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NFC North Worst Case Scenarios: Detroit Lions

Detroit Lions

With NFL Kickoff tomorrow night, TGH brings you analysis of one of the most fascinating and competitive divisions in football.

This short series will be evaluating the worst-case scenario for each NFC North team that could keep them out of the playoffs (barring major injuries to key players).

Today, we take a look at the Detroit Lions.

Worst Case Scenario: Mediocre play continues under Patricia

Hiring & 2018 campaign

Matt Patricia had held a plethora of jobs in New England before he became defensive coordinator in 2012. Under Belichick, he served five different positions (including defensive coordinator) since 2004. Two of his three Super Bowl wins came while he was calling the plays on defense.

In 2016 Patricia was interviewed for the Cleveland Browns head coaching position, although he chose to stay with the Patriots. His long and impressive tenure in New England translated to his hiring as the Detroit Lions head coach in February of 2018.

As with many Belichick disciples, it was the unspoken commitment to bring the “Patriot Way” to Detroit with Patricia’s hiring as head coach.

The Lions had an inauspicious start to their 2018 campaign, losing their first game by 31, and their second by just three. Patricia’s first win as head coach came against his old team and old mentor, as the Lions beat the Patriots by 16 at Ford Field in Detroit.

This win was proof positive that Patricia knew the Patriots inside and out, garnering hope their success could be duplicated and cultivated in Detroit. The rest of the season, though, featured little about which to celebrate.

Detroit finished the season 6-10, and 2-4 in the NFC North, earning them last place in the division. The high points other than the win against New England were a season sweep of the Green Bay Packers. The Lions even shut out the Packers in Lambeau in Week 17 (although it is worth noting that Aaron Rodgers suffered a concussion on the second offensive snap).

Culture change

Famously, the Lions have not won a playoff game since 1992. The last time they made the playoffs (during the 2016-2017 season), they were beaten by Seattle 26-6.

Simply put, that needs to change. Fans and ownership have grown tired of losing. Not only games, but players as well. One of the best running backs to ever play, Barry Sanders, retired relatively early after spending all 10 of his seasons with the Lions. Another generational player, Calvin Johnson, retired after just nine seasons, again, all in Detroit.

Detroit Lions
The Lions surprise win over the Patriots was one of the high points of their 2018 campaign (Photo by Kirthmon F. Dozier/Detroit Free Press)

It will be forever speculated whether or not these retirements came because of simply being tired of losing. One could argue if that were the case, a trade could have just been demanded, but no one outside of Sanders and Johnson will ever know for sure.

Patricia was hired to quell this losing culture.

The Patriots have had nothing but success since their first Super Bowl in 2002. Patricia has been a part of that success for almost the entire run. It is hard to think of a coach (besides Belichick himself) who could be better suited to shift the culture in the desired direction.

With that being said, the aforementioned exhaustion of losing keeps Patricia on a very short leash. He will need to change everything that is in his control and quickly. The players need to buy in, the schemes need to work, and the rest of the coaching personnel will need to be on the same page.

Conclusion

Another 6-10 season will not cut it in Detroit. An upward trend needs to be established in 2019.

Patricia’s coaching experience on the defensive side of the ball, at the very least, needs to translate to a better unit. The Lions were in the bottom 10 in yards and points allowed per game, and rushing defense.

Being that the Patriots are known for working with what they have and getting the best out of every player, that has to be expected out of the Lions defense this year. Especially with Matt Patricia being such a crucial part of that kind of success in New England.

If Detroit’s win total fails to increase by around 3-4 games, Patricia’s seat will be hot. If worst comes to worst and he is fired, then it will be back to the drawing board for this franchise yet again. Truly a worst-case scenario.

Featured Image courtesy of Kirthmon F. Dozier/Detroit Free Press

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