 2014, so at the very least it looks like Quinn got his man.
When the Lions introduce Patricia, we’re going to hear all about how he’s the greatest coaching candidate in the world. Really smart. Works hard. Blue collar. Blah, blah, blah.
The truth is no one knows anything. While I would like to believe Quinn is completely sure Patricia will succeed because they worked together for 12 years, I also know familiarity means nothing. After all, Matt Millen hired his long-time buddy, Steve Mariucci, and we know how that ended.
So, good luck to Matt Patricia. Let’s hope you do well. After all, Bob Quinn’s legacy is riding on it.
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Contact Carlos Monarrez: email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @cmonarrez.