Matt Patricia

USA Today

Brutal Start For The Rocket Scientist

Sure you can put a man on the moon, but can you stop a halfback screen??

September 12, 2018 - 9:43 am

Matt Patricia is having himself a week. His Lions picked off the first pass of his first game as an NFL head coach and returned it for a touchdown. Absolutely incredible. As a former defensive coordinator, it does not get any better than that. Detroit Rock City was off the hook and it felt like Detroit finally found the badass it been looking for. 

Until it didn’t.

Until the New York Jets outscored Matt Patricia’s Detroit Lions 48-10 the rest of the way. Until fans started booing the team on opening night. Until fans started flat out leaving the building. And until the Jets players started talking about how they knew what plays the Lions were going to run before they ran them. Until the Detroit Free Press ran a piece with the headline: “Matt Patricia Is In Over His Head.” Until everyone remembered none of Bill Belichick’s seem to be worth a damn with the Hood and TB12. I mean, they ALL struggle when they leave. But never as much as Patricia in Week 1. 

Damn, that is a brutal start. 

Almost as brutal as the Detroit Free Press pointing out that Patricia had the single worst debut in Lions head coaching history. I don’t know if you’ve checked out the list of legends who’ve patrolled the Lions sideline, but we’re not talking about Vince Lombardi and John Madden. I mean if we’re one game into your career and your name is already being mentioned with the likes of Marty Mornhinweg, you are in trouble.

But it’s just one game and one bad night, right? Shake it off and focus on Week 2. Well, not exactly. Because ever since the game ended, Matt Patricia has had to spend time explaining to people that opposing defenses knowing your plays before you run them really isn’t that unusual. 

He told the Detroit Free Press: “I think we’re talking about something that’s pretty common to when you have to face an opponent, there’s going to be things there that you’re very familiar with. Obviously, I would say, on both sides of the ball, there’s some high familiarity with some of the things that they do that we worked [in practice]. They just obviously out-executed us and that was the biggest problem.”

This rocket scientist worked and waited his whole life for this shot. I’m guessing the last thing he expected to do was try to convince people that it’s really not that big a deal that the opposition, and not just the opposition, but the freaking Jets, knew exactly what they were going to run before they run it. Last thing he expected to do was go all CAT with it and try to tell the world, happens all the time. Happens to us all! Except it doesn’t Matt.  It doesn’t happen to all the time; it doesn’t happen to everyone. But it just happened to you. And that’s really not the argument you want to be going with. Unless you really want people to think you’re in way over your head and don’t know what the hell you’re doing. 

Sure, the NFL is a professional league and opposing coaching staffs have a lot of people breaking down film to figure out tendencies. But that’s the thing – they’re figuring out tendencies, not calling out your playbook at the line of scrimmage. There’s quote “high familiarity” and then there’s knowing exactly what you’re going to do. Before you do it.  For an entire game. 

And that wasn’t the only fire Patricia is facing in Detroit. There was also the report from Mike Garafolo of the NFL Network that he was hearing from a number of veterans in the Lions locker room who were griping about the number of rules that Matt Patricia has put in place and about how hard he worked the team in training camp. 

I get the idea of wanting to change the culture. Patricia was brought in to do that. But if you’re going to crack down with a lot of rules and working guys that hard in training camp, and ban them from social, and in effect act like you’re Bill freaking Belichick when you haven’t won a single game yet as a head coach, you sure as hell better get results. And losing by 31 at home to a rookie quarterback making his first NFL start is not the kind of result I’m talking about. 

Now, does it mean that Matt Patricia has already lost this team? No. And I’m not saying that. I am saying that may have been the ugliest 60 minutes of football I have ever seen; not just from the Lions, but from anyone. And if the vets were tripping before the season even started, it’s going to be much worse after that humiliating hospital job in front of the entire world.   

Just like the shaggy beard and the pencil behind the ear, being a hardass is awesome when you’re winning. But it looks stupid when you’re getting blown out at home by a team that won five games last year. Gonna be damn near impossible to get a buy in from your new team if they’ve already tuned you out completely.

And again, it’s just one game. I don’t want to see Lions fans completely freaking out and burning their Lions gear. But I wouldn’t blame them if they did. Because it’s not just about how the team played Monday night – which was terrible, disorganized, and incompetent. They didn’t look like they had a new coach, they looked like they had no coach. And at least for one night, having no coach would have been better than having that coach. Because I have never seen that team look any worse than it did that night; and that’s a team that has run the table in reverse.

Coach em up, Matt. Because if you really are a rocket scientist, now is the time to prove it. Sure you can put a man on the moon, but can you stop a halfback screen??