The social media backlash has been brutal.
The Detroit Lions’ Monday Night debut with new head coach Matt Patricia was an epic debacle exposed on a national stage. His problem in accepting the job was not that he was going to turn things around in the Motor City but that he obviously believed he could do something former Patriots’ coordinators-turned-head coaches couldn’t: win.
Patricia should have made some phone calls and/or sat down with those before him and inquired why things what looked so good could go so wrong.
Special assistant, assistant special teams coach, receivers coach, assistant special teams coach/defensive assistant, special teams coach/defensive assistant, linebackers coach/special teams coach, defensive coordinator: 1975-1990
Pre-Patriots head coaching record: 36-44
Defensive Coordinator, linebackers coach, defensive coordinator/linebackers coach, head coach: 1979-1990
New England Patriots head coach: 1997-2006
Post-Patriots head coaching record: 63-49
New England Patriots offensive assistant, defensive assistant, defensive backs coach, defensive coordinator
Post-Patriots’ head coaching record: 33-47
New England Patriots offensive assistant, assistant offensive line coach, linebackers coach, safeties coach, defensive coordinator: 2004-2017
Post-Patriots’ head coaching record (as of 9/10/18): 0-1
Yes, it’s way too early to declare the Matt Patricia era a failure, but it should be fairly obvious at this point that the insertion of one person won’t convert a losing franchise into a mirror image of One Patriot Place.
When Bill Parcells (a proven genius) was hired as the New England Patriots’ head coach in 1993, he obviously did his homework and understood the culture of mediocrity he had assumed command over; a culture that needed more than the ordinary change. The Big Tuna not only brought in his own assistant coaches, but he also radically changed the team uniforms. He erased the “Patsies” legacy and everyone, from the front office down, was on notice and that his way (now known as the Patriot Way) was going to be the only way. In less than four years, he took a perennial laughingstock to the 1996 Super Bowl. Yes, the Patriots lost in part because of meddling by the New York Jets and internal differences with the team owner (differences Robert Kraft learned not to repeat with Bill Belichick) but a page was allowed to be turned.
Aside from Parcells, there is ONE exception and it’s a little complicated.
Carroll inherited Parcells’ foundation in New England and in three years managed to take them from finishing first in the AFC East to fourth, twice. He fled the Patriots for USC and retooled his approach before returning to the NFL in 2010. It’s always a tad easier to win with a decent team and owner with a healthy checkbook.
The one thing almost all of the former New England Patriots assistants failed to do as they assumed the helm of bad teams was to change the culture from the top down. Firing front office people, assistant coaches, toxic players, and visual cosmetic changes are valuable options that for the most part wasn’t done. These former Patriots’ coordinators obviously believed their mere presence was all it took to turn things around.
The success of the New England Patriots was a process that was proceeded with a jolt, not a tinkering around the edges of a losing culture. When Parcells took over the Patriots, we were more than optimistic because of his bull-in-the-china shop approach. There was no such internal destruction when Weis, Crennel, McDaniels, O’Brien and now Patricia took over their new teams.
I made the argument years ago after #Spygate when so many were calling the Patriots cheaters, that had Robert Kraft fired Bill Belichick, there would 31 cities of New England-hating football fans who’d enthusiastically embrace him in a heartbeat if he were to be hired to transform their team. Then again, notice how Coach Belichick is still in New England. Who needs to leave and try to clean up, in some cases, decades worth of caked-on dysfunction?
Matt Patricia is just the latest Patriots’ former coordinator to have found out the hard way that a losing team needs to be blown up during the offeseason so it won’t be blown up for the football world to see on national television on Week One.
Note: The Tennessee Titans’ new head coach Mike Vrabel doesn’t count as he didn’t vacate a Patriots coordinator job for unknown pastures. He retired as a linebacker in 2010, coached in college and coordinated in the NFL before landing a head coaching gig (as of 9/9/18, 0-1).