Will the Lions fire Matt Patricia? Detroit’s cold spell has head coach on hot seat again

Matt Patricia’s days in Detroit look to be numbered. The question is: How numbered?

The Lions’ head coach hasn’t found major improvements in his third year at the helm, and they lost to a Panthers team playing without Teddy Bridgewater and Christian McCaffrey in Week 11. Patricia’s already ensured more wins than the 2019 season, but that was a 3-12-1 year that saw Jeff Driskel spend time playing quarterback. With Matthew Stafford relatively healthy, 2020 was meant to be a bounceback for Detroit.

Even worse for Patricia’s resume, the Lions are allowing more points than all but a handful of teams. That’s despite Patricia’s background as a defensive coach. While Detroit hasn’t historically fired coaches mid-season, the chatter is starting up full force about Patricia’s job status.

What Matt Patricia has said about prospect of being fired

Patricia was asked a number of questions in October about how heat his head-coaching seat was following the firings of Bill O’Brien in Houston and Dan Quinn in Atlanta. He acknowledged that he’s aware of speculation about his future, but said it’s not something he addresses with his team, according to the Detroit Free Press.

“For us, every week, we’re just trying to go out and compete and win and do everything that we can to get better,” Patricia said in October. “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.” 

Patricia added that “obviously we all know this business is tough” and that “we know what we sign up for.”

Following Detroit’s Week 11 loss to Carolina, Patricia declined to answer most questions about his job security and said that the focus was on the upcoming week, per Lions Wire.

“I’ve had a philosophy for a long time: I go to work every day to try to earn my job,” Patricia said after Week 11, according to The Athletic. “That’s just what I do. Doesn’t matter if it’s coaching, doing engineering, I don’t care if I’m in school. I’m just gonna go to work and work hard.”

Lions owner Sheila Ford Hamp on Matt Patricia

When the Lions decided to give Patricia another go-around, the main point was this: They hoped to play “meaningful games in December.” That’s not where Detroit is trending right now.

Sheila Ford Hamp became the club’s principal owner in June, and that’s the last time she spoke publicly about the Lions. At the time, she said:

“I don’t want to say anything about wins and losses,” Hamp said in June, speaking about COVID-19’s challenges. “… At this point, I can’t really say what those specific measures are going to be, because I don’t know what the season is going to be like yet. But believe me, major improvement is a goal.”

Lions’ record under Matt Patricia

The following stats are through Week 11 of the 2020 NFL season.

2018

2019

2020

Overall

Former NFL players, current analysts call for Patricia’s firing

The Week 11 loss to Carolina and backup quarterback P.J. Walker really brought the fire-Patricia crowd out in full force. Former NFL players Marcus Spears and Torrey Smith both weighed in on Twitter.

Twitter also saw two NFL writers weigh in in the form of Pro Football Network’s Mike Tanier and USA Today’s Doug Farrar.

Lions’ history of firing coaches mid-season

The last three Detroit head coaches prior to Patricia were Rod Marinelli, Jim Schwartz and Jim Caldwell, in that order. All three of them coached a games total for the Lions that’s divisible by 16 — in other words, none of them was fired mid-season.

Marinelli was the shortest-lasting of that trio, and he was given three full seasons before being fired with a 10-38 overall record. Schwartz got five seasons despite only having one winning record among those. Caldwell coached four years with a winning record in three.

Patricia’s best hope that he stays on through the end of the season is that the Lions haven’t really operated in a different fashion in recent history. Their tendency is to ride things out. The case can be made that Detroit is losing ground on vetting future head coaches, but there’s almost certainly someone doing that behind the scenes. In the meantime, Patricia might have six games left on the Lions’ sideline. 

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