Does coaching matter? Pose that question to Detroit Lions fans.
The Lions have been around the coaching carousel more times than their fans care to count. Since the team’s previous championship in 1957, Wayne Fontes is the longest tenured coach.
No offense to Fontes, but his performance in Detroit would not earn him a spot in the debate of greatest coach in team history for most teams in professional sports. The fans in Detroit have long been waiting for a great group of coaches. Time will tell if Matt Patricia is the answer to Detroit’s prayers.
After taking over for Darryl Rogers 11 games into the 1988 season (4-12 overall, 2-3 under Fontes), Fontes led the Lions to a 12-4 record by 1991. He also won a division title and achieved the only playoff win since the Beatles came to America in 1964. This is still the only playoff win to date.
Fontes departed in 1996 with a 67-71 record (1-4 playoff record). This firmly plants him in the top spot as the greatest coach in the Super Bowl era of Detroit Lions football.
In the last 20 seasons, the Lions have been through eight head coaches, compiling a combined 127–209 record with zero division titles or playoff wins.
To say it has been a rough 20 years would be a major understatement. It goes without saying, Lions fans are dying for a winner and a team to help bring the fan base and the city back to its feet. That starts and ends with coaching.
The news of Jim Bob Cooter being retained as the offensive coordinator has had mixed reactions among fans as some viewed his play-calling as too inconsistent and predictable while others believe Jim Caldwell was the reason for this.
Nevertheless, the possibility of molding Cooter’s coaching prowess with a New England mentality breeds a high level of optimism and intrigue in Detroit. Remember, not too long ago, Cooter was one of the hottest names on the coaching carousel and many dubbed him as a great coach of the future.
Prior to last season, he was put into the same class as Sean McVay of the Los Angeles Rams.
Paul Pasqualoni has been hired by Patricia to call the defense. He has amassed 46 years of coaching experience and previously hired Patricia as an offensive assistant at Syracuse in 2001.
Pasqualoni was the head coach at Syracuse from 1991-2004, with a 107-59-1 record. He has coached in a myriad of positions and for many teams in the NFL since he left Syracuse.
In Dallas, he coached the tight ends, linebackers and defensive line. He stayed in the role of defensive line coach in Chicago and Houston. He was the defensive coordinator for a year in Miami before returning back to college as the head coach at UConn.
When asked about what his relationship with Pasqualoni would bring to Detroit, Patricia stated in a press conference, “…there’s a lot of common ground from what we believe in, how defense should be played, how it should be run, the fundamentals behind it… a huge comfort level for me to have him on board and to be able to entrust him to handle.”
Other assistants hired by Patricia include Brian Stewart (defensive backs), David Corrao (director of football research), Chris White (tight ends) and Jeff Davidson (offensive line).
Arguably, the most important of those is Davidson. He takes over a group that led an offense to a ranking of 32nd in rushing and allowed 47 sacks in 2017. Davidson previously worked with New England until 2004 (one year with Patricia). Most recently he was the offensive line coach for the Denver Broncos.
PROMISING FUTURE UNDER PATRICIA
The Detroit Lions are in a great spot as I am sure many teams are envious of quarterback Matthew Stafford. The promising front office, combined with the character and experience of Patricia, bodes well for Detroit.
When building from the ground up, why not copy a dynastic legend? See the New England Patriots. Short of coaxing Bill Belichick and Tom Brady to the Motor City, the Lions have made strong moves to bring men over who can begin to build “The Lions Way.”
With Bob Quinn in the general manager’s office and Patricia on the sidelines, one can only wonder how many players may see Detroit as a viable option in free agency. There have been rumors among hopeful fans of Malcolm Butler following Patricia. Imagine him across from Darius Slay and/or Dion Lewis lining up in the backfield with Stafford.
No one can predict how this hire will play out for the Lions. However, one thing is for sure: Matt Patricia and his big-bearded, pencil-behind-the-ear, backwards hat wearing persona will fit in perfectly within the state of Michigan.
Featured image from USA Today Sports
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