Detroit Lions head coach Matt Patricia

Does the problem in Detroit start with Matt Patricia?

  • Darius Slay
  • Detroit Lions
  • Matt Patricia
By Donnie Zelaya March 22, 2020 0 Comment

Embattled third-year Head Coach Matt Patricia may be on the hot seat as his Belichickian ways prompt defensive star to force his way out of Detroit.

The season has yet to start, and already Matt Patricia is ruffling feathers in Detroit. During the free agency period, typically, the goal is to bring in new talent to complement the existing talent on the roster. Instead, Patricia has lost his best secondary player in cornerback Darius Slay.

Shortly after the Detroit Lions shipped Slay to the Philadelphia Eagles for third and fifth-round picks in the upcoming draft, Slay aired out what motivated him to expedite his departure from the Motor City.

What happened with Slay?

According to Dave Birkett of The Detroit Free Press, Slay’s issues with Patricia stemmed from a team meeting in Patricia’s rookie season as head coach.

“He told me in front of the whole team, in the team meeting room, showed clips of me in practice getting a ball caught on me or so in practice,” Slay said. “I posted a picture (of a wide receiver on social media), and he told me, stop sucking this man’s private. So I’m like, ‘Whoa.’ I’m like, ‘Hold up.’ Where I’m from, that don’t fly. Cause I wouldn’t say that to him. I wouldn’t say to him to stop you know what to Bill Belichick. I wouldn’t do that. That’s just not me as a man. That’s disrespectful to me, and so from there on it was done with.”

From that point on, Slay said his relationship with Patricia was beyond repair. While the two met to iron out what happened, the damage was already done in Slay’s mind. Such events are also the root of what led to the Lions shopping Slay at the trade deadline last season. Eventually, they found a partner in the Eagles, who promptly signed Slay to a 3-year contract for $50 million. With over $43 million in current cap space, general manager Bob Quinn could have made a similar deal work. Instead, they must resort to free agency or the draft to replace a one-time cornerstone of the defensive secondary.

Darius Slay isn’t the only player who’s had problems with Patricia

There are other documented instances of players voicing their displeasure with Patricia and Quinn. In 2018, Stephen Tulloch took to Instagram in support of previous head coach Jim Caldwell. The responses from current and former teammates speak louder than the initial post.

In 2019, retired tight end Hakeem Valles was on an episode of Pride Podcast and discuss the “culture based in fear” Patricia was creating. Specifically, his weekly Monday meetings were primarily used to call out players for their poor play on Sunday. To make matters worse, Valles said that every meeting he attended in 2019, Patricia was late for every single one.

Let us not forget the sexual assault case brought against him, which the Lions “missed” during the hiring process.

All of these instances paint Patricia as the root cause of the Lions issues, but does the story go deeper than what’s on the surface?  Are these cases of bitter players airing dirty laundry as they walk out the door or is it a case of Patricia “weeding the garden” attempting to see who can be pushed and who is more “all up in their feelings” and need a safe space to listen to Drake songs for validation.

Patricia’s situation in Detroit is quite similar to the Josh McDaniels debacle in Denver

McDaniels was hired as the head coach of the Denver Broncos in 2009. He wasted little to no time in alienating himself from players and coaches alike. Whether it was Jay Cutler, Peyton Hillis, Tony Scheffler, Brandon Marshall or defensive coordinator Mike Nolan, McDaniels and his “my way or the highway” mentality sent all the talented players and coaches away.  To top it all off, McDaniels had his own Spy-Gate scandal in which he was caught videotaping the San Franciso 49ers practice before the Broncos/Niners game in London in the 2010 season. This incident didn’t bring about his immediate departure, but it didn’t take Pat Bowlen much longer before he pulled the plug on the McDaniels experiment in Denver.

Patricia’s tactics have been similar to McDaniels’ in that he has attempted to establish himself as the alpha dog. The problem lies in that most NFL rosters are filled with alpha dogs, and those types of players aren’t wired to back down. Is the player at fault for not buying into the new approach? Or does the coach need to realize coaching isn’t “one size fits all?” The “we are all equal on this team” approach is noble, but it is also unrealistic to expect every player to buy into the chosen tactics. Some need and can handle a public scolding, while others respond better to one on one meetings or discussions. The goal is to discover what works best instead of laying into everyone and see who demands a trade.

While Patrica has his share of critics, some supporters see the method behind his madness. Earlier this week, Pro Football Talk’s Mike Florio backed Patricia and believed that when a coach is attempting to instill a vastly different culture, sometimes takes drastic steps.

How long before enough is enough?

Will the Ford family will continue to allow Patricia to instill his version of “The Patriot Way” in Detroit. Like all NFL owners, they are highly aware of the image they portray throughout the league. A coach who inherited a 9-7 team only to go 6-10 then 3-12-1 had better have a clear vision and marked improvement. Otherwise, he will join the string of Patriots coaches who have faltered greatly after leaving One Patriot Way.

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